EU delegation visits halted works on Odelouca reservoir

EUROPEAN FINANCING for the long awaited Odelouca reservoir in the Algarve continues to depend on the acceptance of Portuguese proposals for the alteration of the original construction plans.

While fully admitting the obvious and urgent need for the reservoir, especially considering the desperate drought conditions being experienced throughout the country and the Algarve in particular, the President of the European Parliamentary Commission for Regional Development, Gerardo Quecedo, said that environmental issues cannot be overlooked. He said: “It is necessary to find a balance between works of development and environmental considerations.”

Works on the reservoir were halted over two years ago, when the EU withdrew support after a complaint lodged by the League for the Protection of Nature. Recently, Gerardo Quecedo visited Odelouca, along with a Commission delegation at the invitation of Civil Governor, António Pina, and his Algarvean Eurodeputy, Jamila Madeira. The objective of the visit was to evaluate the possible application of EU funds in relation to the Odelouca project and to give delegates an opportunity to see, at first hand, the devastation caused by the forest fires of the past few summers.

This was particularly important, said Quecedo, for delegates coming from more northerly countries, who have little or no experience of such things. While giving no guarantees, Quecedo further said that he hoped the new proposals and alterations being put forward by Portugal for the Odelouca project would be acceptable to EU experts, so that work on the reservoir could resume “as soon as possible”.

The President of the Commission further confirmed that the Algarve would not lose the right to European development funding, despite the fact that the region had recently come out of the group of regions included among the poorest in the Union, where earnings per capita are less than 75 per cent of the European average. The Algarve’s exit from this group was caused by the enlargement of the EU to 25 member states and the consequent “statistical enlargement effect”.

Put more plainly, the Algarve only now comes to exceed the 75 per cent limit due to the entry of several poorer countries, which had the effect of lowering the European average. In view of this, the EU has created a provisionary support scheme for regions which now exceed the limit, but which would be below the limit when accounts are made in relation to the original 15 member states.

In addition to visiting Odelouca, the delegation also visited Barranco dos Velhos in the Serra do Caldeirão, the Caldas de Monchique and enjoyed a boat trip through the Ria Formosa nature reserve.