POLLUTION UPDATE 2010, MARCH 2010
Power Stations –Bunkering – Traffic – Bay Pollution – Epidemiological Studies – Enforcement of Green
While many of these issues remain a threat to the environment and our health, there have been changes in key areas which we shall briefly explain here. Firstly, though, we should underline that many of the contributory sources of pollution are exactly the same if not worse than in previous years. Traffic and power stn emissions for example continue the same or have possibly worsened. This first section is a 2010 update to a paper we submitted at the last election in 2007 (details at end of this section)
Gibraltar’s Power Stations are noise and dirty- if you live near one you will know the score. After several years of campaigning and the ever strengthening laws coming down from Brussels the Gib Govt decided on replacing all three plants with a new modern equivalent which will be built on Lathbury Square. The length of time it has taken to get to this stage has meant that many families have been exposed to illegal levels of air and noise pollution affecting their quality of life on a day to day basis. In our 2007 paper (see below) we recommended various actions to be taken to ameliorate impact from the power stations during the time of planning and building the replacement plant. Govt has not agreed to do this and we continue to campaign for urgency on completion of the new plant. (see http://www.environmental-agency.gi/PDF%20Files/LathburyBarracks_decisiondoc.pdf for details just published on the licence issued for the construction of replacement power station.
Have markedly improved, with steps taken by the Gibraltar Govt and CEPSA Oil Refinery to lower temperature of fuel bunkered to reduce smells. This was solely due to public pressure and our campaign. Work is also underway to install state of the art monitoring systems such as VTS (Vessel Tracking Systems) as well as co-operation measures between Gib and Spanish ports in the Bay to liaise on all shipping movements thereby significantly reducing risk of collision. The ESG understands that the Gibraltar Govt is considering bringing fuel bunkering supplies to ‘onshore’ facilities removing the risk of a catastrophic incident involving floating refuelling mother ships. This would be some improvement although vapour recovery technology (VRT) would need to be implemented throughout any such installation to ensure the new facility would not cause harmful pollution to the nearby area.
Update on Traffic
Is that everything is just as dreadful as it has been and getting worse- no doubt with the opening of Dudley Ward tunnel (!) and new airport road in action, we shall see vast improvements to the state of our roads- the emphasis however always in providing ever more facilities for more and more motorised transport. Very little indication from this Govt of any intention or vision to give us safe, calm streets and fresh air with clean running public transport systems and moves to actively reduce traffic levels. Vested interest and the vote-losing element of any bold plan actively reducing motorised transport is obviously driving govt agenda in this regard. And all we do is complain!! The ESG is considering holding a poll shortly to gauge the real public feeling on this issue as without public support, very little will change.
• Please refer to the ESG website for a comprehensive response to the latest Govt plan on Transport during last quarter of 2009.
• Also look at the ITWMC (In Town without My Car) website for further information on alternatives to Gibraltar’s traffic problems.
A couple of big developments here mainly in the form of a recent audit on the CEPSA Oil Refinery the ESG managed to acquire via our legal advisers, Hassan’s, and the positive steps taken under the Tripartite Political Process where at least the regional environmental issues have been tabled for the first time ever.
The Bay and its citizens have been exposed to excessive levels of pollution from the heavy industrial complex for over 40 years! We campaign locally, at cross border and at European level for all activity in the Bay to be regulated to best practice and technology and for sustainable development to replace aging and damaging practices.
• The ESG produced its own technical assessment of the Audit which can be found in full on our website.
• We have also collaborated with groups from across the border and from Gibraltar to produce a number of files that have been sent to the Tripartite Forum. This coalition is intent on highlighting the critical areas of regional environmental importance need for urgent action. The cross border coalition is made up of: AGADEN (from Algeciras), VERDEMAR (San Roque), GREENPEACE from Madrid, and the ESG and GONHS from Gibraltar.
We shall continue to monitor this situation and demand appropriate action by the three participating governments under the Tripartite Forum and other relevant authorities.
Gibraltar Government took the step of launching its own independent epidemiological study in response to public concerns and pressure created by Environmental NGO’s in the region. It is possible that first reports emerging from the Danish Team will be published towards the end of 2010. The ESG regrets the unilateral nature of this study as the cross border coalition campaigned steadily for years for this to be done at a cross border basis- knowing full well that the environment knows no borders and that all Bay Citizens deserve this type of independent analysis to address wide spread concerns about higher mortality in the area.
Enforcement of Green Legislation
The ESG has long campaigned for an Environmental Charter for Gibraltar that was eventually signed in 2006. Subsequent to this “great document of worthy principles” was news that the Ministry for the Environment was soon to be releasing an Action Plan to follow up on the objectives set out under the Charter. The ESG is seriously concerned about the risks posed to health from several activities on the Rock and that, while understanding the inevitability of proximity to sources of pollution due to our size, that more needs to be done to ensure that strict application of Best Practice and the Precautionary Principle is enforced in Gibraltar. In other words, that steps are taken by all relevant agencies to identify threats and take active measures to reduce these over time, but with expediency.
Because of the growing scientific evidence of pollution effects on health it is a Government’s duty to try and eliminate and reduce all avoidable sources of pollution over and above EU requirements. Gibraltar’s unique situation results in closer than usual proximity to sources of heavy pollution from power plants, bunkering fumes, traffic emissions, etc which makes pollution reduction measures all the more necessary.
!-Bunkering fumes and other impacts from intense maritime activity, such as potential collisions, need to be addressed. The implementation of vapour recovery systems should be made conditional to all fuel activity to minimise harmful fumes. The ESG submitted technical solutions to Government 9 months ago. It is hoped that any future Govt will support the need for bunkering companies to invest in this technology without further delay. A hotline should also be set up with an answering service to ensure complaints about fumes are recorded.
! Transport and Traffic emissions – Traffic is clearly a crisis at the moment -Focus should be on reducing vehicular traffic and associated fumes by encouraging healthier forms of transport/mobility-needs a sustained Government campaign, promotion, disincentives, and alternatives
– For all political parties to give due regard to a detailed document prepared by the ESG, GONHS and FoE/Gib under the “In Town Without My Car” campaign with recommendations and potential solutions submitted to the Minister for the Environment in 2007 and available on the ESG website: www.esg-gib.net
! Bay Pollution – Gibraltar Government to support the ESG’s complaint to the European Commission regarding the dangerous operational standards of the CEPSA Oil Refinery and associated petrochemical installations – MEP’s and now MPs from the UK are lending support to what is clearly a regional environmental problem.
!-Epidemiological studies – Urgent need for independent, cross-border epidemiological (health) studies to be carried out to establish links between industrial pollution and elevated mortality rates in the bay. A bay wide petition of close to 14,000 signatures was handed to the Gibraltar Government and to the Spanish authorities in 2007 as part of a sustained campaign by a 14 strong cross border coalition of NGO’s and various other organisations (Plataforma for Epidemiological Studies).
Short to long-term
Environmental Agency to be invested with independent powers to regulate private and Government activity – and appoint the agency with specific goals to assess the health effects from chronic pollution sources in Gibraltar (not only comply with EU legislation) This can be only happen if the Agency is charged with actively working towards the elimination of all avoidable pollution sources.