Illegal Spanish strawberry farmers in protected wetlands granted amnesty

Mon 14/02/2022 by Richard Wilkinson
illegal strawberry greenhouses at the Spanish World Heritage Site Doñana. Copyright: Jorge Sierra, WWF.

The Spanish region of Andalucia has ignored the protests of the central government, the EU, UNESCO and several ecological groups by voting to grant an amnesty for illegal strawberry farmers who have been tapping water from the aquifer that feeds one of Europe’s largest protected wetlands, according to a Guardian report.

Last Wednesday, the Andalucían regional parliament approved the proposal, which will “regularise” 1,461 hectares (3610 acres) of land near the Doñana national park, thereby allowing farmers who have sunk illegal wells and built illicit plantations on the land to legitimise their operations.

The controversial proposal was brought by the conservative People’s party (PP), which governs the region, and backed by the centre-right Citizens party and the far-right Vox party. The regional president, Juan Manuel Moreno of the PP, has defended the planned legislation, claiming it would allow the authorities to more closely monitor the tapping that has been going on for years.

“No one should think that we’re going to erode our natural jewels by as much as a millimetre,” Moreno said last month. 

“We’re going to protect it because that’s what the law tells us to do, and because that’s what we want to do.”

SEO BirdLife, the Spanish ornithological society, described Wednesday’s vote as “another step towards Doñana’s extinction”, while WWF Spain said it would use all the resources at its disposal to fight “this mortal blow”.

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