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Government signs $1.4 billion deal to protect crucial land: 'An end to pressure on a natural treasure'

The park is under severe strain, ecologists say.

The park is under severe strain, ecologists say.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Spanish government is allocating 1.4 billion euros (about $1.5 billion, as of early December) to protect Doñana National Park from intensifying drought, as Euronews and other sources reported.

The park is under severe strain, ecologists say, from both agriculture and tourism. Rising temperatures and a lengthy drought, which have both been amplified by human-caused air pollution, have exacerbated the problem, making it vital for the Spanish government to intervene.

Part of the money will go toward offering farmers incentives to use less water. The farmers will be paid to stop cultivating land in and around 14 towns close to Doñana National Park, per Euronews, and to instead reforest that land. 

The region is the world's largest exporter of strawberries. However, the cultivation of these fruits, coupled with the drought, has greatly taxed the area's aquifers. 

"The Doñana reserve is slowly dying under the effects of prolonged drought, aggravated by the overexploitation of groundwater for the intensive production of strawberries," Le Monde wrote earlier this year. A significant portion of this farming has been done using illegal wells, the outlet reported.

Doñana National Park covers 74,000 hectares (around 183,000 acres) on Spain's southern coast, according to Euronews. In an additional effort to help it survive, the region of Andalusia recently announced a plan to purchase and annex 7,500 hectares (around 18,500 acres) of it from a private owner for 70 million euros (around $75.5 million). 

The Andalusian regional government will also cancel its much-criticized plans to expand irrigation near Doñana and give amnesty to those using illegal wells, per Le Monde

"This is an agreement with which we put an end to pressure on a natural treasure the likes of which there are few in the world," Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said, as quoted by Euronews.

Spain has taken other drastic measures recently to save its natural environment from the effects of human-caused pollution. Last year, Spain's Congress ratified a measure to grant legal personhood to a saltwater lagoon, giving it rights to conservation, restoration, and protection.

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