protest poster

New protest scheduled against felling of 1,821 mature cork oaks in Sines

Felling to make way for ‘green energy’ project government dubs “essential”

Citizens group “We are going to save the cork oaks (Vamos Salvar os Sobreiros) is holding a new demonstration in Lisbon on Saturday against the felling of more than 1,800 cork oaks for the construction of the Morgavel wind farm in Sines.

In spite of government pledges to ‘have another look at compensation agreements’, the group maintains its demand that the felling order should be revoked altogether.

This is the second demonstration organised by “Vamos Salvar os Sobreiros”, after the first one held on August 15 on Morgavel beach in Sines.

This protest is scheduled to march to the ministry of the environment and climate action, said spokesperson Avani Ancok.

Speaking to Lusa news agency, Avani Ancok stressed that the number 1,821 may not even be correct. In her calculations, the construction of this wind farm, described as an essential public utility will actually involve cutting down 3,000 cork oaks.

Thus the group is determined, and in no mood to be mollified by ‘guarantees that compensations could be revised’.

“We have information that attempts at compensation that have taken place in other regions of the country have gone very badly because there was no monitoring, follow-up or inspection”, she told Lusa.

Online messages forwarded to news rooms have also stressed that compensating the axing of thousands of mature trees cannot come in the planting of ‘replacement’ seedlings, that will take decades to reach maturity.

“We are not going to be tricked by this fallacious gift of compensation; this is why we are demonstrating tomorrow”, says a post entitled: “The large fallacy of the environment ministry”.

The demonstration will be convening at midday in Parque Eduardo VII, before setting off through the capital, passing the ministry and ending at Príncipe Real Garden.

“We’re preparing a document to leave at the ministry, including a request for an audience. We’re preparing other surprises during the march through the Lisbon streets, and we’re also preparing legal actions,” Avani Ancok added.

The first demonstration in Sines brought together around 200 people; this one is anticipating “an even larger number”, she said. Certainly, social media posts by personalities such as activist Joana Amaral Dias suggest this could be the case. 

If these cork oaks are cut down, it’s ecocide, it’s an environmental crime, it’s an ecological crime, which can’t be excused by the fact that the wind farm is of extreme public utility because what’s at stake here is also what the local population will gain on an ecological, social and economic level by cutting down these cork oaks,” Ancok continued.

Meantime, the government has reportedly set up “a working group to analyse the compensation for felling cork oaks and to evaluate and propose improvements“, which will have to be presented by the end of the year, the ministry announced in a statement yesterday.

According to the statement, environment minister Duarte Cordeiro, “also decided to review the location of part of the compensation for the Morgavel Wind Farm, which will be planted in the area of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, by at least double the number of trees whose felling was authorised”.

At issue is a mature cork oak forest in Morgavel, on the doorstep of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, with trees, some over a hundred years old, that are healthy and extracting cork.

According to current legislation in Portugal, cork oaks are a protected species, and authorisation is required to cut them down.

That authorisation has already been given, by Duarte Cordeiro, on the basis that the wind farm planned for the site will be an “essential public utility”.

In the order, Duarte Cordeiro stressed that all necessary conditions have been met, such as the project’s environmental compliance.

According to EDP Renováveis, the cork oak felling compensation plan “provides for the planting of around 42,000 trees and shrubs, of which 30,000 will be cork oaks”.

Source material: LUSA