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EcoNoticiario # 4: Will Barcelona die of thirst? News from Spain and Latin America

by JohnnyRook Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 06:52:46 AM EST

[editor's note, by Migeru] originally posted on March 22

In this week's EcoNoticiario: water, lack of water, and water politics,  fudging CO2 emissions, saving sea turtles, global warming and indigenous peoples, skyrocketing energy costs, and did I mention water?

Spain features very prominently this week because of a slow week in Latin American environmental news combined with a fascinating developing story in Catalonia over how Barcelona is going get enough water to drink.

Your Spanish environmental word of the week:

environment--medio ambiente

Diary rescue by Migeru


Lots of discussion this week of government duplicity about the environment starting with figures on CO2 emissions.

CO2 Emissions Have Dropped by Only Half of What Zapatero Claimed

In the first debate between José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy, the President declared: "We have reduced [greenhouse gas emissions) since 2006 by 4% despite strong economic growth".  In reality, the drop in 2006 from the previous year was 1.7%, which works out to be a 2.7% by comparison with 1990, the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol. In other words, less than half of what Zapatero claimed.

The Environment Ministry sent the data to the European Commission yesterday, two months late and five days after the election.  According to the official numbers, in 2006, Spain emitted 49.98% more than in 1990 (Kyoto only permitted an increase of 15% 2010). It is likely that the increase will continue in 2007, reaching a level nine points higher than in 2003.

Teresa Ribera, the director of the Spanish Government's Office on Climate Change [link in English and Spanish], a unit of the Spanish Environment Ministry, saw reasons for hope in the data:

Despite the [controversy], the drop is the first since monitoring of emissions began in 1990. Ribera emphasized that this is not an accidental event but rather a tendency that will become clearly visible in the next few years.

El País, Madrid March 15, 2008

The worse drought [link in Spanish] in Catalonia in 70 years is leading to intense political maneuvering and infighting. Barcelona is casting about for water, which it needs urgently, while farmers are suspicious of any attempts to divert water from the rivers that irrigate their crops to the city. For more, see EcoNoticiario 2.

Segre River

Llobregat River

Segre River (left) Llobregat River (right)

Environment Avoids Commenting on Segre [Surveyors] Stakes

The Environment Department has avoided making a statement on the appearance of some forty surveyors stakes along the Segre River in Prats i Sansor, that have awakened suspicions that the diversion of water from the Segre to the Llobregat via the Cadí tunnel is in the works.

A spokesperson for the Environment Department declared late yesterday evening that he was "not in a position to make any comment" about the stakes that "someone" put in last week on a parcel of land of nearly a hectare without the permission either of the owner or the City Council of Prats i Sansor, which insists that it has not been notified of any project associated with them.


The mayor of Prats i Sansor, Josep Carbonell, stated yesterday that:

...he is "indignant" and that if he sees the team of surveyors or other technicians on the property again, he will call the Mossos de Esquadra [the Catalan police] to remove them. The property owner has also stated that for the time being he has not pulled the stakes up but that he will block any further activity in his field, part of which is under cultivation and part of which is used for grazing cattle.

La Vanguardia, Barcelona March 14, 2008

To further complicate the situation, private water companies that promise adequate supplies and a bonanza for the Catalan treasury are looking to take advantage of the crisis.

Agbar Makes Offer to Government to Deliver All Water in the Barcelona area.

Aguas de Barcelona supplies water to residential and business customers  It is a retail seller of water to put it plainly.  It has its own wells and aquifers and when water from these sources isn't enough, it purchases water from Aguas Ter Llobregat (ATLL), a subdivision of the Environment Department that wholesales water to distribution companies: Agbar as well as its competitors.

Aguas de Barcelona's apparent ambition is to manage the water supply itself at wholesale and retail levels.  It tried several times during the CiU [Convergence and Unity--a conservative Catalan nationalist party] governments and is now trying again with the Tripartite Government [link in Spanish] [a coalition of PSC and ICV--see below and the ER, the Republican Left party].  Within the government there are two clear tendencies: the ICV [Green Catalan Initiative--a green, pro-environment party], the predominant attitude favors keeping control of the water in public hands; some PSC (Catalan Socialist Party, which is affiliated with the PSOE, the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers Party) leaders, on the other hand, don't see any problem in granting a management to a private business, for example, Aguas de Barcelona.

The irony of the situation has not been lost on some of the Catalan Greens:

"It would be very odd, to say the least, if water privatization, which was rejected by a pro-business administration like the CiU, were to be carried out by a left-wing government" observed one of the leaders of that group.

El País, Madrid March 15, 2008

Now, back to those surveyors stakes.  Maybe the Catalan government did know something about them after all...

The Generalitat [government of the Catalan Autonomous Community] does not rule out taking water from the Segre as an "emergency measure".

The head of the Generalitat's Territorial Policy and Public Works department, Joaquim Nadal, has not ruled out the option of "taking water from the Segre River", given the "extreme drought" the country is suffering, in order to guarantee drinking water for all of the Catalan territory.

Nevertheless, Nadal wanted to make it clear that the Generalitat "is not planning any diversion" although he left the door open to any "provisional emergency measure" after clarifying that the taking of water from the Segre is only being studied as a possibility in case a "temporary emergency measure is necessary".

According to the latest data made public my the Environment Ministry, the scarce rainfall recorded during the last week on Spain's Mediterranean slope (0.5 liters per square meter compared with the 9.2 [liters] that have been recorded on average since 1930) have contributed to leaving Catalonia's internal watersheds at 20.3 percent [of normal] [with 150 cubic meters, 4 less than last Tuesday).

Ramon Espadaler, a CiU deputy to the Catalan parliament and former  Counselor for the Environment declared "We regret to see how the Catalan government has expanded it's dictionary of lies..."

Likewise, regional deputy Josep Lobet of the PPC (link in Spanish)PPC [People's Party of Catalonia, a regional conservative pary associated with the national People's Party, the principal opposition party)Josep Llobet

In a press release, Llobet reminded the PSC that "water from the Segre ends up in the Ebro, and any water that is diverted from the Segre towards Barcelona" reduces the flow in the Ebro and expressed the opinion that this diversion is a "threat to the delta and its salinazation".

Llobet lamented that the PSC and the PSOE spent the campaign criticizing the PP for considering diversion from the Ebro and now they are counting on a diversion from its headwaters instead of its mouth.

La Vanguardia, Barcelona March 18, 2008

Talk of diverting water from the Segre River to the Llobregat has sparked criticism from various local authorities, many of whom are members of the political parties making up the government coalition that proposed the diversion. The threat here is of a water war between rural Catalonia and Barcelona.

Lleida authorities Opposed to Diversion of Water to Barcelona  

Segre water is untouchable at this moment because it too is scarce.  That is the position of the Lleida authorities (City Council, legislative deputies, Chamber of Commerce) and irrigators...)

Miquel Pueyo, ERC Generalitat delegate from Lleida, indicated:

... that he would accept taking water from the Segre if there if the river's resources were sufficient.  "The diversion," he declared, "will not happen if the population of Lleida does not have its supply guaranteed.  What we will not do is empty a river whose flow if below a set minimum."

Josep París of the irrigators' association from Segarra-Garrigues took a more uncompromising position:

"We are categorically opposed to this project and what upsets us the most is the Generalitat's tactlessness and the contempt which it is showing toward these lands by proposing a solution that will be nothing more than a bandaid and which will provoke a confrontation between the countryside and the city"...

El País, Madrid March 20,2008

Fewer Longlines, More Turtles

Loggerhead turtle

Researchers at the University of Barcelona have carried out the first study in Spain on the mortality rate of loggerhead sea turtles, the principal cause of which is longline fishing. Their conclusion: whereas 20 years ago between 15,000 and 25,000 of the turtles died annually, the current figure is more like 3,000 to 6,000.

The Loggerheads are opportunistic hunters and when they encounter a longline with fish on it, they feed on the fish and get caught on the hooks.  They are particularly fond of tuna and swordfish.

The reduction of the Spanish longline fleet to 78 vessels and the number of line deployments form 18 to 11 per month are the principal reasons for the reduced catch according to the researchers. In the worst of cases, this form of fishing may cause the the death of 2,048 individuals per year, that is, 10.4% of the population.  As the annual mortality rate of this species in the Mediterranean is 21%, and 7% is attibutable to natural causes, other fleets are most likely responsible for the remaining 10% of deaths.

The researchers offered a number of suggestions for further reducing the unintended sea-turtle catch:

...for example by deploying the lines at a greater depth as these animals do not usually dive below 50 meters; doing more nighttime fishing when sea turtles are resting; avoiding hauling them aboard (during the operation the hook may tear the animal's esophagus; limiting lines to 40 centimeters in length, and using less appetizing bait and less damaging hooks.

El País, Madrid March 20, 2008

Costa Rica

Fuel Costs Shoot Up to $6 million a Day

Costa Rica will spend 2.1 billion dollars importing petroleum this year according to the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery.  This is 600 million dollars more than were forecast.

Despite the higher price of hydrocarbons internal consumption has not dropped due, principally, to an increase in the number of vehicles.

The amount of imported petroleum grew around 9% in the last 12 months. Meanwhile internal sales during the year ending in February grew by 6.8%.

Through last month consumption was 18 million barrels, a million barrels more than was consumed between March 2006 and February 2007.

La Nación, Costa Rica March 21, 2008

180.000 People Receive Unchlorinated Water

According to Richardo Sancho of the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers [AyA--according to to its Spanish initials]

Three out of every 10 people who use municipal acueducts receive water that is not potable.  The problems affects 182,245 people.

Municipal acueducts supply water to 17% of Costa Rica's population. However only 75% of water supplied by municipal aqueducts is potable compared with the national average of 83% and 98% for systems managed by the AyA.

Mayors from some of the towns with the lowest ratings denied the accusations and accused AyA of wanting to take over their water systems.  Sancho denied this pointing out that AyA had identified other municipal water systems that offer 100% potable water.

...Sancho maintained that AyA isn't interested in usurping municipal autonomy, only in guaranteeing the liquid's quality.

As he put it: "In order to defend local interests they'd rather drink low-quality water so they can hang on to the aqueduct."

Sancho said that even though towns may have short-term plans, the aqueducts need projects that look out 30 years.

La Nación, San José March 22, 2008


Climate Change Makes Indigenous Peoples Poorer and More Vulnerable

That is the judgement of experts from various Latin American indigenous organizations meeting in Bolivia to discuss the situation of their peoples.

According to Carlos Batzin, board member of the Central American Indigenous Council , "first world" countries, with their consumption-based economic model, are responsible for climate change that has generated "more poverty and vulnerability among Latin America's indigenous peoples.

In his judgement, the paradox lies in the fact that the responsibility of fighting against global warming has been shifted to these peoples who are the ones who "pollute the least".

Indigenous communities are more familiar with naturea and have an "early warning" system to foresee the arrival of rain or flooding, declared Batzin.

Nevertheless, he explained, advantage is not taken of their valuable experience because they are not heard in the international forums on global warming that are organized every year.


El Tiempo, Bogotá, March 17,2008


And, finally, to wrap things up, higher energy costs resulting from higher petroleum prices combined with the effects of drought.

Crisis Causes Chilean Energy Costs to Double Compared to a Normal Year

The Chilean economy's energy costs rose to 10.7 billion US dollars in 2007. That figure, according to calculations of  the Santiago Chamber of Commerce (CCS) is equal to 7% of Chilean GDP.

High petroleum prices are seen as the principle culprit in this price rise although there are other factors as well:

The CCS adds that the current situation has been worsened by the country's problems in generating hydroelectric power, the result of the drought and the increased costs arising from electricity generating plants that were designed to use natural gas but now find themselves forced to use diesel.

El Mercurio, Santiago March 21, 2008

Crossposted at Daily Kos

Thank you very much for putting these eco news in the spotlight, Johnny.

Hope you are well.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:24:26 PM EST
We are going to have water restrictions in Barcelona if it does not rain. Funny enough, Barcelona is the only city in Spain where water consumption in "good times" dropped by more than 10% in the last years. High prices, save water campaigns, reuse and recycle facilities...

But if it does nnot rain is not enough.. reducing consumption by 30-40% menas soem water restrictions, reducing it by 60-80% mens serious restrictions.

We have till November for the first restriction if it does not rain...

Ont he brigth side, with heavy restriction, Barcelona can get water from other areas where the enviromental flow is fully covered (probably south of France) with huge ships. Since Barcelona water is so expensive  it will not mean anything for the pockets. So nobody will die from it and no industry will be closed (except golfing of course).. but what about agriculture int he are.. I do not know.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 07:36:23 AM EST
Yes, politicians won't reduce carbon emissions (and end up lying about it) cos they don't want to harm the economy. And so it doesn't rain and ends up harming the economy.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:09:40 AM EST

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