Battle to save Sado from ‘catastrophic’ dredging digs in

Battle to save Sado estuary from ‘catastrophic’ dredging wins 11th hour reprieve

With Belgian suction dredger ‘Pearl River’ ready to start scooping up millions of tons of sand from the estuary of Sado river, the battle to stop the plan in its tracks has won an extraordinary 11th hour reprieve.

It’s not the end by any means – but for eco-campaigners and local people adamant that dredging with have catastrophic consequences on the fauna and flora of the river, it is definitely a bend in the right direction.

Almada’s fiscal and adminstrative court has ordered Setúbal ports authority to ‘hold back’ on sand-moving activity – scheduled to start on Wednesday – until judges have properly considered the latest bid for an embargo, submitted last Friday by SOS Sado.

Aided by sharp environmental litigators, the pressure group is fighting the plan from a new angle.

Citing various irregularities in a process that all media sources agree has been ‘light on transparency’ from the very beginning, SOS Sado is alleging a potential danger to public health should sands start being shifted.

Explain reports, the argument is that dredging will “bring contaminated substances to the surface” if allowed to go forwards.

Setúbal ports authority announced earlier this week that it would be sanctioning the work to start in spite of local vigils, protests, petitions and even an appeal by ‘veteran ocean campaigner’ Peter Neill – but hours from the witching hour it was told categorically to ‘back off’.

Environmental agency APA is to be asked now for “an informed resolution” on SOS Sado’s allegations, bearing in mind the State entity has already agreed that consequences for the biodiversity of the river – a vital feeding ground for a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins – will be “irreversible”.

As reports have explained, the dredging represents a €25 million contract for Portuguese construction company Mota Engil.

Shareholders in the company that owns ‘Pearl River’ include French group Vinci, which controls ANA Airports authority.

Next week, left-wingers who normally ‘support’ the minority Socialist government have tabled various motions for discussion in parliament – all calling for much-greater transparency in this process, if not a permanent suspension of the plans.

Setúbal ports authority meantime has intimated that it will be appealing against Almada court’s suspension order.