Activists protest against abandoned car park at Barcelona airport next to nature reserve

Environmentalists paint message reading 'illegal car park' aiming to be seen from flights overhead 

Environmental activists paint an abandoned Barcelona Airport car park, May 22, 2022 (by Àlex Recolons)
Environmental activists paint an abandoned Barcelona Airport car park, May 22, 2022 (by Àlex Recolons) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 23, 2022 12:02 PM

Dozens of activists have protested against an abandoned car park at Barcelona Airport, built next to the Remolar – Filipines nature reserve in Viladecans, just south of the capital.

The nature reserve is one of the green spaces in the Llobregat river delta area – located very close to the airport – that environmentalists are hoping to preserve.

Last summer, the Spanish government ruled out a planned expansion of the airport after activists and some local authorities, including Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, as well as part of the Catalan government, voiced their skepticism of the project, arguing it would damage the La Ricarda nature reserve.

On Sunday, some members of Ecologistes en Acció, an environmental group, painted a message in red giant letters reading 'P il·legal', or 'illegal car park', on the ground of the car park, which was built during a previous expansion of the airport and is now abandoned and in a bad state.

It is located only 300 meters from the nature reserve and was first designed as a rest area for taxis at the airport.

Ecologistes en Acció believe Aena, the Spanish government-owned authority that manages the airport, has committed several environmental crimes in the delta area.

"We want the paint to be seen from the sky when the planes are landing in the airport, and that Aena is embarrassed with their own lack of responsibility towards the environment," said Jaume Grau, a member of the entity.

"This is a good place to show that Aena's hypocrisy has no limits, because it is planning further expansions of the airport, saying they will be sustainable when here there is a nature reserve turned into a concrete floor."

In February 2021, the European Commission opened an infringement procedure against Spain for allowing an airport expansion that affects the Natura 2000 network, Grau explained. Yet, for now, there is no judicial sentence ruling the construction illegal.

Aborted expansion of Barcelona airport

In early August, Spanish and Catalan authorities agreed on a €1.7bn investment to build a new satellite terminal and extend one of the existing runways in order to increase passenger capacity from 55 million to 70 million.

The expansion plans were also estimated to create 83,000 jobs and another 365,000 indirectly, thereby boosting the economy following a devastating pandemic-related downturn.

The plan ignited a heated debate in Catalonia from the very beginning, with the business community highlighting the financial opportunities a larger airport would give rise to and environmentalists warning of its damaging effects on the Llobregat river delta as well as of mass tourism.

Barely a month later, however, serious disagreements between the Catalan and Spanish governments — as well as within both coalition cabinets — came to the fore once it was revealed that the final infrastructure plans would directly impact the La Ricarda lagoon nature reserve area.

Filling the Sink podcast

Press play below to listen to Filling the Sink, the Catalan News podcast, from July 10, 2021 on the debate surrounding the expansion of the El Prat airport.