By Humphrey Carter
NEXT Spring, the Balearic government will launch a major beach and bathing water clean up operation.
The Tourism and Environment Ministers, Joan Flaquer and Jaume Font, met yesterday to finalise the clean up project and Flaquer explained that while the focus will be on the beaches and bathing water, new quality control and cleanliness guidelines are to be drawn up which all the resorts and tourist attractions will have to meet from next Spring. The region's fleet of sea cleaning vessels is to be enlarged and electronic information boards are to be erected on all beaches providing visitors will information about the quality of the bathing water.

Flaquer said that the Institute for the Promotion of Quality Tourism is drawing up a new set of requisites which will have to be met and which will be regularly inspected and checked.

The Balearic Tourism Minister, who has just returned from attending the annual convention of German travel agents in Tunisia, added that should any local councils have problems in meeting the new guidelines, then the government will make the necessary funds and equipment available to help clean up the area.

Flaquer said that if the beaches and the sea are not clean then visitors are, understandably, unhappy, hence the government is pumping 2.5 million euros of tourist tax money into the project. They are also putting a sizeable sum aside to help those local councils who need extra cash to fund the clean up in their area. Environment Minister Jaume Font explained that, in accordance with the new plan, all Balearic beaches and bathing water will be inspected on a daily basis during the holiday season and the data collected will be posted on the electronic information boards. An emergency plan is also being put together so all those involved with beach care and security know exactly what to do in the event of water contamination, such as spillage of pollution into the sea. A main co-ordination and control centre is going to be set up which will be able to respond rapidly to any problems anywhere around the Balearic coastline. Font said that the chemical tests which will be carried out on bathing water comply with the European Union guidelines and will give a reading on five levels ranging from very bad to very good. Keeping the coast clean is going to be the job of a 12-strong fleet of special cleaning vessels.
Apart from being able to skim solid waste products off the surface of the water, the new vessels will also be able to clean the water of oils and fuel and also be able to drop pollution barriers in the event of a major incident. The Environment Minister also announced that the whole operation will be overseen by a spotter plane.
Once a day, environmental technicians will fly over the Balearics using state-of-the-art equipment to monitor the buildup of water in coastal areas.
The information will then be used by the control centre to decide which areas are in need of priority attention.
Font said that various other government departments are also going to be involved and they too will be required to help fund the operation.
Font stressed that local councils, especially those in control of coastal areas and tourist resorts, will be responsible for making sure that the information collected and supplied by the control centre is made readily available to holidaymakers.

This summer the poor state of some of the beaches and bathing water became a major issue with tourist information centres and local councils reporting a large increase in the number of complaints.

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