1.         DoƱana National Park (Spain) (N 685bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1994

Criteria  (vii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

1998: World Heritage Centre advisory mission; 1999, 2001, 2004: joint World Heritage Centre, IUCN and Ramsar Convention missions (Doñana 2005 expert meetings on Hydrological Restoration of Wetlands). January 2011: World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission and Ramsar Advisory Mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 8 February 2013, a detailed report on the state of conservation of Doñana National Park was submitted by the State Party. The report highlights progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN/RAMSAR mission. In addition, on 7 November 2012 the World Heritage Centre received a letter, in Spanish, from the Seville Port Authority of the Ministry of Public Works (Ministerio de Fomento) elaborating on its view on the infrastructure project “Actions to improve the maritime access to the Port of Seville” with a focus on the dredging of the Guadalquivir River. On 15 February 2013, the World Heritage Centre received another letter from the Port Authority, in English, repeating earlier statements and enclosing a report on "Tide, salt intrusion and sediment transport in the Guadalquivir Estuary".

a)  Proposed additional dredging of the Lower Guadalquivir River

A controversial infrastructure project by the Port Authority of Seville includes a proposal for deepening dredging of the Guadalquivir River, which forms the eastern boundary of the property and is intricately linked to its wetlands. The State Party recalls that in response to differing views and concerns by the Board of Trustees of the National Park on the positive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which was delivered to the project in 2003, a Scientific Commission was assigned to communicate an opinion to the Ministry. The Scientific Commission issued its opinion in 2010 and concluded that while maintenance dredging is considered acceptable if the negative impacts are minimized through careful planning and timing, deepening dredging is considered to impact negatively on the dynamics, morphology and biodiversity of the estuary which could result in direct impacts to Doñana National Park. The State Party further notes that these findings and conclusions have since received multiple endorsements, including from the Doñana Natural Landscape Participation Council. The Secretary of State for Climate Change accepted the conclusions of the Scientific Committee in writing to the Seville Port Authority on 11 October 2011 and noted that it considers the conclusions as binding conditions of the EIS. Furthermore, the Minister of the Environment of the Region of Andalusia endorsed the study and opinion on 4 May 2012 in a communication to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Environment. Notwithstanding the above, the Seville Port Authority in its letters argues that the 2003 Environmental Impact Statement remains legally in place. It also notes that dredging is scheduled for 2013 and apparently included in the 2013 budget.

b)  Over-extraction of the Doñana Aquifer

The Committee (Decision 35 COM 7B.27) requested the Government Council of the regional government to approve the "Special Management Plan of the Irrigation Zones located to the North of the Forest Crown of Doñana" (Plan de la Corona Forestal) before 31 December 2011, and commence implementation by 1 January 2012 at the latest, in order to address a range of longstanding water management issues comprehensively. The State Party reports that a participatory process is underway, but approval and implementation of the plan are pending. The State Party cites the overwhelming public response and the corresponding workload, as well as changes in governmental responsibilities as the key reasons for the delay. Since the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission, the governmental responsibility for the surface and underground waters of the Guadalquivir River Basin has passed from the Regional Government of Andalusia to the Central Government.

c)  Proposed Balboa oil pipeline from Huelva to Extremadura and expansion project of La Rábida Refinery

At the time of the 2011 mission a refinery construction project in Badajoz Province in Extremadura, including the Balboa oil pipeline project that would link this refinery to the Port of Huelva, was undergoing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The mission expressed concern over the potential impacts of this project on the property due to risks associated with the construction of pipelines and an increase in maritime traffic inside and close to the property. The State Party reports that the overall conclusion of the EIA was negative, citing "significant environmental impacts", including the risk of accidental spills impacting on the coast of Doñana. The statement makes reference to concerns expressed by UNESCO, IUCN and Ramsar, as well as neighbouring Portugal. On 16 July 2012 the corresponding Resolution on the negative Environmental Impact Declaration, signed by the Minister of the Environment of Spain, has been officially gazetted (Document BOE-A-2012-10244), and therefore the construction of the refinery and  associated infrastructure were not approved.

As requested by the Committee, the State Party report provides information on efforts to update risk preparedness and management plans in relation to the La Rábida oil refinery expansion project as requested by the 2011 mission. The report notes that several plans exist both at the level of the Andalusia Autonomous Community and at the local  level including the World Heritage property, many of which have been updated recently. These include a revised Territorial Emergency Plan for Andalusia approved in November 2011 and a more specific Emergency Plan for Risks of Contamination on the Coast of Andalusia (PECLA). The State Party notes work currently being done on the development and implementation of an Andalusian initiative for Self-Protection Plans for Protected Natural Landscapes on the Andalusian Coast. Moreover, the Self-Protection Plan for the Doñana Natural Landscape designed to respond to discharges on the coastal strip of Doñana has been approved.

d)  Cumulative effects of infrastructure projects outside the property

The landscape and seascape around Doñana is intensively used for transportation, industry, agriculture, urban spread, recreation and tourism. Conservation efforts in this wider landscape, including but not limited to the much larger Doñana Natural Space (Espacio Natural Doñana) are indispensable for the integrity of the property. The State Party reports that no major changes have recently occurred and no major infrastructure projects are underway.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have received information that an EIA for "new gas projects", including gas extraction, storage and transportation and located partially within the "Nature Park" but outside the property, concluded positively. Publicly available official information (BOE-A-2013-868) confirms that Petroleum Oil & Gas España, S.A. is planning the extraction of gas and subsequent storage within the "Espacio Natural Doñana". There is no explicit reference to World Heritage status in the official publication of the Environmental Impact Statement. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, the potential impact of any oil and gas exploitation or exploration project located in the vicinity of the property should be assessed to ensure that it will not negatively affect its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).  On 8 March 2013, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting further information on this issue, but no response had yet been received at the time of writing this report.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the important efforts by the State Party to make progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2011 mission. They welcome the negative conclusion of the EIA for the Balboa Refinery and its associated infrastructure in Huelva and Sevilla as well as work done to update risk preparedness and management plans in view of the expansion of the La Rábida Refinery. They recommend that the Committee encourage the State Party to support the multiple disaster response plans with adequate human and financial resources and to establish direct communication lines with the refinery to be able to respond to possible spills without delay.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee urge the State Party not to permit any deepening dredging in the Lower Guadalquivir River, in line with the recommendations of the Scientific Commission and the Committee’s previous decision (Decision 35 COM 7B.27) and to integrate the conclusions of the Scientific Commission as binding conditions into the EIS, as stated by the Secretary of State for Climate Change. They also recommend the Committee to urge the State Party to ensure that any maintenance dredging activities are ecologically optimized in line with scientific recommendations.

Concerning water management, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee regret the delay for the approval and implementation of the "Plan de la Corona Forestal". They are of the view that the need for enhanced watershed management remains urgent as current practices slowly erode the values of the property. They also recommend that the Committee reiterates its request to the State Party to urgently approve and implement the plan.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note reports on possible new gas projects in the immediate vicinity of the property, and recall the need to assess the potential impacts of these projects on the OUV of the property.

In conclusion, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the efforts of the State Party to implement the recommendations of the 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN/RAMSAR mission. However they remain concerned about the cumulative impacts of a number of threats to the OUV of the property, in particular the possible deepening dredging of Guadalquivir estuary, the issue of over-extraction of the Doñana Aquifer and the potential impacts from hydrocarbon projects in the vicinity of the property. They note that if these issues are not addressed the property could meet the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in the near future. 

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.27

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.27 , adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.  Acknowledges the efforts made in response to the recommendations of the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN/RAMSAR mission conducted in 2011 and requests the State Party to continue these efforts;

4.  Reiterates its concern about the cumulative impacts of a number of threats to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in particular the possible deepening dredging of Guadalquivir estuary, the issue of over-extraction of the Doñana Aquifer and the potential impacts from hydrocarbon projects in the vicinity of the property and considers that if these issues are not effectively addressed, the property could meet the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in the near future;

5.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Environmental Impact Statement of the Balboa Refinery and its associated infrastructure and the non-approval of the construction of the refinery and associated infrastructure and also requests the State Party to inform the World Heritage Centre of any possible revision of the decision in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

6.  Urges the State Party not to permit any deepening dredging in the Lower Guadalquivir River and to ensure that any maintenance dredging activities are ecologically optimized, in line with the recommendations of the Scientific Commission and Decision 35 COM 7B.27 and to integrate the conclusions of the Scientific Commission as binding conditions into the Environmental Impact Statement;

7.  Expresses its concern on the possible impacts of planned projects for gas extraction and storage in the immediate vicinity of the property and further requests the State Party to ensure that the potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is fully considered as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment and the results transmitted to the World Heritage Centre in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

8.  Requests furthermore the State Party to further invest in the follow-up and implementation of the multiple risk preparedness plans and to establish direct communication lines between the management authority of the property and the La Rábida refinery in view of the expansion of that refinery;

9.  Requests moreover the State Party to approve and implement the Special Management Plan of the Irrigation Zones (located to the North of the Forest Crown of Doñana) without further delay;

10.  Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.