Building with Nature in Spain

Eighty kilometres south of the ancient Roman city of Tarragona (in the region of Catalonia) lies the Parc Natural del Delta de l’Ebro. With 320 km2, the Ebro Delta nature park is the second largest wetland in Spain. It is a beautiful, protected nature reserve with rice fields, natural beaches, and salt fields.

Like many deltas, the Ebro Delta is facing challenges: sea levels are rising and about a hundred dams are preventing the river from carrying enough sediment. The threat became very tangible in January 2020, when storm Gloria caused large parts of the area to flood, or even disappear. The panic and damage were significant.

Efforts are now being made to find sustainable solutions to protect the area, and as part of this, a delegation visited the Netherlands last May to learn about Dutch coastal policy, visiting the Zandmotor and the Hondsbossche Duinen. It was the same group of people who invited Marta Faneca Sanchez from Deltares and Sonja Ouwerkerk from HKV to a meeting in the Ebro Delta in March to discuss global delta problems, Dutch coastal policy, and the principle of Building with Nature.

An important point of attention in the search for solutions is that the tidal dynamics in the Mediterranean Sea are much lower than those in the North Sea. This means that less dune formation takes place compared to the Dutch coast (for example, at the Hondsbossche Duinen). But the principles of Building with Nature, which uses the forces of nature (current, tide, waves, wind) and natural materials (sand and vegetation), is also a possible direction here. Over the next few months, we will be looking into how we can further investigate this.

There was a lot of interest in Dutch knowledge and experience, and there was a large audience at the meeting, including representatives from the government, businesses, action groups, and residents of the area. The Spanish media have also picked up on our story, with an article in LaVanguardia: and an interview on local television:

Building with Nature in Spain