Grassroots groups protest Barcelona airport expansion

The enlargement plan was suspended by Spain, but activists fear it could still go on

Farmers drive their tractors in El Prat de Llobregat (by Carola López)
Farmers drive their tractors in El Prat de Llobregat (by Carola López) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 19, 2021 11:59 AM

Grassroots groups took to the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to demand that the prospective expansion of the city’s airport is fully canceled.

According to the local police, 10,000 people attended the rally in Tarragona street.

Last week, Spain suspended the 1.7 billion euro investment aimed at making the expansion possible over discrepancies with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès called to amend the project to avoid threatening La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve south of Barcelona. 

However, environmentalists and other local activists decided not to call off the protest on September 19, fearing that the expansion plan could still go on.

"Do not let our guard down! The expansion of the Barcelona airport can still go back to life," warned via Twitter Zeroport, a platform encompassing different organizations opposing the expansion of the harbour and the airport, as well as making the case for their "degrowth."

The main demonstration was called at 12 pm in Barcelona, in the Tarragona street between Plaça Espanya and the Plaça dels Països Catalans.

More than 300 groups from all across Catalonia attended, according to organizers.

The mobilization was divided in three different sections: one for "climate and environmental justice," another one for "dignified lives," and a third one for the "defense of the territory." The slogan of the mobilization was "Fighting for the climate, health, and life."

Other demonstrations held across Catalonia included farmers driving their tractors through El Prat de Llobregat, a municipality south of Barcelona where the airport is located.

Activists criticize "opacity" 

At a press conference on September 7, the platform Zeroport, joined by representatives from the tenants’ union, an El Prat neighbours’ association, and the Climate Justice Network, outlined their reasons for calling the protest.

They criticized the “opacity” and “arbitrariness” of the agreement between the Catalan and Spanish governments to expand the airport, denouncing it as “unsustainable” and saying there was “no justification” for the proposal.

They also pointed out that Spain’s airport authority, AENA, is listed on the stock exchange and therefore is motivated by the pursuit of profit rather than the wellbeing of society and residents. 

Their ultimate goal is to convince authorities not to go ahead with the expansion before the deadline of September 30, the latest date for the Spanish government to formally approve the works if it is to go ahead.

Full details of the protests can be found at

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

Reasons against the expansion

Reasons to protest against the project are multifold for the platform comprised of different entities focused on distinct areas. 

Environmentally, they say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33% if the capacity of Barcelona airport is increased as planned. Such levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

The expansion would also see an area of precious wetlands surrounding the facility destroyed, especially the La Ricarda lagoon that forms part of the Llobregat Delta. 

Socially, the groups argue that since the last expansion of Barcelona update in 2009, rent prices have skyrocketed as the heightened levels of tourism, going hand-in-hand with the rise of Airbnb, has caused a jump in prices. 

In terms of the economic impact, they believe that the jobs provided by the project would be temporary and low-quality. 

Those against the expansion also explained that the protest is not only for residents of Barcelona but indeed all parts of Catalonia, adding that simultaneous demonstrations will also be held in Madrid and Mallorca against any airport expansion for similar reasons.