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Controversial water plan abolished

18 June 2004

MADRID – Spain is abolishing a controversial plan to divert the Ebro River, it was announced Friday.

The previous conservative Cabinet had already started the project to transfer 100 billion litres of water a year from the northern river to the more arid south.

But Environment Minister Cristina Narbona said the decree abolishing the plan will take effect immediately.

The government approved an alternative plan, which would cost EUR 400m less than the original scheme.

They are to build about 15 desalinization plants along Spain’s eastern coast.

The government says the water provided by the plants plus a better use of existing resources will be enough to cover shortages in the south.

It plans to offer developers and other groups EUR 9m worth of indemnity payments for any losses caused by the abandonment of the original plan

Narbona said Friday: “Not only will the new plan generate more water but improve the quality.”

Narbona said Spain would apply for 1.2 billion in EU funds to help pay for new the measures.

The plan is expected introduce measures like restoring existing river basins and flood prevention plans.

But with the abolition of the National Hydrological Plan, the government has finally put an end to one of the most ambitious – and controversial – water projects ever conceived.

The plan, approved three years ago, aimed to build more than 100 dams and hundreds of kilometres of irrigation channels to transfer the water from the Ebro River.

This highly controversial project soon got bogged down in political and funding problems.

But last October when the government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar improved the environmental impact statement, the plan was set to go ahead.

Now Spain’s Cabinet is shelving the project that would have changed the course of one of Europe’s mightiest rivers.

The environment minister is expected to make Spain’s new water plan public at the same time.

The plan is expected to include guidelines for lower water prices.

The move to abolish the Ebro plan, is the latest radical change for Spain under the new Socialist government.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has already turned the former government’s foreign policy on its head by ordering Spanish troops out of Iraq.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news