Deal for park hunt­ing debt

Va­len­cia to cough up €11 mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion to El Hondo landown­ers

Costa Levante News - - NEWS -

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

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