Demonstration against Intensive Agriculture in the Costa Vicentina “Natural Park”
As the fifteen burly GNR looked on impassively, the eclectic mix of 300 or so concerned citizens, made their feelings clear outside the Assembleia da Republica in Lisbon last Tuesday.
img decoding=”async” loading=”lazy” src=”http://algarvedailynews.com/images/news2/19195_1.jpg” alt=”DEMONSTRATION AGAINST INTENSIVE AGRICULTURE IN THE COSTA VICENTINA “NATURAL PARK”” width=”160″ height=”107″ style=”margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px; float: left;” />As the fifteen burly GNR looked on impassively, the eclectic mix of 300 or so concerned citizens, made their feelings clear outside the Assembleia da Republica in Lisbon last Tuesday.
It was a feeling of anger, of despair and of loss – but also, positively, one of hope, hope that their Government would change the policy of aiding foreign companies to destroy the lives and livelihoods of their own citizens.
What could be more right – or more innocent? Despite the heavy police presence little disturbance was anticipated and the demonstration passed off peacefully enough, if a little noisily.
There were drums, whistles, dances and speeches, but above all there was a high level of “feeling” from the mix of people from all ages and walks of life who had been able to make the effort to attend the demonstration.
It was a demonstration against the intensive agriculture that has, with no licenses or permissions, invaded what is still described as a “Natural Park” but which is now a Natural Park in name only.
Sadly, this once beautiful and sought-after corner of Europe has been invaded over the last twenty years by an industrial behemoth and has descended into an environmentalist’s nightmare, a sea of plastic greenhouses which are sucking the land dry of its vital water resources – to the extent that the local population is now having its water rights curtailed, if not cut entirely. Sucking the land dry and sucking too the livelihoods of the people of the area.
While this industry is allocated 90% of the only reservoir that feeds this corner of southwest Europe, the Barragem de Santa Clara, the local population is forced to make do with the remaining 10% – and even this is now being restricted.
With a warming and ever-dryer climate affecting the region, the unregulated proliferation of plastic greenhouses is concerning many who see their taxes being given to foreign-based concerns, while the local population faces an increasingly difficult struggle to survive.
The pandemic hasn’t helped at all of course – apart from in one area; it has shone a spotlight on the disgraceful policy that has been the official line over the last ten years.
In 2019, the last year for which data is available, the Government gave the intensive agriculture industry of the area tax-breaks of €500,000. These tax breaks were given to the Greenhouse Gangsters whose only aim is to make as large and as quick a profit as they can before moving on, but while they have been given this aid from our Government, no such assistance has been offered to the local population who have their homes and businesses here, who till the land their ancestors toiled to make, who hope to pass this land on to their grandchildren.
Added to this, the lackadaisical protection accorded to this Natural Park by the Portuguese Government has been a green light for the rape of this once pristine countryside – and this green light is still shining brightly for the plastic polluters following the Government’s decision to allow the 1,200 hectares of plastic greenhouse to triple in size over the coming years.
No thought has apparently been given to the ecological sustainability of this decision, and local feeling is running increasingly high, as even a cursory glance at the situation shows the policy to be unsustainable in the long run, a long run that is now staring us squarely in the face.
For unsustainable it is and the local population is already feeling the pinch, even before any further expansion.
Since the industry moved into the area in force at the end of the first decade of this century, the life-blood of the area has been slowly, but with ever increasing speed, drained away.
With no rivers that run throughout the year, the only reserve of water is the rain-fed Santa Clara Barragem, but in only one year in the last ten has the water level there been higher than the year before – and as the hot weather starts for this year this reserve has never been lower.
In 2021 less than half this precious resource is available as compared to 2011, a truly horrifying statistic when one considers that the government sees no harm in allowing this intensive agriculture to triple in size.
This alarming situation is best understood in a small Instagram video that has gone viral with 12,000 views over the last couple of weeks, and the maker, Frank McClintock, who has lived on the lakeshore for the last 35 years is under no illusions as to what is taking place before his eyes, and has undertaken to post a new one every couple of weeks to show what is really happening.
a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/CPaX-1Egd_c/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener” title=”video”>His latest, filmed last weekend, showed that in the intervening two weeks the level had already dropped 26 cms, approximately 2 cms per day, a clearly unsustainable amount considering that we are still experiencing cooler Spring weather and the heat of July is still a month away.
“Whereas ten years ago the lake would still be filling during May, this year the level is already falling, and that’s after what everyone says was, “a wet winter”. It might have been a wetter winter than we’ve had recently, but it’s not the wet winters that were habitually experienced fifty years ago, and with less rain every year and an increased demand for water, the situation is becoming worse with every passing day”.
The underlying problem of course is that the water necessary for this area was calculated seventy years ago when intensive agriculture of the sort now being practiced was unheard of. It was designed to furnish local farmers with the water necessary for a way of life that has now all but vanished, and is quite unfit for the demands now being made of it.
However, this is only one half of the problem.
The other, is this Government’s open, grasping hands where big business is concerned and their closed eyes and averted faces to the concerns and well-being of their own citizens.
There is something fundamentally wrong when the Government values foreign-owned companies, who pay little if any tax in this country, over their own countrymen – and this is what is fueling the high feelings shown at the demonstration in Lisbon, and the demands for change that are being increasingly voiced throughout the southwestern Alentejo.
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