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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Open forum  |  Andalucia Bird Society  |  Topic: Tablas de Daimiel on fire « previous next »
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Author Topic: Tablas de Daimiel on fire  (Read 5101 times)
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Enthusiastic amateur birdwatcher. Mountain walker

« on: October 19, 2009, 09:28:57 pm »

A Guardian article about the Spanish wetlands, Las Tablas de Daimiel.
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2009, 03:27:06 pm »

The full article reproduced here. Disgraceful.

The EU has begun an investigation into a unique Spanish wetland park that is being devastated by underground fires.

Local officials have admitted that mismanaged water resources at the Tablas de Daimiel national park may never recover. "We are on the point of losing the Tablas de Daimiel," said Josep Puxeu, Spain's secretary for state for water.

With less than 1% of the park now covered by water, layers of underground peat have dried out and have started to spontaneously ignite. Park authorities are unable to locate the underground fires until they break to the surface.

The wetland park, near the city of Ciudad Real in the central Castilla-La Mancha region, is classified as a Unesco biosphere site and is one of just 14 national parks in Spain. A fresh fire was detected this week, confirming that the peat is still being destroyed.

EU inspectors will investigate how for decades Spanish authorities have allowed thousands of illegal wells to be dug near the park. Scientists say the wells have lowered an aquifer that once spilled water on to the surface of the wetlands but now lies more than 12 metres (40ft) below ground.

Despite repeated warnings over the past 20 years, people continue to pump water from the wells, using it to irrigate nearby farmland. "We are at a point of no return," the park director, Carlos Ruíz, warned in a recent report.

With the aquifer unable to feed the park, the wetlands are being kept alive artificially. Their survival now depends on water being pumped in from elsewhere.

Similar underground fires heralded the death 20 years ago of the upper reaches of the river Guadiana, which is meant to feed into the wetlands. Ruíz, who raised the alarm in El País newspaper last week, has since been banned from talking to journalists. The Guardian was sent away from the park offices last week.

The destruction of the peat reduces the park's ability to retain any water that reaches it in the future. Man-sized cracks in the soil have opened up in some areas, making the park dangerous to walk in.

"Daimiel was once a paradise, with thousands and thousands of birds," said Santos Cirujano, of Spain's Higher Scientific Research Council. "If they want to save it, they can, but that requires a will to conserve it."

Visitors to the park now find just a few lagoons, home to a handful of coots and egrets. Stilted walkways cross over baked earth and rowing boats lie stranded on the ground. Observation huts look out on endless stretches of dried out land.

Pepe Jimenéz, head of Spain's national parks, said the situation was reversible. "We are buying up land around the park and buying water rights too. The rate at which the aquifer is declining is slowing down but it will take time before it can provide water to the park."

Spain now has 10 weeks to explain how it plans to respond to the crisis, and the country could be punished with sizeable fines. The government has promised to pump water in from the Tagus river basin, but not until next year. And the last time that was attempted, 95% of the water was lost along the way. In a country where water is fought over bitterly, the decision has provoked anger from Tagus farmers.

Some scientists have predicted that Spain's thirsty agriculture will not survive in the next decade as aquifers become exhausted and global warming lessens rainfall. Last year, Barcelona was forced to import water in tankers.

Manuel Martín grows melons and giant pumpkins on a modest plot where the Guadiana river once sprang generously from the ground. Now the barren riverbed is pitted with cracks and subsidence holes. Half a dozen water mills remain, stranded along the banks. Yet overhead there are huge pivot sprinklers serving the cereal crops.

"The lagoon here used to be full all year round but I haven't seen water since 1985," Martín said. "Our grandparents managed to irrigate their fields without making the water disappear. They should ban those pivot sprinklers until it comes back."


For great birding and wildlife tours.

Articles are published on my blog: http://spanishnature.blogspot.com/
For day tours in 'my' area see: http://spanishnature.com/serrania-de-ronda.html
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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Open forum  |  Andalucia Bird Society  |  Topic: Tablas de Daimiel on fire « previous next »

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