Big Development Projects… Big Environmental Challenges

EDIA (Empresa de Desenvolvimento e Infra-estruturas do Alqueva, SA) is located in Alentejo, Southern Portugal and was founded in 1995. The construction of the dam after lots of preparations, started in the field in 1998 and was completed in January 2002. On 8th of February they inaugurated the Alqueva Dam by shutting down the doors for the first time and letting the water be collected to form the reservoir.

Barragem de Alqueva. Projeto EDIA

Barragem de Alqueva. Projeto EDIA

 It is one of the largest strategic water reserve in Europe which was one of the goals of its construction and irrigates an area of 120000 Ha of land in the region. EDIA’s purposes are to create new business opportunities, produce clean energy, develop new agricultural and agro-industries.

 It was supposed to contribute for the development of quality tourism. However, the goals for the improvement of the tourism were not achieved as wanted. For example, it was planned that tourism of this place would be much better in terms of activities available and more tourists would visit it, but with the lack of it and not interesting enough to attract the investment in this area.  In addition to it, they thought that the environment would not be affected much but instead a large area was damaged and a huge number of species of the ecosystem disappeared. In contrast, the zone is getting economically strong because of the agro industries well facilitated and irrigated with the Alqueva reservoir. The remote management system (a tool that enables the comprehensive management of the irrigation areas) was developed for the best relationship between the farmer and the management team.

 Moreover, the social life was affected both in negative and positive ways. At first the traditions were lost when people moved in the new village and with which they feel insecure and miss their originality. Secondly, most of the people are unsatisfied because they were forced to move out of their houses, like the president of the Aldeia da Luz said, “ we were forced to move out of our houses to a place that we didn’t really want to”. On the other hand, there is a positive aspect which is the advanced and well managed new houses. We had the chance to speak with Jose Silva (one of the habitants of the new Luz village), whose words were: “the life has been much better than we used to have before. I used to think it would be worse to be thrown out of our original village and live life in a new place but things are better now.”

 As the coin has two sides, this project has its pros and cons.  The establishment of the Alqueva Dam raised a controversial idea between the benefits and its disadvantage. From the Economical point of view, it seems like it is fulfilling its goal whereas thinking from the environmental point of view the construction of the dam has badly affected the flora and fauna of the ecosystem.

Ruben Pereira,  Sharad Poudel, Kyriaki Hadjichambi, , Katerina Papamiltiadous 
YRE  International Mission Alentejo 2016 | Portel