Spain warns desert is spreading
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
The deserts of north Africa are threatening to leap the Mediterranean and creep through Spain, according to government figures made public as part of a national campaign to halt desertification.
A third of the country is at risk of being turned into desert as climate change and tourism add to the effects of farming.
More than 90% of land bordering the Mediterranean from Almeria in the south to Tarragona in the north is considered to be at high risk. But that figure climbs to almost 100% in Alicante and Murcia.
Spain's environment ministry has announced a £50m programme to combat desertification. Over-grazing and irrigation methods that wash away topsoil were to blame for some of the damage, experts said. Building developments and climate change were doing the rest.
Spain builds an estimated 180,000 holiday homes along its coast every year. "We have grown too quickly without protecting areas of nature," Javier Pedraza of Complutense University, Madrid, said this week.
"If things continue like this we won't need to go to Africa to enjoy the tranquillity of the desert, we can just go to the Canary Islands, Valencia or Murcia," ABC newspaper commented yesterday.
Source: The Guardian