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Blue skies above the town of Maó, in Menorca, but these do not tell us the complete status of the air

What can a city do to clear up its air?

What can a city do to clear up its air?

Turns out quite a lot, and here is the example of Maó, on the island of Menorca

The quality of air in a city is a major indicator of the overall quality of life there. As we try to turn the tide back and find ways to recover and rediscover a cleaner atmosphere, we may find out that there are many hurdles lying ahead.

The Spanish city of Maó can be quite illustrative in this regard. On Monday, 11 October, its government presented a strategic plan on air quality improvement there. It has been worked on since June 2017 until its final approval last month and it consists of 61 measures that will directly or indirectly contribute to reducing atmospheric pollution!

When reading about this, consider the fact that Maó has a population of fewer than 30,000 inhabitants – and then think of the kind of efforts that larger cities need to undertake for the same purpose.

Many might even be surprised that the air in Maó needs to be saved

Maó is the capital of the island of Menorca (Balearics) and is best known for giving the name to mayonnaise – which comes from the French words sauce mahonnaise. It also has one of the largest natural harbours in the world, which due to its enclosed nature is actually pretty clean.

But today we would like to present its Air Quality Improvement Plan, which took more than 4 years to hammer out. It is kind of eye-opening to the multi-faceted nature of air pollutions and their possible solutions.

61 measures in 5 sections

The Plan includes 61 measures, differentiated into 5 blocks of action: land mobility, energy efficiency, monitoring and reduction of emissions in episodes of high pollution, airport mobility and others.

In terms of land mobility, it proposes up to fourteen lines of action. Among them, improving the service and the offer of the existing public transport in Menorca; proper mobility management in large workplaces; creation of secure car parks with electric chargers near public transport stations; and encouraging the replacement of vehicles with those that run on lower or zero-emissions fuels.

Further on there are ideas about optimizing and creating deterrent parking lots to encourage public transportation; stricter control and limit of speed; encouraging car-sharing; increasing exclusive spaces for public transport and pedestrians to the detriment of current spaces for private vehicles; optimizing bicycle-public transport intermobility; and improving and increasing pedestrian spaces.

As for energy efficiency, the implementation of renewable energies plays an important role. There are proposals, such as ensuring the installation of photovoltaic solar energy on large roofs; complying with the obligation to large and medium-sized companies to make an annual carbon footprint calculation and emission reduction plans.

Additionally, there will be optimization of the Urban Distribution of Goods services, thus promoting sustainable mobility; encouraging the use of renewable energies, informing and advising on their use; promotion of local trade; replacing the means of transport managed by the administration with low or zero-emissions vehicles; as well as optimizing the control of emissions in road works and road cleaning.

The third block of actions, dedicated to avoiding episodes of high pollution, the Plan recommends carrying out information and awareness campaigns on air pollution; and encouraging participation by the population in the voluntary measurement of air quality.

Likewise, the Plan previews introducing the air pollution factor into epidemiological surveillance; the revision of the existing emissions inventory at the municipal level; adapting the short-term Action Plan; and the study of air quality with passive sensors.

With regards to airport mobility, it is proposed to draft an Air Quality Improvement Plan for Mahon Airport; together with a Sustainable Mobility Plan; the greening of the land fleet and equipment; optimizing aircraft mobility within the runwayñ and the correct urban integration of the general airport system.

In the block of other measures, the Plan supports the work of the Balearic Institute of Energy (IBE); the study and creation of green connectors; as well as the promotion of organic agriculture.

Maó also currently has three fixed stations (Pous, Port de Maó and Maó EMEP) integrated within the Balearic Network for Monitoring and Control of Air Quality, and which have been complemented, for about a year now, by a mobile station located on land owned by the Menorca Waste and Energy Consortium.

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