This Europe: Spain sends rivers of toxic waste next door

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The Independent Online

An old Portuguese saying has it that "neither good wind nor good marriage" ever came from Spain. Now its neighbour has unwittingly sent it a plague of algae choking the lakes of the Alentejo region and threatening to suffocate the fish.

An old Portuguese saying has it that "neither good wind nor good marriage" ever came from Spain. Now its neighbour has unwittingly sent it a plague of algae choking the lakes of the Alentejo region and threatening to suffocate the fish.

Portuguese farmers and fishermen are worried by a granular stew they call lentils, stretching to their horizon and reproducing swiftly.

Authorities say the bubbling green stuff is "a phenomenon to be expected", given the enormous cargo of waste swept from Spain by the Guadiana river and dumped in Portugal's spongy marshlands.

The detritus is rich in phosphates and nitrates from dead trees, rotting vegetation, decomposing animal carcasses andchemical fertilisers, washed from Spain's agricultural plains in the Extremadura region south of Badajoz. Farmers say there was a similar invasion in 1993 that caused the country's worst water pollution.

Experts say the water quality in Portugal has deteriorated rapidly, and it depends on Spain's Douro, Tagus and Guadiana rivers for much of its supply. They get too little, too much, or toxic green slime.

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