Portugal at risk of land loss.jpg

Portugal at risk of land loss

According to a report from Quercus, a Portuguese association for nature preservation, 630km of the Portuguese mainland is at risk from coastal erosion. This represents 67 per cent of the approximate 950km coastline! The Resident’s reporter Natasha Smith investigates the report and contacts Albufeira Câmara, recently the subject of press coverage describing its beaches as potentially dangerous, to hear their comments.

Close to 28.5 per cent of the coast has already been affected by erosion and, in some areas, per year, it has receded as much as nine metres. This formed part of the findings in a study, called Climate Change in Portugal – Scenarios, Impacts and Adaptation Measures (SIAM), evaluating the impact of climactic changes and the risks of erosion.

Filipe Duarte Santos, the co-ordinator of the study, commented: “All of the west coast, from the Minho Estuary to the Nazaré zone, has points which are particularly serious.” He added: “The Algarve has areas of concern too, like Ancão and Faro beaches, along with nearby Culatra and Fuzeta. The study was an immense project where we evaluated the entire coast of Portugal, kilometre by kilometre, and analysed the morphology of the land.”

The study outlined many problems associated with coastal erosion, and Portugal was ranked as the sixth most affected country by it in the EU. Francisco Ferreira, from Quercus, commented that the “situation is serious because in question is nature conservation and the survival of the tourist industry”.

Portugal’s economy is heavily reliant on the tourist industry and anything that could jeopardise the country’s coast should be regarded as serious. The beaches and the ocean are two of the main natural resources that guarantee an influx of holidaymakers year after year, and the câmaras are studying the opportunities that the ocean has to offer the economy. The development and investment of new ways to harness this financial potential must primarily be met with conservation and protection plans.

Albufeira beach was recently highlighted as a potential danger zone in the SIAM report. Construction is being carried out right on the edge of a cliff where seawater crashes against, and there are clear signs of erosion of the ravine, which puts bathers at great risk, as a collapse is imminent.

Cracks and holes, from water and wind, in the slope are in full view of everybody, and stones are often crumbling off. More and more vegetation is fracturing the rocks and loosening them, and when the tide is high, the sea crashes against the base of the ravine, gradually eroding it. The recess underneath the cliffs offer shelter and shade to swimmers, who seem unaware as to the amount of danger they are exposing themselves to. “The problem needs to be addressed now in order to avoid disastrous situations in the future,” asserted Filipe Duarte Santos.

Albufeira Câmara rebuked allegations that its beaches were a potential hazard and sent out a press release stating, “there is no danger whatsoever on Albufeira beach”. They regretted that “this misinformation” was being spread just when the high season is about to commence and a flood of tourists is expected. The câmara vehemently defended that repairs have already been made to the cliffs in Albufeira and more work will take place. According to the câmara, they have already spent more than half-a-million euros on projects to repair the effects of coastal erosion. Funds have come from the câmara itself, as well as FEDER, a European organisation, which funds regional development projects. Albufeira Câmara maintains that there is no risk to anyone who wants to enjoy the beaches and the sun in Albufeira.

Sadly, there is little that can be done to avoid coastal erosion, but there are ways in which people can protect themselves from being directly affected, or harmed, by it, as well as endeavouring to repair damaged areas. If this task is a priority, there will be few effects on tourism in the Algarve, as well as the rest of Portugal. Though, in essence, there is no fighting Mother Nature.