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ENVIRONMENT

Spain promises help for volcano damage on La Palma as lava still flows

Spanish authorities have pledged to speed up delivering aid to the volcano-hit island of La Palma in the Canaries, as destruction continues over one month after eruptions began.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Part of a volcano that has been erupting for over a month collapsed on Saturday, spelling further disaster for La Palma, a Canary Island off northwest Africa.

In response, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday said the government would speed up aid to those most impacted, mainly the agriculture and fishing industries, according to reports.

Since the eruption started on September 19th, lava has covered almost 900 hectares of land, destroying over 2,000 buildings and many banana plantations.

More than 7,000 people have been displaced, while so far no-one has been killed by the continuous lava flows.

READ ALSO: Volcanic eruption on Spain’s La Palma hits one-month mark

“At the cabinet meeting next Tuesday we are going to make a budgetary modification to accelerate the arrival of economic resources for both the Employment Plan and aid for the entire agriculture and fishing sector,” Sanchez told reporters at a press conference.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said that part of the main cone had collapsed on Saturday morning, while tweeting the latest developments of the volcano with video footage.

The continuing updates show that lava continues to destroy swathes of land, with no sign of stopping.

After a month of continual eruptions accompanied by minor earthquakes, geologists say they have no idea how much longer it will last.

READ ALSO: Who let the dogs out? Mystery disappearance grips Spain as La Palma volcano rages on

The volcano was putting out some 10,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide emissions per day, and to start being considered “extinct” it should emit 400 tonnes or less per day, David Calvo, an expert with the Involcan volcanology institute, told reporters.

This is the Atlantic island’s third volcanic eruption in a century, the last one taking place in 1971.

Prime Minister Sanchez has expressed his gratitude to all those working to contain the eruption.

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ENVIRONMENT

KEY POINTS: Why is Sweden planning to cull half its wolf population?

Sweden's government has announced that it will allow a major wolf cull this year, with hunters licensed to kill as many as half of the estimated 400 animals in the country. What is going on?

KEY POINTS: Why is Sweden planning to cull half its wolf population?

How many wolves are there in Sweden? 

Wolves were extinct in Sweden by the mid-1880s, but a few wolves came over the Finnish border in the 1980s, reestablishing a population.  

There are currently 480 wolves living in an estimated 40 packs between Sweden and Norway, with the vast majority — about 400 — in central Sweden. 

How many wolves should there be? 

The Swedish parliament voted in 2013, however, for the population to be kept at between 170 to 270 individuals, with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency then reporting to the EU that Sweden would aim to keep the population at about 270 individuals to meet the EU’s Habitats Directive. 

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency was commissioned by the government to update the analysis,  and make a new assessment of the reference value for the wolf’s population size. It then ruled in a report the population should be maintained at about 300 individuals in order to ensure a “favourable conservation status and to be viable in the long term”. 

What’s changed now? 

Sweden’s right-wing opposition last week voted that the target number should be reduced to 170 individuals, right at the bottom of the range agreed under EU laws. With the Moderate, Christian Democrat, Centre, and Sweden Democrats all voting in favour, the statement won a majority of MPs.

“Based on the premise that the Scandinavian wolf population should not consist of more than 230 individuals, Sweden should take responsibility for its part and thus be in the lower range of the reference value,” the Environment and Agriculture Committee wrote in a statement.

Why is it a political issue? 

Wolf culling is an almost totemic issue for many people who live in the Swedish countryside, with farmers often complaining about wolves killing livestock, and hunters wanting higher numbers of licenses to be issued to kill wolves. 

Opponents of high wolf culls complain of an irrational varghat, or “wolf hate” among country people, and point to the fact that farmers in countries such as Spain manage to coexist with a much higher wolf population. 

So what has the government done? 

Even though the ruling Social Democrats voted against the opposition’s proposal, Rural Affairs Minister Anna-Caren Sätherberg agreed that the wolf population needed to be culled more heavily than in recent years. As a result, the government has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to once again reassess how many wolves there should be in the country. 

“We see that the wolf population is growing every year and with this cull, we want to ensure that we can get down to the goal set by parliament,” Sätherberg told the public broadcaster SVT.

Sweden would still meet its EU obligations on protecting endangered species, she added, although she said she understood country people “who live where wolves are, who feel social anxiety, and those who have livestock and have been affected”.

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