On the Edge of Survival, a Report on Paraje Natural Karst en Yesos de Sorbas by Ion Holban

Originally published in New Environmentalist online magazine, here, 3 March 2016; report was edited by Ciprian Diaconita (Environmental & Social Change UK); Maps were produced and provided by Alexandru Beldiman (Rights of Nature Europe); reprinted with express permission from the author

To give you an idea as to the background of Europe’s last remaining oasis in Paraje Natural Karst en Yesos de Sorbas, The Crowd Versus is publishing below part of the entire report which Ion Holban researched, examined, hiked, and published in 2016.

Since then, the situation in the aquifer has only worsened to a level above 400% overexploitation, as indicated in our post of September, link here.

According to Ion Holban, back in 2016, he and others found the following during their exploration and research:

Despite the ecological importance of the area, the park is currently only protected as a ‘Paraje Natural’. This is one of Spain’s lowest levels of protection. We found some economic activity in the Park including traditional agriculture and recently, intensive plantations.

Gypsum and olive oil are the region’s main economy and the park is surrounded by 7 open-cast gypsum quarries including Los Yesares, Europe’s largest gypsum quarry.

Intensive plantations can be found throughout the region, and most worryingly inside the park. Infrastructure in the park is over-developed with a motorway, bridges and several national roads. On top of that there is a high-speed railway through the Sierra Cabrera mountains a few kilometres away, with plans to build additional infrastructure.

In the last 10 years a new types of super-intensive olive plantations, (1,800 trees per ha.), have added an immense pressure on the underground aquifers that feed the park with non-renewable fossil water.

The ancient fossil water aquifer located in the Sorbas-Tabernas basin that feeds the river is severely overexploited, as indicated in the Junta de Andalucía’s Hydrological Plan of 2010, with an index of 330% overexploitation. [ . . . ]

Map 3 of the River Aguas, depicting fragmented or no flow areas with photographs of affected areas in original report

In our trips on the river we came across several areas where the river no longer flows and other areas where it has been fragmented to shallow pools. In particular we found no flowing water outside the villages of La Huelga, Los Giles and only shallow pools around Alfaix and further down, towards Turre, as detailed in the map below.

It is worth mentioning that we completed our walks on the river at the end of winter/ beginning of spring (February and March 2016) when the river flow is at its highest level. In the summer months the flow of the river is further reduced. From our assessment the river no longer has a continuous flow of water and it’s questionable if it can still be considered as a single body of water, fulfilling it’s potential as an ecological corridor.