The landscape after the fires
8 images Created 31 Jul 2018
In 2017 Portugal suffered several severe forest fires. In two of those 107 people were killed, mostly trapped in their cars while trying to escape. It was the highest human toll from a natural disaster in Portugal since an earthquake destroyed Lisbon in 1755. Thousands of hectares of forest were burnt, hundreds of homes destroyed and thousands of people displaced. Most of the fires were on eucalyptus forests, used for the production of paper. 5% of Portugal's economy depends on paper and pulp exports, all from eucalyptus, but it's becoming clear that the tree is a threat to the country and the rest of its economy, not to mention lives. In Australia eucalyptus are forbidden because of its fire risk. After the recent fires local governments and groups from civil society are pressuring the federal government to dramatically limit new plantations and to promote the replacement of comercial forests around inhabited areas with native forests, but there's a huge business lobby against it. Portugal is the European country to suffer the most (proportionally to its area) from forest fires, and global warming is making the threat increasingly bigger. But commercial forests are also the only economic activity keeping large parts of the countryside alive. So to move away from it the country will pretty much have to reinvent itself.