The Ministry of the Environment will include intensive farming operations in the 2021 inspection plan of the entities it supervises, with the aim of preventing and sanctioning the discharge of illegal effluents that negatively affect the quality of more than 600 surface and groundwater bodies in mainland Portugal.
As part of the review of the National Strategy for Agri-food and Agro-industrial Effluents (ENEAPAI), the Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment undertake to carry out a set of measures to reduce the impact environment of this sector and recover the waste generated by livestock, for soil improvement in other regions of the country.
In Portugal, there is a manifest imbalance between the territories closely linked to intensive livestock farming, in which there is an excess of nitrogen and organic phosphorus released into the soil or into the water, and others where these elements are absent, and in which the effluent could be used to enrich the soil.
The Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment therefore want agricultural recovery to be the primary destination for most of these effluents and ENEAPAI establishes a set of conditions for the creation, in Portugal, of a circuit which, immediately , reduces the pollution pressure where it has been known for a long time, explained to the PUBLIC the Secretary of State for the Environment, Inês dos Santos Costa.
Five critical regions
The strategy covers several agrifood sectors that also produce effluents that can be a source of pollution, such as mills, cellars, the dairy industry, among others, but the two ministries will work sector by sector, thus trying to increase the effectiveness of measures.
The areas subject to the greatest pressure from cattle, pigs, sheep and goats are clearly identified. These are the dairy basin of the municipalities of Barcelos, Esposende, Famalicão, Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde, the municipalities of Leiria and Alcobaça, the municipality of Rio Maior, an area to the west around the municipality of Torres Vedras, and the territory Municipalities of Montijo, Palmela and Setúbal.
For these, the strategy provides for the development of pilot actions which can then be disseminated through the exploration of these territories and others. The two ministries want, for example, to create a traceability system that tracks the path of more than 23 million cubic meters of effluent resulting annually from these activities and which means that 67 counties in the country have a surplus of nitrogen production. . Some of them are on the list of 60 municipalities in whose territory there is a surplus of phosphorus availability.
In areas where transport is not economically viable, the two ministries intend to ensure that there are public solutions for other forms of treatment of these effluents, involving, in this work, the Águas de Portugal group.
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However, this is a “last resort” solution, insists the Secretary of State for the Environment, stressing that the strategy, which is now the subject of public debate, provides for the responsibility of producers as regards the destination to be given to this by-product of the activity they are developing, according to the polluter pays principle. However, Inês dos Santos Costa believes that with adequate information, pastoralists will be able to integrate this residue into the value chain of their farms, thus minimizing, in various ways, the environmental impact of the sector.
The State is also called upon to be more efficient in its action, and the Secretary of State assumes that, not yet within the framework of ENEAPAI, the problem of the lack of interoperability between the IT platforms of the two ministries will be resolved, which makes the articulation between the respective services difficult. And the strategy monitoring structure will be reactivated and reinforced with human resources to “enforce the objectives”, he says, promising to involve the municipalities – “very committed” – and producer associations in the solution. of this problem.