With Belgian suction dredger ‘Pearl River’ ready to start scooping up millions of tons of sand from the estuary of Sado river, local opposition to the plan has intensified.
“It’s time to go to Lisbon”, one of the leading voices of SOS Sado, David Nascimento declared on Sunday as around 200 locals gathered on the riverside in support of the fight to save the Setúbal river from what they believe will be an environmental catastrophe.
The project – designed to clear the way for ‘much larger boats’ – “will ruin the local fishing community, threaten tourism, destroy a number of underwater archeological ‘sites’ and reduce the town’s air quality”, says SOS Sado.
The group is backed by environmentalists whose overriding fears are for the pod of local dolphins that lives off ‘rich feeding grounds’ due to be sucked out of existence.
This has always been a plan that was light on transparency.
Tabloid Correio da Manhã reported last month that even the State’s environmental agency APA has agreed that consequences for the biodiversity of the river will be ‘irreversible’.
But all ‘official’ authorities and bodies insist on giving it the green-light – in spite of a petition signed by over 13,000 people, in spite of street marches, bids for court embargoes and even an appeal by ‘veteran ocean campaigner’ Peter Neill, who has referred to what he calls a ‘misplaced set of values’ behind the plan (click here).
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.
Last month some of the key players in the fight accepted that they could be losing (click here) – but SOS Sado remains steadfast.
The group has lodged a new bid for a court embargo (which entered court last Friday) and is planning further street vigils outside Setúbal town council and in Lisbon when the dredging is due to be discussed in parliament (December 19).