The European Commission has announced that it has decided to file a complaint against Portugal before the Court of Justice of the European Union for disrespecting the Community law on the assessment and management of environmental noise.
In the context of the package of infringement procedures adopted by the Community executive, due to failures in the application of EU law by the Member States, the Commission indicates that it has decided to take action against Portugal and Slovakia for failing to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance of the noise directive.
Brussels points out that “Portugal does not yet have strategic noise maps for 5 main roads (out of a total of more than 500 of these roads) and has not yet prepared the action plans foreseen for two agglomerations (out of a total of 6) and 236 roads (out of a total of 555), nor any of the action plans for the 55 main railways”.
Recalling that the deadlines for mapping noise exposure and for drawing up noise action plans ended, respectively, in 2012 and 2013, after which they would have to be reviewed every five years, the Commission states that, “although the Portuguese and Slovak authorities have taken some steps to remedy the situation, progress has been slow”
"Since it is difficult to predict when Portugal and Slovakia will be able to ensure full compliance with their obligations, the Commission has decided, in both cases, to bring an action before the EU Court of Justice", justifies the Community executive.
The Commission underlines the importance of the correct application of the legislation, pointing out that “noise causes ischemic heart disease, disturbs sleep, affects the cognitive system and produces stress”, which is why “EU noise standards require Member States to adopt maps that identify the places exposed to harmful noise within large agglomerations or in the vicinity of the main rail, road and airport axes”.
"Citizens and authorities use these maps to define the measures to be taken in the framework of an action plan to reduce harmful noises to health or prevent them from reaching harmful levels", the Commission explains.
Brussels also recalls that "the noise caused by road, rail and airport traffic is, after atmospheric pollution, the second main environmental cause of premature death and the exposure to noise has been increasing".
“It is estimated that noise annually causes 12,000 premature deaths across Europe and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease (caused by a narrowing of the cardiac arteries). It is also estimated that 6.5 million people suffer from severe chronic sleep disorders”, says the European Commission. ■