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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 17 November
PRESENTER
MIRIAM O'REILLY
Miriam O'Reilly
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Thursday 17 November 2005
Spain is suffering its worst drought for sixty years
Spain is suffering from its worst drought for sixty years

Spain Turns to Dust

The Sahara is about to leap across the Mediterranean. According to the Spanish government one third of the country is in immediate danger of turning into desert. 'Costing the Earth' investigates the causes and weighs up the competing solutions.

Unrestricted tourist and residential development is sucking the water out of the coastal regions whilst the vast vegetable fields of Almeria and Murcia are dehydrating the interior. Both holiday and agricultural developments rely for their water on the digging of illegal boreholes. There are estimated to be 510,000 in Spain already and government attempts to shut them down have been met with fierce opposition. A new Spanish desert is bad news not just for local people and wildlife. It may also spell the end of the industry that supplies British supermarkets with cheap fruit and veg.

Solutions to desertification range from re-learning the canny irrigation techniques imported by the Moors to hi-tech solutions like heat islands. This is a technique whereby dark fabric is laid across a patch of land. The fabric absorbs the sun's heat, just as a large city does. A few miles up-wind you get higher rainfall, just as areas up-wind of cities currently do.

Miriam O'Reilly travels throughout the nation meeting the people determined to use the fertile Spanish imagination to return fertility to Spanish soil.
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