Waste is suffocating the Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea has a big problem. It is becoming more polluted at an alarming rate. We well know the culprit. It is plastic, which forms 95% of the waste in the sea and on the beaches. Most of this waste is from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt, and France.
When the tourist season starts in these countries, marine plastic pollution increases by 40% each summer. When you go on holiday, you would like to find clean beaches and clean water right. How is it then, those tourists who pollute so much later complain about it?
A mountain formed by wet wipes
Not only are the oceans suffering from plastic pollution, but it also happens in the Mediterranean Sea. Recently I read in the Spanish newspaper that on the Costa del Sol, in the south of Spain just off the town of Nerja, the seabed is a rubbish dump.
The environmentalists have repeatedly complained to the police about irregularities in effluent treatments in the cities of Nerja and also Coin. This issue has now been passed on to the court.
A survey ship discovered about 9 tonnes of used wet wipes lying on the seabed forming a gigantic mountain. This happened in the summer of 2018 and the mayors and ex-mayors were questioned about this but denied any responsibility. They put the onus on the Junta de Andalucia and blamed inadequate infrastructure for creating this problem.
Spain is fined by the EU
This is, of course, a very serious problem as it affects the health of people and fauna, and flora. It will have a negative effect on tourism because people would like a clean sea to swim in.
For the last few years, Spain has been fined by the EU for allowing the continued discharge of untreated waste by some of its councils. The green group that started the current investigation is called, Ecologistas en Acción. This group is a confederation of 300 ecologist groups in Spain that united in 1998 to bring this issue to the attention of the public and communities.
In total 16 mayors, former mayors, public officials, and councilors have been interrogated by the police. These people were from Nerja and Coin. The complaints started some time ago when it was found that five local communities in the area of Nerja and Coin were not treating their wastewater.
Some other areas including Estepona and San Pedro also had problems. A new treatment plant opened on July 19th, 2017 at Guadalmansa close to Estepona, so now there only seem to be three town halls flouting the 2001 law. This law states that populations with over 15.000 inhabitants are required to have wastewater treatment plants.
Uncontrolled waste dumping
The inland town of Coin does not present a positive image as private people and businesses dump their wastewater into protected tributaries of the Pereilas river, causing everything to die there. Except for Alhaurin de la Torre, where I have lived since 1981, the whole Gualdalhorce valley is not functioning as it should.
It seems that in 2010 the Junta de Andalucia promised 47 sewage treatment plants, which were going to be paid for by a water-bill levy. Townhalls are waiting for this to happen, and in the meantime, it presents us with an ecological mess.
Nerja, that lovely village on the sea, still has a big problem because untreated sewage is discharged to the sea at 3 separate points. Construction for a new plant started in 2014 but is only fourth-fifths finished, due to financial problems the construction company has and disagreements within the council. As they do not complete the construction, the town hall says it is not their responsibility yet.
An expedition to investigate pollution
Coming back to the beginning of this post, it is a fact that the seabed of Nerja is heavily polluted. 9 Tonnes of used wet wipes are not peanuts. One of the discharge pipes which pours this wastewater into the sea is situated at a depth of only 2 meters. Any boat or kayak can observe it passing by and in addition, it is very close to a protected natural area.
In August 2018, Seprona, which is the specialist environmental agency of the Guardia Civil, sent professional divers and sounding teams to this area. They asked for help from the government’s Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia. From them, a 46-meter-long survey ship, the Angeles Alvarino was borrowed, bringing the ship down to the Mediterranean sea from its home base in Galicia.
This expedition had a cost of Euros 11.000 which is being paid for by the Spanish government. If in the future, anyone is tried and found guilty, they might recover this money. At this moment, one is waiting for things to happen and in the meantime, the mountain of wet wipes is getting bigger.
Plastic, fisher nets, and sea turtles
Another story, written by Ignacio Lillo, also for the newspaper Sur in English, documents the effects all this pollution has on marine life. The Malaga marine conservation organization Aula del Mar rescued four turtles that had consumed plastic.
This organization reported on a sharp rise in plastic levels found in the Mediterranean Sea. One of the turtles did not survive but the other 3 are slowly improving.
Recently, a loggerhead sea turtle, which had been rescued at sea after being trapped in a piece of netting last year (May 2018) was released again. They observed that the turtle had suffered injuries and also had an infection. It had many small pieces of plastic in its digestive system, and this caused a direct problem with its buoyancy control.
Luckily it regained its health and was set free after months of being treated. It will swim again in the sea but this sea is polluted so how long it will be till it develops problems again, one does not know.
The Aula of Malaga rescues animals from the Malaga beaches, and last year, they could save the life of 8 animals, dolphins, and sea turtles. Sadly, there were more dead animals found on the beach.
A fascinating book
The history of the Mediterranean Sea is rich and full of adventure. Over the centuries countries bordering on the sea mixed and mingled their religions, economies, and political systems. Empires came and went, but the Mediterranean Sea never lost its attraction.
The Great Sea is above all the history of human interaction over the centuries.
It is so sad that we cause these problems in our environment. Fauna and flora and humans all suffer the consequences of our actions. I do hope they will build those wastewater treatment plants in the near future, so at least the coast of the Spanish Mediterranean Sea will stay clean. Luckily, more people realize the many crimes committed to our environment.
Hendrik will tell you what you can do on a personal level.
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Source: Sur in English, article March 22 to 28th, 2019 by Juan Cano/Fernando Torres/Alvaro Frias
Photo Source: Pixabay
I love to travel and see unknown places. Those memories will stay with you forever. You might like to read my post on a great trip to the south of Portugal.