Tangerines in Alcácer? Another threat to the Alentejo’s natural biodiversity
Indigenous pines to be sacrificed for hecatres of water-guzzling citrus in the Alentejo? Just another battle ahead for environmentalists

Tangerines in Alcácer? Another threat to the Alentejo’s natural biodiversity

Environmentalists speak out against further intensive agriculture plans

With focus these days very much on the unsustainable nature of so many ‘intensive agricultural projects’, environmental NGO Quercus has spoken out against yet another plan, this time for around 615 hectares of tangerines, in Herdade da Batalha, Alcácer do Sal.

The threats are exactly those that have already ‘bled the Alentejo dry’ in areas around Odemira, with ‘knobs on’ – in as much as the plan will completely transform (Quercus says ‘destroy’) the native landscape.

The project has come to the end of the public consultation phase for an ‘environmental impact assessment’ (processes that are often accused of paying lip-service to environmental impact).

At stake, as is so often the case, is an intervention area “fully within” a tract of land that should, by rights, be protected. In this case, it is the Comporta-Galé Special Area of Conservation (SAC), of the Natura 2000 Network.

According to Quercus, this “alleged agro-forestry project is nothing more than an open-air agro-industry, with huge impacts on the local forest”.

The project involves the production of tangerines that will be sent to a distribution centre in Valencia (Spain) for packaging, distribution and commercialisation. In other words, Portuguese land and resources will be used for products that are then shipped out to other markets.

Documentation on Herdade da Batalha – available on the Participa portal website and consulted by Lusa – states that the project promoter, Azul Empírico, a company of the Aquaterra group, plans to invest €45 million to plant tangerine trees in an area of 543.95 hectares and to install support structures and infrastructures on 71.25 hectares of land.

According to environmentalists, the agricultural area will be set in an area “dominated (by) native pine forests, with interest in producing pine nuts and a great diversity of habitats”.

The project also provides for a total of “26 boreholes to capture water for irrigation, soil preparation (deforestation, harrowing, cleaning of woody material, ploughing and soil correction) in a total area of around 543.95 hectares, says Lusa.

The consumption of water from the aquifer will be “huge, about 3.57 million cubic metres, which will compromise other catchments, including availability for public consumption between Alcácer do Sal and Grândola”, warns Quercus.

The sheer level of water consumption could also “favour saline intrusion” (meaning sea water could seep into the underground supply, resulting in “degradation of the aquifer.” 

That this comes on International Day of the Forest is all the more frustrating. 

Quercus is calling on the government “not to approve this and other unsustainable projects”, stressing how catastrophically they contribute to the “destruction” of Portugal’s natural areas of forest.

In the same statement, the association has also spoken out against the recent felling of about 300 cork oaks on the Santa Catarina hills, in Vila Nova de Famalicão, as part of a project to install a photovoltaic power plant on 80 hectares of forest. An environmental impact study has not even been deemed necessary for this particular assault on natural heritage.

Source material: LUSA