What the world witnesses about Spain is a shadow play

Carmen Gomez

It’s interesting how, when Spanish environmental groups like Agaden, Verdemar and Greenpeace, present a document to do with finding ways to mitigate, what they consider to be dire environmental situations affecting the Bay of Gibraltar, they always relate the lack of attention given to this, to disagreements between Spain, the UK and Gibraltar.

 In fact, in their very recent press release, they argued that now more than ever there, there was a call to urge the Tripartite forum to resolve health issues arising from the irresponsible actions of those involved.

They fail to recognise that it’s Spain’s irresponsible action that’s in play. They have highlighted the gravity of the health situation that is affecting the Campo area; insisting it is essential to reduce and regulate the Industrial emissions in the area. Whose emissions are they if not theirs? In wanting us to get involved to help them in their dire environmental situation; they tend to forget that we too, are and have been suffering the consequences of this for years on end! Furthermore, what has this to do with Tripartite Forums, or supposed disagreements between UK Spain and Gibraltar?


On the other hand, the ESG who works in conjunction with them on this matter, spells out the reality of the situation, which centres primarily on offending industries which are quoted as being Cepsa, Acerinox and Interquisa. All of which annually emit thousands of toxic substances into the air and the waters of the bay. Added to which is the lack of treatment of sewage waters from most of the surrounding coastal towns.

Thankfully our Government is soon to embark on building our own plant. The ESG demands that the Spanish authorities carry out an independent epidemiological study; something they have already initiated. They relate to a fact we have always known and recognised; and which I have written about in countless articles; that the poorly regulated oil refinery and petrochemical complex, which has doubled in size over the past fifteen years, has contravened all health and safety environmental laws. The trouble here is that firstly, the Spanish authorities as we well know, are not going to initiate anything that leaves them looking like the main perpetrators of the dire environmental situation we face; and secondly; if they happened to carry out a study, who is going to believe their findings? They are known to manipulate reports to their advantage; or end up solely inflicting blame on others, which will be us.


Frankly I don’t hold much hope of any positive results coming out of this ongoing situation; and this by no means demeans the stunning work carried out by the ESG or their efforts throughout the year. The truth is that we are talking about a country here, which treats its own house, let alone anyone else’s, like a trash can.

One of the myriad of cases which exposes this failing of theirs is that of their “Mar Menor,” where alarm bells starting ringing eighteen years back; the greatest extension of coastal lagoon in the Mediterranean, found in the region of Murcia, which like most of their geography, sits under the protection of the Unesco and forms part of a Ramsar site, i.e. designated to be of International importance under the Convention of Wetlands.

However the last report; one of many over the years; published this last December, describes the site at present as “cadaverous;” as being steps away from total collapse, due to the contamination which aids the symptomatic proliferation of toxic algae. According to the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, this not only causes the waters to have a turbid appearance which affects forty of the surrounding beaches; but the massive presence of phytoplankton presents a grave symptom of the degeneration of the eco system. If you recall back in 2015 and 2016, we too suffered such an explosion of this very same toxic micro algae at our Western beach.

This chronic situation produces toxins which the marine organisms ingest i.e. molluscs and fish, and become a risk to those who end up eating them. This is the result of continuous urban wastewater discharge; sewage sludge and agricultural dumping which carries pollutants with it. Exactly how the storm drain from La Linea, has for years on end and still today, is affecting our Western beach!


The reason for this tragic decay is one which resonates with all that’s wrong with a society such as Spain’s, where certain destructive habits persist because they are simply a way of life! The Spanish way is to go round the houses i.e. to waste time doing something in a very complicated way which does not achieve the proper results, and is only patching up the ills that lie underneath.

The forty beaches in question will no doubt fly blue flags this coming summer nonetheless, after they introduce god knows what liquids into the sea to clean it up temporarily; and the unsuspecting tourists will continue to turn up in their droves.

The problem will still be there the next year and after that. What the world witnesses about Spain, is a shadow play, while the real actors and their underlying motivations remain undiscovered. Having to entertain dialogue with a country that not only does not share our modus operandi, but has no intention of trying to meet us half way, is very disheartening.

The trouble is that once you get into the habit of surviving criticism; and the Spaniards are masters at this; it is easy to turn the tables around and point the finger at anyone but themselves.