UNESCO is concerned about reports of proposed legislative changes at regional level to the Special Plan for the Management of Irrigation Areas in the Northern Part of the Forest Crown of Doñana (the “Strawberry Plan”), which could threaten the very reasons for the recognition of Doñana National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Doñana has also been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1980.
UNESCO would like to recall that in recent years, the World Heritage Committee – the governing body of the World Heritage Convention, made up of 21 of the 195 States Parties to the Convention – has regularly warned of the overexploitation of the aquifer and its potential impacts on the site. The increasing drying up of water bodies in the property is directly affecting waterfowl populations and is further exacerbated by the recent exceptional drought which is seriously jeopardizing the exceptional biodiversity of Doñana National Park.
Next to a Reactive monitoring mission at the site in January 2021 by experts from UNESCO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, The World Heritage Committee in 2021 asked Spain continue the urgent implementation of the “Plan Fraise” in its current form. The legislative changes proposed at the regional level to this plan therefore go against the Committee’s requests.
The next session of the World Heritage Committee (Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 10-25 September 2023) will examine the state of conservation of the site.
Based on the report submitted by Spain and the joint analysis by UNESCO and IUCN, it will be up to the World Heritage Committee to decide on the necessary measures. These measures include a wide range of options such as a new reactive monitoring mission and, as a last resort, the possibility of listing the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger if the World Heritage Committee considers that the essential characteristics of the site are threatened by proven, specific and immediate dangers.
More information on previous reports and rulings for this property can be found here: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/685/documents/.