The Pontevedra river in Galicia (Spain) hosts two very polluting companies which have been dumping their waste into the river for many years: ENCE, a pulp mill and biomass energy producer and ELNOSA, a chemical company which produces chlorine-derivatives. There are 963,511 potentially affected people (local population of Pontevedra). These companies were supposed to leave the river by 2018, but the Spanish government extended the permission to stay for another 75 years.

Several organisations working together under the name  “Asociación por la Defensa de la Ría de Pontevedra” (APDR) have been trying to stop these companies polluting the river and to recover the affected area through public campaigns, demonstrations, official complaint letters and petitions as well as lawsuits. There were about thousand protestors against the decision of extending the permission for the companies to remain in the area.

In 2002, the ENCE company admitted that its production was polluting the river. 6 managers were sentenced to 6 months in prison and a fine of 433,000 euros. Despite that, the sentence was never enforced and the fine was never paid.

The ENCE company claims that, since 2006, they have undertaken measures in order to make a significant environmental improvements. However, the opposition to both companies continues as both companies are still working.

The APDR defends a model of sustainable development based on the rational use of sea and forest resources, and a tourism model not based on the idea of a mass tourism.

Environmental impacts:

Visible: Air pollution, biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), global warming, loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, noise pollution, soil contamination, surface water pollution/decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems

Health impacts:

Potential: Accidents

Socio-economic impacts:

Visible: Loss of livelihood, loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, loss of landscape/sense of place.


Spain, Galicia, Pontevedra

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Environmental impact

  • Water pollution

Ethical/ legal issues

  • Health and well-being

Information sources & materials

Scientific/ academic journal papers

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