Dr Axel Friedrich, one of the pollution specialists who first highlighted the Volkswagen exhaust scandal, has been in Gibraltar to measure air quality as part of a project to raise awareness of the impact of ship-source pollution across the Mediterranean.
Working with Spanish campaigners from Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción, he sampled air quality close to the port while cruise ships were docked and found pollution levels that were 140 times higher than in areas with clean air.
But while the main focus of the project was maritime pollution, Dr Friedrich also called on the Gibraltar Government to be more proactive in controlling all sources of pollution that release ultra-fine particles into the air, including vehicle and power station emissions.
Dr Friedrich, formally head of department for traffic and noise in the German Federal Environment Agency, was in Gibraltar as part of a project run by Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Union (NABU), in which he has visited harbours and ports along the coastline of the Mediterranean from Crete to Lisbon.
The project aims to find out the impact shipping has on air quality in the Mediterranean and he visited this area at the invitation of Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción.
“For ports in the Mediterranean Sea that are like Gibraltar and in front of a mountain, the pollution flies in and up the mountain. Because it is the same ships, it is the same pollution levels,” said Dr Friedrich.
Gibraltar is not the most polluted but “the levels are very high”.
“The problem is, if I only come here for one or two days, I can only make a snapshot,” he told the Chronicle.
“In the last two days we have had high wind and there has been a high concentration [of ultra-fine particles]. Obviously if I was to come in summer time with low wind, the numbers would be higher,” he added.
He has offered to meet with the Government and said he is willing to return when his schedule allows and if invited to do so.
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