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Ecologists criticise Spanish cities for lacking “smog” action plans 

PAGE 18 Ecologists criticise  Spanish cities

Furious green campaigners have accused Spanish cities which attract millions of tourists of covering up the real extent of air pollution and failing to sound proper warnings.

Ecologists in Action say only Madrid and Valladolid are taking the proper steps to safeguard the health of residents and visitors during periods of “dangerous and life-threatening” smog.

They claim cities such as A Coruña, Avilés , Bailén, Barce-lona, Granada, Huelva, Lleida, Madrid, Murcia, Puertollano, Santander, Seville, Talavera de la Reina, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragozahave zoomed past the daily accepted limit of nitrogen dioxide emissions and accuse Barcelona of failing to put its own action plan into place.

Their alert came as Madrid once again imposed restric-tions last week which inclu-ded a ban on parking (with parking metres displaying warning signs) and a speed limit of 70 kilometres per hour on the M-30 and all the major access roads into the city.

Valladolid sounded the same warnings, also with speed and parking restric-tions. In some areas of the city, traffic was restricted to 30 kilometres an hour because of the high level of particles in the air.

The campaigners want a traffic ban or restrictions when such bad conditions hit, as well as speed restrictions and bulletins with advice for the population groups most at risk, including the very young and elderly.

“This problem causes thousands of premature deaths every year in Spain,” said a spokesman for the environmentalists.

Many of the big Spanish cities were recently hit by a prolonged period of smog which lasted for up to a week.

Ecologists in Action say they are particularly worried because the conditions were not caused by the usual “dust storms” from North Africa and therefore blame general pollution.

“The intense traffic in the main Spanish metropolitan areas has caused the levels of nitrogen dioxide and particles in the urban air to shoot up, without most of the authorities taking measures to protect the health of the population,” says Ecologists in Action.

Madrid and Valladolid adopted measures to restrict the circulation and parking of vehicles in their central areas to reduce emissions of pollutants and ordered speed restrictions.

“Many other cities with similar problems during these days are completely silent,” the group claims.

The campaigners say the hourly limit value of nitrogen dioxide in Barcelona, Getafe, Guadalajara, Salamanca, Seville and Zaragoza were all exceeded but there were no warnings and no actions.

In Valencia, daily limits were said to have doubled for at least a week but the city council blamed it on straw burning and roadworks.

Ecologists in Action say all the Spanish cities should have short-term action plans to combat pollution in the face of episodes of poor air quality.

“Air pollution is responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths per year in Spain, 23,000 per inhalation of particles and 7,000 caused by nitrogen dioxide, according to the latest report on air quality published by the European Environment Agency, citing studies of the World Health Organisation (WHO),” they say.

“It is, therefore, an important environmental and health problem, aggravated by global climate change, which is reducing rainfall and increases stable weather conditions favorable to the accumulation of air pollution.”