The in-depth cleaning of the Ebro river will have to wait, another year, and many go. PSOE and Podemos have just overthrew in Congress the amendment presented by the PP to allocate a total of 19 million in 2021 Euros for cleaning and dredging works on the riverbed, essential to restore the drainage capacity of this great river, which has been losing five years after five years and which has triggered the frequency with which floods occur.
Meanwhile, those affected from the riverside towns in Navarra, La Rioja and Aragón calculate that the floods that have occurred in the last 30 years have left losses of 1,000 million euros. And the bill adds up and goes on, while the Administration closes the tap on investments to prevent these overflows: in 2018, the General State Budgets (PGE) contemplated a game of 7 million euros to clean the Ebro in depth, but it has not been executed.
The frequency with which floods occur in the Ebro has increased in recent decades. Thus, there was devastating floods in 2003, 2007, 2013, 2015 and 2018, which left a bill of more than 300 million euros in losses. In addition, to these serious floods we must add other episodes of overflow, of less intensity but also harmful, which have also occurred in the last 20 years and which have also left their particular bill of losses in agricultural production, public and private infrastructures.
More floods with less water
The lack of proper maintenance of the channel has meant that now much less flow is needed to generate a devastating overflow of the Ebro. This was confirmed, long ago, by the statistics of flows and floods that appear in the records of the Ebro Hydrographic Confederation itself (CHE). An example is enough: on January 2, 1961, the Ebro needed to pass with 4,130 cubic meters per second to reach 6.3 meters in height in Zaragoza; At the beginning of March 2018, the Ebro reached 6.1 meters high in Zaragoza with 2,610 cubic meters per second. That is to say, practically the same bravery, despite having a 37% lower flow rate.
The data confirm that this great river has lost its drainage capacity. Less water fits. And that makes overflows more frequent. Floods that used to be no more than floods are now guaranteed floods. It has been denounced for years by the inhabitants of the riverside towns of the Aragonese stretch of the Ebro, tired of seeing how the floods occur due to lack of cleaning and dredging of the riverbed, and how these floods suffocate their agricultural sector, an essential source of life in these municipalities .
Fatigue reached such a point that the inhabitants of these towns, joined years ago in a platform of victims of the Ebro. It is called Asafre, acronym for Association of People Affected by the Ebro Floods. In the last hours he has publicly denounced what they consider a new nonsense: to knock down the amendment that would have guaranteed a multimillion-dollar investment to undertake the in-depth cleaning plan that the Ebro channel requires.
What used to be ordinary tasks – cleaning and dredging – have long since become something extraordinary or even non-existent since the environmental protection of the riverbed was redoubled. 20 years ago, when the PSOE enthusiastically raised the flag of the “New culture of water”, promoted a toughening of environmental regulations on the river Ebro under the Natura 2000 Network.
That marked a before and after, as those most directly affected recall. Dredging was forbidden in practice, and when it was time to talk about cleaning the Ebro – even to patch up the problems – the matter became a hot potato that was passed between the state and regional administrations.
Faced with the stubbornness of the disaster caused by increasingly frequent floods, in recent years the PSOE chose to once again promise protective actions for the riverside towns. Pedro Sánchez himself, in March 2015, toured these Aragonese municipalities to promise measures. It was after another devastating flood and on the eve of the regional and municipal elections.
Proposal lying down for 2021
Five years after that riverside walk of Sánchez, the events have thrown down another opportunity to undertake a cleaning plan in depth in the river Ebro. The proposal came in the form of an amendment to the General State Budget (PGE) of 2021, promoted by the PP, but it has been overthrown by the PSOE and Podemos, Pedro Sánchez’s government partners and also in coalition in the regional Executive chaired by the socialist Javier Lambán.
From Asafre they have criticized that, once again, they are denied the protection they demand to keep their villages, their agriculture and their livestock alive, hit by repeated floods. And they regret that the Government prefers to compensate to prevent damage. In addition, those affected remember that compensation is not a real solution: it does not cover the socioeconomic blow caused by the floods and, moreover, they tend to be paid with excessive delay.
The president of the PP in the province of Zaragoza and popular spokesman for Agriculture in the Cortes of Aragon, Ramón CelmaNor does it understand the government’s inability to address the flood problem with effective preventive measures. “It has been proven that every two or two and a half years there are floods that seriously damage the riverside agriculture of the Ebro, a sector that accounts for 65% of GDP in these territories of Aragon,” says Celma.
This PP leader insists that, without an in-depth cleaning plan for the Ebro riverbed, those municipalities are condemned. “Not only are the losses caused by the floods, it is also the depreciation of these agricultural lands and the suffocation of the main livelihood of all these localities,” he says. “You cannot be proclaiming against depopulation and then, when it comes to applying real measures, turning your back on those affected. On the banks of the Ebro, not cleaning the river is condemning the depopulation of that territory ”, emphasizes Ramón Celma.