19 August 2010

Fire in the high mountains of Madeira island - August 2010 - Before and after

Year after year and Summer after Summer, we, in Portugal, face the same drama. Forest fires destroy a little bit more of the green that managed to survive to the previous year's carbonization.
At the time of writing (August 2010), the present statistics give information of rougly 200 square kilometres burnt since the beggining of 2010. One of the biggest fires of the year, itself alone, destroyied, a few days ago, more than 9000 acres of pristine forest in the Serra do Soajo, located within the borders of the only national park of Portugal.
We can blame whatever we want, from the climate change to unscrupulous timber-dealers, but the plain and simple fact is that we've never had a true politic to prevent forest fires, that should start with an exaustive territorial arrangement.
For many years protected from this terrible catastrophe, due to it's particular sub-tropical moisty climate, Madeira is now facing the same threat as the summers in the "Atlantic Pearl" are getting more warm and dry. Last year the island suffered already a few fires. Nothing, however, would prepare us for the tragedy of the last weekend. During that time, 4000 hectares of forest were destroyed in a couple of days, comprising 95% of the Ecological Park of Funchal and almost all the vegetation along the Pico do Areeiro-Pico Ruívo trail. This trail, connecting the two highest peaks of Madeira, with a lenght of 7 kms, is an ex-líbris of the Madeira trekking tourism and deserves, by its own right, to be considered one of the best mountain treks in Europe. From the magnificent and vertiginous volcanic landscape to the enchanted and primitive forest along the way, it was a walk of superlatives. One of the few to which I was always willing to return. And so I did many times.
Professor Raimundo Quintal, a respected Geographer of Madeira, the major driving force behind the Parque Ecológico do Funchal (Funchal Ecological Park) and the preservation of the primitive Laurissilva forest of Madeira (Unesco patrimony), said in a TV interview that, after a strong and immediate effort in reflorestation, it would take about fifty years for nature to regain its equilibrium.
It's so sad that most of us will no longer be living to see that happen.