The Sustainable Water Platform (PAS) accuses the Government of betting on “out of the box” solutions to try to increase water efficiency in the Algarve, under the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR), and of making a “clean board” of the Intermunicipal Plan of Adaptation to Climate Change (PIAAC), a "breathing" document prepared "by renowned experts and with strong civic participation".
This group of associations and movements, composed by A Rocha, Agua é Vida, Almargem, Associação Faro 1540, Civilians, Glocal Faro, Quercus Algarve and Regenerarte, made public their disagreement with the bet on the water transfer from Pomarão and in the construction of one or more desalination stations as part of a strategy to promote water efficiency in the region foreseen in the RRP, for which 200 million euros are earmarked.
PAS calls for participation in the public consultation of the PRR and its constituents are already preparing their contributions for this window open to civic participation, which ends on 1 March.
In a note sent to the newsrooms, the platform of associations and movements argues that the need for these two works "remains to be proven" and that their "environmental and economic impacts are very high".
«We have the PIAAC [presented in June 2019], which points out solutions, is a work of breath, well done, which took a year to do and involved civil society. But the measures that are poured into the Resilience Plan are these two works, which only emerged later," he told the Sul Informação Alice Pisco, PAS spokesperson.
This "later" was the month of last September, when the Government came to the region present the Algarve Regional Water Efficiency Plan.
In the same presentation session of this document, which pointed to a structural water deficit in the Algarve, with a tendency to worsen, and to solutions on the side of saving and improving management, a parallel study was presented, which analyzed the relevance and feasibility of large infrastructure to increase water availability in the Algarve, in the medium/long term.
Among them were the transfer of water from Pomarão to the Odeleite dam and desalination, ideas that have now been "repeached" to integrate the PRR, which defines where the "European bazooka" of funds will be spent to recover the economy in the post-pandemic.
The different associations and movements that make up the platform do not accept that, as soon as the money emerged, the PIAAC was “immediately thrown in the trash, to go and look for these solutions, which in technical terms are not very consistent”.
Priority, they argue, should be the various short-medium/term measures that the climate change adaptation plan advocates, namely the implementation of water retention techniques, such as 'water retention landscapes, artificial lakes, retention basins, weirs and reservoirs'.
These solutions «have already been advocated for the Algarve for at least 50 years, by Manuel Gomes Guerreiro, Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles and others, because they are common sense and breath-taking measures, which can make us self-sufficient».
On the other hand, the need to improve water management policies is pointed out, namely "remodeling irrigation infrastructure, in order to suppress network losses, and reduce water needs in urban green spaces", as well as reusing water residuals.
These last measures are even mentioned in the PRR, something the platform supports.
«Of course, we agree with the things that are pointed out as short-term measures and are in accordance with the work that has been done, with great breath. Now, we don't agree with solutions that appear like rabbits pulled out of a hat», said Alice Pisco.
“Things must be done with scientific and technical consistency. We have a document that points out the solutions and that's where we should go and not opt for fancy solutions», he reinforced.
For PAS, the two major works foreseen in the PRR “are not solutions or, in the case of desalination, they are not for now, because the situation has to be monitored and see what is happening”.
«The history of water collection in Pomarão is a bit dazzling. For now, it's not a solution at all, because it only takes a drier year and the Spaniards don't release flows – and things are expected to get worse and worse – for it to become unfeasible», says the co-founder of Glocal Faro.
On the other hand, it is a solution that has not been studied in depth and that may even lack articulation with neighboring Spain.
As for desalination, despite being «certain that it appears in the PIAAC», it was pointed out in this plan as a project for the future, which would only advance «if, during the follow-up and monitoring of the situation, it got worse».
Alice Pisco recalled that the solutions that will be financed by the PRR were put forward by a team of independent experts, which «carmona Rodrigues was part of, who already had these ideas and had already disseminated them before».
Even the Algarve's PREH, defends the platform's spokesperson, “a lot was done in three strokes. They didn't invite anyone, just the businessmen. Civil society was not represented. And then they did the parallel study and it turned out. Now it feels so good that it's already in the PRR», joked Alice Pisco.
The technical and environmental dimension is not, even so, the only one that concerns the members of the platform.
For PAS, what is also at issue here is the use of “public money for private businesses”, for them to “profit from the public purse against human rights”.
In the note it sent to the newsrooms, the platform recalls that, in a public session promoted by the Portuguese Water Resources Association, «the information was reaffirmed that the water from Pomarão, to be funded by public funds, is intended for private agricultural use, already that water collected in Pomarão will be sold cheaper than that obtained through desalination. As for desalination, to be implemented by private companies, it will provide a cubic meter of water for domestic consumption at a higher price, despite water being an indispensable good for life and, therefore, a right guaranteed by the State to its citizens».
“This is all poorly sewn and we know how things work. “Now there's a lot of money, what ideas are there?” and everything starts sending suggestions. It's not a serious thing and that's what we also want to say», framed Alice Pisco.
“We already have technical and scientific foundations to continue along paths that are not covered in the PRR. It's just that carrying out damming in the mountains, improving distribution networks to avoid losses, gives work and gives little money to certain lobbies», he accused.
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