Fewer wildfires and less land bur ned in 2019

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 01-11-2018 09:48:00 · 0 Comments
Fewer wildfires and less land bur ned in 2019

The number of wildfires recorded in Portugal so far this year is down by 43 percent in relation to the average for the past decade, while the total area of burned land is reduced by 69 percent.

This is according to a report published late last week by the Home Affairs Ministry, which also revealed that a total of 149 arsonists were arrested this year, while a further 805 suspects have been identified.
The report further showed that more than 7,000 people were fined for not cleaning their land as dictated by new legislation that came into force earlier this year.
The data was revealed during an operational briefing on the 2018 wildfire review held in the Tapada Nacional de Mafra former royal hunting grounds, on the sidelines of an informal cabinet meeting.
Population awareness and protection programmes coupled with increased patrolling by the authorities and a reorganisation of the response resources over the seasonal fire-hazard phases have all contributed towards the decline in wildfire-related tragedies this year, the Home Affairs Ministry said.
Overall, wildfires have so far this year consumed 43,532 hectares of land, down 69 percent on the average for the past decade.
In related news, Portugal’s government last Thursday also approved legislation obliging municipalities to adopt a number of rules contained in the regional forest plans (PROF) against wildfires that are due to come into force imminently, if they do not go so far as adopting the plans in full.
“Within a few days, when the PROFs are in force, councils can immediately include them in their municipal master plans, but as they are all only obliged to do so by 2020, those who do not, will immediately have to respect at least some standards contained in these plans”, the minister of agriculture, Luís Capoulas Santos, said.

The minister explained that councils will have to respect, for example, the upper limits for the area of land planted with eucalyptus, as already defined in each of the PROFs, as well as a set of general forestry standards.
“They will have to include in the municipal forest defence plans against fires, the recommendations that are contained in the PROFs for the respective region and, on holdings beyond what each regional programme defines - in some 20 hectares, in others more or less - forestry producers are obliged to draw up a forest management plan, including standards for the prevention and exploitation of this area of forest”, he added.
The minister stressed that, “within the very short term”, the country will have seven regional forest planning documents: two in the North, two in the Centre, one in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region, one in the Alentejo, and one in the Algarve.
Municipalities were already obliged to revise their municipal master plans (PDMs) on their own account by the end of 2020, the minister noted.
Forest fires have long been a concern in Portugal, with last year’s blazes, above all in June and October, claiming more than 100 lives.
Meanwhile, the purchase of eucalyptus plants in Portugal will, in future, require prior authorisation, while owners of illegal crops could face fines of between €3,700 and €44,000, with that amount increasing if they fail to pay on time.
These decisions were also taken during the Tapada de Mafra cabinet meeting and were announced by Minister Santos, who said that it would be “mandat-ory for those who buy eucalyptus plants from a plant nursery to have prior authorisation”.
Those who do not comply with the new rule and go ahead with planting eucalyptus illegally are to be penalised.
According to the minister, plantationsowners are to be notified to pull up the trees and, if they do not, after six months “the fine is to double.”
After that, it will increase daily.
With these steps, Santos said, he believes that “the area of eucalyptus will be limited and may even reduce a little,” but this will not “undermine the overall amount of raw material needed to feed an industry that is important to the country and represents a lot of jobs” - a reference to the pulp and paper industry, a major exporter.


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