Pesticide analyses show 50 times the levels recommended by the EU in the streams around the avocado plantations in the Algarve
Analytical tests on running water in areas of the western Algarve around the expanding avocado plantations have shown that pesticide levels – especially glyphosate, the pesticide associated with human cancers – are 50 times higher than the levels recommended by the EU.
This news comes from the citizens’ initiative Terra Saudável, which had gathered two years ago because of concerns about the consequences of the rapid expansion of avocado plantations around the rural village of Barão de São João.
Since its creation, the group has tried to organise what it calls a “round table” discussion between all the bodies involved in the region’s agricultural practices in an attempt to find solutions that do not endanger the health of the people, the water in their boreholes, the air they breathe and the sustainability of the land.
In the face of ignorance and refusal to listen to local communities and authorities, the group decided that now was the time for mobilisation. It has called in an environmental lawyer, set up a constitution and is preparing for new struggles.
The activists declare their vehemence: “We have reached the point where we are now encircled. We have two avocado plantations with a total of almost 200 hectares and a golf course of about 70 hectares, which draws water from the ground in this area, at a time when rainfall is lower than ever before. The wells and rivers around Barão are drying up. This has never happened before”.
They add that this is the second time that water samples taken from one of the plantations have shown alarmingly high glyphosate levels. 50 times over the recommended EU guidelines now!
But what can be done? The group argues that the main solution to be pursued is in the hands of the plantation managers. “We must try to force the operators of these plantations to initiate environmental reports. They must stop poisoning our soil and water – and then there is the serious problem of water consumption. Avocado trees can use over 60 litres of water per day. There are now over 50,000 trees planted in this area! This is more than ridiculous: the effects are terrifying”.
In recent years, councils across the Algarve have been promoting campaigns to use water more sparingly. Terra Saudável says that the paradoxical campaigns by local councils must be exposed, if not the irregularities that have allowed rural areas, typically accustomed to “dry orchards” (local trees that don’t need irrigation), to be transformed by water-eating monocultures that have a host of negative effects on the lives of local residents, and will continue to do so unless controls and compensation are introduced by the relevant authorities.