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Government reinforces measures to mitigate drought risk

In recent years, Portugal has suffered the devastating effects of drought, with agriculture, water supply and ecosystems being severely affected. Consequently, the Portuguese government has been taking measures to help mitigate drought risks in the country. This article provides a detailed overview of the packages of measures being proposed, including those in the 2017 plan, as well as the 11 new measures introduced last year in 2022. Together, these proposals aim to strengthen the nation's resilience to drought and its impacts on the environment and society.


Drought Monitoring, Prevention and Contingency Plan 2017


In July 2017, the Portuguese Government launched the "Drought Monitoring, Prevention and Contingency Plan", which can be consulted here. This plan presents a series of measures aimed at managing water resources more effectively and building resilience against drought.


  • Implementation of a drought monitoring system: This system aims to provide regular updates on the drought situation, enabling informed decision-making and better allocation of resources. It also identifies areas requiring immediate intervention and monitors the effectiveness of the measures implemented.

  • Promoting efficient water use: The plan stresses the need for water-efficient technologies and practices in agriculture, industry and domestic use. This includes promoting drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting and the use of treated wastewater for irrigation.

  • Strengthening water storage capacity: This measure involves building new dams and expanding existing ones to improve water storage capacity. It also encourages the use of underground water storage to replenish aquifers during periods of low rainfall.

  • Increasing interconnection between water systems: To ensure a more reliable water supply, the plan promotes the interconnection of water systems, facilitating the transfer of water from surplus to deficit areas. This enables better water management and minimises the impacts of drought.

  • Implementation of emergency drought plans: These plans describe the actions to be taken during drought emergencies, such as restrictions on water use, water rationing and awareness campaigns. These campaigns are designed to minimise the impacts of drought on the population and the environment.

  • Strengthening the institutional and regulatory framework: The plan highlights the need to improve cooperation between the various entities involved in water management. This includes the creation of a permanent drought commission, responsible for coordinating efforts and implementing measures to combat drought.

  • Awareness and communication campaigns: The government aims to raise public awareness of the importance of water conservation and efficient use of water. This involves developing communication campaigns and educational materials to inform the public and promote responsible water use.


11 New Measures to Strengthen Drought Mitigation Efforts in 2022


In addition to the 2017 plan, the Portuguese government has introduced 11 new measures in 2022 to further strengthen the country's efforts to mitigate drought risks. These measures can be consulted here.


  • Development of an Integrated Drought Risk Management Strategy: This strategy aims to provide a comprehensive framework for drought risk management, encompassing monitoring, prevention, preparedness and response actions.

  • Improvement of drought monitoring and early warning systems: The Government intends to invest in advanced technologies and methodologies to improve the accuracy and timeliness of drought monitoring and early warning systems.

  • Expansion of the National Irrigation Network: This measure involves the construction of new irrigation infrastructure and the modernisation of existing systems, enabling more efficient use of water in agriculture.

  • Promoting Water Reuse and Desalination: The government is committed to promoting the use of treated wastewater for irrigation and exploring desalination options to increase water supply and reduce dependence on conventional sources.

  • Creation of a National Water Efficiency Programme: This programme aims to support the implementation of water efficiency measures in various sectors including agriculture, industry and domestic use. It also promotes the development and adoption of innovative water saving technologies and practices.

  • Strengthening river basin management plans: The government plans to improve river basin management by updating and improving existing plans. This includes identifying and prioritising actions to address water scarcity and drought risk and ensuring better coordination between different authorities.

  • Support for drought resistant crop varieties: To minimise the impacts of drought on agriculture, the government intends to promote the use of drought resistant crop varieties and develop research programmes to support their implementation.

  • Implementation of a National Forest Management Plan: This plan aims to improve forest management practices to increase drought resilience and reduce the risk of forest fires. This includes reforestation efforts, sustainable logging practices and the creation of firebreaks.

  • Creation of a drought insurance scheme: To support farmers and businesses affected by drought, the government plans to create a drought insurance scheme that provides financial assistance during drought events.

  • Development of a National Drought Observatory: The government plans to establish a centralised platform for the collection, analysis and dissemination of drought-related information. This will support decision-making processes and improve overall drought risk management.

  • Strengthening public awareness and stakeholder engagement: The government plans to involve the public and relevant stakeholders in the development and implementation of drought mitigation measures. This includes fostering public-private partnerships, promoting public awareness campaigns and providing training and capacity building programmes.


Conclusion


The Portuguese Government has recognised the need for proactive measures to mitigate drought risks in the country. The 2017 Drought Monitoring, Prevention and Contingency Plan, together with the 11 new measures introduced in 2022, represent a comprehensive and ambitious approach to address the challenges posed by drought.


These measures focus on strengthening monitoring and management of water resources, promoting efficient water use, strengthening water storage capacity and supporting the development of drought-resistant crops. In addition, the Government intends to increase public awareness and stakeholder involvement to ensure the success of these initiatives.


As Portugal continues to face the impacts of climate change and the growing threat of drought, the implementation of these measures will be crucial to build resilience and ensure the country's long-term sustainability.


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