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  • Statement published on Regional Environmental Concerns during EU Inspectors visit to the Bay


    “The ESG is concerned that the ongoing political situation is seriously affecting agencies and governments ability to effectively address critical environmental issues which have a regional bearing and which are currently getting very little airplay.

    Throughout the summer our group has highlighted the ongoing sewage contamination at Western Beach which has threatened public health and is widely known to be caused by a storm drainpipe illegally discharging raw sewage from la Linea. And still nothing is done about this at an official, legal or European level. Instead we have witnessed complete silence on the part of La Linea’s municipality on this and our Government taking steps to attract bathers to this contaminated area.

    These past few weeks has also seen sewage and chemical pollution affecting several spanish coastal areas only brought to the publics notice by NGO’s from the Spanish side.These relate to Spanish sewage discharges into Bay waters from Algeciras through to Palmones and highlights sewage management is a critical issue for spanish citizens.

    The latest reminder of the intense air and water pollution from the industrial and chemical installations in the Campo area came in the form of a 2012 report (commissioned by the spanish authorities) that nickel levels found by air monitoring systems were among the highest in Andalucia and was linked to Acerinox, a steel processing plant located in the Bay. Given the report is an official paper its possible that the levels admitted are conservative and could conceivably be worse. This is not a surprise to the ESG. There have been copious reports over the years emanating from Spain on the Bay’s air and water quality which have generally confirmed the pollution caused by the chemical industries. The problem is enforcement of regulations and this requires agency action.

    The ESG has learnt from cross border environmental colleagues that another key worry is how the spanish economic crisis has further weakened the official agencies ability to monitor industrial activity. This is a very grave situation as major chemical installations such as those located in the hinterland need strict and independent
    evaluation and monitoring because any slip in standards or shortcuts in safety practices can have dire consequences for the health of all Bay communities as well as the living environment. Sustained chemical discharge into air and water systems will naturally enter the food chain and hence affect our health. Monitoring of industry standards is obviously a critical matter which should come under the microscope of any EU Inspection team worth its salt.

    Although being stuck for hours in hot vehicles and delays at the border are clearly very unpleasant, the longterm environmental problems in the region are a real health concern.

    Throughout our campaigns particularly on the CEPSA Oil Refinery and petrochemical industry which is massive and has expanded exponentially in the past two decades, we have tried to get our voices heard, at cross border level, over the genuine fears, supported by a growing number of health studies, that such industries could be causing higher than average mortality and disease in the bay area. MEP Neil Parish organised for a party from Gibraltar including the ESG, a global public health expert from Barcelona, a top legal adviser, and a global industry activist, to take our health and environmental issues to the heart of Brussels. They heard but did not act. Mr Parish urged the Commission to visit the area, see the installations for themselves, ageing infrastructure/proximity to schools, nurseries and residential areas – in complete defiance, in fact, of most health and safety regulations. But they did not come. We persevered with the support of our technical and legal advisers, cross border petitions, and more recently via the support of MEP Sir Graham Watson. Some progress has been made but it has taken much longer than it should. Our industry expert compared our Refinery problem as a “slow Bhopal”. Global Community Monitor, Denny Larson produced a detailed report for Mr Parish who pressed these directly into the hands of those officials in Brussels whose job it is to ensure that environmental standards and regulations are being met. And still the inspectors did not come.

    We therefore wish to publicly request the team of inspectors heading to Gibraltar to give us an audience so that we can directly appraise them of the regional longstanding environmental issues which affect all Bay citizens health and wellbeing and that will prevail unless serious action is taken – long after the politcal troubles have faded into the background. We shall remind them of the 14,000 strong cross border petition calling for help from the European Commission to see independently commissioned epidemiological studies done at a cross border level to assess the full impacts of the toxic chemical industry that many of us are living next to and undeniably affected by.

    Please refer to the ESG’s website at : www.esg-gib.net for more information on the groups regional environmental campaigns in Brussels.”

    CUTW 2013 1st Report


    CUTW 2013 summary.

    Saturday morning saw a carnival like Parade launch Clean up the World. The weekend clean up got off to a very bright, loud and energised start. The Parade was supported by local schools, clubs, associations and Govt Ministers. Art in Movement led the walkers with rthymic drumming which attracted much attention. Many school children had created signs and banners made from recycled materials especially for the Parade and bright, important messages about protecting the environment were on display and shouted out by the pupils. Once at the Square and after a few words were spoken by organisers and the Minister for the Environment the crowd was entertained by fabulous dance displays by Art in Movement and Danza Academy. Thanks to all who made this extraordinarily special.

    Meanwhile over 400 volunteers transformed several parts of Gibraltar leaving these pristine clean, well, for a short while at least. General litter as well as contractors materials from slopes, underwater sites and green areas was collected in the space of a few hours. Our symbolic mountain at the main dump was this time distrbuted to three separate centres. Around 40 trucks and 6 skips were used. A large site, Seven Sisters, will be collected sometime this week. The ESG will follow up various issues with Government, the Ministry and related agencies at the upcoming Litter Committee meetings where this years lessons will be tabled for further action.

    The dive clean up was very efficient this year with record number divers turning up supported by land based teams which made the removal of water based rubbish a little easier. A scorching sun however, made the final clear up at this site quite a challenge when teams had to bring up the waste to the top of a very steep slope at Rosia Bay. Abseilers tackled otherwise inaccessible sites also supported by other teams and the Seven Sisters, also only accessible by boat, witnessed a major clear out of rubbish. This site will be cleared later on this week. Town sites that proved shockingly diffficult to clean were Hargraves pitch – and an untouchable site identified during the 2013 campaign was the Police Barracks which is in a critical condition and needs urgent attention.

    We began the Clean up in Gibraltar as an awareness raising and educational campaign that also seeks to keep the agenda moving forward to bring about positive lasting changes in Gibraltar’s physical environment. We did this again this year -as a community, with multi-level support, and a great feeling of camaraderie.
    Looking ahead we shall be publishing a series of photographs of all the teams and support network – as well as a detailed report with a compilation of issues identified by volunteers and recommendations for solutions to some of the recurring problems.

    Thanks to everyone involved. Together we CAN make a difference!
    kind regards
    J Howitt



    The ESG is very pleased to announce that this year’s plans for Clean up the World 2013 are now underway. In what is the 9th year of Gibraltar’s participation, we can confirm the widespread interest and support for this community campaign is as strong as ever. Over twenty team leaders attended a major planning meeting this week. A report was delivered by ESG’s Janet Howitt on last year’s Clean Up recognising the great voluntary effort and the many gains achieved in the past year.

    Among these are:
    • Improved recycling streams and facilities
    • Schools and Government departments leading the way by recycling as policy
    • Year round efforts at tackling litter and waste issues are being heard and acted upon by the Litter Committee
    • Efforts underway via Litter Committee to encourage businesses and clubs to increase recycling
    • Cleaning of CUTW hotspots and other areas are now carried out more frequently
    • Initiative to deliver information on litter and waste to every single household and business in Gibraltar was achieved via a Litter Leaflet – this was a collaboration between ESG/Litter Committee/AquaGib and the Ministry for the Environment

    There are a number of issues still pending that the Clean Up, as a Campaign, will set out to highlight and promote this year. Among these is the need for fines and enforcement and dedicated Litter Wardens. Facilities must be improved and an Eco Park set up without delay. Tobacco smuggling related rubbish is a growing problem that needs to be tackled.

    In spite of year on year clean ups, wanton littering is still seen in many of our natural environments, and this presents a threat to all life forms as well as being an eyesore. In spite of increased, sustained action by various agencies, and while improvements have been noted, it’s clear we still have a problem.

    Volunteers will be tackling several green areas, coastal sites and underwater clean ups. Organisers believe it is vital to continue to promote the need for civic pride and responsibility.

    If you would like to take part please contact 54960000 or leave a message at 200-48996, or email esg@gibtelecom.net to register for the Clean up, as an individual or a team. We are currently assigning teams to sites so this is a good time to get in touch.

    The Clean up Date is the 21st September and we expect the day to kick off with a lively parade in the heart of town as from 10.30am- Casemates. More details will be published soon.

    ESG Radio Newsletter 22nd August 2013

    Today is significant on many fronts. Speaking as a global citizen it’s especially important to consider the impact we are having on the planet and consequently how this will affect not so distant future generations. Two issues are currently in the news that are important to mention: Insofar as global resources, we continue to undermine nature’s ability to renew herself and absorb the filth and waste we constantly throw at her. According to Global Footprint Network, the world has already reached “earth overshoot day” in 2013, explaining how we are tipping the balance in terms of resource use and the planets ability to replenish and absorb waste. With a rapidly rising global population, it’s hard to see how this balance will improve and will likely worsen with the ensuing economic and social upheaval this will create. Only then shall we realise the folly of our ways and how we should have taken better care in living more sustainably. Look at news on fracking.

    If you go to guardian.com you will find a range of articles and comment on the technical aspects of this technology as exploratory works are underway in the UK. You will also hear about protests which include both residents and national protesters as fracking will have both local and global impact. While you hear a lot about securing power source as the key argument for fracking, there is silence on the CO2 emissions this will produce. While many Governments behave as though renewable energy is unable to deliver today’s energy needs, there remains much that can be done to process our waste into energy, such as biogas from farm waste and sewage, or converting other waste into different forms of useable energy –as well as harnessing all forms of renewable energy. This requires political will on a major scale to develop necessary financial and legal tools to increase the pace at which these ultimately, cleaner technologies, can start replacing fossil fuel as the seemingly first natural choice.

    On a day that we hear about how we are already borrowing resources from our children’s future, its critical that choices made today reflect the need to increase efficiency and sustainability.

    Closer to home and because this will be the last newsletter before the main CUTW planning meeting I would like to remind those of you keen to participate in this years clean up to please get in touch as soon as possible. We are busy taking calls and emails and have a healthy list of teams already. You are welcome to sign up as a volunteer as additional teams are formed closer to the day, but not on the day. It is important for all team leaders to attend on the 3rd September at 7pm at the John Mack Hall, Charles Hunt Room. Please call 54960000 and/or email esg@gibtelecom.net. Clean up the World will take place on the 21st September.

    Another issue is Western Beach – we continue to advise against bathing there –visit environmental-agency.gi and check the data for yourself on the site for Western Beach. Compare it to other beaches and you will see a glaring difference in contamination levels at Western Beach compared to all our other beaches. We do not understand how Government has chosen to introduce a water play park there. We shall be issuing a press release soon as we follow up our complaint lodged at the European Commission.

    Finally, another one for your diary – a reminder that the next planning meeting takes place on the 5th September. Look out for the agenda that should be published online a week beforehand as we understand there could be interesting projects to be considered.
    Thanks for listening.