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"To expand el Prat it is not necessary to destroy la Ricarda"

2 Febrero - 2022
Aeroport de Barcelona

“The debate on the Barcelona airport expansion has been one of the most heated and is crossed by many elements. Debating is part of the normal academic debate and debates serve to form opinions and make informed decisions”, this is how the debate began Climate change, economy and health: With regard to the proposal to expand Barcelona airport, the director general of the UPF Barcelona School of Management, José M. Martínez-Sierra.

Moderated by Gema Revuelta, director of the Master's Degree in Scientific, Medical and Environmental Communication at UPF-BSM and of the UPF Center for Science, Communication and Society Studies (CCS-UPF); Dr. Josep Maria Antó, the researcher and former Scientific Director of ISGlobal and Professor of Medicine at UPF Hospital del Mar, and the Director of the Observatory for the Analysis and Evaluation of Public Policies of the University of Barcelona (UB), Germà Bel, discussed about this topic.

Bel has stated that the airport “does not have a capacity problem, proposing the expansion is like requesting that no motorway ever have queues”. The professor recalled that in 2007 the capacity of T1 collapsed with 33 million passengers when its ceiling was 25 million. According to Bel, the problem of the Catalan airport is that it has a lower connection capacity with distant destinations: “Where there is congestion is during peak hours and long distances, but not in the slots in which tourists come, we will continue to see tourists arrive , this is not the problem”, he stated.

“We must decide if we have a long-distance connectivity problem, I think so, because this lack of connection prevents generating added value for certain economic sectors”

“We must decide if we have a long-distance connectivity problem, I think so, because this lack of connection prevents certain economic sectors from generating added value”, continued the UB professor. As for the solution, Bel believes that the proposal by AENA, that is, the destruction of the Ricarda lagoon, is not the most practical: "It is not necessary to destroy the Ricarda, it is necessary to enable the takeoff from the long runway, the one that passes over Gavà Mar and Castelldefels”, and has argued that the residential installation there is much later than the flights. Flights passing over this residential area are limited to avoid noise pollution.

According to the professor, if the planes took off above this town, "the decibel level would be lower than that of the Eixample."

“It is a problem of social value, there is a connectivity problem that affects economic sectors that generate high salaries and have nothing to do with tourism. This expansion can be done without lengthening the tracks, the problem is the manager of the State”, the expert concluded.

Likewise, Bel has reported that in the proposal to expand the airport, "the central government established the use of the diagonal runway as a red line, for socio-political reasons" and has stated that "Gavà Mar and Castelldefels Platja are among the most rich neighbourhoods in Catalonia, if they were Bellvitge and Gornal, the planes would already be flying”.

In his speech, Antó spoke about the impact on health and well-being of this expansion. “Airports have a significant negative impact on health due to both the direct effects of air pollution and noise emissions, and the indirect effects of greenhouse gas emissions. It should be borne in mind that jet aircraft emit ultrafine particles whose atmospheric concentration can double in adjoining areas and which represent a significant contribution to global warming, which is not adequately priced for long-distance flights”, he explained.

“Increasing the extension and activity of the airport will surely increase these impacts on health, without favoring an economic activity that is resilient and respectful of nature”

Antó has stated that an investigation by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment has shown that people living near Schiphol airport are regularly exposed to higher concentrations of ultrafine particles. On days of high exposure, children with respiratory problems experience more symptoms and need to increase medication. Barcelona and many municipalities in the metropolitan area regularly have levels of air pollution that, together, account for hundreds of preventable deaths annually. "Increasing the extension and activity of the airport will surely increase these impacts on health, without favoring a resilient and respectful economic activity with nature," he said.

Furthermore, “the loss of biodiversity and of the small green lung that the destruction or relocation of the natural space of Ricarda would represent is worrying, given the few ecosystems that still remain in the surroundings of the metropolitan area with the highest population density in Europe, with effects on health at many levels” added the professor.

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