Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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For they know not what they do

The photos are clear. Two employees of the municipality of Monchique are spraying herbicides onto public pavements. The two men suspect perhaps that they are doing something they shouldn’t, because otherwise they wouldn’t be wearing white full-body suits, mouth protection or gloves. They are protecting themselves – but who is protecting the people, plants and animals? When I ask them why they’re doing that and if they know what they’re doing, they wave me away angrily. Clear off! they shout. But I stay. Less than 15 minutes later, a mother pushes her pram over just these cobblestones. A cat, a …

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Use Water Without Abuse

Tamera at the lake There is a community living in Tamera, in the municipality of Odemira in the Alentejo that now totals 200 people. With the assistance of the nature-friendly Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer, they created a model that demonstrates how productive agriculture based purely on rainwater retention is possible in a region that is dry in summer. In March 2007, I was invited to Tamera for a consultation. The question was whether it would be possible to create a model site for the production of healthy food for 300 people in an area of 130 hectares of dry landscape …

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Rainwater: slow it, spread it and let it seep

Droughts, desertification, heat waves, floods: the consequences of climate change are intensified by a water balance that is out of equilibrium globally. In some parts of the earth, farmers, different initiatives and landowners are meeting this challenge with simple, local measures – and successfully. The principle they follow is always the same: rain should seep into the ground where it falls. Decentralisation instead of centralisation. One successful example of this is Tamera, in the municipality of Odemira in the Alentejo. Every organism needs water. Whether an area has sufficient water or not determines its value for everything that lives there, …

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Water here, but not there…

ECO123 spoke with the Administration of the Algarve Hydrographic Region, (Administração da Região Hidrográfica do Algarve) part of, the Environment Agency, (Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente) based in Faro. The office in Faro has responsibility for the Algarve. There are five main offices across Portugal and the other offices have responsibility for the Alentejo, Tejo, the North and the Centre. The Environment Agency has five strategic goals: to increase the level of protection, recovery and enhancement of the ecosystem; to increase the level of protection of people and goods in a risk situation; to improve the knowledge and information available about …

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The colour of white coffee

There is little in life that is black and white. However, the present-day river Tejo (the Tagus in English) is just that. It’s black on one side and white on the other. Transparent water alongside dirty water. This separation of the waters in the middle of the river is not due to force majeure in the classic, divine sense of the expression, but rather in a much more contemporary sense: the pollution of the river Tejo is due to the major paper factories on its banks in Vila Velha de Rodão. Until recently, no one had the courage to point …

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We have reached a production of 74 million litres

Monchique’s water has been known since the time when the Romans occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Endowed with unique properties, this water, with its ‘strange flavour’ (as various consumers have mentioned ever since it first began to be produced commercially), has recently become a synonym for quality and well-being. After passing through a period of financial difficulty, the Sociedade da Água de Monchique, which had held the concession for the commercial exploitation of the region’s water since 1992, was taken over in 2010 by the Braga-based company WaterBunkers SGPS SA. It rapidly evolved from being an own-label brand to become a …

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Blue Gold

When I moved into the countryside, I fulfilled one of my dreams: back to nature; to clean water, to good air, pure earth and self-sufficiency. That was the original plan. I had had enough of cities; of noise, stress, traffic chaos, of concrete, rubbish, bad air, so many people in such a small space. I moved into the mountains near Monchique. It had a spring, the source of a stream, which became a river as it headed for the coast and flowed into the Atlantic. Since I have been sensing nature again with its seasons, I delighted in the water. …

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Must we prepare for water rationing?

Teresa Fernandes, head of Communication and Environmental Education at Águas do Algarve, the company that is responsible for the region’s water supply, admits that there is a possibility of a water shortage in the medium to long term. However, even if it doesn’t rain, she guarantees that there will be no lack of water for the local population, at least before the end of this year. Is water becoming a kind of “blue gold”? In my view, water is more important than gold, absolutely anywhere in the world, because it is irreplaceable. We can’t live without water, which is fundamental …

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The sad river

It was a Thursday in January when I saw a mayor of an Alentejo village crying for the first time. The head of the civil parish is an experienced man, a skilled tradesman, and in office for many years. But now he’s at a loss. Since early last summer, the boreholes in the village have been empty. Like other neighbouring parishes, his village gets its water delivered by truck from the Monte da Rocha dam on the river Sado. But it’s empty; even last winter it was only 23% full. This means that the quality isn’t as good either. For …

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Breaking down taboos and barriers

Breaking down taboos and barriers

You covered some 3,500 kilometres between Lisbon and Athens. How did you travel? We left Lisbon with a rucksack on our backs. We walked and hitch-hiked. What route did you follow? We caught a ferry from Lisbon to Almada. From there, we started walking in the direction of Évora, and we also hitched lifts. After this came Madrid, and then we changed route and headed for San Sebastian. How many days did it take you altogether to reach Greece? We set off on 9th July and our goal was to reach Athens by 15th August. This was the date we’d …

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