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Frontpage News 2012 Fighting forest fires in Spain

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Fighting forest fires in Spain

  • Extensive land areas will be secured against damaging forest fires thanks to a €3 million grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to the Ebro water authorities’ fire prevention project.

    Situated between Valencia and Barcelona, the Ebro River is one of the longest rivers on the Iberian Peninsula, running from the Cantabrian mountains and through the Rioja wine region before emptying through a wide delta into the Mediterranean. Surrounding the river is the Ebro river basin, covering as much as 17 percent of the total land area of Spain.

    Vulnerable forest area in the last few years, devastating forest fires have become an increasing problem in the river basin, threatening not only the forests and local environment, but also the dams, reservoirs and watersheds that are crucial to the water supply in the region.

    Increased erosion, silting and sedimentation are polluting the waters and disturbing the natural dynamics of the 25,000 hectares of forest. Lack of forest maintenance and care has also led to a profound increase in forest density.

    The excess of biomass is a common cause of forest fires in Mediterranean ecosystems, and this has added to the area’s vulnerability. “The risk of forest fire in the Ebro river basin is now significant, and an actual fire would have severe consequences for the localenvironment,” Samuel Chopo, technical assistant at the Ebro water authorities, said.

    The regional forestry service instigated efforts to prevent forest fires in the river basin, but with limited funding, it proved impossible to carry out sufficient work to secure the areas. Now, with a 50 percent grant from the financial mechanisms, the forestry service is able to implement a comprehensive €5.9 million project to prevent forest fires in the area “This project is of crucial importance to us, not only to prevent wild fires, but also to protect the soil against erosion and to secure the water quality in the reservoirs,” Chopo said.

    Preventive measures

    The Ebro water authorities will now carry out extensive works in the forest, eliminating sick and dead trees and thinning the densest areas. Led by Environmental Studies Service Manager Alfonso Calvo, a team of forest engineers, topographers, forest guards and technicians will ensure the completion of the project. New firebreaks and thinning stripes alongside the forest tracks will be made, while existing firebreaks and tracks are to be repaired. The building of water pools where large amounts of water can be stored, will serve as a crucial and easily accessible weapon against raging wildfires.

    An information campaign will be targeted at local residents, workers and tourists, to inform and create awareness about the danger of forest fires. Chopo underlined that the project is large in scale, with enormous areas of forest to secure. However, the funding from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway gives the prevention work an important, and much needed boost.

  • Country:


    Project title:

    Forest fires prevention in forests managed by the CHE.

    Case number:


    Priority sector:

    Environment and sustainable development


    € 3,000,077



    Type & project assistance:

    Individual Project

    Project promoter:

    Confederación Hidrográfica del Ebro- Ministerio de Medio Ambiente

    Type of institution:

    Regional authority

    Project website:

    Project duration:

    36 months

    Project cost:

    € 5,984,595

    Grant rate:


    Grant from:

    EEA Grants

    Grant agreement date:

    29 October 2007

    The purpose of the Project is to safeguard water catchment forests from high fire risk, with the overall objective of preserving water catchment forests and natural habitats of the Ebro river basin. Reference is made to the application dated 24 April 2007 and additional information provided by the Focal Point on 24 May 2007, 17 and 26 July 2007.

    The completed Project shall include the following activities and results:

    - rehabilitation and improvement of forest tracks;

    - establishment of thinning strips alongside forest tracks;

    - establishment of new firebreaks;

    - maintaining existing firebreaks;

    - silvicultural treatment in an area of 1,105 hectares in order to reduce the risk of fires;

    - construction of a new water point in Jaca, Huesca to secure supply of water in case of a forest fire;

    - a publicity campaign aiming at increased public awareness on forest fire prevention and how to act in case of a fire.

    The Project Promoter is the Ebro Water Authorities under the Spanish Ministry of Environment.

    The Focal Point shall ensure that the Project Promoter provides at least 49.9 percent of the estimated eligible project costs.