The European Commission is urging Spain to stop the deterioration of natural habitats in the area around the Doñana National Park, home to several Natura 2000 sites, resulting mainly from the overexploitation of aquifers, a porous deposit of rock that feed the wetlands.
An estimated 1,000 illegal boreholes have been draining the aquifer of one of Europe’s most important wetlands.
The Doñana area hosts unique biodiversity in Europe, featuring a great variety of ecosystems that constitute the habitat of critically endangered species, such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx, as well as sheltering thousands of migratory birds.
The overexploitation of the aquifers is triggered by the intensive irrigation farming and the demand from tourist facilities including golf courses.
Although the Habitats Directive(Council Directive 92/43/EEC), does not exclude human activities in Natura 2000 sites, it does require Member States to take action to avoid the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species in the special areas of conservation.
The Commission assessment showed that the Spanish authorities have also not complied with EU water legislation (Directive 2000/60/EC), preventing sustainable management of water resources in the Doñana area.
The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Spain in October 2014.
As the breaches remain, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. If Spain fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Portugal’s smaller but equally important ‘Salgados’ ecological area between Armação de Pêra and Galé in the central Algarve remains threatened by property developer Finalgarve.
The company's €232 million project to build golf courses, three hotels and two tourists villages covering 108 hectares of the 350 hectare site will, argue the increasingly powerful local ecological lobby, turn the area into another 'me too' tourist development and lose an important and protected natural area for ever.
In terms of 'unique bio-diversity,' the Algarve's Salgados area qualifies 100% and a spirited 'Save Salgados' campaign started by birding and wiildlife expert Frank McClintock has seen an international petition gather support from just under 34,000 signatories to date.
Finalgarve wants to finalise the development permissions which already have been granted by Silves council and the Minisiter for the Environment, but are held up by the need for the developer to submit a second, more comprehensive, Environmental Impact Assessment which this time includes reference to a rare localised orchid, Linaria algarviana, the Algarve toadflax.
This is a rare species that grows only in the Algarve and it is on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s ‘Red List.’
“This rarity is listed on Annex II of the Habitats Directive and under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). The plant is legally protected in Portugal. Appropriate site management for this species including traditional grazing activities or control of urban and tourism expansion should be established."
With the European Commission insisting that Spain accords with its obligations at Doñana park, there is hope from the environmentalists that Brussels at last will turn its attention to the Algarve’s Salgados area which is the only seafront farming and natural landscape left in the central Algarve.
The 'Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados' platform includes the following organisations:
A Rocha, Aldeia, Algarve123, algarvedailynews.com, Almargem, Birding in Portugal, Birdwatching Algarve, LPN, Portugal Resident, ProActiveTur, Quercus, SPEA