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Political clash over Western Beach

 

The Opposition and the Gibraltar Government have clashed over concerns about sewage pollution and seaweed in Western Beach.

In a statement, Trevor Hammond, the GSD Opposition’s spokesman for the Environment, said it was unfortunate that it had been left to volunteers to clean up seaweed off Western Beach.

He also said the Gibraltar Government had been slow to tackle the sewage pollution from Spain, an issue which dated back to 2010.

But No 6 Convent Place hit back and said it was “absurd” to blame the government for the problems at the beach.

It said pollution levels were closely monitored and highlighted lobbying efforts at EU level to pressure Spain to tackle the problem.

As for the seaweed, it said the government had spent considerable amounts of money cleaning the beach but that this was a problem affecting not just Gibraltar but the wider area.

In his statement, Mr Hammond recalled how Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, when he was in opposition, had highlighted the problem of sewage pollution in Western Beach.

At the time, Mr Picardo had pointed to the concerns of families with young children and criticised the then GSD government for failing to act sooner.

“His own Government has now had almost five years to resolve this issue with the Ayuntamiento in La Linea, a town which he has mooted that Gibraltar should twin with and yet no progress whatsoever has been made,” Mr Hammond said.

“Indeed with the new nuisance of seaweed, the situation at the beach has deteriorated substantially in the time of his administration.”

“The public, and in particular those families who would wish to have accessed Western Beach this summer, deserve a clear explanation as to what has gone wrong.”

The Gibraltar Government replied that the main problem at Western Beach was the result of the Spanish authorities diverting a storm drain from what is now a marina in La Linea into the Western Beach basin.

Illegal sewer connections to that storm drain cause sewage to discharge into the beach thereby polluting its waters, it said.

“The GSD were actually in Government in Gibraltar when this happened and this was drawn to their attention, given the high profile nature of the works that were underway on the Spanish side,” No 6 Convent Place said.

“However, nothing was done at the time.”

It added: “The facts show that the problems with Western Beach were initiated under the GSD administration the moment that they did not take up the issue of the diversion of the Spanish storm drain.”

A complaint was subsequently made to the European Commission by the ESG and Sir Graham Watson who was then one of Gibraltar’s MEPs.

This complaint was taken up with Spain by the Commission and has now been set alongside others for legal action.

The government said Western Beach had become the most frequently monitored beach in Gibraltar, with numerous samples taken on a weekly basis “precisely to safeguard public health”.

It added that the government continues to lobby the European Commission in order to find a permanent solution to the problem of sewage contamination at Western Beach.

Several of Gibraltar’s MEPs have assisted with this by asking questions in the European Parliament.

It also regretted the seaweed problem at the beach but said this was a natural phenomenon compounded by the strong weather experienced this summer.

Although cleaning efforts had been increased, the seaweed was being washed ashore at a faster pace than expected.

The government also pointed to investment in parking facilities and toilets as proof that it had not abandoned Western Beach.