Civil engineers have blamed the government for the devastating floods that hit the Baixo Mondego region last week as a result of storms Elsa and Fabien.
Calling a press conference, the regional section of the centre of the Order of Engineers, highlighted “lack of investment in hydraulic infrastructures”, “outdated emergency plans” and a system that itself had never been completed.
Said Alfeu Sá Marques, the floods were always an accident waiting to happen.
“The Order of Engineers as much as the University of Coimbra warned of this problem in 2016 and last year. We advised entities involved of the consequences of a system that hadn’t been properly completed.
“Even a top-of-the-range car needs servicing. The dykes that collapsed hadn’t received any maintenance for more than 20 years!”
But the crux of the issue is that the €200 million project to control the flow of the Mondego river was never properly concluded.
It still requires a number of new dams, says Sá Marques.
Armando Silva Afonso – president of the regional section of the Order of Engineers that called the press conference – added that the National Programme for Dams of Elevated Potential was ‘suspended’ in 2016 (during the first mandate of prime minister António Costa) shelving at least 10 dams that had already been awarded in concessions by the government.
The engineers’ focus during the press conference was on what needs to be done to avoid a repetition of events in future winter storms. Their recommendations include at least three new dams, and the final completion of the Mondego river management system.
As Alfeu Sá Marques explained, the system envisaged six large-scale pumps downstream where currently there are only two “and one doesn’t work”.
President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has since visited the region to hear stories of populations affected by the flooding, but refused to be drawn on the question of institutional blame. He instead stressed the positive: that collapsed dykes are being rebuilt, and that afterwards “it is necessary to advance with a definitive solution”.
Marcelo was accompanied on his visit by various dignitaries, including Minister of the Environment João Pedro Matos Fernandes who has received significant bad press during his tenure.