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Gibraltar's air quality criticised but government puts it into context

Most of Gibraltar's air quality is within EU limits.
Most of Gibraltar's air quality is within EU limits. / DEBBIE BARTLETT
  • Following media coverage of the latest WHO pollution report, the Gibraltar authorities say the situation is not as bad as suggested

The latest report on pollution from the World Health Organisation, issued this week, showed that more than 40 towns and cities in the UK are at, or have exceeded, the air pollution limits set by the WHO; it mentioned Gibraltar in the section of those which exceed the limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. In response to some of the press coverage about this report, the Gibraltar government issued a statement on Thursday to put the figures into context.

According to the WHO report, Gibraltar recorded 14 micrograms per cubic metre, fourth in the list after Port Talbot (18), Scunthorpe (15), and Salford (15). The Gibraltar government's statement explained that measured concentrations at Rosia Road do exceed the WHO guidelines, but these are stricter than EU levels, which the Air Quality Directive sets as Stage 1 Limit Value (25 ug m-3) and Stage 2 Limit Value (20 ug m-3). Gibraltar does not exceed either Stage 1 or Stage 2 LVs on the EU criteria, and levels have been steadily dropping over recent years. The government says it continues to work on reducing them further.

The statement points out that there is a limit to how much this is achievable, as a portion of the contamination comes from sources outside the authorities' control, such as sea salt and African dust. Both sea salt, and in particular African dust from the Sahara will be higher in Gibraltar than in the UK locations quoted in the report due to its geographical location. Nevertheless, the government is fully committed to reducing PM 2.5.

Another contributing factor is the burning of diesel. All use of diesel for power generation in Gibraltar will stop this year following the commissioning of the new LNG power station; this will have a significant impact in reducing this type of pollution as well as others. Gibraltar also has a Sustainable Traffic Plan, explains the government, which includes steps to encourage people to use their cars less and to reduce speed (such as speed cameras). Further measures are to be announced shortly, together with a wide range of other environmental plans.