Spain — Underground fires have been raging for weeks in a wetlands area in southern Spain, sparked by the dry summer and the overuse of water for agriculture, an environmentalist said Tuesday.
The Tablas de Daimiel National Park, fed by the Guadiana river, has been drying up since the 1980s, and some lagoons have already disappeared.
In late August, hot dry weather caused the peat subsurface to catch fire, and plumes of smoke can be seen rising from the ground, said Jose Manuel Hernandez, head of the environmental organisation that looks after the park.
“This is a new phenomenon in the park” and “an extraordinary warning, a very clear signal of the degree of degradation of the park,” he told AFP.
“The park is sinking so it is urgent” to flood it so the water table can be restored, he said.
The 2,000-hectare Tablas de Daimiel is the centrepiece of the Mancha Humeda wetlands zone, home to diverse birdlife, that UNESCO in 1980 placed on its list of Biosphere Reserves.
But UNESCO last year warned Spain it had three years to restore the zone or it would be withdrawn from the list.
Spain was hit by dozens of wildfires last summer as temperatures remained around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in much of the country.