Spanish irrigation could harm birds

Plans to irrigate steppe land and increase agriculture in parts of Spain have attracted the ire of the European courts.

Habitats

Commission v Spain

The Advocate General has issued an Opinion in the case Commission v Spain, advising that the ECJ condemn Spain for breaches of the Wild Birds Directive. She states that the authorisation of the project to irrigate the Segarra-Garrigues Canal is in breach of the Wild Birds Directive.

Spain argued that there could only be a violation of the Wild Birds Directive if and when there was real damage to the protected zones, however, the Advocate General made clear that once the legal conditions were in place authorising a development the implementation of which would breach the Directive the violation had taken place. She referred to case law in clarifying that administrative decisions can constitute a breach of the Directive.

The Advocate General also pointed to the fact that the irrigation of steppe areas, and the related intensification of agriculture would lead to the deterioration of species of birds adapted to the steppe environment. Further, necessary measures to avoid the deterioration of the habitats and disturbance of the birds were not taken. Spain stated that the irrigation project was being undertaken for economic reasons, but it was pointed out by the Advocate General that economic requirements could not justify the deterioration of the protected zones under the Wild Birds Directive.

The text of the case is available in French at the following link.

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