The beleaguered Tejo river that runs from Spain to Portugal is facing a dramatic year where the combination of drought and habitual water wars between the two countries has reduced the flow in several areas to a small trickle.
This is the gist of stories this week that reinforce the issues that Portugal has with Spain over the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula.
It’s not news that Spain is cited as the villain in this crisis.
This time round the country is being labelled for “scrupulously” adhering to water retention agreements in place that have left Portugal ‘gasping’ due to lack of rainfall.
The principal crisis areas are those between Gavião (Portalegre) and Mação (Santarém).
Locals have described three years in which it hasn’t rained enough to replenish the iconic river on its way to Lisbon where it meets the sea.
The consequences for fishermen have been dire – with restaurants losing out what used to be traditional delicacies because they can’t be fished – and thus the blame game once more points the finger at Spain.
Talking to Lusa over the weekend, fisherman Ricardo Vermelho suggested Spain’s retention of Tejo water in dams and reservoirs has ensured the Tejo has “remained dry” in the Portuguese Ribatejo areas for the last year.
The river’s self-appointed ‘guardian’ and whistleblower when it comes to issues of pollution is Arlindo Marques who agrees, the situation today is “just not normal”.
Predicting a dramatic year ahead, Marques explained that what’s needed is a reappraisal of water retention agreements with Spain – and possibly an agreement for water to be released by Spain on a daily basis, to ensure the river doesn’t dry up altogether in complicated situations of drought.
Gavião mayor José Pio is all for concerted pressure. He tells Lusa the time has come for “all mayors in areas of the river to start thinking in a global way”, to first persuade the government to step in, and secondly get entities to work towards returning the river to its “normal flow”.
Whether or not this can realistically be achieved is the inconvenient question.
In the meantime, social media posts lament the dying Tejo, cataloguing depressing scenes and predicting the worst.
Photo: Pro-Tejo’s Facebook page