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“We have to stop eucalyptus in Portugal”, says Catarina Martins

With 800 thousand acres, Portugal has the largest eucalyptus plantation in Europe, a species that was a deciding factor in the tragic fires of Pedrógão Grande. 

"We have to stop eucalyptus in Portugal", says Catarina Martins, Left Bloc’s leader, reacting to the fires in Pedrógão Grande, adding that “we have to learn with the mistakes, and that demands courage to face the lobbies which put our country in danger”. 

The fires, which ravaged 40 thousand square kilometres radiating from Pedrógão Grande, has already been classified as the biggest tragedy in Portugal since 1975, with 64 confirmed deaths including children. 

“After what happened, things have to change. We need to analyse, take the necessary lessons and do better”, Catarina Martins argued, emphasising that, “beyond the enormous loss in Pedrógão Grande, there’s a tragedy which afflicts Portugal every year, with unimaginable proportions, a tragedy in which a country afflicted by fire does not know how to manage it’s own forests”. 

The member of parliament remembered that, “a year ago, after the fires in Arouca, Left Bloc reaffirmed that which it has said since the beginning: eucalyptus has to be stoped.” 

“The eucalyptus liberalisation law, put in place by the previous right-wing government, is one of the first measures we need to tackle if we want to seriously combat fires in this country.” 

“The paper and pulp industry can generate a lot of money, but the 800 thousand acres of eucalyptus already planted in Portugal - the largest absolute area of this species in all of Europe, and one of the largest in the world - means that this country is a fire martyr”, she said.

“We must have the courage to face the problem. The millions of the paper lobby cannot stop us from looking at the danger the eucalyptus monoculture puts us in”, Catarina Martins argued. 

Eucalyptus Globulus is the variant species of this tree one can find almost anywhere in the country, and it’s also the most prone to fire. It’s rapid and aggressive growth means that it does not allow other species to take place, killing more fire resilient and autochthonous species. 

For the plantation of eucalyptus has been staggering in the last twenty years, mainly due to liberalising policies driven by the paper industry, which we’re not accompanied by any short or longterm strategy to manage the forests, ending up in a monoculture of eucalyptus which, when fire hits, it actually spreads it even further. 

European policies have also made incentives for the growing of eucalyptus, with a new investment program of 9 million euros approved by the government just one week prior to the fires in Pedrógão Grande. 

Left Bloc has already demanded it’s cancellation but the government has given no assurances it will stop eucalyptus in any meaningful way, instead arguing that it will “limit” it’s growth with more regulations.  

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