The lease by the Government of Andalucia of ecologically important publicly owned natural lands (montes publicos) in the Donana National Park has heightened concerns about the conservation future of this unique and globally significant biodiversity hotspot. A large part of these lands is currently illegally occupied and cultivated, primarily for the production of strawberries.
On September 27th, the City Council of Moguer announced that the income generated by a recent sale of 220 hectares of public forest lands that were illegally cultivated will fund investments in public infrastructures. In the same time, the Andalucian Government is preparing its “Strawberry Plan” (officially named “Special plan for the management of irrigated lands north of the forested belt of Donana”). This plan proposes the expansion of irrigation by more than 2,000 hectares of montes publicos, the largest part of which is intensively cultivated and irrigated through illegal wells.
Conservationists have long expressed their concerns over the uncontrolled illegal land use of montes publicos in the Donana National Park. They remind that over 4,000 hectares are irrigated through illegal wells, which are responsible for the constant deterioration of the status of the National Park’s aquifer. They also ring a bell about the conversion of this natural corridor into a “wall” dominated by power lines, roads and irrigation pipelines. WWF Spain notes that the legalisation of illegal land uses offends all law-abiding farmers and also causes an additional financial burden for the servicing of these new agricultural areas through public networks.
Since the wake of the economic crisis, Spain’s central and regional governments have been using the recession as an excuse for “quick and dirty” development, which sees environmental conservation as a luxury.
Sources: WWF Spain.