The project promoted by the company Frutineves foresees the use of an area of 128 hectares for the production of avocados, in the municipality of Lagos, district of Faro.
The leader of the Zero association, Pedro Horta, told Lusa news agency that associations contested the project because they do not understand how an environmental impact assessment is promoted, "when what is under consideration is already practically in place”.
In Pedro Horta's opinion, the process of environmental assessment on the impacts of this farm "is a bit strange" because one is assessing something that is already implemented: "The process started in 2018, the plantations were completed in 2019 and the irrigation system is in place".
Environmentalists claim that carrying out the work without first issuing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) violates the legal regime of Environmental Impact Assessment.
For the associations Zero and Regenearte "it is incomprehensible how the public bodies responsible for monitoring and land use", namely the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR) and the Regional Directorate of Agriculture "have not prevented the illegal work".
In a statement to the Lusa agency, the vice-president of the Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional (CCDR) Algarve, José Pacheco, indicated that "there is no violation of land use planning rules, because this specific project does not require licensing from any entity, nor does it fit into the legal regime of environmental impact assessment".
José Pacheco said that, although he was not obliged, the developer had taken the initiative to submit the project to environmental impact assessment, and that the process was being monitored by the entity managing the territory.
The CCDR/Algarve leader explained that at the time this agricultural project was presented it was not subject to any obligation to carry out an environmental assessment, unlike what will happen with the recent publication of an order by the Secretary of State for the Environment, in which "this type of project is not that they are obliged, but the commission may call for it to be drawn up".
"The decree allows us to intervene more actively when there is no licensing body", he said.
José Pacheco acknowledges the complexity of these agricultural processes that "have no licensing of any entity", since agriculture involves a considerable area of the national territory, but, he says, the CCDR is monitoring, together with other entities, in order to monitor and supervise this type of interventions that are emerging in the territory.
Also, the regional director of agriculture of the Algarve, Pedro Valadas Monteiro, told Lusa that "this specific project of planting avocados, does not require licensing, but is being monitored by the regional entity," refuting the accusations of environmentalists.
The environmental associations argue that, in addition to land use planning issues, the expansion of intensive avocado monoculture is not understandable at a time when the growing scarcity of water in the region is evident, and argue that the Environmental Impact Statement is being issued unfavourably.