Doñana on the way to being better protected

Doñana in Spain constitutes one of the largest and most important wetlands in Europe. MAVA and our founder Luc Hoffmann have been dedicating funds and resources for the conservation of Doñana for many years, with work led on site by WWF Spain.

For over ten years, WWF Spain has been carrying out exhaustive monitoring and has provided reports prepared by experts and public bodies that demonstrate the overexploitation and progressive degradation of the aquifer that feeds Doñana as well as the serious impact this has on the habitats and species of the protected area.

Further to these reports and the complaints from WWF Spain, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Juliane Kokott, published a report on 3 December 2020 in which she concluded that the “excessive extraction of groundwater” in the natural area of Doñana violates Community law. The conclusions of this report endorse the complaints that WWF has been making for years, warning of the serious environmental deterioration of Doñana.

The procedure started with the complaint filed by WWF Spain on 5 April 2010 when the organisation especially denounced the abusive and unsustainable extraction of water in the area of Doñana for the intensive cultivation of red berries. This activity creates serious damage on the aquifer, protected habitats and species, despite Doñana being included in the Natura 2000 network.

At the end of 2014, the European Commission opened an infringement procedure against Spain (letter of formal notice), which ended with a reasoned opinion on 28 April 2016 for the obvious infringement of the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Bird Conservation Directive.

In the absence of a satisfactory response from Spain and due to the alarming situation of Doñana’s aquifer and biodiversity, the European Commission sued the Spanish State before the EU Court of Justice in January 2019. After the corresponding hearing, the Advocate of the CJEU, Juliane Kokott, has now issued a report in which it is considered that there is a breach of Community law.

WWF expects that the CJEU ruling, which will probably be available in the first months of 2021, will confirm this breach and force Spain to protect Doñana effectively, ending the hundreds of hectares of illegal crops and the hundreds of wells that WWF has documented.

Although this does not show perfect conservation management at Doñana, it certainly shows the importance of the policy and advocacy work led by MAVA partners in the Mediterranean region.

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