The Barrocal region consists of a 205 square kilometer area of land, which is the remanet of an ancient sea. The land is now typified by limestone boulder fields, native vegetation, with cave systems and aquifers beneath. Much of the ground water of the region is gathered and stored within these aquifers. Therefore, water protection is an important part of PROBAAL’s work, as well as preservation of the unique and biodiverse landscape. We also care about the human aspects of the Barrocal region, her heritage and culture, which are so intricately connected with this land.
Large areas of the Barrocal had managed to remain intact, especially in the Eastern Algarve. However, during recent years these untouched areas have been increasingly eroded by the steep rise in mono-culture agriculture here, with ever larger citrus plantations and expanses of plastic greenhouses, growing tomatoes and red fruits, spreading across the region. This widescale land clearance has an irreversible impact on the landscape, by stripping it of its natural characteristics, damaging the soil and decimating the biodiversity that otherwise exists. All these new crops are water hungry too, in a region that can little afford the cost.
The latest threat to agricultural land of the Barrocal, is the proliferation of avocado plantations: Due to great demand for this expensive crop worldwide, avocados are being planted in the Algave at an alarming rate, with seemingly no consideration for the unsustainable amount of water these tropical trees require. Because these actions are allowed by the Authorities, it is left to citizens and environmental groups to bring these factors to the attention of the environment agency and try to halt these reckless activities through the court process. At this point, much damage has already been done to the landscape and any severe land clearance is hard to rectify satisfactorily – so more natural Barrocal becomes lost forever.
One would assume that the Reserval Ecologica National (REN) land which forms part of the Barrocal, would be safe from devastation, and PROBAAL asserts that it should be the case. Normal citizens must respect the REN designations and are not permitted to alter the land – but there appears to be exceptions made for renewable energy and so this is the newest destroyer of the Barrocal landscape.
With a rush from the government in Portugal to meet the 2030 agreements on carbon, about 1% of the whole country is set to be given over to solar panels. In real terms this would constitute a staggering 800 square kilometres of artificial landscape. Alarmingly, contrary to the green ideals of renewable energy, this work does not appear to be being undertaken with sensitivity to the environment; for in the first half of 2021, 8 out of the 9 projects under public consultation were being proposed to be sited in forested areas. The Barrocal does not escape this process, with several power plants already constructed and others proposed for new sites such as Montechoro I & II and ESTOI-TAVIRA (Cerro do Leiria).