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Campaign to stop Douro dam gathers pace

Campaigners have issued a rallying cry for support to help stop a dam from being built across one of the world’s most historic wine regions, the Douro Valley, as the €162.3 million project nears completion.

An artist’s render of how the Foz Tua dam will etterook when completed.

Within the steeply-sided Tua Valley in Portugal’s Douro Valley, a 100m high concrete dam is currently being construction that when finished will create a reservoir, consequently flooding the historic Linha da Tua railway line and permanently scarring its unspoilt landscape.

While a fatal accident in August 2008 means the railway is now closed, the Foz Tua Dam will ensure it will never be reopened. Furthermore, the spot at which the dam is being built is a designated UNESCO heritage site.

Located 1km from the mouth of River Tua, near River Douro, the Foz Tua dam features a concrete double curvature arch of 108 metres at its highest point and a crest length of 275 metres.

In March wine producer Esporão and the ‘Save the Tua Platform’ group joined forces to launch “The Last Days of Tua” campaign in a last ditch attempt to prevent completion of the dam, which it says will cause a “devastating and irreversible” impact to the landscape of the Alto Douro Vinhateiro.

The campaign has resulted in 16,000 letters being sent to UNESCO and a series of films, produced by film director Jorge Pelicano that detail the impact of the dam, receiving half a million views on YouTube.

“Despite of the advanced state of construction it is still possible to avoid the filling of the reservoir allowing important actions to be taken for the preservation of the region, before it is too late”, said campaigners. “The issue is not only a matter of environmental protection of UNESCO World Heritage patrimony. It is also about the economic, social and cultural preservation of Alto Douro Vinhateiro, the oldest demarcated region in the world, with unique features that is being threatened by a project that does not bring any advantage for the territory or its inhabitants”.

The dam is being build to generate electricity by EDP at a cost of €162.3 million. Consequently, the project requires the installation of high-tension wires along the valley floor to transport electricity and wind turbines to generate energy to pump water into the dam.

Although the dam is not far from the famous Quinta do Tua – source of the grapes for Cockburn’s vintage Port – the reservoir does not endanger vineyards, but instead will destroy part of what is one of the world’s most rugged and unspoilt wine regions.

“Politicians are talking about investing hundreds of millions of Euros to build more coastal defenses, so on the one hand they are spending hundreds of millions to protect the coast,” said Tony Butt, a doctor of physical oceanography, who visited Portugal recently in order to assess the environmental impact of the project. “On the other hand they are also spending hundreds of millions of Euros building these dams which are a large cause of the coastal erosion in the first place. To me that doesn’t make sense”.

You can lend your support to the campaign by visiting its website and sending an automatic e-mail/letter to UNESCO calling for the organisation to intervene and halt construction of the dam.

Sadly, the Douro is not the only wine region facing damage due to major building projects. Click here for our round up of two further regions under threat.

The Tua Valley railway line, which is due to be flooded. Picture source:

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