The European Commission has decided to take Spain before the European Court of Justice “for not having taken the appropriate measures” to protect the groundwater that feeds the Doñana wetlands, as required by EU legislation.
In a communique, the Commission explained that Spain “is not taking the necessary measures to prevent the deterioration of protected habitats in this wetland,” which is “a violation of legislation of the EU in the field of nature protection”.
The Commission pointed out that the decision was preceded by an opinion sent to the Spanish authorities in April 2016 and was “worried” about the likelihood that the state of the wetlands will continue to be degraded, given that Spain is not in sufficiently compliant with “the obligations imposed on it by both the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive”.
The Water Framework Directive determines that European waters “are a heritage that must be protected and defended, and establishes a series of obligations to help Member States treat their waters accordingly,” the Commission said.
Vulnerable aquatic ecosystems, like that of Doñana, “need careful protection” since their balance “depends to a large extent on the quality of the internal waters that flow towards them”.
“Their protection also generates economic benefits as it contributes to the protection of fish stocks, including marine fish,” it said.
The Commission reported that the Doñana wetlands are among the largest in Europe and supports a great variety of ecosystems. “It houses an important sample of flora and fauna that includes species in serious danger of extinction such as the imperial eagle, the Iberian lynx and the black turtle,” the Commission added.
Doñana is also part of the migratory route that millions of birds undertake each year and “such singular biodiversity” is protected by the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive.
“The abrupt decrease in the level of groundwater has exacerbated the vulnerability of the Natura 2000 network spaces compared to the dry seasons in the area and has caused further deterioration,” the Commission concluded.