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Portugal’s councils reject new forest cleaning law

Published on 23/01/2018

Portugal’s councils have rejected the new law that obliges them to clear-up forest areas if landowners do not carry out this vital fire prevention work.

The National Association of Portuguese Municipalities has requested an urgent meeting with the Government to hammer out a compromise.

“The Association can not accept that the State legislates with a view to putting the burden of resolving everything that has not been done in decades on the municipalities, which, according to the new law, have to do this task in less than three months,” said Manuel Machado, the president of ANMP.

Government “must assume, as the municipalities have done in their budgets and without external support, once and for all their civil protection responsibilities ??,” said Machado, stressing that “the security of people and property is a sovereign function of the central State.”

Manuel Machado, who also is mayor of Coimbra, said that despite successive requests from the Association, the State “has not carried out the registration of rustic property and for decades has not been able to insist that forests are cleaned by their owners.”

The State “has not even taken care of those forests under its own jurisdiction,” but wants now “that municipalities, in less than three months, do what has not been done in decades” said Machado, saying the new law, “is not feasible.”

The councils’ stance is that the priority should be on owners to clear their own forested land and not rely on local councils to do so at ratepayers’ expense, “It seems that the concern of the state was nothing more than to pass responsibilities to the municipalities,” and impose sanctions of the work is not done.

But the Association recognises that “the tragic forest fires recorded in recent months require the councils, the State and other entities with responsibilities in this area to adopt swift structural changes and measures that minimise the possibility of more fires and that the implementation of reforms of the system of civil protection and forest management, is essential.”

The municipalities “are aware of their responsibilities,” take them on board and reaffirm their willingness and commitment to cooperate in solving problems, but the central State also must assume its responsibilities,” warns Machado.

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