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Spain announces dredging ban to protect Doñana


Spain's Doñana wetland received a reprieve today when authorities committed not to allow dredging of a river essential to the World Heritage site's health. In a report to UNESCO, the country stated that a plan to deepen the Guadalquivir River to allow larger commercial ships will not be authorized.

Failure to cancel the dredging project could have triggered the inscription of Doñana National Park on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger. WWF welcomes Spain's commitment, and urges officials to take the necessary regulatory and legal measures to formalize the dredging ban before the July 2017 World Heritage Committee meeting.

"For 15 years we have cautioned against the dangers of dredging for Doñana, its rare wildlife, and the fishing families who rely on the Guadalquivir estuary," said Juan Carlos del Olmo, CEO of WWF-Spain. "This commitment should be the death blow to dredging provided that it is followed up with appropriate action."

Earlier this week, a WWF analysis gave the Spanish federal government a failing score in regard to the four significant industrial threats facing Donana.

"While today marks good progress on dredging, Doñana remains under threat from illegal and unsustainable agricultural water use, mining and natural gas operations," del Olmo said. "Many of this World Heritage site's values are in decline, so more must be done to save it."

Doñana is one of Europe's few outstanding wetlands, and the continent's most important location for migratory birds. The site harbours over 4,000 types of plants and animals, including threatened birds and the world's rarest feline species, the Iberian lynx. In addition to its environmental value, the park provides for the wellbeing of 200,000 nearby residents, with jobs from fishing, farming, research and ecotourism.

More than 140,000 WWF supporters have emailed the Spanish president asking him to save Doñana. Last month, thousands of origami birds sent by activists from across the world were displayed outside the country's parliament in Madrid.