Friday, October 23, 2009

Spanish wetland facing destruction as farming starves it of water

Giles Tremlett in the Guardian (UK): 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….

One of the parts of Las tablas de Daimiel that hasn't dried out (at least, not by November of 2007 when this image was taken). Shot by Jgg1992, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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