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Portugal “cannot keep postponing transfer of water to Algarve”

The country has to implement “structural measures”, AMAL boss says

The President of the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL) has declared that Portugal “cannot keep postponing the transfer of water” to the drought-afflicted Algarve region.

António Pina was speaking to Lusa news agency following the government’s official announcement on Wednesday of water cuts of 25% for agriculture and 15% for the urban sector in the Algarve.

The country has to decide how to bring water to the Algarve,” the AMAL boss said, likening the situation to the never-ending debate over the location of Lisbon’s new airport, which “has been postponed for more than 50 years.”

Pina, who is also Mayor of Olhão, was one of the first regional leaders to vocally back the transfer of water from the north to the south of Portugal, having said back in October that the “water that falls in the north has to reach the south.”

While the construction of a water highway linking the north to the south has the support of leaders in the Algarve, it has yet to be taken seriously by decision-makers in Lisbon, who continue to opt for other possibilities such as desalination plants – the environmental impacts of which continue to be highlighted.

Regarding the recently-announced measures to tackle drought in the Algarve in the short-term, Pina said that they are “balanced”, stressing however that “structural measures” are needed to solve an issue which has only been worsening every year.

“For now, there is nothing else to do but save water,” said António Pina, adding that saving 15% in the urban sector “is possible,” but everyone must be mobilised to make that effort.”

The head of AMAL also praised Duarte Cordeiro, Minister of the Environment, for taking the time to discuss the government’s planned measures for the Algarve with all the sectors which would be affected, which resulted in the government reducing the water cut for agriculture from 70% to 25% – and which farmers say may be the difference between the death and the survival of the region’s crops and orchards.

Pina also guaranteed that municipalities will continue to take measures to address water losses in local distribution systems, which are “old” and “need time and significant investments” to be replaced.

Albufeira Mayor also supports water highway

José Carlos Rolo, the Mayor of Albufeira, has also thrown his support behind the construction of a water highway between the north and south, stating that it should be considered as a main measure alongside desalination plants and the construction of more dams.

Regarding the government’s contingency plan for the Algarve, he also considered the measures “balanced” but said they may be “difficult to achieve”. Rolo recognised, however, that these measures “had to be taken” at this time.

By Michael Bruxo

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