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Spain's Water Crisis

An A-Level Geography student reacts to an article on the water emergency faced by our country:

Before reading: When asked about a water crisis, or more specifically a drought as this article may refer to, I feel most people might unconsciously make an association with India or California. My younger self would be a perfect exemplification of this. But as I grow older, I find that I seldom hear Spain’s water crisis brought up in engaging conversation with relatives. In the rare occasion an acquaintance brings it up in small talk about the weather (in an elevator or a taxi drive), I feel there is a very lacklustre approach to the conversation. It is as if it weren't an important social issue which could affect our lives dramatically. I often catch myself subject to such dichotomous ways of thinking in everyday actions - does this even affect me? I condemn my thoughts every once in a while when I drive past the ‘Embalse de Valmayor’ where the poll indicating the water level is more and more exposed, even to the point where an old underwater road reappears in stifling summer seasons. It’s paradoxical perhaps, that this isn’t a major political topic or that we, as Spaniards (one of the most stereotypically cheerful, passionate and defensive societies) don’t bat an eyelash when filling jugs of clean water from our taps. Taps that gush a resource so essential yet so increasingly scarce in our land. Perhaps paradoxical is the most radical of understatements to this affliction.

After reading: Being candid, I am surprised at the political actions/ mitigation presented in 2008, but I am more so in a state of consternation, perhaps embedded with wrath about two key elements in the piece. Firstly, it is absurd (for lack of a better word) to think that this crisis happened in 2008 (I moved back to Spain in 2009). Over a decade later, it is as if this matter has been swept under the rug when convenient and brought to light when politicians can see the topic as availing for profit, turning a societal issue into a systemic issue. No, water scarcity is not a ‘social or environmental problem’, it is a 'political’ problem (perhaps such anger is born out of my naivety). It is political. It is to be politicised. Because politicisation is the ‘sine qua non’ of power.

Secondly, perhaps dependent on my first observation, the protests ‘The pipeline was met with fierce opposition from farmers and other northern residents, who feared it would cause environmental damages and upset livelihoods.’ fuel my vexation because the protests are not solely about this. They are about the ‘unfair’ distribution of resources. In other words, this proposition did not fit in with reciprocal altruism. In fact it went against such a principle. The government helped another area, thus retrogressing protestors’ livelihood. At first this may seem logical, perhaps (if turning a blind eye) even fair; but this only highlights the impacts of illusory superiority that remains engraved in society’s code of honour. To be blunt ‘If I am not going to benefit, I’d rather no one benefit’. This inherent way of being gives way to politicisation. It gives way to social dissolution. Thus, entering a disaccord-debate continuum that does not solve the problem of water scarcity. The paramount problem being the lack of water, not the feeling of impunity or the acquisition of a seal of approval.

By Elena Rico 13 OD

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