By Chris King • 11 January 2022 • 0:08
Malaga hoteliers warn of the need to upgrade water supplies in the province.
image: google maps - domenico
A lack of water for irrigation in the La Viñuela reservoir is causing despair to farmers who have already seen this season how avocados lose size. They fear that this year the drought will begin to wash away the mango trees, although the plantations would withstand the onslaught.
Javier Braun, the president of the Spanish Tropical Association – a group that brings together almost half a thousand farmers, producers, and marketers – has warned that the fields of the Axarquia region are dying.
“The situation is critical. We have been warning for ten years that the wolf is coming, and no one has listened to us. It would be a catastrophe if we had to start uprooting trees in a region where 90 per cent of men women work in the subtropics”, said Braun.
“Each company has between 200 and 300 workers, and in Velez-Malaga alone, there are about 30. To this must be added the smallholdings that many families work, the businesses in the area, transporters, and even the restaurants that distinguish their gastronomy for these healthy and quality crops”, he added.
“With a cultivated area of around 9,000 hectares, located mainly in the Axarquia and Costa Tropical region of Granada, this sector is one of the great economic engines of the region. It is a livelihood on which the economy of more than 5,000 small farmers directly depends, and which generates thousands of indirect jobs derived from the production conditions, and the trading companies of the region. Some of them are transnational references in the tropical sector”, Braun stressed.
The agricultural balance provided by the Association of Young Farmers (Asaja) in Malaga shows that the province’s tropical crops have generated a turnover of €147.86 million, 9.59 per cent less than in 2020.
During the annual summary, Baldomero Bellido, the president of Asaja, commented that “the avocado campaign has developed without problems, and with the cruising speed that is already characteristic of the sector.” Turnover has reached €116.49 million, a figure within the average.
Mango production increased compared to the previous year, compensating for the price drop compared to 2020, “and with difficult times in the campaign”, commented Bellido, “Being such a powerful sector, with as many jobs as we create, our only hope may be to pray. The works that are being proposed are all for human consumption, and in the long term”.
“From the so-called water highway, to the desalination plants. It is useless for the Junta de Andalucia to invest €1.7 million in the development of the tertiary treatment plant if they do not then invest in the pipes to reach the farms”, pointed out the president of the National Tropical Association.
“There is a European regulation that does not allow the water to be dumped into the sea. We are willing to pay for the canalisations, but with the help of the administration, and that is what the drought decree should be for”, claimed Braun.
He has not ruled out mobilisations during this first quarter of the year. They are also preparing a technical and legal advisory group, “to defend our rights.”
“In addition, to use the reclaimed water for irrigation, it is necessary to build a regulation basin to mix it with that of the reservoir. In addition to considering this investment, it is necessary to re-emphasise that there is hardly any water in the reservoir, and we do not know how it’s made of clay”, he added.
The Junta de Andalucía approved emergency works for an amount of €1.7 million at the beginning of November, to put the tertiary of four treatment plants into use in Axarquia. With this, farmers could have – in the absence of the pipes, as irrigators remember – eight more cubic hectometres per year from the wastewater treatment plants of Rincon de la Victoria, Velez-Malaga, and those of Manzano, and Iara in Torrox.
Among the actions contemplated in the projects to be carried out in these plants is the installation of a physical-chemical treatment, with decantation, and a purge system that, together with other measures, will allow the optimisation of the process to which the wastewater is subjected, in order to obtain reclaimed water that can be used to irrigate crops. The execution period is six months.
The global budget is €841,300 for the Velez-Malaga wastewater treatment plant. Those in Torrox-Iara and Torrox-Arroyo will cost around €627,500, and about €300,000 will be invested in the Rincon de la Victoria wastewater treatment plant .
Currently, only irrigation with treated water is in use for 2,800 hectares of the Irrigation Community of Sur del Guaro. The Viñuela reservoir has 27 cubic hectometres. The rains in December did not cause any variation in the level. This figure represents just 16.36 per cent of its capacity.
In the last week of 2021, the lake contained 44 cubic hectometres (26.67 per cent). Ten years ago, in this same period, it accumulated more than triple what it has in 2022. That is, 89 cubic hectometres, 54.48 per cent of its capacity.
“We are at a critical moment. The wells are dry, the last rains, as we say, have only served to wet the grass, and the high temperatures do not help either”, said Braun. “The future is uncertain if it doesn’t rain before summer. We are very concerned about such a bleak outlook. We have been warning for ten years that this catastrophe could happen”, he insisted, as reported by malagahoy.es.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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