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NGOs against state dams programme


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Portuguese non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have written to the president of the European Commission, Durão Barroso, alerting him of the dangers of the national programme for new dams which is proposed by the Portuguese government.

The programme would see the construction of 10 new dams as priorities to improve the country’s hydro capacity for energy production.

It also includes two other dams, one in the Sabor River and another in the Vouga River, both in the north of Portugal, officially announced in the beginning of 2008 and whose construction should be finished by 2015, despite a complaint being analysed by the European Commission to stop their construction.

The global programme represents a public investment of one billion euros and aims to improve the total electric energy produced in Portugal by 3.3 per cent by 2020 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2015.

For Eugénio Sequeira, president of Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN), the nature protection league, and the Portuguese NGO leading the movement, the dams’ programme reflects a “lazy attitude” from the government, as they will only directly contribute to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one per cent.

In his opinion, “the state strategy about alternative energy sources should not start with building dams, which may threaten biodiversity and are not reliable in the long term, due to climate changes”. Instead, he claims, “the government should look for greener options like micro-generation, solar energy and an effective reduction in polluting gases”.

According to the LPN president, “around 38 per cent of the greenhouse gases produced in Portugal come from transport and in particular private cars”. This, he says, “should be enough to stimulate the government to create incentives for consumers to choose less polluting solutions”.

EC guidance

The document sent to Durão Barroso, which is supported by 11 NGOs working in environment preservation, seeks guidance from the EC president on whether or not the programme is violating the European Commission Water Directive.

The directive requires several studies that, they say, “were not made by Portuguese authorities”, including “a complete evaluation of the cost-benefit impacts of the projects”, an “evaluation over the impacts on biodiversity”, and “comparative studies concerning alternative energy strategies and their impact on the social and economic environment”.

Also, the rush to go ahead with the construction of the dams shows “the government is using this programme to respond in the short term to another problem, which is the country’s need for urgent economic growth”, the LPN president accuses.And he explains: “Around 30 per cent of the employment in Portugal is directly related with the building sector and the government needs to find a way of quickly reducing the number of unemployed people in this sector”.

That is why, he concludes, “the Portuguese public investment is always so focused on the big infrastructural projects, like the highways in the past, and the dams and the new Lisbon Airport now”.

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