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WWF - Spain could be first EU member country to have a natural World Heritage site listed as ‘in danger’

The Doñana National Park World Heritage site, located in southern Spain, provides habitats for as many as 4000 species, six million migratory birds each year and the world’s rarest feline species, the Iberian lynx but since the beginning of the 20th century, Doñana has lost over 80 per cent of its natural marshes.

WWF is launching a campaign to motivate the Spanish government to act to avoid the embarrassment of the first natural site ‘in danger’ listing of an EU member country by cancelling the dredging project and protecting the site’s exceptional natural value.

#SaveOurHeritage campaign follows over a million WWF campaign supporters worldwide drawing the line at the industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) and Virunga (DRC) natural World Heritage sites and global action underway to achieve greater protection for Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania) and the Belize Barrier Reef System (Belize).

Doñana National Park, famed for its outstanding natural beauty, could be the 1st natural World Heritage site in an EU member country, Spain, to be added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in danger, unless immediate action is taken. 

Doñana faces a myriad of threats. The World Heritage site, located in southern Spain, provides habitats for as many as 4000 species, six million migratory birds each year and the world’s rarest feline species, the Iberian lynx. The report, Saving Doñana: From Danger to Prosperity, produced for WWF by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, identifies looming threats from intensive agriculture, mining, and gas storage.

The most urgent threat identified by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is dredging of the Guadalquivir River. Spain must report to UNESCO that they will cancel the dredging project and not permit any future dredging by 1 December 2016. Dredging would worsen existing damage to the park and estuary. Consequently, the World Heritage status, the species inhabiting the national park and the wetland itself face imminent devastation. 

WWF launched a #SaveOurHeritage campaign to motivate the Spanish government to abandon dredging plans, and to protect the outstanding universal value of the site. 

Chris Gee, WWF-UK Senior Campaign Manager, #SaveOurHeritage said “World Heritage sites belong to all of us. Spain only has until 1st December 2016 to abandon dredging plans to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee or the site will be inscribed on the ‘in danger’ list.  At risk is not only precious wildlife but also the livelihoods of the region’s 200,000 inhabitants in the fishing, farming, research and ecotourism industries. We need people to help us motivate the Spanish government today at wwf.org.uk/donana.”

WWF-Spain CEO Juan Carlos del Olmo said, “Doñana is at a crossroads, either the Spanish government adheres to the international commitments it has made to safeguard this vital area that provides benefits to the entire world, or it allows it to be exploited to the point of no return. The situation is already critical and now we have the embarrassing prospect of an in danger listing for our most famous World Heritage site.”

“Since the beginning of the 20th century, Doñana has lost over 80 per cent of its natural marshes. In recent years, illegal and unsustainable water use have severely impacted its natural value resulting in reduced biodiversity and dried out lagoons.

“Despite Doñana’s significance and the fragile condition highlighted in the analysis, there is a proposal to dredge the Guadalquivir River. Dredging would worsen existing damage to the park and estuary, and would directly endanger the 4,000 species in Doñana, many of which are unique to the area.”

In spite of Doñana being protected by several international agreements, including the World Heritage Convention, the Spanish government has failed to safeguard the site from harmful industrial activities that threaten its outstanding natural value.

For more information, please contact: 
Alex Stafford
WWF-UK
email: astafford@wwf.gorg.uk
Tel: 01483 412332

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit wwf.org.uk/donana for latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @wwf_uk. 

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