UNESCO voices concerns over Doñana National Park’s continued World Heritage Site status

Image of Doñana National Park in Spain.

Image of Doñana National Park in Spain. Credit: Corrado Baratta/Shutterstock.com

UNESCO released a statement this Thursday, May 25, in which it voiced its concern about the future of the Doñana National Park as a World Heritage Site.

Located in the Cadiz province of Andalucia, it has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1980. As pointed out in a tweet from Spain’s Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, UNESCO could consider withdrawing the status.

The organisation referred to recent reports of proposed legislative changes at the regional level to the Special Management Plan for the Irrigation Zones in the northern part of the Forest Crown of Doñana – also known as the ‘Strawberry Plan’.

Such changes could threaten the very reasons for the recognition of Doñana National Park as a World Heritage site said UNESCO.

UNESCO recalled that in recent years, the World Heritage Committee – the governing body of the World Heritage Convention, composed of 21 of the 195 States Parties to the Convention – has regularly warned of the overexploitation of the aquifer and its potential impacts on the site.

The increasing drying out of the water bodies in the property directly affects the populations of water birds and is further exacerbated by the recent exceptional drought. This puts the exceptional biodiversity of the Doñana National Park at serious risk.

Following a reactive monitoring mission to the site in January 2021 by experts from UNESCO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in 2021, the World Heritage Committee requested Spain to continue the urgent implementation of the ‘Strawberry Plan’ in its current form.

Proposed legislative changes at the regional level to this plan are therefore contrary to the Committee’s requests.

The next session of the World Heritage Committee will be held in Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, between September 10-25 September 2023. It will examine the state of conservation of the site during this session.

On the basis of the report submitted by Spain and the joint analysis of UNESCO and IUCN, it will be up to the World Heritage Committee to decide on the necessary measures.

These include a wide range of options such as a new reactive monitoring mission and, as a last resort, the possibility of inscribing the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger if the World Heritage Committee consider that the essential characteristics of the site are threatened by ascertained, specific and immediate dangers.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com