World Heritage site on the verge of collapse

ANDALUCIA could become the first region in Europe to have a National Park listed as ‘in danger,’ as fears grow over the status of the Doñana wetlands.

The enormous reserve covers portions of Huelva and Sevilla provinces, and houses around 2,000 wildlife species including Iberian lynx and imperial eagle, as well as being a hugely important stopover point for millions of migrating birds each year.

It covers 540 square kilometres of sandy dunes, Mediterranean pine forest, cork oak and freshwater to saline lagoons, but its water resources are under severe threat.

The most recent estimates concluded that the park has lost some 80 per cent of its water due to drainage of marshes, pollution from the mining industry, and abstraction for intensive agriculture.

Around five million litres of untreated wastewater are dumped into the surrounding area on a daily basis, while more than 1,000 illegal wells have been drilled around its perimeter by local farmers, whose produce includes 3,000 hectares of unlawfully-planted strawberries.

Further concerns have been raised over plans to reopen the Aznalcollar mine, the scene of one of Spain’s worst ecological disasters in 1998, and dredge the lower Guadalquivir river to allow access for cargo and cruise ships.

The national government has also authorised exploration and drilling work by Gas Fenosa in the area, which ecological groups say is against the law. 

Spain now has until December 1 to declare Doñana permanently off-limits to such practices in a report the country must submit to UNESCO, or the park will be the first in Europe to be classified as ‘in danger.’

WWF Spain has launched a campaign to save one of the most important wetland sites on the continent, and spokesperson Eva Hernandez said: “Doñana’s biodiversity has eroded over the last 40 years and we are reaching a point of no return,” she said.

“We could do things to recover the park – and some things are being done – but the pressures on it from private and public companies are becoming unbearable. We must decide whether it is more important to consume all of Doñana’s resources or to preserve its biodiversity and services to the people.”

If you wish to help WWF Spain in their mission to change the future of Doñana, visit the website 

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