The future of Doñana is increasingly at risk.
Despite the drying up of the lagoons and marshes, the Andalusian PP (People’s Party) intends to move forward with the project to grant amnesty to illegal irrigation in the vicinity of the national park. The proposal, which the Andalusian government is trying to pass urgently, seeks to benefit a residual group of offenders who have been illegally exploiting water for years and do not represent the Andalusian agricultural sector at all. This measure could push the natural space to extinction. The heart of Doñana already meets the conditions to be declared at risk of disappearance.
Here is the petition to sigh: https://seoactua.org/peticion/donana/ (Its in Spanish but very simple to follow. Just add your name and email and thats it!)
The translated article that appears on the petition page.
Despite the severe drought conditions in Doñana and the recent announcement that all its freshwater lagoons were practically dry, the Partido Popular (Popular Party) in Andalusia has resumed the project of legalizing illegal irrigation in the Doñana area. This proposal was initially launched in the Andalusian Parliament as a bill by the parliamentary groups of the Partido Popular, Vox, and Ciudadanos.
From SEO/BirdLife, we maintain our condemnation of this proposal as a new threat to the natural environment of Doñana, as it would encourage the expansion of irrigation and go against international, European, national, and regional legislation. If approved by the Andalusian Parliament, this measure would further exacerbate the current process of extinction of Doñana.
We believe that the new government should dismiss this proposal and redirect political approaches towards criteria that contribute to the sustainability of agricultural development in Doñana, prioritizing the protection of the National Park and aligning with the context of ecological transition, hydrological regeneration, adaptation to climate change, and the environmental sensitivity of European consumers.
In addition to active policies that promote true conservation of Doñana, we request that the Andalusian Parliament debate and approve a motion urging the Spanish Government to declare the coastal lagoons in Doñana as the country’s first endangered habitat.
Doñana at risk of extinction
According to our data, 90% of Spanish coastal lagoons suffer serious problems that jeopardize their future, and Doñana represents 28% of this habitat. Other large lagoons such as the Mar Menor or L’Albufera de Valencia are also in serious danger.
The declaration of the coastal lagoons in Doñana as endangered not only acknowledges a situation that has been observed for too long, but also represents a turning point that imposes obligations on all competent public administrations to ensure their conservation.
“The Andalusian Parliament should not waste time and resources debating a proposal with serious effects on one of the jewels of Andalusian, Spanish, and European biodiversity, and on the local communities in its surroundings. We urge the parliamentarians to focus their efforts on implementing serious policies that guarantee the conservation of Doñana, and to urge the Spanish Government to recognize this area, along with the rest of the coastal lagoons in the country, as endangered spaces,” says Carlos Davila, responsible for the Doñana Technical Office at SEO/BirdLife.
The proposal ignores the fact that the aquifer has been declared overexploited by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge due to the ecological state of the protected area, and goes against all the scientific literature on the extreme deterioration that the National Park is undergoing. This situation has been recognized by national environmental administrations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Ramsar Convention, and UNESCO, as well as in agreements signed by the Doñana Participation Council.
Furthermore, we would like to remind that the Court of Justice of the EU condemned Spain last June for not taking into account illegal wells and not adopting measures to prevent alterations of the protected habitats that led to the drying up of the aquifer.
The greatest threat to Doñana
Water management in the Doñana area is currently the greatest threat to the conservation of its natural values in the short, medium, and long term. “A real commitment is needed to establish a holistic approach at the scale of the river basin, and at the same time harmonize all social, agricultural, tourist, and cultural uses with ecological aspects, not only in the natural area but also in its immediate surroundings, including areas of the territory without legal protection that may cause deterioration of the quantity and quality of groundwater, as well as of terrestrial ecosystems and directly dependent wetlands,”
A risk for the agricultural sector itself
Furthermore, when elaborating this proposal, consideration has not been given to European consumers. We must not forget that, in the end, all the supposed agricultural and socio-economic development that is being attempted to be promoted with this proposition of law relies on consumers who are increasingly interested in the environmental traceability of the products they buy. However, in the text of this proposal, there is no mention of consumers, a decisive part of the food chain in the red fruit sector, who will likely not understand this approach to promoting sustainable development in one of the regions with the greatest environmental impact for the conservation of our natural heritage.
Commitments that SEO/BirdLife asks of the administrations
- Declare coastal lagoons as the first endangered habitat in Spain.
- Ensure the permanent closure of all illegal operations that affect the state of the aquifer, with an execution schedule, budget allocation, and sanctions included, and implement a medium-to-long-term continuous monitoring program to prevent similar situations.
- Commit to establishing a comprehensive control and inspection plan to deter illegal extractions.
- Suspend any planned new concessions, at least as a precautionary measure, until the non-deterioration of water bodies and their associated ecosystems is ensured.
- Ensure that the justification for all legalized wells is provided and evaluate their impact on the ecological status of water bodies.
- Ensure that 100% of legal wells have consumption control systems, accompanied by an incentivizing pricing policy to reduce consumption and cover the costs of the Water Framework Directive, including environmental costs.
- Establish a global irrigation control system for the entire aquifer, regulated by an adaptive global exploitation system based on annual water resource availability and supported by communities of irrigators.
- Implement a planning and restructuring plan for the entire agricultural sector in the protected natural area, which truly subordinates its long-term evolution to the conservation of habitats and species in Doñana, with maximum surface areas, maximum extractions, and the relocation of farms in the most environmentally sensitive areas to improve water management. This requires adjusting public and private allocations to the actual availability of water and limiting resource use to respect the water input regime required by ecosystems.
- Implement a review and relocation plan for water extraction pressure from tourist facilities, especially in the urbanization of Matalascañas.
- Ensure that official measures are published in the hydrological planning to adjust the flood period, transverse water movement, and water balance of groundwater bodies to the annual rainfall reality.
- Ensure a commitment to present a medium-to-long-term plan that avoids dependence of the natural area on water transfers.
- Eliminate all eucalyptus plantations, even if located outside protected areas, that indirectly affect the recovery of lagoons fed by the aquifer.
- Draft and approve a management plan for the protected areas of the Natura 2000 Network in Doñana, including an evaluation of the conservation status of natural habitats and species, measures, and monitoring in relation to the obligations set by European directives and basic state legislation.
- Identify the ecological and water requirements of habitats and species in the Natura 2000 Network areas for their immediate incorporation into the Guadalquivir River Basin Management Plan 2022-2027, especially regarding the definition of minimum and maximum flow regimes, seasonal regimes, and necessary generating flow (or ranges) to achieve conservation objectives for aquatic species and water-related habitats.
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