World Wetlands Day: The European Water Movement calls to defend the Ebro Delta

Brussels, february 2nd 2016


The Ebro River is the third longest river in the Mediterranean, after the Rhone and the Nile, passing through 9 nine Autonomous Communities before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea where it forms the Ebro Delta (Catalonia).

The Ebro Delta is one of the largest remaining coastal wetlands in Europe. This delta area of nearly 8000 Ha was declared as National Park, recognized as being of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, recognized as Special Protection Area for Birds (SPAB - 79/409/CEE), a Community Interest Area (CIA - 85/337/EEC) and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.


The intense water consumption throughout the Ebro Basin puts the river under strong pressure and affects its ecological functionality. In particular, the Delta is the most vulnerable part of the river, altered by the drastic reduction of water and sediment flows that leads to the subsidence of the whole delta area, currently lowering at a rate of 0,3 cm per year. Climate change projections clearly indicate that this phenomenon, together with the sea level rise, will cause the disappearance of 80% of this territory in the next century.

Why? The current water management plan is a fraud.

POLITICAL FRAUD - Spanish government policy offering water to the highest bidders, ignoring the Water Framework Directive’s (WFD) binding principle to set minimum flows for rivers before “sharing out” the water, leads to a chronic over-allocation of the river’s resources.

Spanish government has approved the Ebro River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) to satisfy “commitments” with farmers/users and perverting WFD goals with “fait accompli” policies. The measures included in the approved RBMP are de facto impeding environmental flows to be implemented and directly obstruct environmental objectives of European legislation.

TECHNICAL FRAUD - No data are available to establish any real evaluation on the Plan of Measures, nor on the evolution of water bodies’ status as water quality monitoring and control programs are now shut down due to lack of funding. The design and calculations of the projects contained in the RBMP have plenty of “mistakes” and inconsistencies. Even though the river currently has less than 10% of its natural flow and the impacts of climate change is not taken into account, the plan foresees to build 56 new dams & refurbishments and 463 700 Ha (3 115 Hm3/year) new irrigation demand. 

ECONOMIC FRAUD - This River Basin Plan (RBMP) will cost Spanish citizens about 800 M€/year for the 6 year period of this plan and accounts are extremely obscure.

“in many cases the identification of costs and revenues in the Ebro Basin are a mere estimation”.
“the proliferation of public and private companies involved in water management in the basin, are an obstacle for the transparency of accountability of investments”.
Ebro River Basin Management Plan

No auditing is ever done to verify if public money is properly spent and we detected different accounting “tricks” which overrate yields from infrastructures and undervalues their total cost. Unviable waterworks like these, in the context of a bankrupt state, corruption and debt economy, lead to privatization of services and water markets. European public money intended to enhance rural development is now going to feed speculative water trading via inter-basin transfers.


Social groups and other actors in the lower Ebro river basin have worked intensely over the last 10 years in an attempt to hold back the present Spanish water policy at all levels, leading the European Commission to take legal action and impose fines against Spain.

The Ebro case was also presented to the Petition Committee of the European parliament (Petition 0938/2012), and 3 times people from the Delta defended their claim for justice there.

The technical background of this petition indicates the infringement of, at least, the following directives: 2000/60/EC WFD, 79/409/EEC Birds, 92/43/EEC Habitat, 2004/35/EC Environmental Liability, 2001/42/EC Environmental Impacts Assessment, 91/676/EEC Nitrates, 2008/56/EC Sea.

The European Parliament accepted the petition passing it on to the Commission, which states that it is aware of Spanish infringements in the Ebro RBMP, violations have been identified and the necessity to correct – inter alia - the environmental flows for the Ebro river has been reported to Spanish Government. Nevertheless on January 8th the new River Management Plan for the Ebro River was adopted by Spanish Government (water council) and published in the Spanish official journal (Boletín Oficial del Estado) 11 days later.

“The Ebro and both its environmental social impact make it the biggest “test case” for all European rivers and this battle is key to the future credibility of European environmental policies.”
Susanna Abella - Plataforma en Defensa de l'Ebre

On February 8th 2016, six members of the European Parliament representing the Petition Committee (two Polish and Slovak representatives of the European People's Party, two Lithuanian and Swedish representatives of the European Green party, an Italian representative of the Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy and a Greek representative of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left), as well as 4 Spanish members of the European Parliament will visit the Ebro Delta in order to observe the situation and get informed about the fraud and incompliance of European law realized by Spanish Government. Once back home, they will redact a specific report on their findings addressed to the Environmental Commission of the European Parliament. A negative evaluation of the Ebro RBMP would enhance legal action against Spanish Government and favor the preservation of the Ebro Delta people’s livelihood. 


On Sunday February 7th 2016 the whole Catalan population is called to participate to a decisive demonstration to denounce the Ebro RBMP fraud and claim to abolish the Spanish National Hydrological Plan.

This demonstration wants to testify people’s resistance to Spanish perverse water policies and erase any doubt on the social support of the Ebro Delta claim for justice, and it will!

Under the slogan “The Ebro without its flows is the death of the Delta”, people from the whole basin and the rest of Catalonia will walk the march through Amposta, dressed in blue and united by the symbol of this long lasting fight: the knot in the pipe!

The European Water Movement expresses its solidarity with the Delta Ebro people and will be alongside the people during this demonstration.

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.