Thursday, 11 December 2014

David versus Goliath in Blockadia: the land of people connected to place but also globally united in their struggle for environmental justice

Ending ecocide in Almeria

rio de aguas tunnel

By Nick Meynen.

You don’t expect smiles and jokes from a man who lives in a village that’s facing extinction due to ecocide (1). But David Dene (66), a UK-born globetrotter, is beaming with energy and happiness. The story he brings us is the story of Rio de Aguas, the eco-village in Almeria (Spain) where he settled in the late nineties. It’s a remarkable story about extraction versus renewal. About a real-life David vs Goliath battle, where Goliath stands for a much bigger and destructive enemy.

Ecocide at Rio de Aguas

People have been living in the Rio de Aguas area since Neolithic times – despite the semi-arid climate and the fragile ecosystem. This is one of the last wild places in Spain. The landscape is dotted with caves and cliffs. The desert of Tabernas, where Westerns were shot, is just seven kilometres away. The difference between Rio de Aguas and Tabernas is that Rio de Aguas is fed by a spring from a very ancient aquifer, which makes a huge difference in ecosystem. The Natural Park around Rio de Aguas has wild goats, wild cats and turtles, and many types of cactuses, fig trees and flowers.

That semi-arid paradise is now under threat, including the people living in it. The Department of the Environment has allowed a change of land usage, allowing “agricultural production” on the aquifer. Permission has been granted for an industrial, mechanized olive tree plantation on 3,600 hectares of land that sit on top of the same aquifer that turned El Rio de Aguas in an oasis in the desert. One million trees have already been planted on only 500 hectares, but investor Juan Carrion Caceres bought a total of 1500 hectares and plans to add another 2 million. It takes 25 times the flow of the Rio de Aguas to irrigate the 1 million already planted, which is why fossil underground water that has accumulated over millions of years is now pumped up at great speed. As soon as there are 2 million more trees, at least 1 billion litres of water per year will be needed, 3 to 5 times more than the total rainfall falling on the water basin and 75 times the flow of the river. Already, water tables and the flow in the Rio de Aguas have dropped sharply, making life extremely difficult for all villagers downstream. But in the face of these facts, David refuses to see the investor as evil ‘I can only presume that he is unaware of the catastrophe that he is bringing on our communities.’

rio de aguas olive trees

Olive trees are of course not the issue here. Olives are connected to life in the Mediterranean like salt is connected to the sea. The issue is the industrial method. First, the land is stripped naked and bulldozed until all slopes are at around 20 degrees to allow for mechanized harvesting using grape picking machinery, harvesting at two hectares per hour. The planting of up to 9,000 trees a day uses laser technology and all trees are treated with herbicide. ‘It is like mining everything flat, piercing the land, poisoning it and sucking up all the ancient water to drip-feed export products.’

David versus Goliath
Communities from Brazil, Cameroon or Indonesia might recognise both the industrial tree plantation problem and the David versus Goliath struggle: ‘we’re facing nepotism here: jobs are given to friends and families, companies are closely tied to the politicians in power and the attitude here is: if you don’t do what I want you to do I’m going to give you trouble.’ As a result, most people don’t want to be named because they’re afraid to stand up against injustice perpetrated against nature and society by the rich and powerful. ‘But that’s exactly why you have to show this mafia that it’s not just you protesting, but that thousands of people are behind you, including people of power and influence.’

So how did David get this campaign started? ‘We had a torrential rain in 2012 and after that the water situation was good. But six months later, the river went down as if a bath plug had been taken out.’ David emailed pictures to the University of Almería and in July 2014, Professor Jose Maria Calaforra confirmed what the villagers already knew: the olive plantations are severely damaging the spring of El Rio de Aguas. In 2011 an European Union financed report had already declared the aquifer to be 330% over-exploited. ‘With such facts I started the campaign. Three months later, the Facebook page on the Ecocide in Rio de Aguas has 23.000 followers. We distributed 7,000 leaflets, had coverage in local newspapers and received tremendous support from the End Ecocide team. Legal support is coming in from both the USA and Europe. Our call for help is being answered.’

Meanwhile, other organisations are doing their bit in the resistance. The Grupo Ecologista Mediterráneo (GEM or Mediterranean Green Group) opened a criminal investigation into a plantation of 350 hectares irrigating 600,000 olive trees without apparent irrigation permission and without an Environmental Impact Assesment (Gespater S.L). This represents only one tenth of the area under olive plantations, but it’s an important diversification in the struggle as it opens a key battleground.

Inspired by Ecuadoreans
david dene

I want to know how David copes with all these seemingly depressing facts. ‘It helps that I used to work in Ecuador, where the situation is much worse and the leaders of the resistance there are amazingly brave and strong. My fight here is easier. I do not think that I will be criminalized and arrested for protecting our water and our lives (2). There is no need to feel down when I am working with such spirited people in Ecuador. It also helps that there is a strong solidarity here in Rio de Aguas. I live in a global circle of friendship, confidence, trust and help, which avoids fear and anger. Look at our campaign: there’s no judgment, no anger. The whole campaign is about facts.’

But these facts are so depressing that I still wonder how David beams with positive energy. Only in the end of the interview I start to understand how he does it. ‘It’s essential to enjoy what we’re doing. We’re going to enjoy the intensity of this experience every bit of the way. We’re soon organising a music festival for 300 to 500 people. We keep talking about facts and with the festival people can’t ignore it. It is happening. But you have to have compassion for those who don’t understand – you cannot become judgmental, and that is the hard part. Don’t fight it, allow it. Don’t move into a confrontational situation. I try to expand the box without belittling the other person. It also helps that here in the valley I have a super-direct connection to the ecosystem and everybody here has that, somewhere inside. It’s here that we can and must reawaken the idea that we are the custodians of the planet and to stop acting like rapists and parasites; that we need to work for the well-being of nature and the biosphere, our life-support system. My mission is to raise that awareness of the total interdependence. We have to disengage from the consumer society which is blinding us to the reality of nature. I’m part of nature, part of the micro-organisms, and so are you. We are not masters, but a part of the system. We have to stop denying this.’

It seems that globetrotting David has moved once more to settle down in this most energetic and promising place, or rather sphere, which Naomi Klein eloquently describes as Blockadia: the land of people connected to place but also globally united in their struggle for environmental justice.

(1) Eco-cide derives from the Greek “oikos” meaning “house” or “home” and the Latin “caedere” meaning “strike down, demolish, kill”. It literally translates to killing our home. Ecocide is the destruction of our natural environment. Defined as the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems of a given territory it covers all major environmental disasters. More information on ending ecocide is here.

(2) In between recording and pubishing this interview, José Isidro Tendetza Antun, one of David’s Ecuadorian friends and a leader from the Shuar resisting the Mirador mine project, was found dead. See our reporting on that here. David asked us to include the following lines in this interview:
“José Isidro Tendetza Antun was our companion, we bought him his ticket to Lima. This was a great man who devoted and gave his life in the protection of his territory, his land, and for the lives of his people. This man has become a martyr for the land of the Ecuatorian Amazon, and for the Shuar Nation. We honor, remember and hold his inspiring words in our hearts. May our warrior friend rest in peace.” On the facebook page of Ecocide El Rio de Aguas Spain there’s also a tribute video.

More info

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Protecting ourselves against Ecocide

I am sorry not to have posted anything for such a long time. For the last 10 weeks we have been "full on" protecting our existence.

Things are moving well with 20,000 people on our Facebook site, a World Live presentation with the End Ecocide Team, two bridges into the European Commission,  two denuncios and yesterday a criminal denuncio against a 600,000 olive tree plantation. 5,000 flyers distributed on music festivals, citizens law being drafted for Leucanaena del Torres, and our October 18th event publicized on the web site for The Global Alliance for The Rights of Nature.

In November Stanko and Julian will come and make a documentary. 

We have been busy. !

Check out our Facebook Page. Big hugs,  David.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Chamelion on video plus the sounds of Nature. !

Theresa has created this little You Tube video. Brilliant. Lucas is both a Photographer and a Gardener.

and here is a link
to tell you lots about Chameleons. !

Friday, 11 July 2014

Êl Rio De Aguas water supply threatened by severe over exploitation of fossil waters . Insufficiemnt water to maintain eco system. ! Radioactivity found in Sorbas drinking water. Bore hole closed. !



In a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Planning, dated June 25, we expressed our concern about the decrease in the flow of the “Manantial” de Los Molinos del Rio Aguas.

The spring has suffered a decline from 40 Litres a second to 15 L / s. According to our data from the spring, this will be insufficient to maintain the ecosystem of El Rio De Aguas. and the integrity of the “Paraque Natural del Karst y Yesso of Sorbas”.

The spring is fed from the high basin of the “Aquifer Del Aguas” (Ref: 060.008).
The feed is enabled by a large inertial flow of underground water. The water flows through gypsum rock and detrital material of the basin, and takes decades before upwelling at Los Molinos del Rio de Aguas.

The exploitation of the aquifer, and the consequent decline in hydraulic pressure, has caused a cone of of depression to appear within the aquifer. Even if the exploitations were to be stopped now, it would take decades for the spring to recover.

In recent years, no measures have been taken to remedy the situation, in fact the problem has been exacerbated by the introduction of new irrigated agricultural land usage, especially in relation to the massive irrigation of Olive trees.

We assume that these changes have the authorization of the Ministry of Agriculture within the Government of Andalucia. (Consejería de Agricultura de la Junta de Andalucía.)

The records show that when the Hydrological Plan for the Andalucian Mediterranean Basins were written, there were two hundred and twenty one hectares (221 hectares) of olive trees under irrigated cultivation in the discussed area.

In 2012 The Insitute of Statistics for Andalalucia stated that in the municipalities of Sorbas, Tabernas, Lucainena, Tahal and Uleila, three thousand, six hundred and seventy nine hecatres (3,679 hectares), of olive trees were under irrigated cultivation.

This area continues to grow with the addition of large extensions of “super intensive” cultivation. These areas of “super intensive” agricultural production are also irrigated with water from the aquifer. i

Based on data from 2008, the Plan indicated that the aquifer was already over exploited. Now, in 2014, the exploitation is much higher than reflected in the report.

Annex 3 of the Plan for the Hydrologic Basin written by The Government of Andalucia states:

Not included in the preliminary list of the MIMAM, the hydrological area 06.08. Alto Aquas cataloged in the SRPHCS as over exploited estimates that extractions in the year 2000 exceeded by 20% the average totals evaluated by IGME.

The increase of pumps for irrigation over the last years has led to a situation of absolute unsustainability reaching an exploitation rate of 3.3, which means that extractions are 230% over the mean available resource.

This body of water, together with the subterranean water GWB 060.034 of the “Fuente de Piedra”, are in actuality, cases of the most unsustainable extractions in the whole area.”

Althoughnot available, there is important continuity in hydraulic pressure recorded at the control network of IGME . They confirm the diagnosis that since 1995 (at the end of a drought), till 2001 , the hydraulic pressure dropped by more than 8 meters, an annual drop of around 1.5 meters, which has, since 1998, accelerated to 3.3 meters per year. "


Over exploitation of aquifers, seawater intrusion and other processes of salinization.


Territorial unsustainable development models.
Insufficient use of unconventional resources.
Existence of illegal harvesting.
Insufficient control of extractions.


Contamination of springs and inland water.


Bad placement of solid waste treatment plants.

For this we feel that such authorizations should not be granted for an aquifer in such a quantitatively bad condition thus following the Water Directive Framework, and the Hydrological Plan for the Mediterranean Basin of Andalucia.

In the light of the aforesaid, this institution is required to take action to prevent the further exacerbation of this situation.

Consequently, this institution is obliged to take measures to prevent the continuing exacerbation of the problem, and not to postpone the attainment of good status in the aquifer until 2027.

In this situation with continuing extractions from the aquifer for existing plantations, and with more plantations planned for the immediate future it will be impossible to comply with the partial reduction of exploitation to 1,042 hectares planned for by 2015 in order to re-establish the good condition of the aquifer by 2027.

Moreover, we have evidence that it was necessary to deepen, and or join aquifers in the bore holes, to maintain the flow owing to over exploitation.

It is estimated that a depth of 400 meters has been reached, arriving at the fossil water aquifer of Nevadofilabre-Alpujarride, where the water may contain levels of radioactivity which would prevent it's use as a supply.

It should be noted, that in our Association we have the information that on the deepening of the bore hole Albarracin, which serves Sorbas, the analysis of the water revealed radioactivity, resulting in the sealing of the bore hole.

If this correct, to perforate the deeper aquifer would contaminate the upper aquifer with radioactive water unless adequate measures are taken to create insulation.

Whichever way we look at it, the possibility that radioactive water is being used for irrigation, that can be over the limits established for human consumption (Directive 2013/51 European Commission of October 22cnd., 2013) concerns us that this could have considerable negative impact, not only for our cultivations, but for all of Almerian Agriculture.

1. We are empowered in the law of Access to Environmental Information of 27/2006 in which access to environment information is declared a basic right to be exercised by any citizen or association with legitimate interest in the environment. We ask for the information relative to the management and condition and elements of the mass of water in the aquifer “AcuiferoDel Aguas in the sector of Alto Aguas, (Sorbas, Tabernas), actions taken in its entirety (wells, springs, bore holes), their treatment and thei quality and quantity of these masses of water, as is the object of this Admistrative act.
The law added on 9 December, Ley 19/2013 establishes that the information must be provided to the public with established limits. In this case we are covered by a legislation giving special access, the law, 27/2006

For this, we SOLICIT:

1.- That you give us the following information:

  • The most recent data at the disposal of the Ministry concerning the network of control over the aquifer.
  • The amount of land that has been authorized for transformation into irrigated land on this aquifer since the year 2000.
  • The information relative to the management and state of the elements of the of the mass of water of the aquifero in the sector of the Alto Aquas (Sorbas, Tabernas), and the actions that have been taken in relation to these elements, (bore holes and springs) and the quality and quantity treatment of these waters.

2.- That the following measures are taken urgently to prevent damage to the aquifer.:

  • Make an urgent Hydrological study to allow us to know the actual state of the aquifer and it's relation to the Paraque Natural del Karst de Sorbas, the spring of Los Molinos, the supply to distinct areas of population and the quality, (especially in relation to natural radioactivity), of these waters
  • Stop any new irrigation schemes until the aquifer has returned to a good condition and do not use alternative sources
  • Immediately initiate control on withdrawals from existing wells, both in volume and depth and water quality, especially with regard to the possible radioactivity thereof.
  • Immediately close any detected irregularities in concessions, (perforations or concessions which are not authorized. )
  • Promote alternative projects, urban and agricultural, that will permit the recovery of the aquifer and the return to environmental balance
  • The Water Framework Directive indicates that the costs of water use should be assumed by the users, and in this case through the regional administration responsible for the management of water, development, the use and management of it, will negate budgetary problems.

                                                        In Almeria, July 2014

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Pofessor Calaforra. Canal Sur in Almeria. Subtitled. 

We have subtitled this broadcast from Almeria University. The situation is not good. !  

Support is good and the End Ecocide team are taking on our "cause". They are in the process of collecting one million signatures for their End Ecocide campaign.!

Here in El Rio, all is well, though still no rain. A mere 27 mm since January. !!

I will keep you posted on our progress. and how our campaign is going.

Blessings,  David.