Drought in Portugal intensifies

91% of mainland Portugal is suffering severe to extreme drought
calendar icon 22 February 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

A severe drought spread across almost all of mainland Portugal in February, threatening crops and water supplies across a wider area than during the last record dry spell in 2005, the meteorology agency (IPMA) said on Monday.

Agriculture Minister Maria do Ceu Antunes and her counterpart from neighbouring Spain presented a set of proposals to the European Commission on Monday to tackle the situation, including financial support for farmers, reported Reuters.

After the meeting in Brussels, Antunes told reporters the Commission seemed willing to move forward with urgent measures.

The area of mainland Portugal suffering severe or extreme drought doubled in the first two weeks of February to cover 91% of its territory, the IPMA said.

At the same point in 2005 - when Portugal battled its worst drought in more than six decades - those conditions had spread across 77% of the territory.

Environmental groups say droughts at the start of the year have ceased being an anomaly in Portugal and should be viewed in the context of climate change. In past years, such dry spells have often led to massive wildfires come summer.

Temperatures are above average for this time of the year, and there is close to no rainfall, a situation that is putting pressure on water resources for farming and electricity generation, the agency said.

The northeast and southern regions were particularly badly hit, and the dry weather conditions are likely to continue at least until the end of the month, according to the agency's report.

Earlier this month, the Portuguese government ordered some hydropower dams to temporarily limit water use for electricity production and irrigation, prioritising human consumption instead.

Environment Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said at the time the government would have to "go beyond these measures if the forecast became gloomier".

The environment ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on what could be the next steps to combat the drought.

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