Spain’s plan to buy land in the shrinking Ebro Delta angered locals | Gallery news

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When a storm hits their village in northeastern Spain, Marcela and Maria Cinta Otamendi rush to the coast day and night to check their restaurant and rice fields, fearing the sea might have swallowed them.

That fear has increased in recent years when the Mediterranean invaded land her father bought in 1951 in the Ebro Delta, a 320 square kilometer UNESCO biosphere reserve rich in wetlands like flamingos.

“We don’t know if we can make it through this winter,” said Marcela, 56, who wants the government to preserve the land and instead opposes a buyout plan and vows to fight it in court.

“This is our business, but also our legacy,” added her sister Maria Cinta, 58, who runs the Vascos restaurant.

In light of rising sea levels threatening to engulf low-lying coasts, the government plans to buy 832 hectares (2,055 acres) of private land in the Ebro Delta, which would be Europe’s largest climate-related land purchase to date, covering around 40 hectares of Otamendi.

According to a preliminary conservation plan due before December, such purchases would add a public buffer – up to 560 meters inland – along the coast where nature would take its course.

The Environment Ministry told Reuters news agency it had received 252 public comments on its plan and would consider as many as possible. It could be approved by decree to avoid parliamentary debate.

Madrid did not disclose its price.

The plan has sparked strong opposition from officials and farmers in the Ebro Delta – where 62,000 people live and 65 percent of the land is lucrative rice paddies – and shows how governments begin to face tough choices as they attempt to address increasing environmental risks adapt.


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