One year after the fires, little has changed in Portugal. Communitas think tank debate keeps online

A year after the fires that rocked Portugal and after a weekend marked by the passing of the storm Leslie, the CECS think tank, Communitas, opened a debate on what may or may not have changed in institutions and in their degree of preparation, in the way spaces of expression of the citizenship were strengthened and in the journalistic coverage.

The event was attended by the Director of the Degree in Civil Protection and Territory Management of the University of Minho, António Bento Gonçalves, of the Deputy Editor of Jornal de Notícias, Paula Ferreira, and the researcher of CECS, Ana Melo. The session moderated by Madalena Oliveira, also a CECS’ researcher.

António Bento Gonçalves opened the debate with a panorama of the country. Among several ideas, he said that a year after the fires, there are still 61 counties without a forest defense plan, there is no commitment to the planning and management of the territory, as well as a change in climate. Despite the negative panorama, the professor from the University of Minho highlighted the role of universities as an active element in fire prevention, referring to the case of the University of Minho that opened this year (2018/2019) the degree in Civil Protection.

Paula Ferreira, of the Jornal de Notícias, began her intervention recalling October 15, 2017, when she was on a scale. “Nobody imagined that after the tragedy of Pedrógão, the same happened again”. For the journalist, little has changed since then: “you have to change the way you look at the country in newsrooms”. Still, Paula Ferreira said that “we are more attentive. The fires forced a more critical look”.

Ana Melo, a CECS’ researcher, contributed to the debate by mentioning the existence of civic participation movements. “With the fires came a wave of participation with different goals”, she explained. For the researcher, the media have an important role as motivators of participation and guidance in case of emergency.

Much remains to be done with regard to fire prevention. The year has brought some change that, for the participants, is still not enough.

The debate extends to the entire community through the Communitas think tank website.

[Text published 16-10-2018]