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Albergaria-a-Velha Council and REN implement forest fire defence plan

 

The Mayor of Albergaria-a-Velha, António Loureiro, visited the work for clearing vegetation and planting native trees on the land crossed by REN power lines, in the parish of Albergaria-a-Velha and Valmaior. In 2021, in the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha, REN cleared 87 hectares, the total planned area, and plans to clear 97 hectares in 2022.

Regarding the reforestation of the land where the power transmission lines pass in the district of Aveiro, and considering only 2021, REN planted 240 hectares with native species, such as stone pine, arbutus tree, cork oak, oak, and olive trees. This strategy of diversifying our forests with native species makes Portuguese forests more resilient to fires and increases biodiversity.

For António Loureiro, Mayor of Albergaria-a-Velha, "This is, without a doubt, an extremely important action for the territory of Albergaria-a-Velha. The planting of a native species such as the arbutus tree will increase the diversity of our forest, making the territory more resilient to fire. The arbutus trees now planted, in addition to adding invaluable environmental value, could become a new source of income for landowners who would otherwise find it difficult to obtain it on these lands". He adds that "These actions by REN complement the interventions of the Municipal Council and other entities, in favour of the defence of the forest against fires. In 2021, the Municipal Council cleared about 15 hectares in the fuel management strips along the municipal road network and in 2022 we will intervene in more than 20 hectares".

In addition to these clearings, the Municipality, in partnership with the Voluntary Firefighters of Albergaria-a-Velha, also ensures the proper operation of the water points to supply the means for fighting fires in the municipality. The Municipal Council also relies on the collaboration of the Baixo Vouga Forestry Association and of the Common Lands Governing Boards, in the promotion of a more diversified and better managed forest. The Mayor also emphasises that "We all have our share of responsibility in the fight against fires, including private owners who have to clean up around their houses and do the burning of leftovers in safe conditions".

According to João Gaspar, REN's Head of Sustainable Networks and Easements, "the clearing of easement corridors, in addition to protecting REN's infrastructure, also increases the resilience of the surrounding territories, through the discontinuity of the vegetation, which serves to change the behaviour of fires. Clearing strips increases the chances of fighting fires, while reforestation increases the forest's resilience. This territory of Albergaria-a-Velha is a good example of how these Networks can have multiple uses".

At national level, REN has almost 10,000 kilometres (around 35,000 hectares) of power line and gas pipeline easements, with more than 60% of these easements (23,000 hectares) in forest areas. In the last five years, REN has cleared more than 38,000 hectares (9,000 hectares in 2021). This work is carried out on lands that do not belong to REN, requiring contact with the landowners before any intervention. In this prevention work, more than 32,000 landowners were contacted in 2021 alone.

Since 2010, REN has reforested over 3,600 hectares in the easement areas. In addition to increasing biodiversity and resilience to forest fires, these actions also enable landowners (20,000 by 2021) to obtain some income from the lands. By the end of the current planting season, REN will have more than one thousand hectares of arbutus trees - the species best suited to this strategy - planted throughout the country. At the end of 2021, 36% of the forest area crossed by REN's electricity grid throughout the country had already been subject to these reforestation projects, and the company's goal is to reach 2025 with 50% and 2030 with 60%.

In addition to these actions, during the fire season, REN has six Prevention and Monitoring Teams operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Municipal Council and REN will remain committed to fulfilling their responsibilities and to working together to promote a safer forest with greater economic and environmental value.