Spain is a maritime country, with some 300 ships crossing the Straight of Gibraltar daily. Besides its national parks, the country harbours over 100 protected nature sites; in 1976 it only had one.
Water: water is a crucial issue. A quarter of the national territory is threatened by desertification, yet the demand for water, and particularly irrigation water, is the EU’s highest and increases by 13% yearly. Spain has the most dams of all European countries and was the first to use desalination plants for irrigation water. In 2000, the government proposed the construction of 118 new dams in the Ebro Delta near the Pyrenees to meet the national water crisis. The proposal sparked major protests and has since been dropped. To deal with its water shortage, Spain imports water from the Rhone via tankers and tanker lorries.
Energy: as of 2007, Spain was the world’s third-largest producer of wind energy next to Germany and the United States. Additionally, Spain is Europe’s second-largest producer of solar energy, with a 440% increase in capacity in 2007 alone. Zaragoza boasts the world’s largest roof-mounted photovoltaic power station (85,000 solar panels).
Nuclear energy has been banned since 1981.
Pollution: in 1997, millions of tons of toxic waste leaked from a mining operation into Andalusia’s Guadiamar River and then into Donaña National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was Spain’s largest-ever environmental disaster. In 2003, the Prestige sunk off the Atlantic Coast, and Spanish workers cleaned 141,000 tonnes of oil slick.
Economics and physics professor Pedro Arrojo played a key role in the protests surrounding the government’s proposed water action plan. Street protesters numbered into the hundreds of thousands. More recently, WWF/Adena campaigned against a proposed “European Las Vegas” (Gran Scala) project, which would be built in middle of the desert in the province of Aragon. GM-free zones such as the Canary Islands are applauded by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Other notable environmental groups include Ecologistas en acción, Científicos por el Medio Ambiente (CIMA, or “scientists for the atmosphere”), and Cel Fosc, against light pollution.