The environmental association Zero warned today that there are classified areas of the Natura 2000 Network that are threatened by more than 130 thousand hectares of irrigation, and express a negative opinion toward a study of expansion of irrigation on the continent.
The study in question was under public consultation until last week and contemplates the expansion of the Alqueva agricultural intensification model to the entire country, with the creation of new irrigated areas in the North, Center region and Alentejo. Last week, five other environmental organizations had also given a negative opinion to the study and warned of the “worrying expansion” of irrigation.
Coordinated by the Empresa de Desenvolvimento e Infraestruturas de Alqueva (EDIA), with the involvement of government structures, irrigation associations and companies, the study (“Irrigation 2030: Survey of the Development Potential of Public Initiative Irrigation in the Horizon of a Decade” ”) is the basis for the national irrigation program for the next decade.
The study proposes an investment between 790 million euros and two billion euros for the improvement of existing irrigation systems in all regions of Portugal and for the creation of new irrigation systems, “with an expansion of the areas irrigated by hydro-agricultural developments covering 127 thousand hectares”.
Zero warns in the statement released today that of the 99 new irrigation schemes, more than 20 will affect areas included in the Natura 2000 network, the European network of protected areas.
“One third of the projects for new irrigation systems integrate classified areas, including Special Protection Zones (ZPEs) and Special Conservation Zones (ZECs) belonging to the Natura 2000 network. The overlaps cover several areas of the Meseta Ibérica Biosphere Reserve, two Natural Parks ( Vale do Tua and Douro Internacional), seven Special Protection Zones and twelve Special Conservation Zones”, warns Zero in the statement.
Conservation in these areas is not reconcilable with irrigation and agricultural intensification advocated in the study, which leads to the destruction of habitats and degradation of biodiversity.
In an analysis of the work that was in public consultation, Zero also points out that it does not include solutions for farmers in the territories most vulnerable to climate change, desertification and depopulation, and draws attention to the “abrupt increase” of irrigated area and exponentially greater consumption of water.
Last week, five other environmental organizations (Geota, ANP/WWF, SPEA, LPN and proTejo) had already considered that the study has “strictly economic objectives, not integrating the ecological and social components emphasised by the new European Common Agricultural Policy” , neither putting agricultural productivity and the preservation of water resources, soil and biodiversity in opposition, nor taking into account the cultural and natural heritage.
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