Staff Reporter THE launching of the Balaearic government's “Bathing Water Quality Plan” on 1 June, has so far resulted in the collection of 23.5 tons of rubbish from the sea shores around the Islands.

Regional Environmental minister, Jaume Font, who is also head of Palma's water and rubbish collection services, was reporting yesterday during the award ceremony at Calanova Sailing School, of 59 blue flags which will fly this year on the beaches and sports marinas around the Balearics.

Font highlighted the fact that the light aircraft which is assisting in the detection of coastal zones where rubbish accumulates most easily, is helping significantly in the cleaning process, in which 37 special boats are also engaged.

According to Font, the measures adopted this year by his department will contribute to improving the samples of water to be taken by the European Foundation for Environmental Education. It is on the quality of these samples that the Foundation will base their decision as to which beaches will be entitled to fly the blue flag of excellence in 2005.

Specifically, the Foundation has conceded blue flags to 51 beaches and 8 sporting marinas in the Balearics, in recognition of their cleanliness and safety and of the quality of their accompanying services. However, this figure represents a drop in the number of accolades compared to last year.

The minister attributed this fall in awards to the war which two town councils of the Islands are waging with the central government Coastal department and “to other troublesome issues on last year's agenda”.

Taking everything into account, Font was nevertheless confident that next summer, the number of beaches and sports marinas on the Islands entitled to fly the blue flag will increase, and he expressed his intentions to urge town councils to make a concerted effort in this area.

The regional minister highlighted the fact that the latest samples of coastal water off the Islands' beaches analysed by the Balearic Institute of Water and Drainage (Ibasan) gave “first rate” results. Font gave prominence to the commitment undertaken by the Balearic government to work continuously so that “the bathing water around the Islands remains in perfect condition”.

In this respect, he drew attention to the fact that his department is currently working on 23 projects for the improvement of water quality and emphasised that Ibasan is to invest some 110 million euros over the next few years in purifying water to an even greater extent.

He added that last year, his department had established extra purification filtering systems in the water treatment plants of Manacor, Felanitx and Pollensa, to improve the “state of abandonment of some water treatment plants”.

The minister stipulated that on the Islands, there are 175 undeveloped beaches which cannot apply for a blue flag, since such awards are only for those beaches which are surrounded by urban infrastructure. There are 85 spread throughout the Balearics.

Font criticised the new central government for failing to appoint a Coastal department chief. Lack of a leading figure in this area, he claimed, has meant difficulties in coordination of cleaning activities for the different coastal districts.