Offshore oil drilling: is Portugal taking the quick cash way? | Photo: Shutterstock

The Portuguese government authorized the Galp-ENI consortium to start an oil prospection program in Aljezur, off the country's southwest coast.

In 2017, Portugal welcomed over 20 million tourists. It was a historic year for a country with a population of around 10 million.

Known for its welcoming spirit, food, beaches, and history, Portugal is also becoming one of the most popular surfing destinations on the planet with plenty of pristine surf breaks, from north to south, and all around the archipelagos of Azores and Madeira.

However, the quality of its waves could be comprised, if the European nation decides to give in to temptation. And apparently, Portugal is taking the easy way.

While the world moves away from offshore oil drilling, a country with a growing tourism base opts for quick cash opportunities.

To make things even worse, the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) stated that the oil consortium doesn't need to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment study before proceeding with the tests.

Aljezur is one of the most important surf hubs on the southwest coast of Portugal. The small village is surrounded by world-class surf breaks and idyllic beaches like Arrifana, Bordeira, Amado, and Cordoama.

Arrifana: a dreamy beach break located near Aljezur | Photo: Manske/Creative Commons

The offshore tests will take place in the Alentejo basin, a few kilometers away from the South West Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, a 110-kilometer long preserved stretch of coastline that goes from Porto Covo to Burgau.

Portugal has already suffered the consequences of an oil-related disaster. On November 19, 2002, Liberian-owned oil tanker MV Prestige sank off the coast of Galicia, in Spain, and spilled 77,000 tonnes of oil.

The environmental tragedy affected thousands of kilometers of coastline between Spain and Portugal, and thousands of marine animals were killed. The oil spill also affected the fishing and tourism economy in both countries.

The oil prospection operation will last for 52 days, of which 43 will be reserved for drilling. Thousands of citizens have already protested against the government's decision to give the green light to the controversial test.

The Algarve Free of Oil Movement (MALP) is leading the demonstrations against oil drilling off the coast of Portugal.

"A single spill could cause irreparable damage to a region that already has a high seismic risk. It's critical that we protect local activities and biodiversity, and prohibit hydrocarbon prospecting off Aljezur and elsewhere," notes MALP.

"The risks they impose on us are unacceptable under our fundamental right to health, environmental and cultural heritage and our freedom of choice between fossil dependence and renewable and sustainable options."

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