Combat of Portugal’s desertification, “isn’t working”, says report

Portugal is one of the European “most threatened countries” when it comes to desertification. But an official audit has found that the national programme launched to turn things round “isn’t working”.

The audit undertaken by the Accounts Court (TA) points to “several failings that are strangling the (programme’s) execution”.

PANCD, the initials by which the scheme is known, was launched by the PSD government in 2014.

But basically that was it: the programme was ‘devised’, ‘lines of action plotted’ and then nothing more happened.

It wasn’t just a question of no money coming through or no personnel being assigned, even ‘instruments’ that were meant to be created – like the ‘Desertification Observatory’ – didn’t materialise.

This means that there has been no overview of anything that may have been done, explains Observador -meaning it’s not even clear what the current level of desertification in Portugal is.

The bottom line, stresses Observador, is that this makes it almost impossible for Portugal to apply for a new round of European funding that should start being decided for 2021-2027 and Agenda 2030.

Faced with all the failings, the court has “recommended that the ministries of agriculture and the environment revise the programme and start implementing measures, given that Portugal has promised to reach neutrality in terms of land degradation by 2030”.

Agriculture minister Capoulas Santos – upbraided recently by environmentalists for ignoring EU directives and actually implementing measures that radically change the country’s rural heritage (click here) – said he was “rather puzzled” by the audit as in his opinion the plan had been in existence for 20 years , and was being implemented.

Quercus’ Nuno Sequeira however insists the Accounts Court has it right.  As does the Association of Portuguese farmers.

Desertification remains a real problem, and a challenge that the government just doesn’t seem up to.

Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa, president of the farmers syndicate, says there should be much more coordination between the ministries of environment and agriculture so that water storage capacity can be increased, and methods devised to carry it from areas that have too much to areas who don’t have enough – thus ensuring sustainability.

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