Portugal must prepare for more and worse extreme weather phenomena

“There have always been floods, but in more recent years there has been a frequency and greater severity”

Greenhouses destroyed by a tornado on the outskirts of Faro in 2018

The vice-president of the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) told Lusa today that, due to climate change, Portugal must prepare for more and worse extreme phenomena such as those that caused flooding in Lisbon on Thursday.

The Greater Lisbon region recorded 197 incidents on Thursday due to bad weather, including tree falls, flooding and falling structures, and an extreme wind phenomenon was also recorded in the Tagus basin.

The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere is analyzing the phenomenon, as it could technically constitute a tornado.

“There have always been floods, but in more recent years there has been a frequency and greater severity,” said José Carlos Pimenta Machado, on the sidelines of the Macau 2024 International Environmental Cooperation Forum and Exhibition.

The vice-president of APA recalled that, between the end of October and the beginning of November, “in 15 days it rained more in [the] Lima [river] than it rains in two years in the Algarve”.

“The risk has increased, so we have to live with the risk and increase protection projects”, highlighted Pimenta Machado. “Prevention and a lot of spatial planning are our big bets,” he added.

“We have to prepare cities, territories and infrastructures for this new reality, to live with peaks in precipitation, long periods of drought and heat waves”, said the leader.

Pimenta Machado argued that Lisbon “is making its way and doing it well”, giving as an example the implementation of the general drainage plan, which will “drain the most vulnerable areas”.

The plan, worth 130 million euros, foresees the construction of two tunnels to drain excess rainwater into the Tagus River, one five kilometers long between Campolide and Santa Apolónia and the other one kilometer long, from Chelas to Beato.

The leader also highlighted the importance of “creating more green areas to increase infiltration, increase retention basins”, and gave as an example Praça de Espanha, which “has already been tested this year and worked very well”.

Pimenta Machado also mentioned the plan to build the Girabolhos dam, in Seia, to “allow floods to be minimized” in the Baixo Mondego area.

On the contrary, stressed the vice-president of APA, the Algarve continues to go through “the worst drought ever”, despite the recent rains.

Pimenta Machado also mentioned that Portugal has already lost an area of ​​12,2 square kilometers to the sea – “equivalent to 1.700 football fields” – and that 20% of the coast, 180 kilometers, is at risk of coastal erosion.

“This war between land and sea has always existed, but it is currently heightened by climate change”, warned the leader.

Pimenta Machado defended the need to “not increase construction on the coast” and to focus on “putting sand on the beaches” instead of, as in the past, “many heavy works, groynes and breakwaters”.