Environmental associations repudiate avocado mega project in Lagos

Zero, Regenearte and Sustainable Water Platform are against this project

A public consultation of the environmental impact assessment process for a 128-hectare avocado production mega project in the parishes of Luz e Bensafrim and Barão de São João (Lagos), ends this Tuesday, January 26, but its installation… «it is practically finished». This is a project that deserves repudiation from environmental associations because, they argue, it is “unsustainable and violates territorial planning rules”.

Zero and Regenearte (Association for the Protection and Regeneration of Ecosystems), which delivered their opinions within the scope of this public consultation, regret, in a press release, “that we are before the evaluation of a project that has already been practically executed, which included the removal of vegetation cover, destoning, interventions in water lines and land modeling in an area of ​​128 hectares. Currently, the avocado trees and the irrigation system are already installed».

These interventions, they say, “needed a prior Environmental Impact Statement (DIA), according to the Legal Regime of EIA (Decree-Law no. 151-B/2013 of 31 October, amended by Decree-Law no. 152 -B/2017 of December 11)".

According to the law, the “partial or total execution of projects subject to EIA (…) without the respective DIA having been issued” constitutes a very serious administrative offense (paragraph a) of paragraph 2 of Article 39)”.

Indeed, “the fact that the planting exceeds 100 hectares and takes place on agricultural land not used for more than 5 years makes this Assessment a precondition for agricultural intensification. Within the scope of the allocation of areas of the National Ecological Reserve, the project is partially inserted in areas classified as areas of maximum infiltration and flood risk areas», say Zero and Regenearte.

«On the other hand, the project area encompasses rural spaces classified, in terms of the planning chart in the Lagos PDM, as agricultural conservation space and agroforestry space, figures that are not compatible with the installation of this plantation».

“There is also the fact that the bed was altered and the riverside galleries associated with various water lines, namely in the Espiche river, were destroyed, thus constituting yet another infraction, this time to the Water Law (Law No. 58/2005) and to the conditions foreseen in the Lagos PDM itself», he adds.

This installation, whose process began in 2018 and which saw the plantations completed in August 2019, «has, however, had the intervention of the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission, which led to the opening of an administrative infraction process, the final result of which was does not know, and the imposition of the need to promote this Environmental Impact Assessment».

Even so, the statement of these two environmental associations is harsh with public institutions: «it is not understood how the entities responsible for inspection in matters of land use and occupation, namely the CCDR Algarve and the Algarve Regional Directorate for Agriculture and Fisheries and also the Municipality of Lagos, did not prevent the illegal works from taking place to the point of allowing the project promoter to install production structures without safeguarding public and environmental goods that only rear are being analysed, that is, when preventive action is no longer possible”.

In addition to the issues associated with spatial planning, «it is not understandable that the option for the expansion of intensive monoculture of avocado at a time when the growing scarcity of water in this region is evident, when it is recognized in various plans and strategic guidance documents that are more frequent drought situations are predictable, and less water-demanding crops should be focused on”.

Moreover, the «agricultural exploitation depends on the abstraction of water for irrigation from the two existing wells, and the values ​​presented for the irrigation capacity and sustainability of the project, raise concerns about its availability in the future. The fact that the licensed appropriations for the two holes in the estate are currently sufficient in view of the consumption figures presented by the promoter - which raise some doubts - does not guarantee that in the future it will not be necessary to revise these values ​​in light of the evolution of the effective recharge of the aquifers region, namely in the Almádena-Odiáxere aquifer'.


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In the analysis carried out to the EIA submitted by the company, «it was clear that the planting of avocado trees and the respective irrigation system, already installed, did not deserve adequate scrutiny regarding the availability and quality of the water necessary for sustainable production. There is a high probability that there is no water available to even ensure the viability of the crop, in a region where the demand for irrigation water is growing”.

In this context, both associations may find the environmental impact statement unfavorable.

The Sustainable Water Platform (PAS) also joined the chorus of criticism, which submitted an opinion during the public consultation.

In a 10-page report on the Water Resources descriptor, PAS denounces that “it is evident in the study that this plantation will contribute both to the serious depletion of water levels in the aquifer system that maintains the crop, as well as to its contamination with fertilizers and pesticides jeopardizing the ecological balance of the entire region and which cannot find alternative water supplies».

The lack of technical rigor in the Environmental Impact Study is also pointed out, «reaching to find significant and unlikely differences between the estimates of water consumption for irrigation with DRAP-Algarve approving the assumption of non-technical assumptions for these based estimates in the alleged experience of the promoter, but that contradict data from other avocado producers in the region».

PAS also stresses “that this is yet another example of the pressure that large producers, supported by DRAP, are exerting to promote a culture of an allochthonous species that adapts well to the Algarve's climate due to its temperatures, but that the region cannot support for its natural need for water as it is a species from regions with high rainfall such as tropical regions».

"The arguable argument that avocado consumes as much water as citrus fruit is recurrently used by producers and by DRAP-Algarve, but it only serves to demonstrate that investment is being made in the perpetuation of the error in the multiplication of irrigated areas in a region that is already can no longer sustain it. In fact, it is also clear in the study that the irrigation technology adopted does not guarantee an adequate rationing of the water resource», says PAS.

«This is just one of the cases that is known because there is an Environmental Impact Assessment procedure that has its origin in the denunciation carried out by the citizens' movements in the Algarve, or it would be another plantation to appear without the consequences for water resources being evaluated. The region is faced with serious needs, whether for technical information or inspection, and the increase in intensive irrigation crops may be irreparably condemning the sustainable development of the entire region and its economic activities», he concludes.

Anyone who wants to participate in the public consultation process can do so here



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