Costing the Earth - Cruising, a Dirty Secret


Possible Pollution from Greenwich Cruise Port is Part of a Global Problem

On Tuesday 15 November BBC Radio 4's flagship environmental issues programme broadcast a hard- hitting expose on the negative environmental and health effects of the cruise liner industry.Presenter Tom Heap investigated the impact of pollution on the health of communities of Southampton and Greenwich London. Greenwich Royal Borough Council (RBG) have given the green light to a controversial scheme to build a cruise port in a heavily populated area in the centre of the borough. The scheme will emit polluting fumes equivalent to nearly 700 heavy goods vehicles idling their engines, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all summer. These diesel guzzling cruise liners can consume up to 30,000 litres of fuel a day!

Heap presents the stark everyday reality of a thirteen year old school girl in east London suffering from asthma. Greenwich is an Air Quality Management Zone, meaning it is already classified as a “dirty borough” failing to meet safe air quality standards. Yet the programme reveals that RBG and developers are determined to push ahead with the scheme. Local campaigners have been asking for on-shore electric power to mitigate the pollution of burning diesel to generate electricity for these floating hotel ships. An interview with the American Los Angeles Port Authority suggests that an on- shore plug-in solution is indeed practical and desirable.

Bad Air Kills All of Us and Stunts Children’s Development

The programme uncovers a large body of scientific evidence that suggests the death toll in the UK alone due to harmful nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions has reached 40K people a year. Shockingly, Heap notes an independent study that suggests 1 in 5 deaths in the Royal Borough of Greenwich can be related to poor air quality. Professor Stephen Holgate, Professor of Medicine from Southampton University, notes that, in addition to general respiratory issues, there is an emerging body of evidence to suggest that bad air impacts on the health of babies before birth, leading to underdeveloped lungs. Other links to cancer, diabetes and dementia have also been shown, all due to polluting air.

Our Campaign and the Silence of the Polluters

Campaigners in the East Greenwich Resident Association and Clean Air Southampton make a plea for intervention from government to help fight this silent invisible killer around dirty ship emissions.

Local Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matthew Pennycook challenges both RBG and the Central Government to do more to protect the health of residents in relation to the proposed Cruise Port. “Things are bad, people are dying prematurely, their health is being affected now, people should be angry … the government should do more. If it isn’t a clean and green solution … then I don’t think the community should have to put up with it.”

Programme presenter Tom Heap invited RBG, the developers Morgan Stanley and London Cruise City Port, the GLA and the Government to give their side of the argument. They declined to participate. Perhaps the Government, the Borough, the developers and the cruise liner industry would like this to remain a “Dirty Secret”.

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