Deal for park hunting debt
Valencia to cough up €11 million compensation to El Hondo landowners
By Alex Watkins THE REGIONAL government has reached an agreement with farmers in El Hondo natural park to pay them compensation for not being allowed to have hunting on their land.
The Supreme Court (TS) confirmed in April that the authorities are liable to pay farmers’ association Riegos de Levante over €9 million, plus more than €1.9 million in interest, which has amassed since the park was declared in 1994.
The farmers have won a succession of court cases over this period, culminating in the ruling from the highest court in the country.
The interest started to be applied after regional PP president Isabel Bonig, when she was environment councillor in 2013, refused to pay the compensation.
Regional councillor for agriculture Elena Cebrián noted that the interest had been growing by over €40,000 per day but has now been frozen.
“This is another one of the unpaid debts left by the previous (Partido Popular - PP) administration, in addition to the precarious, infra-financed and deficit-laden situation we find ourselves in now,” she said.
The amount will be paid in four instalments: €3 million when the agreement is signed; €3 million in December; and €3.1 million in December 2019; while the interest will be settled in the first quarter of 2020.
She assured the arrangement had ben ‘satisfactory for both sides’ and also practical for the financial situation of the regional government.
The councillor added that the ‘understanding and climate of confidence we now have with the farmers’ representatives has enabled us to solve a historic problem and proves we have moved on from those times’. She also emphasised that this new era between them has enabled new agreements to be reached. For example they are finalising the details of one designed to improve management and conservation of El Hondo, since it is a protected area of particular environmental relevance which is home to endangered species such as the marbled teal.
Both parties are also discussing how to improve management of water resources, emptying the western (Poniente) reservoir and controlling invasive species.
One of the most pressing incursions is the explosion in the carp population in the reser- voirs, considered to be one of the 100 most damaging invasive species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“It could explain the worrying reduction in the most emblematic birds of the reserve, such as the marbled teal and the white-headed duck,” according to the regional Socialist party (PSOE) environment spokesman, David Cerdán.
Carp are bottom feeders and in doing so disturb the sediment and make the water cloudy, which prevents the aquatic plants that other species depend on from getting the sunlight they need to grow.
The PSOE has launched a non-binding proposal that suggests state and EU aid is also required to tackle the problem in collaboration with the farmers.
Sr Cerdán noted that this is in line with the proposals of ecologists from the friends of the south Alicante wetlands association (AHSA).
He suggested it is necessary not only to completely drain the reservoirs, but also to install mechanisms that will prevent more carp arriving from the River Segura.
A view of El Hondo natural park, which lies between Crevillente, Elche, Catral and Dolores