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Parliamentary questions
1 September 1999
WRITTEN QUESTION by María Sornosa Martínez (PSE) to the Commission

 Subject:  Ecological disaster in the Pego-Oliva marsh

Throughout the previous parliamentary term we have complained about the environmental damage being done to the Pego-Oliva marsh and park in Valencia, one of the most important wetlands in Spain, which is currently being drained for agricultural purposes. In a series of parliamentary questions (E-0349/1999(1), E-3006/98(2), E-3831/97(3), E-2834/97(4) and E-1387/96(5)) we brought the Commission's attention to the deterioration of the zone, where the environmental damage has already been put at 1 500 million pesetas. It is particularly alarming that half of all the species of birds nesting in the marsh have disappeared, fish have been killed by water extraction turbines, agricultural pesticides have been dumped, cattle have died as a result of drinking contaminated water, waste has accumulated in improvised agricultural settlements, the level of the water table has fallen with the consequent desertification of wetlands and the landscape has been disrupted by crops which have nothing in common with native crops. The Pego-Oliva marshland is included in the wetlands to be protected drawn up by the Consellería de Medi Ambient de la Generalitat Valenciana and is also designated a special protection zone for birds (Directive 79/409/EEC). Moreover, it also receives funding from the Life programme.

In response to the many complaints received, the Commission investigated the situation on the spot and assessed the situation of the wetlands as worrying. Nevertheless, it left action to solve the problem and restore the environment in the area in the hands of the Spanish authorities. Four years on, the situation remains unchanged and attacks continue without any action being taken by the authorities, which have not punished this serious breach of environmental legislation and have allowed draining work to continue.

Two recent events have led to a further serious deterioration in the environment. Firstly, irrigators have closed the Enmig canal, leaving the Els Lluents section, an area to which access was possible only by boat and which has now been turned into a vast stretch of mud, without water. Secondly, the irrigators have opened a drainage channel around 200 metres long in the heart of the natural park and have built a retaining wall in order to drain the entire section belonging to the village of Pego.

In view of the above and bearing in mind that in February 1998 the Commission raised the possibility of suspending Life-Nature co-financing in the area and opening infringement proceedings against Spain, does the Commission not consider it necessary to suspend the allocation of Life assistance until the competent authorities act to stop this ecological disaster?

Would the Commission be prepared to take action against Spain before the Court of Justice on the grounds that it has breached Community environmental legislation?

Can the Commission state its views on a point which remained unanswered in the previous parliamentary term and which concerned the creation of a rapid environmental intervention body at European level which could bypass the slow legal and bureaucratic processes and act swiftly to halt the deterioration of endangered natural sites?

(1)OJ C 341, 29.11.1999.
(2)OJ C 142, 21.5.1999, p. 68.
(3)OJ C 187, 16.6.1998, p. 64.
(4)OJ C 134, 30.4.1998, p. 23.
(5)OJ C 356, 25.11.1996, p. 33.

Original language of question: ESOJ C 27 E, 29/01/2000 (p. 109)
Zadnja posodobitev: 2. marec 2001Pravno obvestilo