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Terra Alta county: population halved since 1920, further loss expected through 2046

Local community, struggling to keep basic services running, hopes remote working will 'halt' gloomy trend


07 June 2022 02:27 PM


Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

Famous for its endless wineries and shaken forever for hosting the bloodiest episode of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Battle of the Ebre, Terra Alta is rich in nature, landscapes and history – but nevertheless, its seems to be dying.

Its iconic Serra de Pàndols mountain range, which once saw Republicans and fascists fight for its slopes, is a helpless witness again to massive population loss, this time despite peace reigning for over 80 years.

This southwestern Catalan county has been losing inhabitants for the past century, and is set to continue this trend in the coming 25 years.

Terra Alta boasted 23,365 inhabitants in 1920, when the number of residents peaked – then began a slight drop, which became dramatic between 1936 and 1940, coinciding with the war.

The conflict that began with a fascist military uprising in July 1936 ended the lives of 18% of the county's population – in Catalonia as a whole, this figure was just over 1%.

Following slight growth in the two following decades, residents have been progressively abandoning Terra Alta ever since, leaving the current population at 11,302 inhabitants (2021 figures), that is, 51.6% fewer than in 1920.

Yet, what is even more concerning for the local community is that the trend is not set to change in the next 25 years.

According to population estimates by the Catalan statistics institute (Idescat), Terra Alta will lose residents between now and 2046 even in the most optimistic scenarios – Idescat predicts the county will have between 9,298 and 11,075 inhabitants in a quarter of a century, that is, a loss of between 2% and 17%.

As a result of the situation, local authorities are struggling to keep basic services running, but they hope an increase in remote working due to the pandemic "halts" the gloomy trend.

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  • A quiet street in the village of Caseres, Terra Alta county (Anna Ferràs)

  • A quiet street in the village of Caseres, Terra Alta county (Anna Ferràs)