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CRUISE

Barcelona and Palma ranked worst in Europe for cruise ship pollution

Barcelona has topped the list in a damning report revealing the true extent of pollution caused by cruise ships docking in port.

Barcelona and Palma ranked worst in Europe for cruise ship pollution
Barcelona is the busiest cruise ship port in Europe and also the most polluted. Photo: AFP

It is closely followed by Palma in Mallorca.

In fact Spain had four of its ports ranked among the top ten most polluted by cruise ships in a new report from the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E).

Cruise ships emit large amounts of air pollution in the form of NOx (nitrogen oxides), SOx (sulphuroxides) and the so-called PM2.5 particles – also known as fine inhalable particles. 

Air pollution has a damaging effect on health, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes and in Spain an estimated 30,000 deaths a year are blamed on emissions.

But while Spain has made efforts to reduce car emissions, the report reveals that cruise ships, which are being welcomed in even greater numbers each year, are an even worse culprit.  

In 2017, a total of 105 cruise ships docked in Barcelona, spending 8293 hours in port. They caused almost five times the pollution of the city’s fleet of cars where some 558,920 vehicles are registered.

Palma, meanwhile saw 87 ships dock that same year, causing almost 10 times more pollution than all the cars registered in the city.

The ports of Venice, Civitavecchia, Southamption, Lisbon, Marseille and Copenhagen were also named in the top ten worst offenders alongside Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas, both ports in the Canary Islands.

 

In fact overall Spain suffers the most pollution from cruise ships, receiving 172 vessels in 2017  – more than any other in Europe.

Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager at T&E, said: “Luxury cruise ships are floating cities powered by some of the dirtiest fuel possible. Cities are rightly banning dirty diesel cars but they’re giving a free pass to cruise companies that spew out toxic fumes that do immeasurable harm both to those on board and on nearby shores. This is unacceptable.“

READ ALSO: Meet the expat with a mission to save Spain's beaches

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ENVIRONMENT

Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.

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