WWF disputes Spanish government's data on National Hydrological Plan's Ebro Transfer

Oct. 25, 2002
3.5 billion Euros could be lost if the Spanish National Hydrological Plan's (SNHP) Ebro river transfer is allowed to go ahead, according to a new report from WWF.

Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 25, 2002 -- 3.5 billion Euros could be lost if the Spanish National Hydrological Plan's (SNHP) Ebro river transfer is allowed to go ahead, according to a new report released by WWF, the conservation organization.

The WWF study, "Analysis and Economic Valuation of the Ebro river transfer in the Spanish National Hydrological Plan," alleges that data and figures used by the Spanish government to justify the SNHP are inaccurate, and concludes that the actual costs of the Plan far outweigh the estimated profits.

The SNHP's Ebro river transfer is proposed to reallocate 1,050 cubic hectometers per year of water from the Ebro River basin to another four river basins in the north, south-east and south of Spain. The overall cost of the construction of the infrastructure of the overall Plan across Spain has been estimated at 24 billion Euro (one third of which will be paid by EU funds), of which the Ebro river transfer will be 4.2 billion Euro.

But to form a realistic picture of the costs and possible benefits of the Ebro river transfer, additional economic factors must be considered, but to date have not been.

The cost of transporting water, desalinization, and the potential effects of climate change must all be taken into account. Considering specifically the economic efficiency and return on investment of irrigation in the transfer recipient regions, WWF data shows that even in the high revenue intensively cultivated areas, over production of crops and growing agricultural competition in the Mediterranean region will greatly reduce profits and benefits in the future.

The WWF report shows that once these factors have all been calculated, it is impossible to arrive at a positive cost benefit figure for the SNHP, and the 3.5 billion Euro loss calculated by WWF is a conservative figure.

WWF also questions the methodology and criteria used in the justification of the Plan, and has shown that in the calculations of benefits to both the donor and recipient regions of the water transfer, data has been misrepresented in terms of wealth and income potential.

"The figures in the WWF report only serve to add more fuel to the fire against the SNHP," said Paloma Agrasot, WWF SNHP Initiative Coordinator. "The gap between the poor donor northern regions and the wealthier southern recipient regions will only broaden if the transfer is allowed to go ahead. It is time the European Commission stopped months of indecision and came to a consensus on how to proceed with the SNHP, taking into account not only the negative cost versus benefits of the plan, but also the environmental and cultural damage which the plan will cause across Spain."

"To date there have been no concrete steps by the commission to resolve the SNHP issue, and this could potentially lead to the setting of some dangerous precedents for unsustainable water management in Europe in the future."

WWF believes with the evidence stacking up against the sustainability and cost effectiveness of the SNHP, it is time for the commission to fully play its role as guardians of the European Treaty and prevent irreversible environmental and cultural damage.

About WWF: Since its inception in 1961, WWF has worked to conserve nature and ecological processes. It has done this through a combination of action on the ground, national and international advocacy work to establish appropriate policies, and international campaigns to highlight and demonstrate solutions to crucial environmental problems.

Over the long course of its 41-year history, WWF has contributed significantly to the development and impact of the world conservation movement and to sustainable development in a period of great pressure on the world's natural resources.

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