GNR flagged 10,251 cases of lack of land cleaning but only applies fines from Saturday 1st June


Lisbon, May 30, 2024 (Lusa) – The Republican National Guard registered 10,251 warnings this year due to lack of cleaning of agricultural and forestry land to prevent rural fires, an official source said, but only from Saturday onwards did owners who fail to clean their land risk fines .

“The last official number we have at the moment is 10,251 signs” and “the Center-North area is the area that has the highest number of points [of non-compliance]”, said Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Vaz Alves, from the Protection Service directorate of Nature and Environment (Sepna) of GNR.

The official added that “the area of ​​Coimbra, Leiria and then the Viseu-Aveiro strip are the areas that have the greatest pressure in terms of signage”, in an assessment made to Lusa after a first check, still without the application of administrative offences, on the management of fuel ranges.

A joint order from the Minister of Internal Administration and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries decided to “extend for another month the deadline for forest owners and producers to clean up forests and land”, meaning that “the deadline, which ended on the 30th of April, was extended until May 31st”, the Government informed last month.

“The decision is related to the rainfall recorded in recent months and the high water content in the soil, which affected many of the fuel management operations and encouraged the rapid growth of vegetation in the areas already intervened”, explained the note. .

” There is this increased risk” of burning waste ending up “starting fires”.

“In terms of administrative offense reports, 31 reports of illegal burnings and 46 of burnings have been collected so far”, and, “for example, the districts of Braga and Viseu are those with the highest number of reports”, said the Sepna official.

In a February order, the Secretary of State for Civil Protection and the Secretary of State for Nature Conservation and Forests identified 991 priority parishes for inspection of fuel management in 2024, between May 1st and 31st (however postponed to June), in case of owners of rural land close to buildings or in agglomerations bordering forest areas.

The work would have to be completed by May 31st (instead of April 30th) and the inspection will also take place, between June 1st and 30th, in the lanes between five and 10 meters from the road, railway and electricity transport networks and of natural gas, the responsibility of the respective responsible entities.

“We have teams already prepared to approach the 991 priority parishes”, assured Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Vaz Alves, explaining that the inspection plan “will involve some means” allocated to inspection that are simultaneously associated with the combat, “if necessary”.

The official admitted that the process “will take longer” and “will have to commit other resources than those originally” planned, given the 10,251 signals to date.

“With the exception of the pandemic years, when, obviously, there were other priorities and there was less market availability, we noticed that, on the part of individuals, there is greater concern [about cleaning]. Now, perhaps there still isn’t the most appropriate response from companies that provide this type of service”, said Ricardo Vaz Alves, alluding to the difficulty in recruiting labor for this type of work.

The lack of cleaning of agricultural and forestry land, to prevent rural fires, has already resulted in “around 2.5 million” euros in administrative offenses since 2020, the lieutenant colonel of Sepna told Lusa at the end of April.

Fines for failure to clean forest and agricultural land can reach 5,000 euros for natural persons and 25,000 for legal entities, amounts that vary depending on the respective municipal council.

According to data sent to Lusa, between 2018 and 2023, the GNR recorded the greatest non-compliance with land cleaning, in descending order, in the districts of Santarém (4,131 administrative offences), Castelo Branco (2,816), Braga (2,660), Coimbra (2,06 ) and Aveiro (1,802).

From 2018 to 2023, the GNR totaled 26,140 administrative offenses due to lack of clearing of forest land and, from 2019 to last year, registered 3,419 for burning and 1,359 for burning.

In the case of land located in rural areas, cleaning must cover up to 50 meters from buildings, in forest, bush or natural pasture areas.

In population clusters located in or bordering forest areas, fuel management is mandatory in an outdoor range of no less than 100 meters, a distance also provided for camping or industrial parks and landfills.

Municipal councils, in addition to having to be informed of fines from entities external to the municipality, can notify owners for cleaning or, subsequently, carry out the work and be reimbursed for the expenses.