(CTN News) – National and regional authorities in Spain joined forces on Monday to commit 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) toward the conservation of the cherished Doñana National Park and its surrounding areas, aiming to prevent the park from experiencing further depletion.
Teresa Ribera, the Minister of Ecological Transition, emphasized that the initiative seeks to persuade farmers to cease the cultivation of water-intensive crops that heavily rely on overexploited underground aquifers, which have detrimentally impacted one of Europe’s largest wetlands.
Ribera stated, “This agreement marks the conclusion of pressures on a natural treasure that is unparalleled in the world.”
Juan Moreno, the President of the Andalusia region, detailed that financial incentives would be provided to farmers willing to discontinue cultivation, encouraging reforestation in approximately 14 towns near Doñana.
Spain Transitioning to Sustainable Agriculture: Reduced Support for Continued Cultivation
Those opting to continue cultivation would receive reduced financial support but would need to transition to ecologically sustainable dry crops.
As part of the accord, Andalusia committed to abandoning previously proposed plans to expand irrigation in proximity to Doñana, a decision that had faced criticism from UNESCO, the central government, and environmentalists due to the added strain it would place on the aquifer.
Doñana, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, serves as a crucial wintering and migratory stopover site for a vast number of waterfowl, with millions of birds traveling from Africa to northern Europe.
Ecologists active in and around the park have long cautioned about the severe strain on its marshes and lagoons, attributing it to agricultural activities and tourism. The challenges have been exacerbated by climate change, prolonged drought, and exceptionally high temperatures.
Recent regional plans in Andalusia included the expansion of Doñana park by acquiring 7,500 hectares (18,500 acres) through a 70 million euro purchase from a private owner.
Currently spanning 74,000 hectares (182,000 acres), Doñana is situated at the estuary where the Guadalquivir River meets the Atlantic Ocean on the southern coast of Spain.