Expatica news

Unsustainable water management continues at Santa Clara Barragem

UNSUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT CONTINUES AT SANTA CLARA BARRAGEMOver 1,000 lts of water per second are being pumped out of Santa Clara lake, 24/7, over 90% going to intensive agriculture owned by foreign berry growers, 3% to clean a mine and 6% to locals, who are starting to have their water restricted and in some cases cut off.

40% of the water pumped out – it’s now too low to flow as it should into the purpose-built canals – is lost through insufficient maintenance of the said canals, (i.e. they leak), or it flows, unused, through bad management, into the sea.

The berry growers, who export the vast majority of their produce to northern European countries, employ few locals but instead 16,000 poorly paid Nepalese, Pakistani and Indian semi-slaves, (who in some circumstances, were found to be living 30 to a two-bedroom cottage). These poor people, crammed together as they are in insanitary conditions, have contributed 80% of the region’s covid cases while only being 40% of the population, and this high Covid ratio within them has shut down the majority of the local tourist industry for the better part of the last six months, materially affecting the livelihoods of the whole area.

It’s also an environmental disaster as the berry growers have already bulldozed out of existence rare and meant-to-be protected habitats, for which Portugal received funds from the EU.

The same berry growers, who have effectively taken over the water management company, are domiciled abroad, mostly in the States and Holland through a blizzard of different companies which own other companies etc. etc., and have received massive tax rebates from the Portuguese government on the tax that they did pay here in 2019.

The water company managing the distribution of this vital resource even cut off the flow into the original river until local residents raised a stink greater than that raised by the drying and dying river bed. The whole thing is made infinitely worse by climate change, which has led to a dryer local habitat visible on a daily basis.

It’s the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture promoting the whole thing while the Environmental Agency wallies about strafing locals who raise a brick anywhere in the vicinity – meanwhile the berry growers have put 1,000 hectares of a Natural Park under plastic, far more than they are permitted to do, so a “Natural Park” is now one in name only, disappearing under a sea of plastic while drinking at an ever-increasing rate the only water resource for the whole area.

Those are the bones of the matter. It’s a sad, sad situation – and it’s getting more and more absurd.

CLICK HERE to see a video that demonstrates the reality of this situation.



On the 18th of July, the community gathers to demonstrate against the current model of unsustainable water management in the Santa Clara Dam. SEE DETAILS.
The Mira Beneficiaries Association (ABMira), responsible for the management, exploration and conservation of the Santa Clara Dam, controlled by the coastal intensive food industry, with the approval of the Government and various ministries, has been conducting a policy of water degradation, a vital resource for the municipality of Odemira.
ABMira, whose main objectives are the representation and defense of its beneficiaries, is responsible for 30%-40% of losses in distribution, denies water to the river and small farmers to “give” it to a restricted group of large companies that leave an unsustainable and unbearable social and ecological footprint for communities and territory.

We demand from the Government:
– Priority return of the ecological flow to the Mira River
– Public management of a single and common resource
– Change in distribution priorities: 1st Rio Mira, 2nd Populations and 3rd ALL farmers (not only those in the current irrigation perimeter) and industry
– Investments in infrastructure to reduce losses (closed pipelines and return system).
– Greater efficiency in consumption: everyone pays for the amount they consume and at the same price.
– Immediate blocking of the expansion plan for intensive production areas on the coast.
– Urgent maintenance of the WWTP’s that discharge into the Mira River, especially the one in Sabóia.