The New York Times. March 11, 2001 
Spaniards Protest Water Project

Filed at 8:30 p.m. ET

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- More than 100,000 people marched through Madrid on Sunday in the latest of a series of rallies against a $23 billion plan to divert huge amounts of water from Spain's biggest river to dry areas far to the south.

City police estimated that 120,000 attended the rally, but organizers put the number at 400,000. Many came to the Spanish capital from the northeast Aragon and Catalonia regions, which protesters say stand to lose out most if the eight-year plan goes ahead.

Demonstrators -- some dressed up as droplets of water -- waved red and yellow balloons and played music as they inched their way along broad boulevards and emptied into the Puerta del Sol, a downtown plaza. Another big rally was held Sunday in Zaragoza, capital of Aragon.

The Madrid rally was called by a 26-strong coalition of ecological groups, farmers' associations, labor unions and political parties.

The controversial mega-plan calls for building 120 dams to transfer 26 billion gallons of water per year from the Ebro to the Mediterranean coast areas of Valencia, Almeria and Murcia.

The government says the Ebro has water to spare and the resource must be shared among Spaniards.

Ecologists say the plan is misguided, insisting that water shortages in the south would be better solved by more efficient use of existing resources and other means. They also say the project will cause serious harm to the Ebro by raising salinity levels.

The plan was approved by the Cabinet in February despite warnings from engineers and hydrologists and is now before Parliament, where center-right Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has a majority.

Asociación Río Aragón-COAGRET