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4Environmental Review: Spain


Environmental Review: Spain


Spain amongst some other European countries that have Mediterranean kind of environment has had it environment degrading by quite a number of factors over the past decades of years. Various human activities in the country have also been one the factors have majorly contributed to the degrading environment. It is arguable that Spanish society has over the past year changed as far as environment is concern, with glacial reins leaving marks on the topography of the region, a major factor to tourism which to some extent has contributed to environmental degradation. In this essay, various contributors; urbanisation, tourism, transport, industrial and agricultural activities; to this changing environment status have been discussed. The essay also addresses how various activities amongst other factors have contributed to discuss environmental issues, along with the initiative, such as adoption of renewable energy sources, promotion of education, amongst others, that have been put in place to tackling these challenges.

Spain and Its Environment History Review

Spain is quite a hilly region with its past characterise by glacial activities that has left marks recorded in most of the Spanish geological past (Castro et al 2010). Spain as many other countries with Mediterranean and Iberian Peninsula, in the past, expected very low temperatures in some part of their regions and this condition had a great impact on the environment such courtiers as argued by Sanchez-Goni et al. 2002). Those are the days when people would practice farming activities that were supported by the climate conditions and the resultant environmental factor.

Climatic condition of Spain in the past can be argued to the key factor that resulted into the landscape features of most parts of the country as low temperature of Mediterranean climate caused glacier within the country resulting to glacier activities such as glacial erosion and other glacial activities (Sobrino et al. 2004). These glacial activities gave most parts of Spain their topographical scape. Furthermore, these are the days that much rainfall, low sun shine, and other favourable climatic conditions were experience as stated by Tank et al. (2002). Therefore it is an indication that Spanish society was characterise by favourable environmental conditions offering conducive factors for farming and other economic activities associated with such climatic conditions.

Spain, one of the countries with rich societies, with 36% increase in its GDP over last 1tean year. It is now the ninth highest in the world’s economy (OECD 2008). This improvement in the status of economy of Spain has caused rapid population growth over the past years causing pressure to the environment. According to 20 Years of Spain in the European Union (2005), Pain’s population has increased rapidly each year for the past 20 years. This increase, believe to be caused by increased economic growth, increased rates of immigration into Spain, amongst other factors, has been evident in areas such as Madrid, Andalusia, and Catalonia. However, according to the study by Scoullos & Farragina (2010), Spain is experiencing slightly reduced population growth rates due controlled immigration rates into the country.

Causes of Environmental Pressure in Spain

Spain’s environment as other European Mediterranean countries has had its natural environment degrading over the past year due various human activities. These activities have had much impact of the coastal regions of Spain relatively than inland regions according to Garcia (2003). Such activities causing pressure on the Spain’s environment include:

Urbanisation and population increase: This is a factor that has resulted to social, economic and environmental challenges in Spain. Spain’s urban centres are enlarging rapidly due to increased population growth rates in the country (Scoullos and Fragina). According to Blue Plan, areas to the eastern and southern Mediterranean, of which Spain is part, is likely to continue experiencing rapid urbanisation growth due to socio-cultural factors such as centralisation of education, employment, industrial activities and many other factors, in the urban areas of the country. Most modern facilities are mostly found in urban areas causing migrations from rural area to urban. This has caused much pressure on the available resources of such areas causing depletion and pollution of some (Domonkos et al. n.d.).

Tourism: In recent days, European countries with Mediterranean regions are the biggest tourist destination, averaging on 30% of international tourist arrivals. Spain, for instance, have many tourist attraction sites; topography, culture, amongst other attractions has led into major records of tourism in the country (European Union). However, tourism in Spain and some other countries in Europe is not well planned, causing pressure to environment especially land-use, water resources over-consumption during times of shortage of water, pollution, and degradation of fragile habitat along the coastal line of Spain.

Agriculture and Deforestation: According to Oteros et al. (2015), agriculture is traditionally considered to be the backbone of many countries’ economies especially amongst the European countries. In some regions of Spain, aridity and desertification has been a major catastrophe rendering irrigation as the only way of sustain crops. This consumes much water as well as pollutions associated with farm chemical used to sustain crops. These agricultural activities have caused pressure on the little available water source in such areas, increasing the rate of air, water, and soil pollution in the region.

Furthermore, native forest species are depleting due to unplanned cutting down of trees in Spain. Population increase in the country calls for new settlement and farming areas, leading to deforestation to pave way for new settlement and farming activities.

Aquacultures: Spain coasts, in the Mediterranean region, is characterised by numerous species of aqua lives. Fish of different species have supported the social and economic aspects of Spain as argued by Scoullos and Fragina. However, the aquatic resources of the Pain’s coasts are depleted by over-fish and over-exploitation of other aquatic life.

Transport and Industrial activities: Spain, being a metropolitan European country, is characterised by many personal vehicles as well as aeroplanes. This have massively contributed to the total amount of fuel consumption in the country, which in turn has caused air pollution rates to be high due to emission of large amount of toxic gasses such as carbon. Industries on the other hand have increased the rate of air and water pollutions from their due to emission of gasses into the atmosphere and disposal of their waste into water bodies around them. This has resulted into depletion of safe air and clean water in the regions (Garcia).

Emerging Environmental Problems in Spain

Exposure of Spain to the above environmental threat has resulted to a number of environmental problems in the country. Some of the problems are:

Pollution: Industries have contributed to the pollution of water and air in most parts of Spain. Industries dealing with heavy metals and chlorine compounds contribute as one of the pollutant emitters into the air and/or water. These industries include cement factories, energy industries, amongst other industries in the region (Sanchez-Arcilla 2008).

Manufactures of fertilizers have also contributed significantly to the pollution of water and air in the country. Dumping of industrial waste into the water bodies in Spain has also been a major cost of water pollution in the country, killing most aquatic creatures. Over application of farm chemicals such as fertilizer have also depleted the fertility of soil in most part of Spain as in most arid are in the region, fertilizers and irrigation are some of the practices that sustain agriculture in those regions.

According to Anderson (2008), quite a number of oil-related industries are also located along the coasts of Spain, just as many other European Mediterranean countries. Oil spills from these industries have impacted negatively as on the aquatic life and even human health; for those that use the sea water directly. In addition, marine transport just as the inland transport has caused massive pollution to sea water along the coast of Spain as a result of oil spills.

Exxon Valdez disaster that hit Alaska in 1989 caused extended damages even to Spain. Since the tanker drifted along the coast of Mediterranean, Spain was one of the countries whose coast line were oiled causing massive damage to the community and aquatic life dependent on the coast waters (Useda et al. 2008).

These activities along the Spain’s coastal line have cost loss coastal eco-system. Dams along the Ebro have disrupted the natural sediments of the delta finding its way into the sea causing the area around that place to sink as the sea level rises.

Climate change and desertification: Climate change is a global threat affecting almost every country. However, recent studies depict Mediterranean countries to be severely affected quite more than other countries of the world (Sanchez-Arcilla 2008). This has been evident on how climate change causes frequent and intense drought and flooding is some parts of Spain and other regions within the Mediterranean. Climate change has also threatened quality and quantity of water sources in most parts of Spain as well as biodiversity of Spain according to Scoullos and Fragina. High temperature in some part of the region has cause shortage of water as a result of high evaporation and increased water infiltration into the dry land resulting into hydrological imbalance, affecting people’s reliance to the environmental factors for survival.

Desertification is encroaching into most areas of Spain as recent finds claim desert and arid areas in Spain to have almost 36% geographical coverage of the country. Desertification in Spain, especially to the east; where it is severely affecting the society there, is linked to climatic change to some extent but majorly desertification and aridity has been caused by human activities in the area. Cutting down trees, overgrazing, amongst other activities in the industrial sector, have been some of the causative factors of desertification in Spain (Domonkos et al. nude). It has also been noted that scarcity of plant cover within most parts of Spain, especially to the east, have left land bare and vulnerable to erosion by wind and even human activities leaving the land infertile and unsupportive to farming activities. This has severely affected the societies of Spain in those parts.

Water scarcity: As argued by Oteros et al. (2015), water has been a scarce resource in most area on Spain. High demand of clean water is becoming a problem in the affected area of Spain. Increasing demand was established by UNEP in Athens whilst the depository of Convection is Spain, amongst the European countries. These demands recorded in how agricultural activities, industries as well as domestic purposes require water wile the same industrial and farming activities have introduced impurities from their wastes into the available surface and ground water sources resulting to scarcity in safe water in the country.

Biodiversity loss: According to Sanchez-Arcilla (2008), biodiversity is a direct as well as indirect key contributor to the wellbeing of the ecosystem services. Spain amongst some other countries in Europe, is considered a place where the expansion of population as lead to encroachment of settlements into the forests. In most cases, this has caused forest fires along with increased rates of deforestation causing extinction of the flora and fauna, as their habitats are destroyed by human activities in the region.

However, these environmental problems have been linked with poor governance of the country which has included limited or delayed implementation of legislations that would care for the environment; political, social, and other instabilities in the country; limited investment in environmental researches; low productivity and reduced rate of innovation in the country, along with complex bureaucracy that in most cases has resulted in lack of democracy, and increased rates and levels of corruption (Castro et al 2010).

Initiatives and Strategies in solving environmental crisis in Spain

Priorities that emerged after the establishment of an environmental protection organisation was partially implemented by the founding of United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) back in 1972 at Stockholm Summit. Barcelona Convention was established as one of the Mediterranean regions movement to address and solve issue of the environment in the region. The activities of this convention were the starting points of Mediterranean Environmental Policies. However, despite its initiatives to deal with environmental issues of the region, this body has not function as well as it may have intended to. This has been associated with member countries lacking comprehension of their role in the movement to solve environmental issues (Sanchez-Arcilla 2008).

Scoullos and Fragina explain that Spain, however, has actively taken major step in tackling its environmental problems by making attempts in reinforcing its environmental policies. This has been evident in the way Spain has reduced emission of toxic gasses into its environment issues. According to OECD (2010), some of the ways through which Spain has been able to tackle its environmental issues is by making the society aware of the importance of conserving its environment through promotion of green growth; introducing initiatives to tackle climate change in the country; protecting water sources, as well promoting education in the country.

Promoting green growth: One of the major strategies to promoting green growth in the country is adopting the use of renewable energy source. Spain has recently implemented policies shifting workers of the country’s construction and tourism sector to “green and ecological” employments, and this has been enable by adopting the use of renewable energy which was 7.3% of the primary energy supply in Spain back in 2008 but has increased to more than 10% over the recent year. Spain has a vision of to increase its use of renewable source of energy to 20% by 2020.

Climatic change: Spain, yet to meet its target, has made significant progress in reducing pollution of its air environment by controlling the emission of toxic gasses in the country. Use of renewable sources such as solar energy, hydroelectricity amongst others, has been some of the key implements to reduce its gases emissions in the industries as a result of use of fuels. Increase in fuel taxes in the country have resulted into massive shifts by industries to renewable sources of energy and this has help Spain battle is environmental problems associate with toxic gases emissions.

Protecting water resource: this is where, despite the trial, Spain has not been able to battle its problems well. It is evident as the rate at which Spain sues water in relatively higher than the rate at which water gets replenished in the sources. This has been majorly influenced by high competition for water in the domestic, agricultural, industrial sectors, amongst others. Taking into consideration, necessary institutional changes along with social reactions and implementing a cost policy on water usage will enable the country to battles it water scarcity problems.

Promotion of education: Spain is using promotion of education policy among its citizens as a strategy to battle the environmental crisis now and in the future. This has been seen as Spain continues to promote early childhood education and care as well as access to tertiary education. This reduces dependency ration that are there amongst families, mostly in the rural areas, sometimes rendering overexploitation of environment resources as the only way to provide for their needs; overfishing, over cultivation, amongst others. This has increased chances of stepping up to tertiary levels of education, which Spain has also promoted access to, where environmental issues are made aware amongst students and people pursue course that secure environmentally safe jobs. Promoting access to tertiary levels of education has also increased the level and quality of researches which help find solution to environmental crisis in Spain.


Society in Spain, over decades ago, has been one of the developed societies as a result of its features attracting tourists, supporting agricultural and industrial activities. However, this has also been a major cause of environmental problems in the country as these activities have depleted the resources in the country as well as polluting the remaining scarce. To battle this, Spain has tried to come up with strategies to conserve its environment and solve the crisis it has been facing. It can be arguable that one or two of the strategies have not yet been successful but it is evident that the Spanish society has made positive steps in renovation of its environment.

Reference List

Anderson J., 2008, Climate change induced water stress and its impact on natural and managed ecosystems, Policy department economic and scientific policy, and European Parliament briefing document.

Castro, M, Martin-Vide, J. & Alonso, S, 2010. The Climate of Spain: Past, Present, and Scenarios for the 21st Century.

Domonkos, P, Farre, X. & Duro, A, n.d. Urbanisation, Tourism, and Environment in Spain.

European Union, 2005. 20 Years of Spain in the European Union. Available from http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org

Garcia, R, 2003. The Prestige: one year on a continuing disaster. Spain: WWF.

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OECD, 2010. Perspectives: Spain Policies for a sustainable recovery.

Oteros, J, Garcia-Mozo, H, Botey, R, Mestre, A. &Glan, C, 2015. Variation in cereal crop phenology in Spain over the last twenty-six yeard (1986-2012). DOI 10.1007/s10584-015-1363-9.

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Sanchez-Arcilla A., Jimenez J.A., Valdemoro H. I. and Gracia V., 2008, Implications of climatic change on Spanish Mediterranean low-lying coasts: the Ebro Delta case, in: Journal of Coastal Research 24, 2, p. 306–316

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Scoullos, M. & Ferragina, E, 2010. Papers for Barcelona 2010: Environmental and sustainable Development in the Mediterranean.

Uceda AC, Sánchez-Arcilla A.& Cardeña Z, 2008. Chapter 11 Impacts on coastal areas, in: Impacts of climate change in Spain, p. 451-504