The over 120,000 hectares of wetlands is one of the most important nature conservation areas in Europe. But the area around the national park is also economically important to the region – strawberries are grown here for the groceries of Europe. 97 percent of Spain’s strawberries come from the region.
Water-intensive agriculture has long threatened wetlands, and in 2014 the then government imposed a ban on further expansion – with moderate effect. According to the WWF, thousands of wells have been drilled illegally with catastrophic consequences for the environment.
And now Andalusia’s regional leader, Juanma Moreno, wants to include some 1,500 hectares around the national park in the irrigation plan and make the wells legal. A political majority is being secured in order to quickly reach a decision in time for regional elections at the end of May. But the Spanish government is protesting and is now waiting for a political battle at the national level.
The European Union threatens Spain with heavy fines if it cannot guarantee the protection of the national park, and UNESCO is investigating whether the national park can be removed from the World Heritage List.
The national park was established in 1970 and added to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List in 1994.
It is located between the provinces of Huelva and Seville in Andalusia.
The national park features a diverse landscape consisting of lakes, wetlands, sand dunes, and forests.
Doñana is home to five species of endangered birds and more than half a million birds winter there each year.
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