Associations say dam “cannot only produce electricity”
Farmers’ organisations in the Northeast of Trás-os-Montes are calling for the use of water from the Baixo Sabor hydropower dam to help mitigate the effects of drought and climate change on crops, particularly olive groves, vineyards and almonds.
Speaking to the Lusa agency today, João Barros – a member of two farmers’ organisations in the Baixo Sabor territory – said the dam “cannot only produce electricity”; it is “important to provide water for irrigation due to its high flow”.
“This dam covers four northeastern municipalities (Moncorvo, Alfândega da Fé, Mogadouro and Macedo de Cavaleiros) – all of them with an important agricultural and livestock component”, he said.
Since 2018, the Agricultural Cooperative of Olive Growers of Moncorvo (CAOM), the Agricultural Cooperative of Almond Producers of Trás os Montes and Alto Douro, among other entities such as the Association of Municipalities of Baixo Sabor, have seen this solution as the most important for the more than 20,000 farmers in the four municipalities covered by the dam, because it is seen as an important source for irrigration.
“The possibility of using the water from the Baixo Sabor reservoir is a good working capital to produce wealth in the Northeast of Trás-os-Montes, given the irrigation potential for various crops in times of drought and when unprecedented climate change is being experienced,” Barros continues.
Such a proposal has been presented to agriculture minister Maria do Céu Antunes through a study prepared by several entities. The request, originally made a year ago, was reinforced last month at a meeting that took place in Mirandela. But still there has been no response – at a crucial time where producers are under intense ‘water stress’.
“Olive trees, despite the rain in May, have not yet managed to recover from the effects of the drought, which was and is felt, and there is a drop in production. There have been two consecutive years of lack of water, and flowering has not taken place. We are apprehensive about the 2023 and 2024 harvests, and if there is no rain, irrigation will (need to) play an even more important role,” Barros insisted.
In 2022, olive production in CAOM was 600,000 kilos. For this year, it is expected to fall by around 30% due to the drought.
The Baixo Sabor reservoir is about 70 kilometres long, spread over an area of 2,300 hectares that covers four municipalities, more specifically, Torre de Moncorvo, Alfândega da Fé, Mogadouro and Macedo de Cavaleiros, in the district of Bragança.
The official website of Movhera (the current owner of the hydroelectric project) states that the reservoir has the capacity to store a total of just over 1 billion cubic metres of water, which makes the Baixo Sabor reservoir the third largest in Portugal.
The Baixo Sabor dam is one of the six hydroelectric projects that have had high media exposure following EDP’s sale of six dams in Trás-os-Montes, for €2.2bn, to a consortium led by France’s Engie, allegedly at the expense of local communities.
Earlier this year, former PSD leader Rui Rio came out of self-imposed ‘media exile’ to plead the case for Trás os Montes which he described as “a place where so much of the country’s energy is produced, and nothing is left…”