Allegations fly over dam

CONTROVERSY over the Odelouca dam project in Silves continues to rage, with both sides in Portimão’s Municipal Assembly accusing the other of blocking progress. Work on the dam was suspended after the construction company downed tools in protest at non-payment on the part of the state.

Now the ruling Socialist Party in Portimão have accused the opposition Social Democrats of blocking the project from the outset. The charge came after the Social Democrats opposed a motion drawn up by the Socialists, which was eventually passed by the assembly, that pressed for the completion of the project.

But the motion also questioned central government’s commitment and effectively laid the responsibility for restarting work on the dam at the government’s door.

However, Social Democrat politicians have denied charges that they have been hindering the completion of the dam. “Nobody who has been present at the Portimão Muncipal Assembly could have the slightest doubt that the PSD was always in favour of the Odelouca dam,” said Ivo Campos, leader of the Portimão PSD.

The project was beset by problems from the outset. The European Union had failed to release funds because, according to the Greens, the decision to build in the area between Querença and Silves, included in the Rede Natura 2000 protected zone, was taken without considering the environmental repercussions.

Initially, the Socialist minister responsible for the environment, José Socrates, announced that the dam would be concluded before 2005. At that time the government committed itself to an investment of around 124 million euros to guarantee water for the Algarve.

Other politicians across the Western Algarve have expressed their dismay at the fiasco surrounding the dam project. Investment in the dam has already surpassed 40 million euros and the president of Monchique Câmara, Carlos Tuta, has accused the current Minister for Urban Affairs, Planning and the Environment, Amílcar Theias, of “political incompetence” and of not bringing enough pressure to bear on the European Union. In his opinion, “the dam will not be completed by 2008”.