Reservoir row

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

a controversy is a raging over the efficacy of Alqueva dam in southern Portugal. While ecologists and villagers say Europe's biggest man-made reservoir would displace many people, the planners contend that it is "an inspired quest to save a forgotten region from perpetual drought and poverty".

Recently, the gates of the massive Alqueva dam were closed by Portuguese prime minister, Antonio Guterres to stop the flow of Guadiana river and create a lake which will eventually flood a tract of land.

The conservationists and anti-dam lobby apprehend that unique ecosystems, protected species, a Roman fort, dozens of archaeological sites, one million trees and the centuries-old, whitewashed village of Luz would vanish once the dam is built.

Environmentalist Jose Paulo Martins dubbed the dam as a massive white elephant. To him, the dam is a 50-mile-long barrier for migrating animals and an unwelcome intruder that will damage the ecological balance of the region. Besides, the structure is also likely to cause an imbalance in freshwater and saltwater concentrations in Guadiana's estuary, triggering coastal erosion.

Worse still, there is no evidence that the dam will really work. As the irrigation water will have to be pumped and cleaned, it would be an expensive proposition. However, political parties are backing the project.

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