Spain under spotlight over accelerating threats to Doñana heritage



Posted on 19 January 2011  | 
Iberian lynx, Spain
© WWF-Spain/Jesus CoboEnlarge
Seville, Spain  – Spain’s management of the renowned bird migration refuge at Doñana comes under review tomorrow, as international experts begin assessing multiple threats from illegal farming and proposed dredging and oil pipeline construction.

The Doñana National Park, recognised through World Heritage, Biosphere Reserve status and as a Wetland of International Importance is regarded as one of the most significant wetlands and bird migration stopover points in the world.

Scientific experts from UNESCO, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar) today begin three days examining what Spain imperatively needs to do to maintain Doñana’s international recognition.

Doñana was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (1981), a World Heritage Site (1994) and listed under the Ramsar Wetland Convention (1984).

WWF, associated for 50 years with efforts to preserve Doñana, has identified three key threats to the southern Spanish park’s integrity.

From the east, the further dredging of the Guadalquivir river to two metres deeper would allow larger ships 80 kilometres upstream to the port of Seville will further damage the functioning of the river estuary and therefore the wildlife on the marshes and beaches of the protected reserve.

From the northwest, thousands of acres of illegal strawberry farming and the digging of illegal wells have reduced flows from the aquifer to the wetlands to just 10 percent of natural levels in some areas.
To the south, the planned Balboa oil pipe would run 200 kilometres across the Doñana protected area. The project would also double the number of oil tankers along the coast each year and dramatically magnify the risk of a devastating marine oil spill.

“Doñana’s protection is not just a matter of local or national concern, it is of international relevance,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. “Spain has to take important decisions to guarantee the conservation of Doñana and the international momentum given by this mission will be crucial in this respect.”

Juan Carlos del Olmo, General Manager of WWF Spain said that “Doñana is part of the environmental history of this country and the natural reserve has earned all its distinctions after years of hard work on the conservation front.

“Unfortunately Doñana is now hanging tough as an island, little by little witnessing how it’s borders are being constantly attacked by three threats that might knock down the future of this iconic protected area.

“It’s the governement’s decision now to make sure Doñana is safe and protected from these three unacceptable and dangerous projects”.

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