by Lois Jones
THE Balearic government will use specialised boats and light planes for a coastal clean-up starting next summer. “Imagine that an ecological disaster on the scale of magnitude of the Prestige were to happen in the Balearics; we have to be prepared for that”.
That was the message Balearic leader Jaume Matas spelled out to ministers Jaume Font (environment) and Joan Flaquer (tourism), a month ago, when he ordered them to design a coastal clean-up plan in readiness for the next summer tourist season. The plan is now starting to take shape. The plan in principle involves the use of specialised boats for seawater cleaning and light aircraft that will pass information about the state of the shoreline whilst in flight. The government's cleaning project will be based on similar solutions now being applied in Catalonia, Valencia and Cantabria. Specialised boats clean up the coastal waters to prevent rubbish from being flung up onto the beaches, a situation which happened this summer in the Balearics to the annoyance and disappointment of bathers. The government will contract out the responsibility for this coastal rubbish collection to a specialist company which would have to bring to the Balearics enough vessels to cover all the coastline around the islands. A link-up would be established between the boats by means of aircraft which would capture images of the coastline and pass on to their colleagues details of the most notably polluted areas. The boat crews would have access to special electronic equipment that would enable them, at any given moment, to see where the other boats in the fleet were located. They would be additionally assisted by overviews from the light aircraft which would be able to guide the boats to the sections most in need of cleaning. The operations will not interfere with bathers, however, because the boats will be functioning more than a mile from the shore, attempting to get hold of all the plastic bags and bottles and other discarded items before they are carried by currents onto the beaches. To finance this programme, the Balearic government wants to sign an agreement with the central Ministry of Environment who are responsible overall for keeping Spain's coasts clean. If Madrid won't give direct financial support, the Balearic government will seek another type of funding but because Matas used to be the central Minister of Environment, it is widely believed that some agreement will be reached. There will be a public awareness aspect to the clean-up operation in the form of leaflets handed out to local yachtsmen by the boat crews. Special rubbish bags will be handed out for storing waste accumulated at sea. The government hopes to reach agreements with local Town Councils regarding keeping the beaches clean.

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