Home News Avocado project in Castro Marim salt marsh violates land usage guidelines

Avocado project in Castro Marim salt marsh violates land usage guidelines

Published on October 06, 2021

The installation of intensive irrigated crops, such as avocado, in the Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Natural Reserve is incompatible with the Land Use Plan (OP) for that protected area, warned the Zero association today.

In a note sent to news agencies, the environmental association Zero states that at issue is the installation of several projects, totalling 40 hectares, “occupying spaces that border on the wetland, which do not fit into the provisions of the instruments planning”, namely, in the nature reserve Land Use Plan.

The association maintains that irrigated crops, namely avocado trees, occupy areas of partial protection type I and II and Complementary type I, classified in the Land Use Plan of that protected area.

“From the analysis of the permitted and conditioned activities, there seems to be no compatibility with this type of non-traditional culture and in an intensive monoculture system in irrigated land”, the note reads.

The  relatively small nature reserve is one of the oldest protected areas in the country, having been created in 1975. In addition to wetlands, it also includes patches of land where traditional, extensive rainfed agriculture and pasture took place, demonstrating traditional cultures of the region.

According to Zero, “incomprehensibly, there is a positive opinion from the Regional Directorate for Nature Conservation and Forests of the Algarve (governed by the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF)), dated 2018, for one of the projects, with very general measures  in place in the context of the installation and exploitation of this space”.

According to the association, “legal procedures are still underway for another project where two requests were raised in March and May 2019”.

Zero adds that the ICNF’s response to questions raised by the association was that “there is great interest in the installation of orchards of this culture (avocado trees) within classified areas”.

The Zero association claims that the plan for that natural reserve establishes regimes for safeguarding natural resources and values, establishing the uses and management regime for the area concerned. Based on the guiding principles of the Land Use Plan, “agricultural and pastoral activities must be developed in order to guarantee their essential role in the maintenance of natural habitats and the structure of the landscape (…)”.
In addition, “agricultural practices that are suitable for the exploitation of the soil and that do not result in the degradation of the natural values ??present must be encouraged, namely by promoting traditional regionally-based products (…)”.

“We are facing a situation where we cannot only speak of lack of inspection, but where the national authority for nature conservation has connived with economic interests, calling into question the conservation objectives of the Nature Reserve and the Network’s Special Conservation Zone Natura 2000”, points out the association.

Zero requested the intervention of the General Inspectorate for the Environment, Sea Agriculture and Spatial Planning to “check the legal framework” for the intervention of the Regional Directorate for Nature Conservation and Forests of the Algarve, regarding the planning and management plan provided for in the Sectoral Plan Natura 2000 network for that natural reserve.
The association says it is waiting for the result of this intervention, considering the possibility of formalising a complaint to the European Commission regarding what it considers “to be also an infringement of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive”.