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Intensify the use of the runways at Barcelona-El Prat airport for four hours every day during the months of July and August to increase their capacity. That is the Catalan government's airport proposal which president Pere Aragonès defended this morning. Right now, Barcelona's airport has two parallel runways, one of which is used for airplane landings and the other for takeoffs. The modification proposed by Aragonès means that during the months of July and August, between 10am and 2pm, the two runways would be used both for take-offs and landings. "The proposal is based on a change in runway operations, moving to work with independent runways in certain months of the year for long-haul flights, in certain time slots in July and August," explained Aragonès in a speech at the Barcelona Tribuna forum.

Aragonès stressed that the reorganization would allow the airport capacity, currently 78 flights per hour, to be increased to 90, the limit set by El Prat's environmental impact statement, and it would not have any impact on the Ricarda lagoon. Governing party the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) has shown itself in favour of protecting this natural space adjacent to the runways and now the president argues that with the government's new proposal, "expanding airport connections is possible without expanding the airport or damaging its surroundings".

A "rigorous" proposal, says Aragonès

Aragonès defended that the proposal to intensify runway use is "rigorous" and also "implementable in a very short period of time", while at the same time, he asks airport operator AENA to invest in soundproofing the urban areas around the airport. Some of the most affected municipalities are Castelldefels and Gavà, which suffer from the noise of planes daily, and that this proposal to expand the runway capacity would make it even worse. With regard to this, the president recognized that his proposal would have an "impact" on the population of the coastal parts of the Baix Llobregat county, noting, however, that it would only be for two months a year and four hours a day.

Aragonès announced at the same time that he will take his proposal to the joint Spanish-Catalan governmental airport technical committee, which has met only once, in January. That meeting, in which officials from the two administrations took part - but not Catalan transport minister Ester Capella nor her Spanish counterpart, Óscar Puente - served to make the commitment effective and it was agreed to create different working groups with the objective of submitting proposals to expand the operational capacity of the airport at the end of this 2024. "We'll see what the response is", the president pointed out in this forum, although for the moment, both the minister Puente and industry and tourism head, Jordi Hereu, have already criticized it.

"More planes, more tourists and more water consumption"

In fact, in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio, Puente criticised classified the plan as a "very short-range" proposal that worsens the acoustics of the airport operation, and therefore harms the health of the residents of Castelldefels and Gavà. In addition, he added that the change does not improve the operation of the airport "because it does not serve to really make the most of the intercontinental connection potential that El Prat airport has".

The CUP's electoral candidate for May 12th, Laia Estrada, gave a very different criticism of the proposal. "It is surprising that, with one hand, Aragonès signs all kinds of statements against the climate emergency while with the other he makes proposals that are part of climate denialism," she said. The head of the CUP list recalled that it is a proposal that "would involve more planes, more tourists and more water consumption", among others. Likewise, she regretted that ERC "continues to delve deeper into an economic model that enriches a few at the expense of making the majority of the population precarious". "It has nothing to do with the change of course that this country needs," added the far-left, pro-independence candidate.