Tuesday, June 15

Dry Spain and wet Spain

Dry Spain and wet Spain

Dry Spain and wet Spain

To understand what the Tajo-Segura transfer means for our lands today, it is essential to analyze the antecedents of the national hydraulic policy, as well as the evolution of the different trends in agrarian development in our country.

After the Revolution of 1868, the State resumed an interventionist role in carrying out irrigation works. However, the attempt of the Large Irrigation Law of 1883, known as the Gamazo Law, and despite its strongly subsidizing policy, failed in its attempt at “interior colonization”, based on the transformation of dry land into irrigation.

After the loss of the colonies in 1898, the regenerationist thesis was gaining strength, which was based on the application of a global agricultural policy, and for which the overcoming of the existing water deficits in much of the nation took on special relevance. For this, the State should regulate the use of the resource through concessions, assuming in turn the realization of the necessary large hydraulic works.

Its implementation in the National Plan of Hydraulic Works of 1902, together with the Gasset Law of 1911 on the construction of this type of works for irrigation, and even with subsidies of 90%, did not arouse the interest of the owners, becoming so only about 200,000 hectares in irrigated land.

After the Primo de Rivera stage, in which the Hydrographic Trade Union Confederations were created in order to rationalize the uses of the large Spanish basins, the first of them to be formed by the Ebro, in 1926 and under the command of Manuel Lorenzo Pardo, the “Prieto Agrarian Reform Law” materialized in 1932 and, in 1933, the new “National Hydraulic Works Plan”, prepared by Lorenzo Pardo being Director of the Center for Hydrographic Studies and mandated by the then Minister of Public Works of the Republic Indalecio Prieto.

The first had the objective of transforming the structure of the property, favoring intensive family cultivation to achieve the longed-for “integral colonization.”

For their part, the studies of the Lorenzo Pardo Plan confirmed the existence of a dry and a wet Spain, confirming in turn a positive water balance. This fact would allow adding to the 1,450,000 hectares of irrigation existing at that time, 1,280,000 hectares of new transformation in 20 years. To this end, it envisaged the need to prioritize investments in potentially more productive areas with a proven tradition in irrigation, such as those of the Spanish Levante.

In those times, in our always negative trade balance, the import of agricultural merchandise took a considerable weight. Thus, in the decade 1922-1932, these were estimated at 1,232 million pesetas, a figure similar to that corresponding to the import of minerals, machinery and chemical materials. It was therefore necessary to strengthen, and without delay, the agricultural sector, so that the rapid transformation into irrigation in the southeast would soon bear fruit, helping very significantly to reduce the trade deficit and even to obtain a positive export balance.

For this, it was necessary to provide these lands with the necessary water resource, considering as a viable solution the diversion of waters from the Tagus to the eastern peninsula. Thus, Lorenzo Pardo estimated the priority need to transform a total of 273,500 hectares in the Levantine provinces, this being the germ of what is today the Tajo-Segura transfer. What happened from that moment on is another story.


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