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

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

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

On 28 January 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, a summary of which is available online at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/documents/. In addition, information was received from other sources, in particular NGOs, and sent to the State Party for comments.

The State Party report outlines, among others, the following progress in addressing concerns raised by the World Heritage Committee:

Information submitted by NGOs and sent to the State Party reports that the dredging plans for the Guadalquivir estuary have not been officially abandoned but have been included for implementation in the National Budget. Further information concerns measures under the revised so-called “Strawberry Plan” to legalise illegal water extraction, and a new irrigation scheme for existing rice paddies upstream from the property on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. The project design, which includes construction of a pipeline underneath the river, implies a further reduction in freshwater inflow to the Guadalquivir estuary. Finally, a dam construction project on the Guadiamar River, one of the main tributaries of the Guadalquivir, has been reported.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

It is recommended that the Committee welcome the encouraging data provided by the State Party on the recovery of populations of bird species and the Iberian Lynx, as well as progress reported by the State Party in relation to a number of other concerns previously raised by the Committee, and the confirmation that no deepening dredging work has commenced on the Guadalquivir River. However, the information provided by NGOs that dredging plans for the Guadalquivir estuary have not been officially abandoned should be noted.

The State Party made a statement that Doñana aquifer is in good state but pointed out that the Guadalquivir Basin Water Plan refers to the Outline of Important Themes document (Esquema de Temas Importantes; ETI), approved in 2010 and available online, which classifies the Doñana aquifer as being in a “bad state”, on the basis of declining water levels. Significant declines in water levels outside the property are also reported by the State Party, leading the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to consider that the Doñana aquifer is under significant pressure. The information received on several other projects, which could further limit water availability in the property, is also noted. Of particular concern are reported measures foreseen in the revised “Strawberry Plan” to legalize agricultural fields in the property’s surroundings, which are irrigated from illegal boreholes, rather than to implement regulations combatting illegal water use.

If confirmed and implemented, the new irrigation scheme for existing rice paddies upstream from the property could seriously add to the adverse impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to not implement these plans before their potential impact on the property has been thoroughly assessed through an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) that conforms with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and this ESIA is submitted for review to the World Heritage Centre in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

If confirmed and implemented, a dam on the Guadiamar River could also potentially have adverse impacts on the OUV of the property, including the conditions of integrity.

The possible reopening of the mine of Aznalcóllar announced on the website of the government of Andalucía should also be noted. Although the mine is located at some distance from the property, its upstream location and proximity to the Guadiamar River could cause a major potential impact on the property’s OUV in case of a toxic spill, such as the one that occurred in 1998 (http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/economiainnovacioncienciayempleo/pam/aznalcollar/Aznalcollar.action).

Finally, the necessary authorizations for gas projects in the vicinity of the property have been suspended pending an assessment of cumulative impacts. It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to include a specific assessment of potential impacts on the OUV of the property in further impact assessments, in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.

In view of the above, the Committee may request the State Party to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Guadalquivir River Basin, including specific consideration of issues related to water use, and agricultural, industrial and commercial development, in order to consider the long-term actions needed to address any adverse impacts on the OUV of the property. 

The above-mentioned threats, in particular over-extraction of water from the Doñana aquifer could represent a potential danger to the property’s OUV, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, if possible together with the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, to assess its state of conservation, and the various threats to its OUV, in particular in relation to agricultural activities, the management of the Guadalquivir River and estuary, and the various emerging development projects, including gas projects, mining, and dam construction.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.79

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.27, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes the information provided by the State Party that populations of bird species and Iberian Lynx are recovering, as well as the progress reported by the State Party on the implementation of the recommendations of the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN/Ramsar reactive monitoring mission of 2011 and on addressing the requests from the World Heritage Committee, and requests the State Party to continue these efforts;
  4. Also notes that dredging to deepen the estuary of the Guadalquivir River has not commenced, and also requests the State Party to make a permanent commitment to not permit plans for dredging to deepen the Guadalquivir River, considering the potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  5. Expresses its utmost concern about the continued reported decline in the condition of the Doñana aquifer, reported plans to increase water use for irrigation of rice paddies upstream of the property, to legalise illegal water use under the revised Strawberry Plan, and to construct a dam on the Guadiamar River, as well as the absence of a plan of action to address unsustainably high levels of water extraction, and further requests the State Party to provide more information about these plans to the World Heritage Centre, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and to take urgent measures to address this situation, including through the enforcement of existing regulations to combat illegal water use;
  6. Urges the State Party to ensure that any future projects increasing water use upstream of the property will not be allowed to proceed if they would impact adversely on the property’s OUV, and considers that the continued depletion of the Doñana aquifer, if not urgently reversed, could represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Also urges the State Party to ensure that potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the property’s OUV from mining and gas exploitation and storage projects in its vicinity are thoroughly assessed, in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  8. Further urges the State Party, in light of the concerns noted above, to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Guadalquivir River Basin, particularly in relation to water supply scenarios, agricultural, industrial and commercial development, in order to prepare revised plans and actions for water management and use in the river basin, which will provide long-term protection for the OUV of the property;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, including an invitation to the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, to assess its state of conservation as well as potential threats to its OUV;
  10. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property, including on progress with the implementation of the actions mentioned above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.