Madrid pollution levels soar within just one day of scrapping traffic restriction scheme

Europe

Just a day after traffic restrictions were scrapped by the new mayor, air pollution returned to levels recorded in the days before Madrid Central was introduced.

Environmentalists warned that pollution levels had risen above the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday and soared to 70 – a level not reached since Madrid introduced its traffic restrictions last November.

On Monday morning, July 1st,  Madrid’s new mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, from the right-wing Popular Party fulfilled his promise to ditch fines for driving in the capital’s low-emissions zones and scrap Madrid Central, an initiative that was introduced to improve air quality.

Martínez-Almeida described the reversal as a temporary measure put in place while he and his team decides what to do about Madrid Central. He said they were working to “fight for sustainable mobility and against pollution, while guaranteeing citizen mobility and avoid, as much as possible, the losses suffered by retailers.”

READ MORE: ‘I’m crying inside’: Madrileños react to reversal of city traffic restriction

Protestors blocked traffic on Calle Alcala on Monday to defend Madrid Central. Photo: Greenpeace Madrid.

The new mayor’s decision to suspend fines came despite the action of several ecological groups over the past weeks, including a march of 60 thousand people on Saturday.

But the mayor, who has failed to answer the activists’ requests for a meeting to discuss the issue, poked fun at protestors, saying he envies “how much free time they have to carry out these sorts of actions”.

In spite of this, ecologists continue to deliver hard evidence on the environmental benefits of the city’s low-emission zones, with Juan Bárcena, spokesperson of the group Ecologistas en Acción, pointing out that levels of pollution have reached their legal limit – 40 micrograms per cubic meter – which is something that hasn’t happened in the last quarter.  

By Alice Huseyinoglu

READ ALSO:  Madrid Central: Five reasons why scrapping anti-pollution traffic scheme is ‘absurd’.

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