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Govt poised to issue new tender for sewage treatment plant, Cortes said

Dr John Cortes

The Gibraltar Government is about to launch a new tender for construction of a sewage treatment plant at Europa Point, a long-standing and much-demanded project that it hoped to deliver years ago but has been delayed time and again.

Dr John Cortes, the Minister for the Environment, Education and Culture, told Parliament the process was under way to identify new companies interested in the project after one of the businesses involved in an earlier tender went bust.

“I have clearly stated the reasons outside our control for the delays, but I do understand that justified as they are, there will be criticism,” he said.

“I can confirm that the legal process of closing the former sewage treatment plant tender is now underway, a process which became necessary as a result of Modern Water going into liquidation.”

“Government is engaged in providing technical information to a number of potential bidders and the competitive process for finding a new operator is about to begin.”

With respect to the marine environment, new monitoring programmes are also being developed particularly in relation to micro-plastics, underwater noise and cetacean surveys using drones to help better assess the state of the marine environment in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

Further work into marine invasive species, such as the brown Asian algae, will be carried out as part of a UK Darwin Plus-funded project aimed at enhancing monitoring and prevention of invasive non-native species across UK Overseas Territories.

On waste, Dr Cortes pledged that the Government will be increasing provision of bin space for refuse and recycling in town to improve the cleanliness of urban areas.

On air quality, he said new analysers will replace the existing ones and are capable of near real-time data provision.

As Minister for Climate Change, he expressed disappointment that due to the necessary investment in a robust Covid-19 response, some plans and manifesto pledges had not been met.

However, he was quick to highlight progress, such as the formation of a cross-governmental Net Zero Delivery Body (NZDB), which will be responsible for ensuring that the targets set out in the Climate Change Act are reached.

There has also been the creation of a Climate Change Committee, made up of individuals with expertise across various areas of climate policy.

“The setting up of the Climate Action Fund will be significant as it will release resources for climate action,” he said.

On educating about the environment, he said a collaboration with the Department of Education and the University of Gibraltar will lead to all PGCE students receiving climate change training.

While commending all private sector companies that are working on their environmental sustainability agendas, he highlighted NatWest’s recently launched new Green Mortgage product.

Dr Cortes is also the Minister for Public Health and Gibraltar’s response to Covid-19 was mentioned in his speech.

“It is important that we learn the lessons that the pandemic has taught us about the importance of all the functions of Public Health, not just in the monitoring of communicable diseases, but also in disease prevention, lifestyle improvement, and health advice,” he stated, before noting that he is working with the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, in developing an assessment of Public Health Strategic Needs.

As Minister for Culture, he focused on the importance of developing and promoting local talent.

“Events with international artists are welcome and important for recreation and enjoyment, and inspire us, but it is much more important, significant, and less expensive, to promote the development of the arts within our community,” he said.

He noted that a rededication of the National Art Gallery will be held in September to coincide with the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Gustavo Bacarisas.

He confirmed the return of the Gibraltar Fair, National Day Celebrations, the Christmas Festival of Lights and the Three Kings Cavalcade, as well as a new gourmet food festival, a cultural event in London, an art exhibition by Gibraltarian artists at the Bermondsey Project Space, and the second part of a cultural exchange with Tangier with artists, musicians and performers from both cities taking part.

He also confirmed that, among the 41 artworks acquired for the Government’s Art Collection in the past year, Gustavo Bacarisas’ portrait of his brother, Horacio, ‘The Kiss’ by Christian Hook and a collection of nine works by Mario Finlayson are among them.

He thanked the Board and staff of the Retreat Centre, which over the past few years has been vital in the Covid response and is now looking after families seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine.

Other notable comments include the provision of a columbarium for the interment of ashes, a new raptor reintroduction programme, a draft of a heritage vision for Gibraltar by the Heritage and Antiquities Advisory Council sub-committee that is almost complete, and the introduction of hydrotherapy at St Martin’s School.

The Department of Education has reviewed and revised the catchment areas for Government schools and has very carefully scrutinised all applications for eligibility particularly from the point of view of residency.

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