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Political clash over air quality

The Gibraltar Government and the Opposition clashed again yesterday over the Rock’s poor air quality.

This follows the recent World Health Organisation report which found that Gibraltar exceeds the organisation’s recommended levels for air pollution.

The GSD initiated the exchange yesterday when it issued a statement claiming that the main cause of air pollution in Gibraltar is the old generating stations.

The party added that while the delay in commissioning a new power station is to be regretted the air quality in Gibraltar should improve once the Rock has a new power station equipped with modern technology.

“The next worse contributor to air pollution is vehicles and here the number of vehicle on our streets rose by 4500 between 2011 and 2014, and judging by the emissions from some vehicles, testing is completely inadequate,” the GSD said in a statement adding that this must be tackled.

Conversely, the recent EU report indicating poor quality water at Western Beach and Sandy Bay cannot be ignored, said Trevor Hammond, shadow MP for the Environment.

While for the former the problem is known, for Sandy Bay it is a concern as the other east side beaches get a cleaner bill of health.

“Its relative proximity to the sewage outflow combined with the impact of the refurbishment works must be more clearly understood and Government must press forward with our sewage treatment plant.”

“This double whammy by the EU and WHO in the past fortnight demonstrates we do not live in the environmental idyll that Government would like us to believe,” Mr Hammond said.

This drew an angry response from the Government late last night. In a statement it said that air quality in Gibraltar is demonstrably at the best levels in many years.

The Government further accused Mr Hammond of making a 360 degree turn. “He now welcomes the technology that will come with the new power station, even though the GSD based its whole election campaign just six months ago on spreading fear among the community about this very technology.”

“By clear implication Mr Hammond has also condemned the GSD’s antiquated energy non-policy and their fake election campaign,” the statement read.

Turning to the water quality around Gibraltar’s beaches the Government said that Mr Hammond has either not researched the matter or has failed to capture the facts.

According to the Government, the water quality around all of Gibraltar’s beaches has improved as a result of a 2012 initiative to ensure full compliance with an EU scheme.

A number of steps were taken to ensure this, the Government said.

These included the blocking or redirection of drainage outlets at both Catalan Bay and Rosia Bay, which had been historic sources of pollution throughout much of the lifetime of the previous administration, No. 6 added.

They also included the introduction of a more stringent monitoring regime to ensure that the quality of the data exceeded that required by the EU. This allows for clearer identification of problems should they arise, and enhanced ability to take remedial action.

“As a result of this initiative, the water quality around all our beaches has improved…with the known exception of Western Beach, the water quality around all our beaches had a better classification in 2015 than the accumulated average figure used in the EU report.”

For example, in 2015 both Eastern Beach and Camp Bay were ‘excellent’, Catalan Bay and Little Bay were ‘good’. Moreover, the readings at Sandy Bay continue to be even better in 2016.

Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes said: “The ‘double whammy’ mentioned by Mr Hammond is in fact a double whammy for the GSD.”

“Scientific data clearly show that both air and water quality are markedly better than they used to be. This is a result of solid work by the different agencies, notably the Department of the Environment and Climate Change, the Environmental Agency, and the Gibraltar Electricity Authority.”

“I am hugely encouraged by our progress, but those who know what my own environmental standards are also know that I am still not satisfied. With all my colleagues in the different departments and authorities, we will continue to progress,” Dr Cortes said.

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