The City of Madrid

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is one of the most populous cities, remaining one of the largest in Europe. The city lies near the banks of River Manzanares. It is an important centre as it happens to be the political, economic, and cultural centre of the city. One unique thing about Madrid was that though the city appeared to possess modern infrastructure, it very well preserved the nostalgic feel of the early historic neighbourhoods and streets. The city is currently undergoing an alarming situation due to urban pollution. Yes, pollution, can you believe it? Well, sadly, that happens to be the truth.       

Urban pollution: Madrid - Sheet1
The City of

The Urban Pollution 

Pollution has always been a matter of growing concern and, in urban areas, a much greater concern. The rural areas, comparatively, are not brimming as yet, and the levels are being controlled to an extent. But, the urban areas are so densely populated that even the slightest change due to human interventions can create massive havoc in the environment. Enlisting the few possible factors affecting the scary pollution increase in the city of Madrid below:

  • Vehicular Congestion

“More people, more vehicles; more traffic, more pollution”. 

Indirectly, the settling in of migrants from far and within has led to an increase in the vehicular possessions of each family. It is very little or almost no use of public transport as a result of which the dependence of people on their private vehicles has shot up. Research has been conducted to identify which direct and indirect emissions contribute more to pollution levels. They have proved that the direct emissions involving road transport have contributed to nearly half the volume of emissions which is almost 31.5%. The issue has been most sensitively taken up since harmful compounds like particulate matter(PM), Nitrogen Dioxide(NO2), and Tropospheric zones(O3) are being created that are extremely harmful to human health. 

Urban pollution: Madrid - Sheet2
  • Urban Extent and Density 

The Urban extent of Madrid was initially 84,407 hectares, increasing at a rate of 6%. The urban extent then became 52,551 hectares gradually decreasing to 31,876 hectares. Owing to the dense population in the forthcoming years, the Built Up Area density which was initially 94 persons per hectare, decreased gradually by -4.3% to 132 persons per hectare to finally becoming 176.52 persons per hectare reducing by -2.7%. Merely depicts that people’s settlements have massively multiplied, reducing the unbuilt area of the city.  

Urban pollution: Madrid - Sheet3
Th Urban Sprawl of
  • Migration 

People belonging to the Spanish-speaking communities and also some from the European countries migrate to Madrid mainly due to better employment opportunities, favorable climate, and high quality of life. Social cohesions tend to result in brimming urban regions, having a direct impact on the environmental conditions. When infrastructure needs and facilities start increasing, a lot of space is taken up in setting it, thus causing a huge lot of air pollution. 

Urban pollution: Madrid - Sheet4
Densely Populated

Fighting Urban Pollution

Every problem can be resolved only if it involves the combined efforts and awareness of all stakeholders involved and affected by the project. 

The success of any project lies most with two people – the implementers and the followers”. In this case, the guidelines for the betterment of the city lie in the hands of higher government officials who pass on regulations after consultation with architects, planners, etc. who also contribute a major role in the development of the city. Lack of awareness among the people would also fail, no matter how well the operational guidelines are implemented and executed.

A lot of measures have been taken up to ease the impact of urban pollution. A few of them include:

  • Implementation of LEZ’s

LEZ are nothing but Low Emission Zones, one of the most effective ways to tackle vehicular emissions, since providing pedestrian walkways is a way too expensive approach. LEZ are easier to implement and in fact, a cheaper method too. They are zones where only vehicles meeting certain emission standards are permitted to pass through. Deadlines have been set until 2030 to strengthen a model-based city on low emissions for the better welfare of the residents. In addition to this, “Madrid Central” is also on the books, an area in the city center that prioritizes pedestrian mobility, public transport, and the least polluting vehicles. 

Urban pollution: Madrid - Sheet5
Low Emission
  • Urban Green Spaces

“The body is alive because of the blood that transports oxygen throughout; a city is lively only if there are breathing spaces amidst the built spaces”. 

Due to the hefty emissions of greenhouse gases, a heat island has been formed. The impact on a micro-level as well as macro-level can only be enhanced by creating green pockets or landscaped areas that are again not private and sucked into private spaces but are available to all and largely public. They are highly recommended since they are integral elements of the city’s existence and serve multiple functions like recreation, ecological services, regulation of ambient air temperature and hydrological regime pollution abatement, social inclusion, enhancing amenity value, etc. It was as early as the 1500s when Madrid was last filled with thickets of mushroom –shaped holm oaks that dolled the entire city of Madrid!

But, it can happen soon! The Municipality has launched a drive to connect a series of existing woodlands, creating a 75-meter-long belt around the city of 3.3 million. It was aimed to improve air quality, counter climate change, limit heat waves, and create diversified recreational opportunities.   

The Green Belt of


Urban Pollution has been of utmost importance in the city agglomerations owing to factors like employment opportunities, increase in vehicular traffic, industrial gases, etc. Thus, it lies in the combined efforts of people having the potential to bring about a change- the planners, architects who could transform the entire city, and the residents who have to be aware since it is their place. 

“It is all about the sense of belonging to a place that makes them alive”.    

  1. 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28 August 2022].
  2. 2022. Atlas of Urban Expansion – Madrid. [online] Available at: <,was%20114%20persons%20per%20hectare.> [Accessed 28 August 2022].
  3. Sánchez, J., Ortega, E., López-Lambas, M. and Martín, B., 2022. Evaluation of emissions in traffic reduction and pedestrianization scenarios in Madrid.
  4. UN Decade on Restoration. 2022. Five centuries later, Madrid’s “green belt” makes a comeback. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28 August 2022].

Alamu Priya is a budding conservation architect pursuing her final year of masters from SPA, Vijayawada. An avid reader and writer, she believes that words create a profound impact on people and can be used as a weapon to unveil the magic behind architecture.