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Summary and Objectives: Summary and Objectives:

 

Preserving and enhancing the quality of the beaches is a vital aspect for Macaronesia, given the importance of the tourist sector in the economy of these islands. The distribution of the local population together with the distribution of tourism means that up to 80% of the population is concentrated in the coastal zone and therefore, planning and development pressure on this narrow environmental strip is very high. Moreover, tourist development has triggered a high development pressure that has not always been accompanied by adequate regional planning. This fact has led to the situation in which there is no appropriate planning of the sanitation infrastructure and that there are small coastal settlements without sanitation, or where it does exists, it is deficient. The leading causes of the pollution detected on the beaches are related mainly to waste water management (breakages, direct or indirect leaks, malfunction, etc.) and to overflows due to the occasional torrential rains that fall here. This is why the development and implementation of quality control programmes in coastal areas represent a competitive edge, from an economic point of view, over other tourist destinations, thus contributing to the commercial development of the islands. From the environmental point of view, apart from helping to comply with the legislation, adequate management plans are indisputably a necessary part of a sustainable development policy for the islands and constitute unquestionable evidence of sanitary quality for users.
The CARMAC Project is a Trans-national Co-operation Project that contemplates a raft of interventions aimed at improving the environmental quality of the European Macaronesia shoreline and seeks to protect the quality of the water resources of the coastal areas. To this end, this project includes investigation, development and application activities, incorporating a large number of innovative aspects for the participant regions. The implementation of the CARMAC Project is articulated through five specific objectives, each of which deals with specific, interrelated and mutually complementary aspects, such as the quality of coastal waters, the systematic monitoring of bathing areas and preventing the pollution of the shoreline.
The first Objective proposes developing management tools for the bathing areas, and more specifically, the bathing water profiles in several areas of the participant islands, as required by European Directive 7/2006/CE of all member states. To this end, a series of multi-disciplinary and inter-skilled task forces will define the minimum contents and the methodology to be followed to draw up said profiles. This methodology, which will be exportable to other bathing areas in the participating regions, will consist of gathering information about similar experiences and will require a systematic monitoring of bathing waters and interaction with local actors in the areas under study. At the same time, potential new bathing areas will be assessed with a view to including them in the current list of bathing areas of European Macaronesia.
As a complement to the actions aimed at assessing bathing water quality, Objective 2 consists of characterising and evaluating the quality of the sands on the beaches, about which very little work has been done either in or outside of the co-operation area. This fact is a concern as 100% of the users of these beaches come into contact with the sand and the risk associated with the pollution from the sand is, hence, much higher than that of pollution from deficient quality bathing waters. Furthermore, the second objective of the CARMAC Project seeks to enhance the technical and practical knowledge of experts and those responsible for laboratories commissioned to analyse the sea water samples and, as a totally innovative aspect, to train a minimum number of experts in the field of identifying fungi in sand samples. As this training focuses specifically on water and sand samples, it can be extrapolated to other environmental health issues, which enhances its specific value. On the other hand, the fact that these courses are to be held in the Canary Islands, with the participation and backing of partners from the three regions taking part, will make it possible to present the very latest developments in the field of micro-biological analysis, hence fostering the competiveness of the laboratories of the regions in comparison with outside laboratories from the mainland.
Objectives 3 and 4 address one of the main problems of the pollution of coastal waters and, therefore, of bathing areas: waste water spills. On the one hand, mathematical simulation models will be developed of the impact of nutrients and bacteria from waste water on the marine environment, which will then make it possible to develop systems to manage the phenomena of marine pollution. On the other hand, an alert model will be developed for waste water pumping stations, that will help to avoid and minimise the health risks by alerting and informing the local authorities and the general public at all times of the health status of the associated bathing areas. At the same time, and based on a general diagnosis of the sanitation and water treatment situation in coastal areas and based also on pilot experiences, improvement actions will be proposed to improve the management of the waste water treatment plants and outlets onto the shoreline and viable recommendations will be made to improve the technological treatment of waste waters on a small scale, hence reducing pollution phenomena. Moreover, a tool will be generated that will help those responsible for managing water resources in selecting the appropriate treatment technology or technologies for each situation.
Finally, Objective 5 will address the study of new chemical pollutants in coastal waters, whose effect on the marine environment are unknown. High performance and innovative instruments and techniques, highly innovative in the field of Analytical Chemistry, will be used to analyse these pollutants, making it possible to gather the necessary information to tackle the proposed technologies for reducing and/or eliminating them from effluents and spills into coastal waters. While this is unfolding, monitoring studies will be conducted to quantify the joint effects of the outlet of brine from water desalination plants and waste waters from treatment plants on the marine environment and the effect of flash floods caused by rainfall in bathing areas. This latter aspect is one that has hardly been studied in the area of co-operation.