NGOS condemn yet another project that goes against the European Ecological Pact

C6 Coalition condemns plans by the Minister of Environment and Climate Action for further artificialization of the Tagus river basin, favoring expendable investments to the detriment of meeting European environmental targets.

 

According to recent statements by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, a new infrastructure is being considered to strengthen the flows of the Middle Tagus, through a tunnel that transfers water from the Cabril reservoir (in the Zêzere) to Belver (in the Tagus), making that affluent flow into the Tagus more upstream than its natural mouth in Constância. The Government is studying the construction of a tunnel of more than 50 kilometers between the Cabril dam, on the Zêzere, and Belver, on the Alentejo, costing 100 million Euros. This is one more of several large-scale works that are being projected and politically negotiated on the Tagus River, in addition to the already approved construction of the multi-purpose Crato dam (Pisão dam): the Ocreza dam, and the megalomaniac project of weirs and dams on the Middle Tagus, which foresees an investment of 4.5 billion euros, with the argument that it will serve "to supply water to 300 thousand hectares of the Ribatejo, Oeste and Setúbal regions over the next 30 years".

 

Afonso do Ó, Water Specialist at ANP|WWF, shared that "Besides the high unnecessary economic costs - largely borne by all taxpayers - these hydraulic infrastructures carry serious environmental impacts, go against the trend in most European countries that are betting on the removal of river barriers and renaturalization of rivers, and fail miserably to comply with existing European policies and legislation."

 

"Public funds should be applied precisely in strategies and actions that meet the goals established at the European level and not in measures that jeopardize their compliance, and that generate significant environmental costs in the medium to long term," says Jorge Palmeirim, President of the National Board of LPN.

 

The principles of the Water Framework Directive establish the promotion of ecological flows and the restoration of the natural connectivity of rivers, but these projects sail in the opposite direction, seeking to retain the little water we have in our rivers to supply an increasingly unsustainable agriculture, and ignoring the ecological state of the Iberian water bodies. Also the Dish to Plate Strategy determines that food production "has a neutral or positive environmental impact, preserving and restoring the land, freshwater, and marine resources on which the food system depends.

 

Contrary to what the Minister advocates, these projects do not represent a "solution with very low environmental impacts", but rather an environmental attack and proof of disinterest in meeting internationally established environmental goals, in favor of an agriculture that is harmful to the health of water, soil, and human food.

 

Instead of promoting unsustainable agriculture using water that is increasingly scarce, our decision-makers should support agriculture that can provide healthy food for all while ensuring the environmental sustainability of the sector itself. Agreeing with the statement of proTEJO, in a statement released this week, the C6 Coalition argues that it should be "promoted a sustainable agriculture that has water efficiency and preserves biodiversity and the sustainability of life with support for farms based on the financial means that are intended to be allocated to unnecessary hydraulic works.

 

The revision of the Albufeira Convention is not "a nonsense of all sizes", as stated by the Minister, but the first step to be taken to better protect the Tagus River and its tributaries. National sovereignty, which has been the scapegoat in the defense of these mega-projects, should begin with the revision of the Albufeira Convention, which already provided for the definition of ecological flows (i.e., water flow in sufficient quantity and regularity to maintain the health of the rivers) since its signing in 1998, but which for 23 years has maintained in force a regime of minimum flows that should be transitional.

 

If capital is available, it is necessary to channel investments into nature-based solutions, into greater oversight of water uses, and into the involvement of the various stakeholders in the management of this common, precious, and - we often tend to forget - finite asset. This is the only way to truly guarantee water for agriculture and the maintenance and recovery of river ecosystems.

 

 

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