SAVE THE EBRO DELTA
The Spanish National Hydrological Plan (NHP) and the social opposition to the transference of water from the River Ebro to other river basins.
1. The NHP and water management in Spain
2. General effects of the NHP
3. Repercussions of the NHP in areas where the water will be transferred from
3.1 The Delta of the River Ebro
3.2 Reservoirs in the Spanish Pyrenees
4. Repercussions in areas receiving the water transferences
5. The quality of the Ebro's water
6. Economic analysis of the proposed Ebro water transference
7. Social movement against the Ebro water transference
1. THE NATIONAL HYDROLOGICAL PLAN AND WATER MANAGEMENT IN SPAIN
The Spanish National Hydrological Plan (NHP) is a legislative bill which includes the building of 863 different infrastructures, such as large dams, water transferences and the canalising of rivers. The main point, though, concentrates on a large interbasin water transference of 1,050 Hm3/year from the River Ebro. This water would be transferred to Catalonia (190 Hm3), Valencia (315 Hm3), Murcia (450 Hm3) and Almeria (95 Hm3). To this end, the Plan also requires the construction of large reservoirs in the Ebro Basin to regulate its flow.
The total cost of the NHP is estimated at 23,500 million Euros. Spain expects the European Community to pay for 30% (7,863 million Euros) of this, via Regional and Cohesion Funds.
Spain, as with most Mediterranean countries, is characterised by its scarcity of water resources. The planning and management of these resources has been based for decades on creating new irrigation lands and constructing huge hydrological works, such as dams and water transferences via canals. These have always been subsidised by the state. In the 1950s this policy could have been justified because of the economic and social reality of Spain at that moment. However, at present the needs of Spain are completely different.
A hydrological plan is necessary, especially in a country like Spain with scarce water resources. However, its design must never be tendentious, nor anachronistic. It must not be planned from the economics of construction, which only favours specific political and economic speculation, but rather from a planning of a country's resources to improve conditions for everyone. It has to look forward, not backwards.
A hydrological plan should objectively analyse the existing resources (supply) and plan their future uses (demand) from a sustainable approach, without generating new socially and environmentally negative impacts. For this, it is important to know what our present resources and real needs are.
The present Plan (NHP) is essentially based on justifying the conditions to allow inter-basin water transferences. The main one would be from the river Ebro to Barcelona and to the south-east coastline of Spain (Levante) (distances of 200 and 1,000km respectively). The reasoning behind this is the supposed "water resource deficit" of the Levante and supposed "excess flow" of the river Ebro. Why this area suffers from this apparent deficit is not analysed. Likewise, solutions which would not put at risk the future of the areas "losing" the water are not considered. The other water problems in Spain are not analysed or studied either. The NHP simply offers a list of proposed infrastructures to be built with no justifications given.
The social rejection of the NHP is mainly due to this huge transference of water from the Ebro and the proposed large dams along the river basin to regulate it and store water for this project. This rejection is based on solid technical arguments given by the Spanish scientific community and has become even stronger because of the lack of dialogue offered by the government ever since the first publication of the proposed projects (5 September, 2001). This lack of dialogue has even led to the extreme case of the government "hiding" all the independent reports it itself had requested from scientists and other experts. This was because these reports offered a negative evaluation of this NHP. Other independent reports, such as those prepared by the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, have also been negative and, hence, not published until the NHP had been passed into law, even though the central and autonomous governments knew their conclusions.
2. GENERAL EFFECTS OF THE NHP
This Plan proposes huge constructions and public works of doubtful economic, social, and environmental viability. These include over a hundred new reservoirs and the transferences of water from one river basin to another, especially the aforementioned one from the Ebro to the Jucar and Segura basins (1,000km) and to Barcelona (200km). It also includes the channelling of rivers, reforestation, new irrigated territories, improving the water supply to villages and the treatment of water and waste. Many of these projects should have been carried out independently of this NHP, to comply with EU regulations which Spain is at present ignoring. Even so, most of them are only named in the NHP, but neither described, nor analysed economically, nor justified. This makes it hard to see them being carried out.
The large transference of water from the Ebro of 1,050 Hm3/year (15% of its average flow over the last decade) will increase even more the regional inequalities between interior, mainly rural, lands and the coastline - urban with speculative agriculture and not respecting a good water resource planning and management. All this would be subsidised by the government or the European Community to reduce the construction costs.
The scarcity of water, worsening of its quality, and its manipulation by humans, leads to the deterioration of rivers, lakes, deltas, wetlands, riverside woodlands and mountain areas. This is due to the unlimited extraction of this asset, which not only fails to solve the existing problems, but also creates new ones. These large works affect Special Bird Protection Areas and Common Interest Areas, created for the protection of fauna and habitats, Ramsar wetlands, and areas designated for protection under the NATURE 2000 scheme. They also break EU directives, such as Natural Habitats (92/43/EEC), Birds (79/409/EEC) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60EC).
Besides this, the estimates for the flow of the Ebro are wrong as they are over-evaluated at present and do not take into account future effects of the climate change. In recent decades the average flow has decreased spectacularly, by about 50%, due to the excessive water uses and proliferation of reservoirs.
1960s: 16,842 Hm3/year
1970s: 14,071 Hm3/year
1980s: 9,502 Hm3/year
1990s: 8,235 Hm3/year
3. REPERCUSSIONS OF THE NHP IN AREAS WHERE THE WATER WILL BE TRANSFERRED FROM
There would be many negative repercussions along the Ebro basin if the NHP is carried out. These include the negative effects for the Delta, the survival of which would even be at risk, and in the mountains of the Upper Ebro, where many reservoirs are to be constructed. These would be the two most notable impacts, but there would also be a negative impact on fauna, vegetation, and cultural heritage sites, such as the St.James' Way. We will now analyse the first two aspects:
3.1 THE DELTA OF THE RIVER EBRO
The awareness of the need to preserve the environment because it is a natural heritage of the whole of humanity and has to be preserved for the present and future generations, is felt strongly in the inhabitants living along the final stretch of the river Ebro. For them, to protect the Ebro Delta means to maintain a natural environment that, even after years of human intervention still presents exceptional values within the whole of the Spanish and European natural heritage. It is the second most important west Mediterranean wetland after the Camargue, and the second in the Iberian peninsula after Dońana.
The international importance of the Delta goes back to 1962, when it was included in the list of Euro-African wetlands of international interest. It was declared category A by UNESCO, the highest category. Later it was declared a Wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention in 1971, and by Spain in 1982. In 1979 the European Union declared the Ebro delta a Special Bird Protection Area (SBPA) and it has been proposed as a Common Interest Area (CIA) for the Nature 2000 network. In addition to this the European Council has declared it an important area for its fauna and flora, with 77 protected species, 8 of which are plants and the rest vertebrates.
All these international recognitions and the urgency to guarantee the conservation of the Delta as a valuable natural area, concluded in 1983 with the creation of the Natural Park of the Ebro Delta by the Catalan government, with the aim of preserving its ecosystem .There are many species of plants and animals, some of which migrate, some of which live there all year round. There are more than 350 species of birds alone.
The biggest impact that the NHP will have on the Lower Ebro area, will be in the Ebro Delta. This Delta has been formed by the river. Historians and scientists have shown that in Roman times - and for a long time afterwards - the Delta didn't exist. The Delta began growing after the Middle ages as a result of the deforestation in its Basin (caused by fires, the tendency to cultivate new land, and the mass felling of trees for buildings and ships).The unprotected soil was then eroded by rain, carried down the river and deposited in its estuary.
At present the Ebro Delta has three very important problems:
1) Regression. The sediment flow of rivers is very important to maintain the coast, beaches, and river deltas. The Ebro Delta is physically losing land as it regresses backwards. This regression has been the most immediate consequence of the reservoirs built in the past. These have been built to produce electricity, retain water for irrigation and avoid the flooding of the river. This has caused the sediments to be deposited at the bottom of the reservoirs. According to scientists, there is only 1% of the sediments coming down the river, compared to one hundred years ago. Since the building of the reservoirs the regression of the Delta has been a constant feature, going back more than 100m.in specific years. Part of this land, moved by the sea, has been deposited in other places but a general loss is evident and this problem will probably worsen in the future, if more reservoirs are built and huge amounts of water are transferred from the river. At present, the fragility and the instability of the coastal line of the Delta has increased considerably.
2) The subsidence of the Delta is produced by the sediments compacting due to their own weight and human activities. It is calculated that the height of the of the Delta above sea level is being reduced by about 3mm per year. The fact that sediments aren't reaching the Delta prevents the compensation of this subsidence which, together with the expected rise in sea level , could cause a large part of the Delta to drop below sea level.
3) The penetration of sea water into the river is the direct result of the reduction of the amount, and consequently of the force, of the river water that enters the sea. This reduction of river flow, has been produced by the effects of the agricultural, urban, industrial and energy use of the water in the last decades. The heavier salt water forms a wedge which moves upriver below the fresh water as the sea wins its battle against the river. There often appears to be a lot of water in the river but in the Delta it is mainly salty, with the negative consequences that this has for agriculture, wells, and other fresh water uses. The salt wedge regularly reaches Amposta, 25 km from the river mouth, and in dry periods it moves even further upstream.
3.2 RESERVOIRS IN THE SPANISH PYRENEES
The National Hydrological Plan (NHP) proposes the construction of at least a hundred reservoirs throughout Spain, for diverse uses such as agriculture, urban water supplies, and hydro-electric power.
The Ebro Basin's storage capacity in reservoirs is already 6,500 Hm3 (40% of its natural assets of 17,000 Hm3/year). Two other reservoirs have been completed; Itoiz and Rialp (being filled at present). This capacity is predicted to rise to 9,850 Hm3 (58% of the natural assets) thanks to the construction of nine Big Dams and many smaller regulating ones. Amongst these we can find the dams at Biscarrues, Santaliestra, Janovas, Loteta and the increase in the capacity of Yesa.
However, during the period 1988-89 to 2000-01 the average amount of water stored in the Ebro's reservoirs was only 4,381 Hm3, much lower than the predicted storage of the NHP project.
This planned increased capacity for regulation of the river is directly linked to the proposed transference of 1,050 Hm3/year from the Ebro Basin to other river basins, as these reservoirs will act as storage facilities for this purpose.
In the last century, about 4,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and 30 villages have been emptied and flooded. Nine thousand productive hectares have been flooded in some of the most important valleys of the Pyrenees. The new dams will only worsen the effects on the population who live in these mountain areas, causing them to leave and increasing the regional inequalities between the rural and urban worlds.
Modifying the natural state of the Pyrenees' rivers will also affect the general working of all the Ebro Basin. Destroying kilometres and kilometres of riverside vegetation as they are flooded, will cause river spates to worsen and a loss in biodiversity. The rivers will become dehumanized, losing their social uses for bathing, meeting and leisure. This would mean a general loss in people's standard of living.
The needs of the hydro-electric plants to regulate the water flow would make the river artificial, seriously affecting the aquatic eco-system. Periods of low water would be lengthened causing the death of fish trapped in pools, and an increase in pollution. Artificial rises in the water level at the start of summer would have a negative effect on the riverside vegetation and, hence, on the nesting of water birds. Expulsing large amounts of sediment when the reservoirs are cleaned could also have a serious impact on fauna and water quality. The drop in water temperatures caused by the hydro-electric plants also impoverishes the fish populations, especially those of trout as this species is at the upper end of the trophic chain. The vegetation, diversity and quality of water would also be affected.
Dozens of canyons and gorges would be flooded. These sites are important for their biodiversity, beauty and capacity for cleansing water.
Experience has shown us that the construction of Big Dams causes the surrounding areas to be abandoned or suffer a change in their traditional use. This alters the ecological balance of this territory. The most fragile zones of clay and loam suffer from erosion, losing their productivity. This same soil then fills up the reservoirs as sediments creating yet another problem.
Besides these environmental and social impacts, historical and artistic heritage would also be affected, suffering an incalculable loss. This would be the case with the flooding of villages with catalogued ancient monuments, and a section of the St.James' Way in Aragon. This world famous historic pilgrims' walk has been declared a heritage site by UNESCO.
4. REPERCUSSION IN AREAS RECEIVING THE WATER TRANSFERENCES
The water management of the Spanish Levante (south-east coast), especially the Murcia region (Segura river basin) is confusing since each authority (central administration, autonomic administration, water confederation and governmental ministries) offers different data for water resources and demands. The National Statistics Institute gives an urban use of 67 Hm3/year, while the Basin Plans speak about 128Hm3/year for the same population, a difference of 91%. The second is the figure taken in the Spanish National Hydrological Plan (NHP) as being the present use. The same case applies to data about agrarian uses.
This disproportionate consumption creates environmental problems due to an unsustainable increase in the demand for water: this rises from the 803 Hm3/year of water assets available (supply) to a demand for 2,000 Hm3/year, an increase of 137%. The existing transference of water (400 Hm3/year) from the river Tajo to the Segura, constructed 20 years ago, has not solved the problems it was designed to solve. In fact it has worsened them by promoting more land and water rights speculation. This transference was supposed to be for the then cultivated 90,000 Ha, plus 50,000 Ha of new irrigation lands. At present there are about 200,000 Ha, an increase of 40%. Thanks to this disproportionate increase, nowadays only 4% (1 m3/s) of the river Segura's total volume flows out to the sea. The native fish species have been negatively affected by the introduction and adaptation of new species to the river. The biodiversity of the local flora has been reduced due to modifications in the eco-systems converting the characteristically almost desert-like lands into irrigation lands.
The huge introduction of water from other basins causes social problems. It promotes a social inequality and speculation between the traditional agriculture of the Vegas and large businesses. The water speculators are in the area of Cartagena and Alicante while the local farmers of the Traditional Vega have to beg for water from a highly polluted river. The local administrations allow the illegal conversion of natural areas into irrigated lands, ignoring the complaints of SEPRONA, ecological groups and other local bodies. This has even happened to forests which, after a fire, have been given EU funds to be regenerated.. These reforestations are not carried out correctly and soon these lands are cultivated as irrigated lands. Hence, a natural forest can end up as a field of lettuces. These vast fields need a large amount of cheap labour. These workers are often illegal immigrants living in abysmal conditions, with the inevitable tensions ending in cases of racism and violence such as were experienced last year in El Ejido and Torre Pacheo. This kind of agriculture leads to an over-production of crops which only favours large businesses. These can take advantage of EU help to destroy this production and unbalance the markets. When the NHP was passed, 85% of the wells (13,500) in the Murcia region were legalised to be able to receive water from the Ebro transference. Before the 26 October (2001) these wells were not registered and did not figure in any legal records, which shows clearly the lack of control over water use in this area.
This region is deeply concerned about water management but, until recently, ignored the regulations relating to the treatment of waste water, nitrates and so on. According to the Basin Plans there are high losses in the water distribution network. Approximately a third (42 Hm3/year) of the water is lost this way. The natural aquifers have been clearly over-exploited. They use six times as much water from the aquifers as can be naturally regenerated, leading to the salinization of these. Intensive agriculture has also caused a deterioration in the aquifers' quality due to the high concentration of nitrates and other residues as a result of the abusive use of pesticides and fertilizers. Special wells, only to be used in times of drought for drinking water, are incoherently being used for irrigation. Some industries still pollute the rivers and go unpunished. This hinders the functioning of the few treatment plants in operation.
The Spanish government (PP party) has recently down-graded 20,000 ha of virgin lands, highly valuable from an ecological point of view, thus encouraging more mass tourism and urbanism speculation. Lastly, it is worth noting the proliferation of golf courses and tourism needing a high water consumption in this region.
5. THE QUALITY OF THE EBRO'S WATER
The present water policies in Spain maintain the false idea that the solution to the existing problems is to address the "inequalities" between the abundance of water of the "wet" Spain and the shortages of the "dry" Spain. However, the large water transferences considered in the present Hydrological Plan (NHP) are not from the true "wet" Spain. For technical and economic reasons they come from river basins also affected by the Mediterranean climate and, hence, with a natural shortcoming of water too. This shows that the proposed transferences have not only technical dimensions but also social-economic ones. The question is not how to solve the technical problems of transferring water from a territory with a natural surplus of water to one with a shortage, but to discuss the convenience of using a limited resource in one area or another.
The promotion of hydrological infrastructures generates demands which become harder and harder to satisfy. These include unlimited greed for increasing the amount of irrigated lands, human settlements and industries in arid areas, with the consequent revaluation of these lands. We believe that there has to be a firm change in the rules of the economic game to move from the economy of more and more construction of infrastructures , to that of using our resources in a sustainable way, more in line with the needs of people.
The water transference from the River Ebro, the most important feature of the present NHP, is an ecological, technical, and economic disaster. A more realistic alternative would be to move the state's policies towards an improved management and saving of water.
The project to transfer 1,000 hm3 from the Lower Ebro to the southern-most points of the Spanish coastline treats the planning of the canal routes as if they were roads. It ignores not only whether the destiny is reasonable, but the quality of the water. It is not worth discussing the destiny of this water when the project fails to comply with what should be its first objective: offering water of a good quality.
To the aforementioned inequality in quantities of water resources between the "dry" and "wet" Spain, we must add this factor of water quality. A lower amount of water is usually accompanied by a worse quality. There is a clear deterioration of water quality as we follow a line downwards from the humid north to the dry south-east. The water of all the river basins in Spain is of a naturally poor quality except that of the north and Galicia.
The Ebro basin has always suffered from naturally poor water quality due to the large presence of salts in its middle and lower sections. This has been increased due to the consumer uses along its course. Agrarian and urban waste has worsened this situation. In the zone where the water will be taken from, the parameters exceed the limits stipulated in pre-drinking water regulations by over 5%, as is admitted in the environmental report of the NHP itself. Besides this, we must also consider the risks associated with the nuclear power plant at Ascó. All this would involve treating, and desalinising the transferred water , the cost and difficulty of which , ignored in the project, cannot be detailed here.
Salt content samples taken from the Ebro during the last decade from the two stations at either end of the section where the water will be taken from (Mequinenza and Tortosa) clearly show the poor state of the water. This water does not match the requirements for pre-drinking water and could only be used for limited yield irrigation and for flooding lands to avoid their salinisation. It is clear that for this water to be useful at all would require desalinisation and treatments not considered in the NHP. Costwise we must also mention that these pharaonic infrastructures would require important pumping systems of at least 3 kWh/m3. Desalinising sea water only needs 4 kWh/m3 today, and will foreseeably be more efficient in the future as techniques modernise, to a point where its cost - without subsidies - would be lower than that of the transferred water in any independent, realistic study.
We can see then that by simply considering this factor of water quality, this NHP becomes the worse option from any point of view. The technical, economic, and social disaster represented by the Ebro transference, the "star feature" of the NHP 2000, demonstrates the fallacy of the policy of promoting water infrastructures and the offer of water (more supply) rather than studying realistic demands. A century ago, when the Ebro had double its present flow, with higher quality and lower salinity, and these policies were in vogue, this project would have made more sense, but not now. As the amount of consumer uses and pollutants has risen along with all the constructions along its course, the flow and quality has declined while the salinity has increased. The efforts to carry out this project have come late, seeming not to realise what has changed over the last century, as if the river were immune to the numerous human interventions it has suffered.
Given the above, we have to conclude that there are two options available to Spain for water management in the future. One option is more economical and more sustainable but politically harder. The other is more wasteful, more unsustainable, but politically easier to implement. It just requires the maintenance of the status quo and giving more business to public utilities and construction companies, the production and sale of water, and the owners of these water concessions.
6. ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF THE PROPOSED EBRO WATER TRANSFERENCE
A cost-benefit balance sheet of the Ebro river transfer gives a negative result.
The economic memorandum of the Ebro river transfers in the NHP contains very serious mistakes that imply inexplicable methodological and conceptual distortions totally outside the wide boundary of the scientific and technical debate. There is a clear absence of rigour in the cost-benefit analysis which is manipulated in order to obtain preconceived positive results. We shall summarise the main errors in the analysis presented by the Spanish Government:
a)Very optimistic pre-mature budgets . This has been confirmed (as opposed to that stated in the PPE memorandum to the European Parliament) in the public bidding on the first stretch of the Jucar-Vinalopó river transfer that was recently suspended since the offers presented by different building firms exceeded the projected budget by more than 100%. Another example, the Itoiz Dam, a key piece in the NHP, which has already been constructed, has exceeded the initial budget by more than 100%.
b) Excessive redemption periods. Assigning all the investments a redemption period of 50 years, while acceptable for large reservoirs and canals, is not acceptable for many of the infrastructures envisioned in the NHP (25% of investments) such as pumping stations, retaining pools etc, the redemption period of which should not exceed 15 years.
c) Underestimation of the energy costs of pumping and overestimation of the energy producible by turbines. A methodological fraud is used in the energy chapter by substituting the necessary economic analysis with a financial analysis. The result is that the energy consumed is given half the price as the energy generated (0.03Euros/Kwh vs. 0.07Euros/Kwh). As well as this, there is no serious consideration of the probable increase in energy costs in the next 50 years.
d) It is a conceptual mistake to use as agricultural benefit the net added value . This procedure, sometimes useful for certain fields, is not appropriate for analysing a public investment for the development of capital-intensive private activities with the only aim of maximisation of profits. By means of this error the benefits are greatly inflated by considering as such labour and capital costs. This brings the NHP to estimate the net profit generated on average by Mediterranean irrigated agriculture as 0.72 Euros/m3, while the same plan recognises that the average payment capacity of this Mediterranean agriculture is between only 0.12 and 0.18 Euros/m3. The fact that the free market of underground waters do not usually exceed the 0.18 Euros/m3 confirms this exaggeration of agrarian benefits.
e) The regulation costs are not accounted for. According to the NHP the regulation of the volume of flows must be carried out in the Mequinenza Reservoir, which is private (owned by the hydro-electric company ENHER). Nevertheless, in its calculations there is not 1 Euro of costs in the concept of expropriation or compensation . As a precedent, in the Jucar-Vinalopó river transfer, the Government has to pay the company Iberdrola 6 million Euros/year for using the Cortes Dam that regulates a volume of only 100 hm3/year, which is only a tenth of the amount envisioned in the Ebro canal project.
f) The costs of water treatment of the flows of the lower Ebro, which are considered to be of poor quality, are not taken into account. The Ebro Basin Plan does not consider this water potable due its high levels of salinity, so this would mean important expenditures in water treatment, especially for urban uses. Besides this, the Plan does not take into account the deterioration of water quality caused by contamination from hundreds of thousands of new hectares of irrigated land proposed by the NHP in the Ebro River Basin.
g) The value of urban flows is clearly overestimated. The mistake consists in falsifying the application of the concept of opportunity value, upon considering the desalinisation of sea-water (overpriced at 0.81Euros/m3) as the cheapest possible alternative for urban necessities, instead of using the opportunity value of agrarian water flows ( less than 0.18Euros/m3 on average in private water markets in Murcia) as the most economical alternative. The simple correction of this concept creates a negative global balance for the whole Ebro River transfer project.
There will be no compliance with the principle of Complete Cost Recovery. There is no assessment of the modular costs of each section. An average cost of 0.32 Euros/m3 (underestimated, for the above mentioned reasons) is offered, which hides the specific cost of each section of the project. These costs, according to the Government“s own calculations would be above 0.6 Euros/m3 for Almeria or Murcia, and would reach levels of over 1 Euro/m3 for real costs if we used serious calculations. This is in stark contrast with the average present market price of less than 0.2 Euros/m3 according to the private water market, which rises to 0.33 in areas like Almeria. Today the desalinisation of sea water costs approximately O.5 Euros/m3 and can deliver water of a much greater quality than the transferred river water.
7. SOCIAL MOVEMENT AGAINST THE EBRO WATER TRANSFERENCE
A large social movement against the NHP has grown in the Ebro lands, in which many people of different ages, conditions and ideologies group together. Business associations, shopkeepers, agricultural cooperatives, trade unions, and others have manifested their rejection of this NHP. Farmers, fishermen, students, old age pensioners, civil servants, neighbours associations, cultural entities and a large social representation, have participated in demonstrations in Spain and Europe. These demonstrations have shown that the vast majority of the citizens directly affected by this Plan clearly do not accept it. All the protest campaigns and demonstrations have been a big success with a huge participation of people. These have been held not only in the lands of the Ebro (Amposta, Tortosa, Mora d'Ebre ) but also further away, or even abroad: Zaragoza (November 200), Barcelona (February 2001), Madrid (March 2001), and in Brussels (September 2001).
An important point to mention is the huge participation of women in this movement, not only demonstrating but also carrying out money raising activities. There is a stall in the local market in Tortosa, where our products are sold and information given out. This gives the movement a continuity, popularity and social acceptation. Young people are also actively involved, reinforcing their ecological beliefs. They are convinced that they are fighting for their future, because they can see that if the Ebro water is taken away, there will be even fewer opportunities of working in this area than at present. People are becoming aware that the economic development of this area is linked to the water. Any economic growth will occur in the areas receiving the water. This has been the case with Tarragona. In the ten years since this area received an earlier water transference from the Ebro, there has been a spectacular urban, demographic, industrial, and tourism growth there while the Ebro lands have remained stagnant or even worsened in some aspects
The opposition to the NHP started in September 2000 after the Spanish government made their Plan public. La Plataforma per a la Defensa de l'Ebre (PDE) was formed at that time, and soon many groups (cultural, sport associations, economic, and so on) from many different villages and towns of the Ebro lands, and thousands of people from other parts of Catalonia (Spain) joined the PDE. The Platform for the Defence of the River Ebro, is a dynamic and flexible social movement, and not a fixed organisation. The PDE has not been legally constituted, has no fixed office, nor paying members. People working for the PDE aren't paid for it, and they work in their free time. There are no elected leaders, simply everchanging spokespeople. We can safely say that any person against the Ebro water transference and against this NHP, participating in demonstrations and other protest events, forms a part of the "Plataforma".
The PDE is a movement of assemblies, where all the actions are decided in open citizens assemblies. There are many local platforms acting at a local level. Representatives of the local platforms meet at the inter-town platform to study the themes and plan future actions. It meets also as an open assembly. Important debates and discussions are taken in a general assembly where anyone who can is encouraged to come along. There can be about a thousand people in one of these acts.
To discuss the future actions to take, affecting all the people living along the Ebro (from the Pyrenees to the Delta) there is a main Platform, involving all the organisations along the river.
Apart from all the demonstrations in Spain, the most emblematic action that this movement has done is "The Blue March". The Blue March started on the 10th of August 2001 in the Delta of the Ebro. It moved up the river, across France( Pau, Toulouse, Paris ), and into Germany (Cologne), then Maastrich. In most towns the people participating were met by the local authorities. In Paris, for example, they were received at the Environment Ministry. The Blue March arrived in Brussels on the 8th of September and culminated in a big demonstration the following day. More than 15,000 people arrived in Brussels that weekend from the Ebro lands. Under an intensive rain the demonstrators asked the EU not to finance this NHP, which the Spanish government is promoting. The following day, the Platform's scientific analyses and petitions were handed in to the European parliament. It has been said that this demonstration was the largest ever seen in Brussels of people from outside Belgium. And it was also the first demonstration for "a new water culture".
Recent events have seen Greenpeace include the fight against the NHP and the Ebro transference, and the threats they pose to the river ecosystems and Delta, as one of their priorities. They are actively following the case and lodging their own petitions to the EU parliament. Their world famous symbol, the Rainbow Warrior, docked in Sant Carles de la Rąpita, on the Delta, on 5th February. Three smaller boats came up the river as far as Amposta where activists abseiled from the bridge, opening up a huge banner - "Save the Ebro Delta".