Silves' watering project is "completely illegal" says Secretary of State for the Environment

The Secretary of State for the Environment said yesterday, in the Assembly of the Republic, during the debate on the State Budget in […]

Secretary of State for the Environment Carlos Martins during the hearing - photo: ARTV
Secretary of State for the Environment Carlos Martins during the hearing – photo: ARTV

The Secretary of State for the Environment said yesterday, in the Assembly of the Republic, during the debate on the State Budget in the specialty, that the work to modernize the irrigation of the Arade Dam is "completely illegal", because "there is no opinion from the APA [Agency Portuguesa do Ambiente], nor ARH/Algarve».

In response to a question posed by João Vasconcelos, deputy of the Left Bloc elected by the Algarve, Secretary of State Carlos Martins added that the system cannot be used using water from the Funcho reservoir, as it is of lower quality. and, for this reason, jeopardize the public supply of the Barlavento Algarvio.

The Blocist parliamentarian, speaking to the Sul Informação, said that "this confirms the worst possible scenario for the approximately 700 farmers in the Silves irrigation perimeter."

In his response during the hearing, Carlos Martins admitted that he himself knows the matter well, “because, as president of Águas do Algarve, functions he performed before being appointed secretary of state, I had the opportunity to deal with this problem”.

The government official defended that this is "a problem that has been poorly addressed right from the start", since, after the Ministry of Agriculture of the previous Government approved the project, "the watering companies never licensed it from the Environment authorities".

For Carlos Martins, the issue is very serious since the intended connection by the Association of Irrigants and Beneficiaries of Silves, Lagoa and Portimão to the Funcho Dam adductor «may endanger the Algarve's supply in terms of public supply».

«And no one wants the Algarve's public supply to be called into question, especially in the territory that has the most dense tourist supply during the summer period. watering people wanted to do it”, he added, during the hearing at the Assembly of the Republic.

"It is one thing [the waterers] to go to Fennel and there they can fetch whatever water they want, but it is not of good quality for distribution in public supply," he said.

The Algarve deputy João Vasconcelos (BE) - photo: ARTV
The Algarve deputy João Vasconcelos (BE) – photo: ARTV

The Secretary of State also revealed that "the conduit they want to connect has serious risks of rupture, because for years it was not maintained by the APA and by the Environment authorities." It's just that, he warned, «to tamper with that pipeline is almost to condemn half of the Algarve to be left without a public water supply».

The official recalled, on the other hand, that the dam of "Odelouca was built for public supply, had a major litigation problem in Brussels, in which Portugal only freed itself from condemnation by assuring that it would use Odelouca's water for public supply." which could no longer be guaranteed if the irrigators had access to the adductor.

“Now, irrigation of golf courses and agriculture are not public supply. And we cannot reopen a process that would jeopardize millions of euros in fines from European authorities," he reiterated.

And how else can you solve the problem of the Irrigation Association and the 700 farmers in the municipality of Silves who are waiting for the new irrigation system, in which 6,5 million euros have been invested and is ready, to go into operation? Secretary of State Carlos Martins left an answer: "there will be other ways to resolve the matter, namely by going back to the initial project, which is to build a pumping station in Funcho."

At the end of his intervention on the subject during the specialized debate on the State Budget, the government official assured that “the Ministry of Environment expresses all openness – all! – to find a solution for the good use of these resources'. However, he said, "we have not yet been contacted by the Association of Regantes."

In reaction to the statements of the member of the Government, José Vilarinho, president of the Association of Irrigants and Beneficiaries of Silves, Lagoa and Portimão, he assured, in statements to the Sul Informação, have already sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment requesting an urgent meeting.

José Vilarinho
José Vilarinho, president of the Association of Irrigants

As for what Carlos Martins said, Vilarinho commented: «the Secretary of State is either poorly informed or misinforming».

“We verbally asked for authorization to connect to the adductor and were told yes”, then “the project was approved by the General Directorate of Agriculture, applied for and financed by PRODER”, he recalled.

«What we want is, for now, that let us make the provisional link, so that all the 6,5 million of the investment we made are not left to rot there like an abandoned monograph and so that the European Union does not come to us asking for the 4,5 million euros they financed us with,” added the director of the association, in statements to our newspaper.

Since the situation is at an impasse, deputy João Vasconcelos, who considers the declarations of the secretary of State as "very serious", said that he will meet urgently with the Association of Regantes, "in order to find solutions to this impasse" .

Os farmers and irrigators affected by the impasse, around 700 along 800 hectares in the valley between the Arade Dam and the city of Silves, fear that if the connection is not made by the end of this month of March, they will be forced to return the contribution to the EU. of around 4,5 million euros guaranteed through the Proder programme.

See here the complete answer from Secretary of State Carlos Martins:

 

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