Thousands march in Spanish water protest : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Thousands march in Spanish water protest October 8, 2000 Web posted at: 1:26 PM EDT (1726 GMT)

MADRID, Spain -- Tens of thousands of people from Spain's northern Aragon region have marched to protest against a plan to channel local water from the Ebro River to other, drought-plagued parts of the country.

They fear small farmers will be ruined and the ecological balance of their region will be damaged by the irrigation project.

Television pictures showed crowds on the main avenues and central square of Zaragoza, the regional capital, marching behind a banner reading: "Aragon, water and future."

Local news agencies said between 200,000 and 300,000 people took part in the protest, but police in Zaragoza declined to estimate the size of the crowd.

"We cannot support a plan that will condemn the interior of this (region) to disappear," the Socialist president of the Aragon regional government, Marcelino Iglesias, told reporters.

Local people told state television they were concerned the water plan could drive small farmers off their land. Ecologists are also worried about the environmental impact.

But a representative of Spain's ruling Popular Party in Aragon, Gustavo Alcalde, said the region had a duty to share its water.

"If there is more than enough water, as people of Aragon and of Spain we must not prevent an important volume of water that flows into the sea from being used by other communities," he said.

The Spanish government in September approved a preliminary version of a $16-billion plan to divert water from the Ebro to dry regions inland of the eastern Mediterranean coast, which suffer drought most years.

The project would capture 1,000 cubic hectometres of water per year -- enough to provide each of Spain's 40 million people with 70 litres of water a day, according to one estimate.

The Ebro rises in the northern Cantabria region and winds its way nearly 625 miles (1,000 km) eastward to the Mediterranean Sea. Roughly one third of its course is in Aragon.

The plan has been under study for 15 years, held up by regional government arguments about where the water should come from.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 08, 2000

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