Portugal is on the rise. They are the sports victories. It’s the song festival. They are the numbers of the economy. So, it’s just good news!
Take the example of Tourism. It has never been so well, and our major cities are developing, mostly based on this large influx of tourists. Lisbon and Porto are currently cities with a high level of attractiveness, rivaling the best European cities. Portugal knows how to host as few, and security is a very valuable asset these days.
But there is the other side, our dark side… The dark side of Portugal is the forgotten country, fertile territory of forest fires. I have several foreign friends who, recurrently, ask me the same question: how is it possible that in Portugal there are so many forest fires every year? Well, actually I do not know for sure either. Every summer, experts in the field, each with their point of view, certainly based on knowledge and experience that I obviously do not contest. It is not my area of expertise, and therefore I simply listen to who knows and wait for those responsible to act in accordance with technical advice. But I do not stop reflecting on this problem… and it is this invitation to reflection that I appeal to you, who is reading this article.
“Thus, both the decline of the population in forest areas and their accelerated aging are a fire risk factor, which, combined with the lack of young manpower and the lack of forestry owners, oblige to leave the forests to themselves; as a result, the lack of cleaning will much facilitate the progression of the fire. (…) Another vital aspect of the forest economy of future years is that, by keeping the current rate of fires, whose destruction is far superior to the regeneration capacity of the trees, the forest is doomed. In fact, the area of uncultivated areas has been increasing in recent years, in proportion to the area burned in the forest.” These excerpts belong to an article published in 1991 (!!!), by Prof. Luciano Lourenço. Apparently the problem is no longer new. Although those words are more than 25 years old, they sound tragically current, especially given the recent events in Pedrógão Grande.
The experts present several explanations for the scourge of fires in Portugal, and many of them even come up with solutions to the problem. As I said before, and again, I do not have the technical knowledge to evaluate the reasons or the most appropriate solutions. But as a relatively informed citizen it is my duty to revolt against this situation, and to demand that something changes.
The key question is whether, as a society, we are prepared for the necessary change. For example, there is talk of the need for an exhaustive cadastral survey, with which it is possible to identify landowners. The objective will be, after this identification, to hold the owners responsible for cleaning up what is theirs. Given the predominance of smallholdings in our territory, this work may take a long time. Well, then, it is better to start now. The cleaning of the land seems to be a fundamental aspect to slow the propagation of a forest fire.
For its part, the State will be in a position to demand of citizens if it fulfills its part. There seem to be several forest territories owned by various state agencies, which are not properly cleaned and maintained. They will tell me that in a state of law, it will be enough to make the laws, and all the owners will have to comply. Well, the law already exists, but apparently it is not being enforced in most situations.
I believe that “setting the example” is the key. Let us be more demanding with the responsible state agencies, and let us salute them even when they are more demanding with us as citizens.
Are we, who inherit a piece of land in the middle of nowhere, prepared to take on this civic responsibility, and at the same time demand that others (citizens and State) do so? This is the question for reflection.
If we do nothing, certainly Pedrógão Grande will repeat itself. That’s the price we’ll pay. This is our dark side.
Till next post!
UWU Solutions CEO / Consultant / Lecturer