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Baixo Sabor

EDP project reduces areas affected by forest fires in Baixo Sabor by over 90%

Monday 15, June 2020

This is one of the main conclusions of the study carried out by EDP on the impact of the Baixo Sabor Fire Risk Reduction Plan. The measures that have been put in place in connection with the construction of the Baixo Sabor Hydroelectric Plant have also made it possible to avoid forest losses worth more than €750,000 over the past five years, and to bring in more than €2 million into the local economy.

According to a study on the impact of the Baixo Sabor Fire Risk Reduction Plan, which has been carried out by EDP through EDP Produção, the Baixo Sabor region has reduced the areas affected by forest fires by more than 90% (92% in natural heritage protection areas and 98% in priority habitats), which has made it possible to avoid forest fire losses worth more than €750,000 over the past five years.

The study also brings into relief the absence of major forest fires following the implementation of the plan in 2014, in contrast with the six fires that occurred from 2010 to 2014, which has made it possible to reduce carbon emissions with an estimated cost of more than €400,000 over five years. In terms of impact on natural heritage, it was also possible to reactivate about 160 hectares of farming properties across the region and improve their accessibility.

As for the impact on the local economy, the study shows that more than €2 million have been injected into the region's economy by boosting agricultural activities - olive and almond production - but also by promoting local amenities, creating jobs, and improving the quality of life of local communities (15 new jobs and better working conditions).

EDP's annual investment in this plan amounts to about a day of fire fighting, and for each euro that has been invested by the company, the region has received €2,60. This innovative and pioneering prevention-based approach has involved local communities, local partners and official organizations under a multistakeholder model, thus contributing to the development of the region, stimulating the recovery of farming practices, and becoming an outstanding example of forest management.

“The Baixo Sabor region is receiving a significant investment in environmental measures following the construction of reservoirs. The Fire Risk Reduction Plan is one of the most important and comprehensive measures in this context, as it has an impact on all other measures and protects the region's biodiversity. The results of this study testify to the excellent work carried out by EDP and several partners who, based on an innovative approach and in close collaboration with local communities, have contributed to boosting the region's economy and protecting its natural heritage, thus highlighting the environmental values we defend and championing a close relationship in the regions where EDP energy production centers are located,” says EDP Produção Director Joana Oliveira Freitas.

The strategic measures implemented under the plan included the creation and maintenance of fuel management strips in an area spanning approximately 550 hectares; interventions in about 200 hectares of abandoned farming land; the maintenance of firefighting support infrastructure with improved rural roads, turning points, and watchtowers; and the creation of permanent operational and technical teams with role integration from structural prevention to suppression.

The Baixo Sabor Fire Risk Reduction Plan is part of a larger set of offsetting measures that have been put in place following the flooding of several natural habitats caused by the construction of the Baixo Sabor Hydroelectric Plant reservoirs. To prevent the disappearance of priority habitats, the measures included in the plan cover about 6500 hectares and focus on six fire-prone Natural Heritage Protection Areas: Estevais-Larinho; Valverde; Parada; Juncainhos; Soutelo; and Lagoa. The Baixo Sabor region is included in the Natura 2000 Network and is particularly relevant in terms of European biodiversity.

The study analyzed evidence of impacts in three different areas: natural heritage protection, fire risk reduction, and the economic dynamics of local communities.

The study was sponsored by EDP Produção and developed by GiFF - Gestão Integrada e Fomento Florestal, Lda., and by APLIXAR - Expertise in Applied Research, Lda.