The levels of air pollution in Barcelona reached levels up to three times higher than those recommended by the World Health Organisation yesterday due to a band of anticyclonic weather sitting over the city (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The lack of wind passing over Barcelona has added to the problem that has seen contaminants unable to be dispersed and instead saturating the local atmosphere to the extent of forming a covering of rarefied air above the Catalan capital. A specialist in air quality, Xavier Querol, said that it wasn't just a one-day problem, however, but rather that the average annual levels of air pollution in Barcelona are also high. "We shouldn't blame the anticyclone for the problem, but rather industrial activity and particularly cars," he added. The concentration of nitrogen dioxide, a contaminant associated with diesel motors, per cubic metre of air, yesterday reached levels of 100 microgrammes, which is about double the average seen in 2010. European Union legislation says that cities shouldn't have a nitrogen dioxide level higher than 40 m/g per cubic metre of air as an annual average, a level that Barcelona has failed to comply with for several years.
The Catalan parliament is due to have its first debate about the subject of Catalan independence (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The proposal to discuss the issue was put forward by the new party Solidaritat (SI), led by Joan Laporta, and received the support of the governing CiU party—Laporta is calling for a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalunya from Spain. Although it is already known that the motion will not pass, it will open a debate on the matter giving different parties the chance to demonstrate their attitudes to the suggested move. Some members of the parliament from the Catalan Socialist and Partido Popular parties tried to impede the proposed debate, saying that it was illegal; however, CiU have the majority at the parliamentary committee that had to decide whether or not to allow the debate and as such it passed.
Controversy continues to dog the moves taken by the Generalitat to put in place flexible speed limits on the roads in and out of Barcelona, with the dismissal of the head of the Catalan Meteorological Service following criticisms of the government's decision (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Although David Rodríguez was due to be substituted at some point anyway due to the change in government, the date for him to leave his post has been brought forward as a result of his opposition to getting rid of the fixed 80 kilometre per hour speed limit on dual carriageways and other roads into Barcelona, to make them flexible according to traffic and weather conditions. Rodríguez, who is a member of the left-wing green party Esquerra Unida i Alternativa (EUiA), had been in post since January 2007, when the Generalitat's Environmental department was in the hands of the 'ecosocialist', Francesc Baltasar. Government sources yesterday stressed that the position is one of "confidence" and that Rodríguez was due to be relieved soon anyway; his substitute is due to be named next Tuesday. The news came yesterday, the same day that Rodríguez had an article published in El Periodico newspaper where he made his criticisms known. However, sources consulted by La Vanguardia said that it was a confusing article because Rodríguez didn't state his political affiliations, that he had been named into his post by the previous government or that he would soon be removed from the position. In addition, there was no mention of the fact that he is not actually a trained meteorologist but holds a doctorate in economics.