Uproar over monoculture that has “literally wiped large part of landscape off map”

Battling residents concerned by the sudden proliferation of intensive avocado monocultures northwest of Lagos have sent word that there will be a meeting on Tuesday December 4 over what they believe to be the illegal devastation of well over 100 hectares.

Normally, explorations involving this amount of land would require environmental impact studies. But because it is going ahead ‘piecemeal’, this legal requirement appears to have been circumnavigated.

The bottom line is that this is the second major avocado monoculture to get the go-ahead in an area that has never been subjected to agriculture that requires so much water and involves the use of “large quantities of toxic weedkillers”.

Meetings with representatives of the Spanish firm that will be distributing the avocados heard earlier this year that “when they need watering, mature trees require 80 litres of water per day”.

Multiply that by the 46,000 trees planned and this means underground aquifers will be expected to deliver 3,600,000 litres of water per day on what in the summer will be an open-ended basis.

Terra Saudável, the group of local residents and conservationists that formed precisely because of this new threat to their borough, slam the regional agricultural board (DRAPAlg) for its “insensibility and irresponsibility” in approving the projects, while it claims Lagos Council has failed in its duty of care to preserve the environment and the health of those who live in it.

Says the group, Mayor Joaquina Matos says what is happening is “legal”. “No, madam, it is not. It is not only illegal, it is immoral”.

Citing articles of the Portuguese Constitution that declare every citizen has a right to a healthy environment, the group implores the mayor and other councillors to take a trip to Matos Brancos and see for themselves the devastation.

“All the vegetation has disappeared, along with the animal life that used to live within it. Pines, olives, carobs and other indigenous plants. There are just a few dispersed cork oaks left and the electricity pylons… the public footpaths have gone, and the destruction advances every day…”

By coincidence, Público carried an article on this second monoculture for what is a small rural area dotted by residences – none of which have mains drainage – explaining that avocados are the new ‘high return’ fruit to take the Algarve by storm.

DRAPAlg has already given the go-ahead to over 1,100 hectares to be planted out for exploration, and “has requests for the installation of 300 hectares more by the middle of next year”, says the paper.

Tuesday’s meeting is open to everyone concerned, and will take place at 5pm at the Centro Cultural in Barão São João (at the top of the village close to the entrance of the Mata Nacional).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com