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; January 2015: IUCN Reactive Monitoring 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 2017

On 1 December 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/documents/ and provides updates in response to Decision 39 COM 7B.26 as follows:

On 12 May 2017, the State Party transmitted additional clarifications concerning the above-mentioned dredging and gas projects.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The State Party’s confirmation that dredging of the Guadalquivir River will not be permitted is welcomed, which was further reiterated in its additional clarifications of 12 May 2017. While still being mentioned in the 2016-2021 Guadalquivir Basin Hydrological Plan, the State Party also referenced the Port Authority of Seville’s recent public statement of its decision to suspend the dredging project.

It is noted with appreciation that the Marisma Oriental gas project will not be allowed to proceed and that the Saladillo project is reported to be unlikely to be authorized. While the Aznalcázar and Marisma Occidental gas extraction projects are located outside of both the property and Doñana Natural Park, the latter is located close to the property boundaries. The clarifications by the State Party on the projects’ impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) are noted and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit, as a matter of urgency, the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and specific assessments of impacts on the OUV of the property, including its conditions of integrity.

It is noted that the Aznalcóllar mining project has not proceeded to implementation. However, the undertaking of a research project as well as on-going discussions on the allocation of water resources for mining operations, indicate a movement towards its realization. Considering that the mining company has already been identified, as previously noted by the Committee, it is recommended that the State Party keep the World Heritage Centre informed of any developments before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

The proposed enlargement of the Agrio dam reportedly aims to address industrial and electricity demands and reduce groundwater extraction. Whilst the proposal is still at its conceptual stage, it is noted that the Hydrological Plan has already identified the need for an EIA. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to ensure such an EIA includes an assessment of impacts on the OUV of the property.

The State Party notes a number of current initiatives that monitor the Doñana aquifer to inform its status. It should be noted that the aquifer will need a long time to completely recover from the illegal and unsustainable use of water. The Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation also presented, in its publicly available 2016 annual report, that the current level of groundwater extraction is compromising the conservation of the Doñana ecosystem. It is therefore evident that further effective actions are urgently needed to reverse the current trend, including by controlling groundwater withdrawals and improving irrigation practices. These measures are considered in the Special Management Plan of the Irrigated Zones to the North of the Forest Crown of Doñana, which therefore requires being fully and speedily implemented.

It is recalled that the Committee has previously considered that the deteriorating status of the Doñana aquifer needed urgent action to reverse the trend, and could otherwise represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines (Decision 38 COM 7B.79). No specific updates for example are provided on the previously reported increases in water use for irrigation of rice paddies, as requested by the Committee (Decision 39 COM 7B.26), which is of concern due to potential added stress to the ecosystem, which is further exacerbated by climate change.

Furthermore, it is recalled that the 2015 mission recommended that an absence of the State Party’s commitment to abandon the dredging of the Guadalquivir River should trigger the inscription of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger. At present, neither this commitment to permanently abandon the dredging nor the urgent actions required to protect the Doñana aquifer are satisfactorily in place.

Although the State Party has annexed what is referred to as the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as requested by the Committee (Decision 38 COM 7B.79), it does not assess the cumulative impacts of water use, and agricultural, industrial and commercial development occurring at present on the Guadalquivir River Basin as well as the impacts associated to future demands and proposed projects. In addition, and of most concern, is the fact that the SEA does not make reference to the OUV of the property.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.9

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7B.79 and 39 COM 7B.26, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014) and 39th (Bonn, 2015) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s commitment not to authorize the dredging project to deepen the Guadalquivir River and takes note of the State Party’s statement to remove this project from the Guadalquivir Basin Hydrological Plan when it is next revised;
  4. Also welcomes the information provided by the State Party and encourages the State Party to continue working on enhancing water resource management so as to guarantee the state of conservation of the property;
  5. Notes with concern the conclusions of the 2016 annual report of the Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation which confirms that the current level and use of underground resources in a significant part of the groundwater bodies, if sustained, would compromise the good state of underground water bodies and the terrestrial ecosystems and requests the State Party to expedite the full implementation of the Special Management Plan of the Irrigated Zones to the North of the Forest Crown of Doñana, and submit to the World Heritage Centre the findings of the current initiatives on monitoring of the hydrological processes to inform the status of the Doñana aquifer, once they are available;
  6. Recalls that the continued declining condition of the Doñana aquifer, if not reversed, could represent a potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Further welcomes the decision of the State Party not to authorize the gas and storage projects in Marisma Oriental, and also requests the State Party to submit, as a matter of urgency, to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for the gas extraction projects at Aznalcázar and Marisma Occidental, comprising specific assessments of impacts on the OUV of the property, including its conditions of integrity, before any decisions are taken that may be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  8. Noting that a research project for Aznalcóllar mine has been authorized but that there is no mining project to date, and that enlargement of Agrio dam on the Guadiamar River is still at a conceptual stage, further requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed of any agricultural, industrial and commercial developments related to these projects and to ensure that the cumulative impacts from these projects on the OUV of the property are assessed in the framework of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) mentioned below;
  9. Requests furthermore, the State Party to present an updated SEA for the Guadalquivir River Basin to ensure that it includes a specific chapter on the OUV of the property, and submit it to the World Heritage Centre;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.