Il Portogallo, gli incendi e la maledizione dell’eucalipto

Il Portogallo è il terzo produttore europeo di pasta di carta, un’industria che si basa in gran parte sulla produzione di eucaliptus. Nel 2017, il devastante incendio di Pedrogrão Grande ha acceso un dibattito sulle responsabilità dell’industria, rimettendo al centro la questione della biodiversità nella prevenzione degli incendi. Reportage.

Pubblicato il: Dicembre 5th, 2023

An area of experimental plantations of native species in Pedrogrão Grande, surrounded by eucalyptus plantations. From the photograph one can see green-grey bushes, which are eucalyptus that are growing back faster than other species and therefore need to be uprooted so as not to compete with the native species. Photo: ©Davide Mancini

No one would guess that in 2017 more than 50,000 hectares burned in the hills between Pedrogrão Grande and Castanheira de Pera, in central Portugal. The vegetation is luxuriant again and a mantle of eucalyptus globulus (also known as blue gum) covers much of the mountainous landscape. These are plantations rather than forests, and its canopy already reaches a height of 10 or 15 metres. Although the trees are not yet ready to be harvested for the pulp industry, there is plenty of human activity going on.

“At the moment we are mainly processing pine wood, which we cut and export. This type of wood is used for pallets, furniture, biomass and fuel such as pellets. Cutting the eucalyptus is still about three years away”, says Sandra Carvalho, a small businesswoman and owner of one of the main sawmills in the area. In 2017, her family’s mill was completely destroyed.

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