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Portugal in Crisis: Severe Drought Spreads, Officials Turn to EU for Aid

According to the meteorology agency IPMA, mainland Portugal experienced a widespread drought during an unusually hot and dry April.

Shivam Dwivedi
Portugal in Crisis: Severe Drought Spreads, Officials Turn to EU for Aid (Photo Source: Reuters)
Portugal in Crisis: Severe Drought Spreads, Officials Turn to EU for Aid (Photo Source: Reuters)

Approximately 90% of the country is currently affected by drought, with severe drought affecting one-fifth of its territory, twice as much as in March and almost five times the area reported a year earlier.

The northeast and southern regions have been hit particularly hard, with some areas experiencing extreme drought conditions. These conditions are expected to persist as temperatures remain above normal for this time of year.

IPMA reported that April 2023 was the third-driest and fourth-warmest in the last 92 years in mainland Portugal. The interior regions of northern and central Portugal, the Alentejo region, and the eastern part of the Algarve in the south were the most affected regions.

The dry weather has had a significant impact on the farming sector, with Agriculture Minister Maria do Ceu Antunes stating that agriculture and water reservoirs have been affected. As a result, the ministry has requested aid from the European Commission and expects their support.

The Portuguese Farmers Confederation has reported that cereal production and livestock are among the sectors most affected by the drought. Slaughter of herds may become necessary.

Spain, Portugal's neighboring country, has also been affected by drought. According to AEMET, Spain's weather agency, the country has experienced the driest start to a year since records began, with less than half the average rainfall during the first four months of 2023.

The lack of rain has put water management under the spotlight, particularly around the Donana wetland in Andalusia, which is endangered by climate change and illegal irrigation. The average water level in reservoirs in Catalonia and Andalusia, the worst affected areas, stands at around 25%.

These drought conditions are a growing concern, with early-season heatwaves exacerbating the situation and causing wildfires. There are concerns that climate change will only make the situation worse.

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