The conservation NGO WWF has estimated at 1,903.7 hectares which, if the law promoted by Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla in the hands of Vox is approved as it is today, could be declared as irrigable in the surroundings of the Doñana National Park. Right now, the Strawberry Plan establishes 9,418 hectares as irrigated land. If these 1,903.7 were added, the total figure would rise to 11,322 hectares, so there would be practically 20% more irrigation in the area. The Andalusian Government had been estimating that it would be about 700 hectares.
For WWF, the pressure that this increase in irrigable land that is now forestry or rainfed agriculture would generate on water in the region is unsustainable. “There is no water”: “In the framework of the current hydrological planning 2022-2027, there are no available water resources, neither surface nor underground”.
The NGO assured that they will send their study to the European Commission and UNESCO. WWF has used a remote sensing system, with methodologies endorsed by justice that “reflect what is happening.” “It is a technical work, it is not the opinion of WWF or environmentalistsIt is a job that the PP should have done before presenting its law or the Junta de Andalucía,” Felipe Fuentelsaz and Juanjo Carmona, from the NGO, assured at a press conference: “The law was presented without prior study. The way of proposing a law lacks the minimum technical reports that allow knowing the real area to be amnestied or evaluating the impact and real scope of this norm”.
The use of land in the region is regulated in the POTAD, approved by the Junta de Andalucía in 2004.. This is the basic regulation that has been in force for almost two decades and is the one that has been systematically breached since then. In it, the soils and their uses are classified: some are irrigable, others dry land, others forestry. The management report of this plan already included concern for water 19 years ago: “It is intended to eliminate the risk of imbalances in the water system due to the proliferation of new catchments, avoid the increase in erosive processes and new effects on ecosystems of value”.
Ten years later – under the cover of POTAD – what is now known as the Strawberry Plan was developed., which in 2014 closed the irrigation map. Adequate budgets have not been allocated to this plan and most of its measures have yet to be implemented, according to WWF. The plan, however, was approved with a high degree of consensus – which the Moreno and Vox norm lacks today – and after numerous discussions, the Doñana Participation Council endorsed it with 37 votes in favor, one abstention and five noes, those of environmental organizations. These two dates, that of 2004, when the POTAD was approved, and that of 2014, when the strawberry plan was approved, are key to understanding what Moreno wants to do today hand in hand with Vox.
The POTAD establishes three categories of protection for soils, the highest being A, where agricultural uses are prohibited, then comes B, which establishes specific limitations on use, and C, which deals with general limitations. If the idea of PP and Vox is approved as it is written today, whoever has irrigated before 2014 -and their land is in those zones B and C- will see their farm reclassified. This is stated in the bill, currently being processed in the Parliament of Andalusia: “The agricultural land in zones B and C that had been irrigated prior to the date of entry into force of the Special Plan will be included in the irrigable agricultural zone [30 de diciembre de 2014]. These lands will be able to obtain water rights, which will come from surface water, unless the hydraulic administration of the Hydrographic Demarcation where these lands are located establishes a different source of resources.”
This is what WWF has analyzed in its work. It has crossed the data of the images with what exactly the norm says today. In this way, 1,432.4 dry agricultural hectares and another 471.3 forest hectares come out, to which another modification of the norm is applied, which changes the Law and the forestry regulations of Andalusia, so that these lands would also pass to be considered zones B and C and, therefore, irrigable. “It is a double step. The modification of the forestry law would be applied to them and since they were irrigated between 2004 and 2014, they would also enter the amnesty,” says Carmona.
“Contrary to what the Junta de Andalucía argues, this investigation shows that the illegal farms that would benefit from the amnesty were irrigated after the approval of POTAD in 2004, that is, with full knowledge that they were illegal in terms of land use planning and that they had no legal right to water. These hectares do not have any legal right to land or water, so they should be reverted to their previous state and their owners sanctioned,” WWF considers.
WWF has crossed out Vox and Moreno’s measure of “amnesty” because, they consider, “once irrigated agricultural land is declared, if they continue to irrigate illegally, they will not be violating the land use regulations, the Junta de Andalucía will not have to open a file on them or apply the sanctioning regime of the Urban Law. For legal purposes, they will be violating the water regulations and it must be the Hydrographic Confederation that has to act alone against the illegal use of water, because for the Junta de Andalucía, land use will be in accordance with territorial planning”.