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Posted by nelson on August 10, 2017

The call went out across the Sotovento (eastern Algarve) on July 31, but by the time NGOs got to hear it, dozens of ancient drought-resistant trees spread over 17 hectares of land had been cut down.

The reason: an intensive farming project for avocados.

As ‘back-to-nature’ advocate Ângela Rosa told the Resident: “There are so many other empty spaces for a project of this kind. Why did they have to destroy this rich natural heritage? Carobs, olives, almonds, figs. These were indigenous trees, in many cases over 100 years old. Trees that nourish the soil and survive on rainwater. They are our identity and the first and last foundation of this ‘thing everyone says they love, the Mediterranean Diet”.

“These trees are being cut down in Santa Margarida and in Santo Estevão, in the middle of the ‘barrocal’ area of Tavira, and there is absolutely and ridiculously nothing that protects them”, she added.

“This is a crime on so many levels.

“Day after day, every day, here and in other places, these situations are multiplying, when there should be ecological, inclusive solutions”.

Rosa’s desperation, coupled with graphic images of fallen trees shared across social media, has seen environmental NGO Almargem issue a challenge.

In a statement released this week, the association said that if the competent entities “do nothing, and if this situation remains unaltered”, it will team up with Sotovento Mediterranean Landscape activists and compile a dossier of all the damage so far.

The document will then be submitted to the UNESCO world heritage committee.

As threats go it is not exactly on anything approaching Trump-like scale - but as Ângela Rosa explained protecting these trees is actually an extraordinarily complex process.

Talking on Facebook, she said: “It is very complicated. You have to get these naturally irrigated orchards classified as of municipal, regional, national, international heritage… and so we’re stuck. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t make a noise whenever possible”.

Almargem’s press release said the association “profoundly repudiates” this situation where ‘anything goes’.

Stressing that it is not against agriculture per se, it says it is however against intensive forms of farming berry fruits, avocados, even oranges, which have transformed huge tracts of the eastern Algarve into acres of plastic greenhousing.

The “hydroponic” form of irrigation widely used is criticised for the way it “scours and compacts” the soil, with “grave environmental consequences, including the pollution of underground waters”.

It’s now a question of ‘watch and wait’ as the Sotovento’s nature protectors are now on full alert.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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