1.         Doñana 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 https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/documents/

International Assistance

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

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1998

Information from international newspapers indicated that a toxic spill in southern Spain has caused an ecological disaster, and may 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 impacts of the spill may spread into the World Heritage area as the pollution becomes more widely dispersed in the days and weeks ahead. 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 and is awaiting a response.

Action Required

The Bureau, based on additional information that may be available at the time of the twenty-second session of the Bureau, may recommend appropriate actions to the consideration of the State Party and/or the Committee as well as the Centre and IUCN. Furthermore, the Bureau may invite IUCN to submit,  in accordance with the recommendation made by the Committee at the time of inscription of the site on the World Heritage List in 1994, a state of conservation report on Donana to the twenty-second session of the Committee.


22nd extraordinary session of the Bureau in 1998:

 At its last session (June 1998) the Bureau was informed that a giant holding pool of the Aznalcollar mine owned by a Canadian-Swedish company burst resulting in an ecological disaster. Although the main toxic flow had been diverted away from the National Park, the adjoining areas had been badly damaged. The Bureau was informed that the spill could spread into the World Heritage area as pollutants dispersed more widely. The State Party had submitted a number of technical reports on the situation and on actions taken to mitigate the threats. The President of the Spanish MAB Committee had proposed the organization of an international conference to review actions taken and rehabilitation plans elaborated for the conservation of the site and provided an outline for a project entitled “Donana 2005”. The State Party had welcomed UNESCO involvement and suggested that financial support be considered for this purpose. The Bureau had 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. Furthermore, the Bureau had requested the State Party to collaborate with UNESCO, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention to prepare an international expert conference to develop a long-term vision, and to compile a detailed report in time for the twenty-second session of the World Heritage Committee. The Centre is awaiting an official response from the State Party to the Bureau’s recommendations.

Decision required: The Bureau may wish to adopt the following text and transmit it to the Committee for noting:
“The Bureau reiterates its request that the State Party, UNESCO, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention collaborate and submit to the Bureau's twenty-third session in mid-1999 the following: (i) a detailed plan for the organization of an international expert conference; and (ii) a description of the project, “Donana 2005”, outlining goals and objectives, project plan, expected outcome, project financing plan and a timetable for project implementation.”

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1998

At its twenty-second session, the Bureau was informed that a giant holding pool of the Aznalcollar mine owned by the Canadian-Swedish Boliden-Apirsa Company burst resulting in an ecological disaster. Although the main toxic flow had been diverted away from the National Park, the adjoining areas have been badly damaged. The Bureau was informed that the spill could spread into the World Heritage area as pollutants dispersed more widely. The State Party had submitted a number of technical reports on the situation and on actions taken to mitigate the threats. The President of the Spanish MAB Committee had proposed the organization of an international conference to review actions taken and rehabilitation plans elaborated for the conservation of the site and provided an outline for a project entitled “Donana 2005”. The State Party had welcomed UNESCO involvement and suggested that financial support be considered for this purpose. The Bureau had 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. Furthermore, the Bureau had requested the State Party to collaborate with UNESCO, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention to prepare an international expert conference to develop a long-term vision, and to compile a detailed report in time for the twenty-second session of the World Heritage Committee.

The Bureau was informed that the at the invitation of the Spanish Government, the Centre carried out a mission from 10 to 13 November 1998 reviewing the situation at the site and the area affected by the toxic spill. The Centre received a number of documents presented by the Spanish authorities on the actions undertaken since the last session of the Bureau, including the Donana 2005 project. The project “Donana 2005 hydrological regeneration of the watersheds and river channels flowing towards National Park” has been prepared by the Ministry for the Environment. It mainly proposes: (a) to avoid the influx of contaminated water into the Dofiana marshes; (b) to restore the flow of waters towards Dofiana in the long term (drinking water; original hydrological dynamism); (c) to maintain the hydrological system of the connection between Dofiana and the Guadalquivir Estuary. The Bureau noted that the World Heritage site and the Biosphere Reserve are currently little affected whereas the Natural Park around the site has been impacted by the toxic spill. The actions taken by the Spanish authorities have been substantial. The Bureau suggested that great caution should be taken in re-starting mining activities and requested that EIAs be carried out for each step.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 22 BUR V.B.32

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.

Decision Adopted: 22 COM VII.25/24

VII.25 Doñana National Park (Spain)

At its twenty-second session, the Bureau was informed that a giant holding pool of the Aznalcollar mine owned by the Canadian-Swedish Boliden-Apirsa Company burst resulting in an ecological disaster. Although the main toxic flow had been diverted away from the National Park, the adjoining areas have been badly damaged. The Bureau was informed that the spill could spread into the World Heritage area as pollutants dispersed more widely. The State Party had submitted a number of technical reports on the situation and on actions taken to mitigate the threats. The President of the Spanish MAB Committee had proposed the organization of an international conference to review actions taken and rehabilitation plans elaborated for the conservation of the site and provided an outline for a project entitled "Doñana 2005". The State Party had welcomed UNESCO involvement and suggested that financial support be considered for this purpose. The Bureau had 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. Furthermore, the Bureau had requested the State Party to collaborate with UNESCO, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention to prepare an international expert conference to develop a long-term vision, and to compile a detailed report in time for the twentysecond session of the World Heritage Committee.

The Bureau was informed that at the invitation of the Spanish Government, the Centre carried out a mission from 10 to 13 November 1998 reviewing the situation at the site and the area affected by the toxic spill. The Centre received a number of documents presented by the Spanish authorities on the actions undertaken since the last session of the Bureau, including the Doñana 2005 project. The project "Doñana 2005 - hydrological regeneration of the watersheds and river channels flowing towards Doñana National Park", has been prepared by the Ministry for the Environment. It mainly proposes: (a) to avoid the influx of contaminated water into the Doñana marshes; (b) to restore the flow of waters towards Doñana in the long term (drinking water; original hydrological dynamics); and (c) to maintain the hydrological system of the connection between Doñana and the Guadalquivir Estuary. The Bureau noted that the World Heritage site and the Biosphere Reserve are currently little affected, whereas the Natural Park around the site has been impacted by the toxic spill. The actions taken by the Spanish authorities have been substantial. The Bureau suggested that great caution should be taken in re-starting mining activities and requested that EIAs be carried out for each step.

The Observer of Spain reiterated the threats to ecological integrity of the region and expressed his appreciation for the mission carried out prior to the Committee session to review the situation. He noted that, while the World Heritage site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve were little affected by the spill, the impacts for the surrounding Natural Park and also for the agriculture and fisheries were considerable. He underlined the need to purify the polluted waters upstream of the site and the estuary using biological filters and silt lagoons and the restoration of the marsh dynamics and ecological mechanisms. He provided copies of the "Doñana 2005" project to the Chairperson, IUCN and the Centre, which would need a budget of approximately US$ 120,000.000.

IUCN underlined the lesson learnt from the Doñana spill that had also been learnt from other cases such as Everglades, Srebarna and Ichkeul; i.e. that many World Heritage natural sites are at the mercy of activities occurring upstream in the drainage basin of the site.

The Committee reiterated the Bureau's request that the State Party collaborates with UNESCO, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention to organize an international expert conference and to present its results to the twenty-third session of the Bureau. The Committee also invited the State Party to submit, in time for the next Bureau session, details concerning the financing plan and a time table for the implementation of the project "Doñana 2005" to be carried out in the framework of the Man and the Biosphere Reserve Programme (MAB). The Committee commended the State Party for the actions taken to prevent impacts to the World Heritage site by the toxic spill. It requested the State Party to proceed with great caution with regard to re-opening the mine and to monitor long-term impacts for both the World Heritage site and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.