Decision : CONF 201 V.B.32
Donana National Park (Spain)
Information indicated that a toxic spill in southern Spain upstream from Donana has caused an ecological disaster, and will seriously affect this World Heritage site. The crisis began on 25 April 1998, when a giant holding pool of the Aznalcollar mine owned by a Canadian-Swedish company burst. The toxic spill affected the surrounding areas of the World Heritage site. The Ramsar Convention Bureau informed IUCN that whilst the main toxic flow may have been diverted away from the National Park itself, the adjoining areas, including the Regional Natural Park 'Entorno de Donana', have been badly damaged. It is also likely that the impacts of the spill may spread into the World Heritage area as the pollution becomes more widely dispersed. The Centre has contacted the State Party to obtain an official report on the spill, its impacts on the World Heritage site and mitigation measures being taken. The Bureau was informed that the Spanish Government had submitted a number of reports on the situation and actions taken to mitigate the threats and that all reports have been transmitted to IUCN for evaluation. Most reports are of a technical nature and describe, for example, the least damaging technology to remove the retained contaminated water as well as the possibility of treating and removing the polluted crust. This contamination has accumulative effects on biological organisms inhabiting the site. The removal urgently needs to be completed before the autumn rains.
The Centre informed the Bureau that on 18 June 1998 a meeting took place with the President of the Spanish “Man and the Biosphere”(MAB) Committee, the former Director of Donana National Park, the Director-General of UNESCO, the Director of the SC/ECO and staff from the World Heritage Centre. The President of the MAB Committee suggested an international conference to review actions taken and rehabilitation plans elaborated for the conservation of the site. He also presented an outline for launching a project entitled “Donana 2005”. It was suggested that UNESCO is involved in the preparation of the conference and that financial support may be provided for this purpose.
The Bureau thanked the State Party for immediate actions taken to mitigate the threats and for keeping the World Heritage Centre and other UNESCO Divisions fully informed on the situation at the site. The Bureau however, expressed its serious concerns on the long-term restoration of the property and urged the State Party to undertake all possible measures to mitigate the threats. It requested the State Party to collaborate with UNESCO, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention in the preparation of an international expert conference to develop a long-term vision and prepare a detailed report in time for the twenty-second session of the World Heritage Committee.
The Observer of Spain thanked the Centre for rapid actions and support and stressed the commitment of his Government to the protection of the World Heritage site, which has been illustrated by submitting five reports since April. His Government has taken note of the proposal for an international scientific conference and will continue to work closely with the World Heritage Centre and the Committee.