Spanish prosecutors urge Madrid to reduce air pollution

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Spain's public prosecutors have asked the city of Madrid to reduce air pollution levels to within limits set by the European Union, a spokesman for their office said Wednesday.

The move comes as Madrid and Barcelona, Spain's two largest cities, are experiencing dangerous levels of atmospheric pollution because of a high-pressure system lodged over the Iberian peninsula that is preventing pollutants from dispersing.

The spokesman said the environment department of the public prosecutors' office "has sent an official letter urging the city of Madrid to lower pollution levels because they have surpassed European limits."

The organisation Ecologists in Action has accused Madrid authorities of "a grave dereliction of their duty to ensure that local people can breathe healthy air.

"Faced with this serious period of contamination, their actions are limited to recommending the use of public transport, something which is clearly ineffective as evidenced by the usual traffic jams that occurred today, and the continued high pollution levels at measuring stations."

Municipal authorities in the Spanish capital have since Monday used overhead panels on the city's ring road to advise drivers to take public transport "as a preventive measure" to avoid raising pollution levels.

The municipality, which is controlled by Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party, came under fire last year for moving the measuring stations to less polluted districts of the city in a bid to post lower levels.

© 2011 AFP

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