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Barcelona mayor calls to stop airport expansion over environmental concerns

Ada Colau criticizes lack of transparency of project set to impact La Ricarda natural reserve

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06 September 2021 10:22 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has urged Catalan authorities to put the planned expansion of the city's Josep Tarradellas airport on hold over environmental concerns.

Despite repeated pledges that the expansion would not impact La Ricarda lagoon, a nature reserve south of Barcelona, reports emerged last Friday that the protected area would be affected by the final enlargement plan.

Catalan president Pere Aragonès later demanded explanations and called to amend the planned expansion to avoid threatening La Ricarda. 

However, sources from Aena, the public-owned authority in charge of Spain’s largest airports, say the Catalan government was fully aware of the plan.

  • "I don’t understand if [Catalan president Pere Aragonès’ party] Esquerra is in favor or against"

    Ada Colau · Barcelona mayor

"I don’t understand if [Aragonès’ party] Esquerra is in favor or against," said Colau in a TV interview on Monday. "One day they sign [an agreement], and the following day they say La Ricarda should not be impacted."

Aragonès and Esquerra have been caught in the political crossfire with government partners Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), with vice president Jordi Puigneró agreeing on the airport expansion with Spain’s ruling Socialist party in early August, and environmental groups opposing the airport expansion, backed by pro-independence allies CUP and other left-wing groups, like Colau’s En Comú Podem.

By the end of September, the Spanish cabinet will deliberate on the measure, but construction in the nature reserve can only begin if approved by the European Commission.

Locals against harming La Ricarda

Not only are environmentalists against the project, but also most local councils surrounding the area, just south of Barcelona.

Colau already sided against it in August, saying the expansion would mean an increase in emissions of between 60-80% in Barcelona, and slammed the "lie" that El Prat would become the "greenest airport in Europe." 

"Don't treat us like fools," Colau demanded in an article published by 'El País' daily. 

On Friday, the mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler, said Catalonia has "lied" when stating that La Ricarda would remain untouched. 

Controversy has been going on over these plans since the beginning of summer, and Catalan News published a podcast. Have a listen: 

The plans: increasing passengers to 70 million

Building a new satellite terminal and extending one of the existing runways is Aena's intention, measures it says are needed if Barcelona’s El Prat airport is to become an international hub. 

The overall number of passengers that the airport can accommodate each year would jump from 55 million to 70 million

The proposed original plans would see the facility's shorter runway, in the south and nearer the sea, be extended by 500 metres

Extending the runway to a total length of 3km would mean clearing the La Ricarda lagoon and wetlands beside the airport. This natural space has special EU protection as an important habitat for biodiversity, and any plans would need to be approved at the European level. 

To compensate for this, Aena, Spain’s airport authority, proposed rewilding some 280 hectares of land to the opposite side of the airport than that where the Ricarda lagoon is located. 

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  • Barcelona mayor Ada Colau (by Blanca Blay)

  • Barcelona mayor Ada Colau (by Blanca Blay)

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