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  • ESG Alarmed over growing Fuel Industry in the Bay

    A recent stream of official announcements by the Spanish Government of major planned expansion of fuel tank farms in Algeciras and Los Barrios is a significant blow to the Bay environment (see Boletin No. 285 attached).

    The Algeciras project brings this polluting activity practically to the centre of the Bay. It will undoubtedly affect water movement and water quality, as flow will be restricted. Furthermore it raises the risk of a shipping accident as vessel pathways continue to narrow, while maritime activity rises. The second smaller but still sizeable tank farm is planned for Los Barrios. This will see industrialisation take place on a major scale once again in the bay, eating up land area and impacting on marine ecosystems already under significant threat from existing chemical industries.

    Given the Spanish Government’s complaints to the EU over the environmental impact of the relatively small reclamations being carried out in Gibraltar it is inconceivable that it continues to industrialise, pollute and reclaim land for massive projects as currently planned.

    During the first phase of the Algeciras fuel farm, our group called for the environmental impact assessment on this project to be published and for an adequate accident response plan to be set up between the Port of Algeciras and Gibraltar to protect people and the environment should an accident occur which could have far reaching consequences. This never happened even though the ESG took this concern to Brussels as well as to the UK Government.

    This was another issue we discussed recently with MEPs Sir Graham Watson and Ashley Fox. With two fuel farms going up the environmental impacts and risk will rise exponentially.

    A cross border assessment to determine precisely what these will be is of fundamental importance.

    It is industrial development at its worst, capitalising on economic hardship and basic health and safety standards, while at the same time destroying the natural environment. It will, without question, add to existing air and water pollution in an area that has long suffered decades of illegal industrial toxic discharges.

    The ESG is also deeply concerned that these developments are announced by the same Spanish party in Government that this week absolved itself of any responsibility for the Prestige incident. At the time over 70,000 tons of fuel and other toxic waste were dumped into the waters of the Atlantic when Prestige was refused safe harbour at Galicia and led to a major environmental catastrophe.

    The ESG hopes the Gibraltar and UK Government, as well as our MEPs, will urgently raise this issue in Brussels and seek to ensure that full oversight of all safety aspects of these latest projects are put in place if they cannot be stopped, which would be preferable. It is clear that this responsibility cannot be left up to the Spanish authorities that have also cut back on the essential independent monitoring of the toxic industries and their impact in the Campo area.

    Finally it is hoped that the Gibraltar Government will examine all available information to establish the true impact this could have on our own marine environment as well as on Gibraltar’s environment on the whole.