30 NGOs urge European Parliament to protect Doñana National Park wetlands

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30 European environmental NGOs call on the European Parliament to take action against the threats to Doñana National Park’s wetlands in Spain. Illegal water extraction threatens the survival of hundreds of thousands of birds that use this wetland area to breed, winter and rest on their migratory path to and from Africa. Other large wetlands in Spain may face similar threats if this precedent-setting attack on key EU environmental laws is allowed.

Led by most of the Living Rivers Europe[1] coalition, the NGOs sent a letter that requested that the European Parliament “denounce publicly the severe attack on [the Doñana] wetland and the threats it poses to the implementation of key EU environmental laws and policies.”

The letter points out that as a result of illegal overexploitation of groundwater, mainly for unlicensed strawberry farms, the Doñana wetlands are drying out. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the “excessive extraction of groundwater” in the Doñana Natural Area violates the EU law, in particular the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive. Despite the ruling, the Andalusian regional government wants to decriminalise 1,900  hectares of illegal farms around the reserve. This would result in an amnesty for 85% of the current illegal crop area in that part of the basin.

Signatories to the letter included Wetlands International Europe members Centro Ibérico de Restauración Fluvial and Fundación Global Nature of Spain, CIRF – Centro Italiano per la Riqualificazione Fluviale (Italian Centre for River Restoration), and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust of the UK.

[1] Living Rivers Europe is a coalition of five environmental and angling organisations gathering WWF’s European network, the European Anglers AllianceEuropean Environmental BureauEuropean Rivers Network, The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International.