Spain’s Sánchez warns drought now a major national concern

Barcelona, ​​April 19 (BNA): The Spanish Prime Minister warned lawmakers today, Wednesday, that the severe drought that afflicted the southern European country has become one of its most important long-term concerns.

“The government of Spain and I are aware that the debate around drought will be one of the central political and regional debates in our country for the coming years,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the Madrid-based parliament.

The regional tensions between regions over water that Sanchez referred to are already showing up in protests over water changes and disputes between farmers and environmentalists.

According to the Associated Press, Spain was officially hit by a prolonged drought in three years of little rain and high temperatures last month.

The National Weather Service said 2022 was the hottest year on record, with average daily temperatures rising above 15°C (59°F) for the first time since records began in 1961. The country has warmed by 1.3°C. (34 Fahrenheit) Since the 1960s, a rise in temperatures can be observed throughout the year, especially in the summer when average temperatures rise by 1.6 degrees.

Experts and authorities say the Mediterranean region as a whole is warming faster than the global average due to climate change caused by the release of greenhouse gases.

There is no indication that the situation in Spain will improve in the coming weeks.

This has led to water restrictions in drier regions. Regional authorities in northeastern Catalonia said this week that Barcelona and the wider surrounding region of about 6 million people could enter an “emergency” of drought by September unless predictions prove wrong.

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The reservoirs supplying water to northern Catalonia have been reduced to 27% of their capacity. Only the reservoirs connected to the Guadalquivir River Basin in southern Andalusia are the worst, at 26% of their capacity.

Andalusia and other agricultural regions bear the brunt of the drought as farmers lose crops.

The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture met with agricultural associations and local authorities in charge of irrigation management in Madrid on Wednesday. Agriculture Minister Luis Planas has pledged to ask the European Union to temporarily ease the Common Agricultural Regulations for Spanish farmers to help speed up financial aid for the sector.

Andres Gongora, representative of the COAG Farmers and Breeders Association, said his group had urged the ministry to take emergency measures.

“(The government should) issue an emergency decree so that it can take action to face the catastrophic situation that many farmers and breeders are facing,” he said. “This year, unfortunately, there won’t be any green shoots, but instead a lot of red numbers.”

Spain’s forests are also suffering as firefighters battle blazes that are not usually seen until the hot summer months.

Sanchez, a socialist leader facing a general election in December, said his government’s priority is to invest heavily “to help restore our rivers, improve water filtration, cleaning and water reuse systems, and digitize our water management.”

“This is clearly our responsibility, our duty, because the challenge we face from climate change and water stress is clear,” Sanchez said.

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