25 Apr, 2021 @ 12:00
1 min read

OPINION: More needs to be done to tackle Spain’s air pollution problem

air pollution refinery e

In this week’s ‘green column’, Martin Tye insists it time Spain tackled its air pollution problem.

No smoke without fire – this is a well known idiom that is true. 

But replace the ‘m’ in idiom with a ‘t’ and you now have IDIOT.

Idiot and Bad Company (who had a song with the same name above) bring me to the theme of burning cuttings in the campo.

I receive many emails from readers of this column (please keep them coming), but one really sparked my interest (if you’ll excuse the pun).

It came from Clive, who lives in a lovely rural area near Polop in a house with fabulous views to Altea, on the Costa Blanca.

He wrote to tell me that his views are consistently blighted by locals burning garden waste, rather than simply composting, which is so easy to do. 

And it’s almost a daily basis, he added. So, I return to a previous theme – air pollution.

While the UN passed a groundbreaking resolution recognising that access to clean water is a basic human right in 2010, no similar resolution exists on the right to breathe clean air.

Incredibly, 17.5 million Spaniards (over a third) are breathing air that the European Union considers polluted. 

This is air that contains excessive levels of three main pollutants:

Nitrogen Dioxide – caused by traffic and predominantly a problem in the cities (Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia mainly).

Pollution Madrid
Air pollution in Madrid.

PM10 particulate matter, consisting of dust, ash, soot and similar substances produced by traffic as well as central heating systems, industry and construction.

And finally ozone, a pollutant linked to the others, which is prevalent during hot weather and can spread long distances. 

I have discovered that 36 out of 126 regions of Spain have illegal levels of ozone gas.

Furthermore ‘OVER HALF OF SPAIN DOES NOT MEET EU AIR QUALITY REGULATIONS AND GUIDELINES’ according to green group Ecologists in Action.

I find this quite staggering. More people die from pollution than road accidents.

And Government action is predictably far too lethargic.

I believe air pollution is also a human rights issue. Pollution on today’s scale clearly violates the rights to life, and the right to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

We tend to be more aware nowadays of the vulnerability of future generations to the perils resulting from current environmental decision making.

A very correct standpoint, BUT, more needs to be done. Not just on a global scale, but on a local level to help protect the Clives of this world who deserve a life not contaminated by idiots in the campo.


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