Friday, May 20, 2005

Residents in protest for clean air

Puente Mayorga

Residents of Puente Mayorga gathered in the town’s main square yesterday morning to publicly condemn what they describe as the intolerable level of pollution coming from the Campo de Gibraltar petrochemical complex.

The protest was well timed and followed the publication last week of a damning report by a leading Spanish research body, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas [CSIC] (Spanish council for scientific research), which described dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals in the air.

The issue has been given ample media coverage since then and a hefty contingent of local Spanish politicians attended yesterday to grab a slice of the environmental limelight.

That was precisely what the organisers had intended. They know that without political backing and momentum, their campaign for cleaner air will get nowhere.

The politicians – mainly from the San Roque council but also including Juan Carlos Juarez, mayor of La Linea – said all the right things. They showered residents with concern and sympathy, promising to set aside partisan politics and take the campaign to the doorstep of the Junta de Andalucia and beyond if need be.

Sr Juarez summed up the mood when he signed a large mural with the message:

“Por la salud, sin política.” ‘For health without politics.’

For many residents present, the sense of political opportunism was inescapable.
As television crews jostled with radio reporters and photographers to snatch the snappiest sound bites and grab the most dramatic image, the whole thing rapidly turned into a media circus.

“This is pure theatre,” said Francisca. “There are more journalists and politicians than people here.”

Francisca has personal experience of the high pollution levels in Puente Mayorga.
She showed the Chronicle a copy of a medical certificate, dated last week, which detailed how she had been hospitalised with “intoxication” from fumes. That certificate now forms part of a formal complaint filed with a local court in San Roque.

It is not the first such complaint, nor will it be the last.

Standing next to her, Gaspar was equally unimpressed as the politicians strutted around the square.

“Most of them don’t know what they are talking about,” he told the Chronicle. “They are just covering their own backs. Once they leave, they won’t be back here in a hurry.”

Including politicians and media crews, there were about 300 people present at the demonstration.

Despite the anger and cynicism expressed by some residents who attended, the organisers achieved the overall aim of getting their message across to the public.

“The authorities have to take this seriously and show us the respect that we deserve,” said Raquel, a charismatic artist who lives in Puente Mayorga and devotes most of her time to the campaign for cleaner air.

“They need to do whatever it is that needs to be done, and they need to do it now.”

Related Articles and Links:

Environmental Safety Group

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

What is the Bay Bucket Brigade?

Jan 2005 - Bay Bucket Brigade hits 2500!


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