In a statement, GEOTA says that the Government intends to move forward with the project of the Crato Multipurpose Hydraulic Use Project (Portalegre), better known as the Pisão dam, included in the National Irrigation Program, even without having studied all of the alternatives and consequences”.
GEOTA "condemns" the intention to build the dam and warns of the "need" of a strategic environmental assessment, as well as the dissemination of the project, which will involve an investment of 120 million €, financed by the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR).
“The Multipurpose Hydraulic Use of Crato, popularly known as the Pisão Dam, dates back to an original project from the 1940s which, to date, has not been the subject of an environmental impact study or a public consultation process. GEOTA condemns the lack of transparency in this process and does not understand that existing legislation is ignored”, the document reads.
GEOTA recalls that the dam project, whose documentation “still is not available” for public consultation, foresees the flooding of “10 thousand hectares” where the village of Pisão is located, which will “force” the relocation of its population.
“As a form of compensation, promises were made that the region's population will benefit from the development of agricultural, agri-food and tourism activities,” they add.
Quoted in the document, the coordinator of the Rios Livres project, from GEOTA, Catarina Miranda, says that the “offset promises” made by the Government are a “cloud of smoke” that will “follow the example” of Alqueva, where, for almost two decades then, the population “no longer has the compensation money, it continues without land, without a job and many have already left the region”, as “shown” by the 2021 Censuses, which reveal a “decrease of 10 percent” of the municipality's population of Portel, Évora.
“It is truly sad to see that these investments benefit large agricultural holdings, leaving out local producers”, says the official, cited in the document.
GEOTA adds that the Alentejo region and the Tejo basin are currently “target of intensive agricultural exploitation”, which is “responsible for the consumption of 75 percent of the water”, causing “deep impacts” on the soil, in the “reduction” of water quality and the “loss” of biodiversity.
“By betting on intensive irrigation and agriculture, the Portuguese government is going against European strategies such as the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork strategy (from Prado to Prato), the Water Framework Directive and the European Strategy for Biodiversity, which they call for the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, warning of the need to develop sustainable agro-food systems”, they warn.
On 30 July, in Crato, the Prime Minister, António Costa, presided over the launching ceremony of the Pisão dam project and the signing of the respective financing contract.
The contract, worth 120 million €, was signed between the Recuperar Portugal mission structure and the Alto Alentejo Intermunicipal Community (CIMAA).
Overall, it is expected to involve an investment of 171 million €, of which 120 million are inscribed in the PRR.
The construction works will start by 2023, so that the project can start “full functioning” in 2026, according to the president of the Chamber of Crato, Joaquim Diogo.
According to CIMAA, the future structure will benefit around 110 thousand people in the 15 municipalities of the district of Portalegre and its “main objective is to guarantee the availability of water for urban consumption”.
In addition, it aims to “reconfigure agricultural activity and create opportunities for new economic activities, namely in terms of agriculture, tourism and the energy sector”, as it also includes a floating photovoltaic plant (which funding was left out of the PRR).