Alentejo’s Santa Clara dam at lowest level ever
Community groups Juntos Pelo Sudoeste (JPS) and SOS Rio Mira have called on all concerned “to unite in defence of the territory” in the face of chronic water scarcity in the Santa Clara dam (Odemira borough)
In a joint statement sent to Lusa, the two organisations say the region is witnessing “a fight” for this precious resource, at a time when the “south of Portugal is going through a terrible water crisis.”
Santa Clara’s water level is “at its lowest ever.”
“It is in this context of scarcity” that the “intention of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAA), through the Directorate-General of Agriculture and Rural Development (DGADR), to exonerate the management body of the Mira Beneficiaries Association (ABM), which manages water from Santa Clara” has been made public.
“Faced with this situation of rupture between the forces of southwest Portugal, fighting for water, whose scarcity has become unequivocal for a decade, the irresponsibility with which this resource has been managed in recent years is demonstrated” as is what they call “the (un)planning of the territory, in which the galloping advance of agro-industry has been allowed or ignored“.
The proliferation of water-guzzling intensive agriculture has long been a bone of contention between local people – who see where this is all going – and the authorities, who have doggedly maintained these kind of businesses “are the future of agriculture”.
The two movements consider it “ridiculous” that the “concern” of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has ostensibly been focused on “protecting the interests of a handful of powerful agricultural businesspeople“, instead of “guaranteeing the sustainable management of the little water available” in Santa Clara dam.
For this reason, they appeal for all those whose lives depend on the dam “to unite in defence of the territory” and ask the government “to govern, and the State to administer, in this specific case, the Odemira region, based on the premise of the common good, not the maintenance of privileges that some sectors incomprehensibly enjoy”.
The statement refers specifically to the “the berries lobby” – local and foreign agricultural companies that have expanded in the area in recent years, to the detriment of the landscape/ ecosystem and even the traditional Alentejan way of life .
JPS and SOS Rio Mira are also calling for a careful analysis of “what makes sense to be cultivated and irrigated in the PRM” – the Mira Irrigation Perimeter – and “in what dimension and with what practices.
“In truth, pressure was already being felt in Lisbon on water resources in Southwest Alentejo … but there needs to be awareness that if the intention of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAA) and the Directorate-General of Agriculture and Rural Development (DGADR) goes ahead, it will accentuate the social and environmental malaise that has long been felt in the region, as well as the even more rapid depletion of water resources,” says the statement.
Juntos Pela Sudoeste also reports on a meeting held this week with the minister for the environment and climate action, Duarte Cordeiro, on “some aspects related to water and nature conservation.”
At the meeting, the minister is understood to have indicated that there are “strict conditions for the strict and exceptional use of this resource up to quota 104 (metres) of Santa Clara reservoir, below which only public supply will be guaranteed” and that “the “possibility of installing a desalination plant in Odemira municipality, through private funding”, is “under analysis”.
The Mira Hydrographic Development, which is served by the Santa Clara reservoir in Odemira municipality, covers an area of 12,000 hectares in this municipality and in Aljezur.
The Santa Clara reservoir, which has the capacity to store 485,000,000 cubic metres of water, currently only contains 36% of its maximum volume, that is, 174,665,120 m3.
It has been at a so-called ‘dead level’ for years. This ‘crisis’ has been in plain sight for longer than many remember, with so little in the way of answers.
Source material: LUSA