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.