Europe Gains on Beach Pollution EC Officials Say Most Nations Sharing the 37,000-Mile Coastline Are Pushing Clean-Up Efforts, ENVIRONMENT

Article excerpt

ENVIRONMENT-watchers believe a turning point may be about to be reached in the so far losing battle to clean up the European Community's 37,000-mile coastline and render its myriad beaches pollution-free.

A report issued this month by the EC's executive commission says that most of the 12 member nations are stepping up their beach-cleaning efforts.

Commission officials say that if the current campaign can be sustained, the tide of pollution could be turned back in 20 to 30 years.

In most such cases it will be because local effort, backed up by heavy pressure from environmental officials in Brussels, the EC headquarters, has banished the contaminates that used to pollute the water and taint the sand in otherwise delightful seaside resorts.

Carlo Ripa di Meana, the EC environment commissioner, on July 9 published a report containing figures showing that about one-third of Europe's beaches still fail to meet standards laid down by a 1975 EC directive.

But as millions of Europeans head for the seaside to swim and soak up the summer sun, there are indications that progress is now being made.

This year more than over 120 million vacationers - twice as many as 20 years ago - are expected to descend on Mediterranean shores alone.

At some beaches the tourists will notice that last year's signs warning against swimming have been replaced by new ones displaying a blue flag symbol, signifying that the beach is considered safe for bathing.

Last year in Spain, 178 of 1,095 beaches analyzed for pollution infringed EC minimum standards, and 214 came close to being condemned.

In Italy there is disagreement about which beaches are safe and which are not. The Ministry of Health claims 90 percent of beaches are pollution-free. The country's independent Environment League says the figure is under 60 percent.

Officials near Nice in southern France last year received complaints from bathers who had found hypodermic syringes in the sand. The officials say at least some of syringes were discarded by drug addicts.

France claims that 80 percent of its beaches meet EC standards. Local beach users are able to use Minital, a telephone information service, to discover the state of beaches day by day.

To keep up the momentum in the drive against seaside pollution, the EC is using a "carrot and stick" approach.

The carrot is cash grants to countries with serious seaside pollution problems. The stick is legal action against EC countries which have failed to implement the 1975 directive.

At present Brussels is taking action in the European Court of Justice to try to force 11 of the 12 EC countries to conform with the agreed standards. …

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