In the CCDR/Algarve opinion, to which Lusa had access, the entity justifies the opinion with the impact on groundwater resources, the cumulative effects with other occupations in the surrounding area - namely golf and citrus farms - and requires the promoter to rebuild the Espiche stream destroyed during implementation work on the farm.
According to CCDR, the “significant increase in the volume of water to be extracted from the aquifer” that serves the area, quantified at 68 percent, will, according to available underground water resources, “jeopardise the strategic reserve for public supply”, particularly in years of drought.
“According to the available underground water resources, in this body of water [Almádena - Odeáxere] the volume of water to be extracted from the aquifer for the irrigation of 128 hectares of avocados will jeopardise its sustainability and, consequently, will also jeopardise the body of water as a strategic reserve for public supply, particularly in dry to extremely dry years,” the report says.
On the other hand, justifies the CCDR, “the actions implemented on the ground for the planting of the orchard were so damaging to the water course, that it will have made the evidence of the existence of the Ribeira de Espiche disappear”.
The document, signed by the body’s vice-president, José Pacheco, states that the company will have to reconstitute habitats, with the reconversion of 52 hectares of the planted area and reduce the units in the remaining planted area (with 76 hectares), introducing expressive ecological corridors (about 50 metres wide) around each unit up to 10 hectares.
The project promoted by the company Frutineves plans to use an area of 128 hectares for the production of avocados, in the municipality of Lagos, in Faro district, and has been implemented over the last two years under protest from citizens and environmental associations.
The company, which had authorisation to plant 76 hectares of avocados, decided to increase the exploitation to 128 hectares without consulting the authorities - work that led to an embargo by CCDR/Algarve, which also applied a fine of €12,000 for not complying with the previous order to suspend the planting.
However, according to the CCDR, although the agricultural project for the production of avocados “is in formal terms, duly instructed, it presents, however, negative environmental impacts, very significant, direct and indirect, of high magnitude, not minimisable and not capable of mitigation.
The entity considers that these are “considered impeditive to the development of the project”, particularly in terms of water resources, biodiversity and climate change, so the Assessment Committee “proposed the issuance of an unfavourable opinion to the EIA of the “Agricultural Project for the Production of Avocados”.
The entity also warns that “after the year 2000” there have already been “seven droughts in mainland Portugal.
Notwithstanding the issuing of an unfavourable opinion to the project, the DIA points out that “the proponent should be required to reconstitute the Ribeira de Espiche” in the terms proposed in the EIA and in the requirements evidenced in the sectorial opinion issued by the Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA).
The opinion also highlights a position of the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) which states that the “cumulative impacts with other occupations in the immediate and extended surroundings” (golf, citrus fruits, photovoltaic) have not been assessed.
The institute highlights that what is observed in the area in question is the “accumulation of situations of land occupation with worrying reduction of natural habitats”, noting the pressing need to “develop measures that prevent this trend, and large-scale projects should reflect this need and be a tool for change”.