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Migratory Wild Birds Risk Losing Important Resting Grounds

Thousands of British wild birds have been fitted with small metal rings so their migration routes can be tracked. Many of these birds have been discovered in the Doñana National Park, Spain. This is a magnificent wilderness area which provides an important resting ground for birds on route to and from Africa. Unfortunately, Spain is failing to protect the region and an environmental disaster is looming.

The World Wide Fund for Nature

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is warning that there is trouble ahead in Spain. Dredging, pollution and illegal water extraction are all impacting the resting grounds for water birds migrating to and from Africa. The park is also a refuge from the cold UK winters for a variety of avian species.

The National Park

The Doñana National Park is a 52 square mile area of salt marsh, lagoons and forest which is located south of Seville. The park is at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River but is threatened by the Spanish Government’s intention to dredge the river. The authorities have also failed to address other important issues affecting the park including unsustainable water usage, mining and natural gas extraction.

The park features an estimated 1000 unauthorised wells, 1700 irrigation ponds which are deemed suspicious and over 3,000 hectares of illegal farms which are stealing water. All of this means that the wetlands could run dry. There are also concerns about the impact of pollution and invasive species.

UNESCO Considers Action

UNESCO is now considering placing the Doñana National Park on its list of World Heritage Sites which are in danger. It had set a deadline of 1st December 2016 for Spanish authorities to address the problems which also threatened the Spanish Lynx. This is the world’s rarest feline species. To make matters worse, the park is an important economic resource for the country as it provides jobs from fishing, farming and ecotourism.

Swift Action Required

The Spanish Government is being called upon to act swiftly to save the wetlands. Failure to do so will see the Doñana National Park receive the first "in danger" listing for an EU natural World Heritage site which would be very embarrassing for Spain. The decision will be made by the World Heritage Committee next July.

Legal Action

The European Commission is said to be planning to take Spain to court because of its mismanagement of water in the region. WWF says it is also very concerned about plans for a Mexican company to reopen a mine that caused an ecological disaster in 1998. This lead to the deaths of huge numbers of fish and cost £300 million to resolve.

The eyes of the world are on Spain. There are growing concerns about the wetlands but as yet no signs of action from the Spanish Government. Their failure to protect the National Park has serious implications for the rest of Europe but the Spanish seem more concerned about industrial projects.


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