Tag Archive for: environment

‘We leave peace behind and face noise with fear’

After 50 years of delay, the Government has finally decided on the location of Lisbon’s new airport and considered the former Alcochete Shooting Ground (Campo the Tiro Alcochete) the best place to build the new Aeroporto Luis de Camões. An infrastructure which – according to the local tabloids – had ‘almost transformed into a national trauma.’

The decision came after an extensive study made by the Independent Technical Commission (CTI), that evaluated numerous sites, including Santarem, Montijo, Vendas Novas, Pegões, Rio Frio and Beja, amongst others.

Alcochete, in the Setúbal district, proved to be the best option as it is located on public land – some 3400 hectares – and relatively close (45 km) to the capital. The first runway will be constructed by 2030 and the airport should be concluded in ten years.

In the meantime, the capacity of Lisbon’s overcrowded Aeroporto Humberto Delgado will be increased to 45 departures and arrivals per hour by investing around 300 million euros in terminals and accessibility, to ensure the current airport can cope with the increasing number of passengers until the new Luis de Camões airport is built. 

At the same time, the government decided to build a third bridge for trains and cars. This Third Tagus Crossing – Terceira Travessa do Tejo (TTT ) – which connects Chelas (Lisbon) with Barreiro (Setúbal), will ease traffic from the two other Lisbon bridges (25 de Abril and Vasco da Gama) and shorten trips to or from the southern Algarve province.

Finally, a high-speed railway connection between Lisbon and Madrid – a requisite of the Iberian / Moroccan deal to organize the 2030 Football World Cup – will have to be linked to the new airport. All this has very strict timelines, not least the Lisbon-Madrid high-speed rail, which has to be completed in time six years from now.

The objective is to construct an airport with a capacity to accommodate up to 100 million passengers per year after 2050, with ample space for two further runways. The costs of the airport don’t include the third bridge over the Tejo and the railway links. These are to be paid separately and supervised by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing.

The investment for the construction of the new airport has been calculated at over 6,1 billion euros, involving 2 runways to start with, the first to be concluded in 2030 (costs at least 3.3 billion) and the second (costs 2.8 billion) to be ready by 2031.

In Santo Estêvão (St Stephen) – a village of approximately 2100 inhabitants and closest to the future airport – the opinions are divided. There are those who expect ‘more employment and improvement of the infrastructure’, but also those who ‘fear the noise and increase in the cost of living.’   

Have a great week         Tenha uma ótima semana      (pic Público/Sapo)

Drought, wildfires and rising temperatures

One of Portugal’s oldest environmental groups Quercus has marked the end of 2023 with the best and worst environmental events of last year.

The creation of more marine protected areas (especially in the Azores), the rejection of a mega solar farm by the Portuguese Environment Agency APA – planned to cover an environmentally sensitive water catchment area in the Algarve – and the growing mobilization of civil society for environmental issues were seen as the most positive aspects.

But there was more good news at the local level. In September six Portuguese youngsters went to the European Court of Human Rights accusing 32 EU states of inaction on climate change. They argued that the government’s failure to reduce emissions violates their human rights.

The government raised the target of using electricity from renewable sources by 2030 to 85%, according to a revision of the National Energy and Climate Plan. Nowadays renewable energies account for 61% of electricity consumption in the country (wind energy 25%, hydroelectric 23%, solar 7%, and biomass 6%).

In terms of nature conservation and biodiversity, the Lisbon and Tagus Valley Development Commission had a negative opinion of the company Secil, which wanted to increase its exploration in the Arrábida National Park for cement production.

In 2023 the lynx population in the country continued to increase and 21 breeding pairs of Iberian imperial eagles were counted in the Alentejo province, showing that these species are recovering.

In the group of the worst environmental events Quercus stresses – in addition to big fires such as the one in Odemira, drought and rising global temperatures – the felling of trees in the name of energy transition and the EU’s approval of the herbicide glyphosate for another ten years.

‘This decision comes as a surprise given the growing scientific evidence of the health risks of the fertilizer that has been classified as carcinogenic to animals and is suspected of causing Parkinson’s disease in humans’, says the Quercus, pointing out that the highest level of contamination was detected in Portugal, with 30 times above the legal limit.

For next year, Quercus emphasizes the urgent need to end the use of fossil fuels – as defined at COP28 – improving policies for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems, better performance in waste management, and the implementation of structural measures in the face of water scarcity – especially in the south where the drought has hardly improved despite the autumn rains.

Boa semana                 Enjoy the week                     (Público/Sapo)

‘Plastic poisons our bodies and pollutes the environment.’

Plastic contaminates the entire planet from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans – where plastic litter from takeaway food and drink dominate – and microplastics have been found in people’s blood, organs, and breastmilk and have crossed the placenta. Plastic production has soared some 30-fold since it became widespread in the 1960s.

Global plastic pollution could be slashed by 80% by 2040, according to a report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The first step is to eliminate unnecessary plastic, such as excessive packaging. The next steps are to increase the reuse of plastics – such as refillable bottles – booster recycling and replace plastics with greener alternatives.

Such a shift would mean plastic pollution would drop from the current production of 450 million tons a year to about 40 million tons in 2040, reducing the damage to health, the climate, and the environment.

Europeans produce – on average – 35 kg of plastic packaging waste per year. Packaging is responsible for 40% of all plastic in the EU and plastic packing waste is expected to increase.

The European Commission indicates that the 10 single-use plastic articles most often found on European beaches represent 70% of all marine litter. Reuse systems could reduce plastic pollution by 30% by 2040.

Portugal is well below the European average with plastic waste recycling and most of the plastic ends up out of sight. Buried, burned or exported – in particular to Spain, where most plastic waste went last year.

Greenpeace warns that recycling plastic can make it more toxic – as breaking down plastics scatters microplastics and toxic chemicals in the environment – and should not be considered a solution to the plastic crisis.

‘Simply put, plastic poisons the circular economy and our bodies and pollutes air, water, and food, says Therese Karlsson, a science adviser with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). Real solutions to the crisis will require global control of over 3000 potentially harmful chemicals in plastics and a significant reduction in plastic production.

Representatives of 175 countries recently met at the UN headquarters in Paris for a second stage of negotiations to come to an agreement to end plastic pollution in the world. Just over a year ago, in Kenya, a principle of agreement was reached with the ambition to develop – by the end of 2024 – a legally binding treaty under the aegis of the UN.

The main objective will be to reduce the production of new plastics and ban disposable plastics as soon as possible. If successful, it could join the rescue of the ozone layer as a landmark success in environmental diplomacy.  

Enjoy the week                     Boa semana                 (pic Público/Sapo)

Portugal is importing nearly 75% of its food and the Mediterranean country with the heaviest per capita food footprint, meaning that if everyone in the world consumes resources like the Portuguese, 2.5 planets earth are needed.

The biggest culprit is the country’s exceptional appetite for fish. Portugal is – after Japan and Iceland – the third biggest consumer of fish in the world engulfing every year around 62 kg per person, most of it –especially tuna, swordfish, and cod –imported.

But dependence doesn’t stop there. The country also relies heavily on the biocapacity of foreign nations – like Spain, France, Brazil, and China – for cereals, honey, jams, chocolate, and fats. Any short-term improvement isn’t expected, due to the fragile structure of public policies to reverse this trend.  

The Associação Natureza Portugal (ANP) – partner of the World Wildlife Fund – also recalls, that the ecological footprint has increased much more than the global average of 1,6 planets a year.

‘This ecological footprint in our country has mainly increased in the last three years. Portugal now appears in 46th place worldwide, whereas in 2018 it ranked 66th. This is due to the massive growth in tourism after the economic crisis and before the arrival of the coronavirus’, explains Catarina Grilo, conservation director of the ANP.

Besides an excessive consumption pattern, about one million tons of food is thrown away every year. Especially fruits and vegetables are wasted when they lose their expiration date or appearance, although often still suitable for consumption. In the whole EU, it is estimated that annually nearly 90 million tons are wasted.

‘Some supermarkets and department stores have strategies to combat food waste at the same time helping those in need. With the current pandemic, food aid requests increased more than 60%’, explains Filomena Pinto da Costa, coordinator of the youth support organization Casa Pia.

In a country that presided over the EU in the first half of 2021, Portugal had an important role in setting goals to reduce the ecological footprint at the European level. The Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, recently declared that 1.2 billion euros of funds are reserved to restore habitats and ecosystems between 2021 and 2027.

Stay Healthy      Fique Saudável                             (pic Público/Sapo)

The country’s never-ending airport story returned to square one this month when Portugal’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) refused to evaluate the request submitted by ANA – the French construction group that runs Portugal’s airports – to build a second hub for Lisbon’s airport at Montijo – at present a military airbase – on the southern bank of the Tagus river.

The country’s booming tourism industry – briskly brought to a halt last year by the coronavirus pandemic – complains already for years about the lack of capacity at Lisbon’s overcrowded inner-city airport.

Plans for a second airport near the capital have been under consideration for over a decade. The government of António Guterres choose Ota. Then came Alcochete, than Alverca. Later Portela+1, which after a vague announcement by the government of Passos Coelho and the determination of António Costa finally resulted in Montijo.

Very much against legal protests from two local communist councils – Moita and Seixal – and environmental concerns regarding precious birdlife in the Tagus estuary.

In a statement, ANAC declared, that it had no choice but to reject the request and explained that according to Portuguese law, it could only evaluate the project if all local governments provide positive feedback.

Despite this setback for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, the PS socialist government said it wouldn’t give up and is studying solutions for the impasse, including building the controversial airport elsewhere and re-evaluating the law allowing municipalities to veto plans of national importance.

As a matter of fact, the government is proposing three possibilities.
The first is to push forward with the current project and get support from the biggest opposition party PSD (Social Democrats) in Parliament to change the law so that the local opposition becomes meaningless.

The second is to make Montijo the principal airport and Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado a complementary terminal. The third would be the construction of a new international airport at the Campo do Tiro in Alcochete – about 40 km northeast of Lisbon – an option already favored by some of the many critics of the Montijo location.

With the project once again returning to square one, the successive heads of state resemble king Sisyphus in ancient Greece, who was punished by being forced to roll an immense stone up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Expresso)

Het litteken is het dunne lijntje van een mes, waarmee ik me gesneden had toen ik in Mouchão de Baixo een bootje aan het maken was van een plak kurk. Ik haalde met de punt van het mes stukjes kurk weg voor wat de binnenkant van het scheepje moest worden, toen dat ineens dichtklapte, waarschijnlijk omdat de veer te zwak was, en binnendrong in wat het op zijn weg tegenkwam, de buitenkant van mijn rechterwijsvinger, naast de nagel. Het scheelde niet veel of er was een lap vlees uitgehakt. Ik werd behandeld met een van de wondermiddeltjes uit die tijd, alcohol met balsemien. De wond raakte niet geïnfecteerd en groeide perfect dicht. Tante Maria Elvira zei dat ik stevig vlees had.”

[ Uit: Pequenas Memórias – Kleine Herinneringen – van José Saramago, 2006 ]

Kurk is een belangrijk exportproduct

Portugal is de belangrijkste producent van kurk in de wereld en exporteert sinds kort zelfs meer kurk dan wijn. Hoewel het merendeel van de productie naar champagne – en wijnproducerende landen gaat, wordt kurk ook gebruikt voor vloertegels, isolatie en decoratie. Recent is zelfs een ecologische verantwoorde zeep van kurk op de markt gekomen.

Kurk is een duurzaam en milieuvriendelijk product, dat bijdraagt aan de strijd tegen de opwarming van de aarde. Zo heeft het Agronomisch Instituut van Lissabon berekend, dat elke flessenkurk 250 gram CO2 aan de atmosfeer onttrekt. Dat is ongeveer evenveel als een auto, die 1 km rijdt, de lucht inpompt.

Kurkeiken groeien uitstekend in een droog en warm klimaat

Kurk wordt gewonnen uit schors van de kurkeik, die vooral in de droge, zuidelijke Alentejo provincie uitstekend gedijt. De bomen worden ongeveer 200 jaar oud en kunnen vanaf de leeftijd van 25 jaar elke 9 jaar worden geschild. In 2011 werd de kurkeik uitgeroepen tot “boom des vaderlands.”

Saramago van kurk in Guinness Book of Records

Meer dan 300.000 kurken waren nodig om een mozaïek te maken van de Nobelprijswinnaar José Saramago, dat in 2014 in het Guinness Book of Records kon worden bijgeschreven. Het paneel van 24 bij 4½ meter is te bezichtigen in het cultureel centrum van Porte de Sor, een dorpje ergens midden in Portugal.

‘Er zijn dingen die nooit met woorden verklaard kunnen worden’

Geniet van het weekend          Tenha um excelente fim de semana