“The ashes come with the water and go to reservoirs,” Eugénio Sequeira told Lusa News Agency after a news conference at which a written opinion from the National Council on Environment and Sustainable Development (CNADS) on the government’s forestry reforms was entered. “As they are nutrients, they cause increased growth in algae and, if [there are] bacteria, the water cannot be drunk.”
One way to avoid the worst of the problems is to dig ditches into which water can run, he stressed.
“The big problem is when the rain starts,” he said. “Now until the rains there’s nothing” on how the ash could influence water quality, he said.
Sequeira, a soils specialist and past president of environmental group, the League for the Protection of Nature (LPN), had said during the news conference that “the fires will have dramatic consequences for all, not just for the landowners who didn’t take care of the forests” or for decision makers.
He stressed the lack of investment in research, the fact that there are no state-owned plots on which to do experiments, and that few students show interest in the sector, apart from cork and pulp.
On the problem of the ash resulting from fires, he said that there are technical solutions to deal with the problem, but this “requires work” and said that all neighbours of the land in question should chip in.
He called for a wide-ranging study to be carried out on Portugal’s forests to find the answers to a series of questions, in particular “why the Portuguese start ten times more fires than other countries”, but also why some regions are worse affected than others.
The CNADS president, Filipe Duarte Santos, cited figures in the document presented at the news conference that show that between 1990 and 2015, out of five European countries bordering the Mediterranean, Portugal was the only one that saw a decrease in forested area, of 7.4 percent.