Drought is the ‘new normal’ in Portugal

Portugal has been ravaged by extreme drought. Since October there has been hardly any precipitation and in February it rained only 7% of normal. Drought not only compromises agriculture and livestock but lack of vegetation will also lead to an increase in CO2, wildfires, poverty, and emigration.

The Government announced that 95% of the territory – i.e. over 260 municipalities – is in severe drought, 66% even in extreme drought. Lack of rain and global warming are the main culprits. Water-saving restrictions are expected.

Dams are only half full and hydroelectric power decreased by almost 30% in the first two months of this year – compared to the same period in 2021 – whereas wind energy went down by more than 20%. Forecasts do not point to recovery to normal water levels by the end of September. It is the worst year for renewable energies in the last decade, the newspaper Jornal de Notícias reported.

Dams and reservoirs in the Algarve have enough water for human consumption in the event it doesn’t rain for two years, stated Antonio Pina, president of the Algarve Municipalities Association. At the same time, the use of water for irrigation of green spaces, golf, and agriculture is going to be limited.

Local districts have already submitted applications of 14 million euro’s to Portugal’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) – created by the European Council  – to fight water deficits.

Periods of drought are common and cyclical in the country. The Drought Observatory from the IPMA (Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere) recorded 12 significant drought episodes – often extending more than one year – over the last 75 years and concludes that there is a greater incidence of drought from the mid-1990s onwards.

The National Irrigation Federation (Fenareg) confirms that drought episodes in the last 30 years have been more frequent and more intense and highlights that the regions south of the Tagus (Alentejo, Algarve) are the most affected.

Some of the episodes stand out for their duration and intensity. The six most severe and longest occurred in 1943-46 / 1980-81 / 1990-92 / 2004-2006 / 2011-2012, and 2015-2018.
The 2004-6 drought was the most extensive (100% affected territory) and intense (i.e. consecutive months of severe drought).

In order for the drought to decrease, precipitation between March and May has to be much higher than normal, a situation that only occurs once every five to seven years. The question remains therefore whether the country – despite some recovery in the rainfall this month- will experience in 2022 the worst drought ever after an unusually dry and warm winter.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                (pic Público/Sapo)       

Sepharad is the Hebrew name of the Iberian Peninsula

In the last five years, 32,000 of the 86.500 (37%) applications for Portuguese citizenship have been granted to descendants of Sephardic Jews, expelled from Portugal 525 years ago. More than 50.000 requests are still under review. The majority of the applicants come from Israel, Brazil, and Turkey.

Especially in the last two years, the number of requests in Portugal has risen substantially since a similar citizenship offer by Spain ended in 2019.

Fifty-five-year-old Roman Abramovic, Russian billionaire, friend of Putin, until very recently the owner of Chelsea football club and since 2018 also in the possession of an Israelian passport, is one of the citizens who became Portuguese in April last year – in a process that was finalized in only six months – as the daily Público reported in mid-December.

Curiously, the newspaper Expresso could not find compelling evidence to suggest that Abramovic has any familial connections to Sephardic Jews in Portugal. There is little known history of Sephardic Jews in Russia, although Abramovic is a common surname of Ashkenazi Jewish origin from Eastern Europe. In fact, his Portuguese Sephardic roots were added to his Wikipedia profile only hours after Público published his naturalization.

Portugal’s decision to grant naturalization to Abramovic was criticized by Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s mains political opponent. ‘Finally, Putin’s closest oligarch managed to find a country where he can pay some bribes to end up circulating free in the EU’, Navalny wrote on his Twitter account.

The minister of State and Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva rejected the criticism. ‘The idea that the Portuguese officials carry suitcases of money is insulting and has no foundation. The granting of Portuguese nationality to Abramovic is in accordance with a 2014 law’.

However, ‘everything indicates that behind a well-intentioned law a passport mafia has been set up’ stated João Batalha – anti-corruption activist and founder of the Portuguese branch of Transparency International – on Twitter.

The Institute of Registries and Notary (IRN) has opened an internal inquiry into the granting of citizenship to Roman Abramovic to establish where there was any kind of irregularity. Not only is there doubt about his lineage to be Sephardic, but the process to obtain the Portuguese nationality was also approved in record time.

Although Abramovic was not (yet) on the EU’s list of oligarchs subjected to targeted measures in view of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, parliamentary sources in the UK claimed at the beginning of March the wealthy oligarch was hastily selling properties to avoid potential financial sanctions.

In the meantime, Britain and the EU have frozen all assets of Abramovic, putting on ice his plans to sell the Premier League club, whereas the Portuguese Ministry of Justice declared that (for now) it will not remove Abramovic’s citizenship as sanctions against oligarchs do not include loss of nationality.

Enjoy your week          Aproveite a sua semana          (pic Público/Sapo)