Farmers on the Lower Sabor River demand decent access to the dam perimeter

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Farmers in Felgar, in the municipality of Moncorvo, are demanding decent access to avoid the long journeys they have to make every day to reach their properties, which have been cut off by the construction of the Baixo Sabor dam.

“The Felgar and Souto da Vela parish union was the only one with land on both banks of the Baixo Sabor reservoir. With the construction of the dam, the agricultural land on the right bank of the river has been abandoned due to the lack of decent access. Those that are still cultivated have to travel long distances,” José Rachado, a founding member of the Association of Owners of the Lower Sabor and Sabor Lakes, told Lusa today.

According to the farmer, in the Lower Sabor it is not possible to go around the perimeter of the reservoir because the accesses are far away.

“I have several properties on the right bank, some close to each other, and yet I have to travel several kilometers to get there, within the same parish. This is unacceptable. If you look at the more distant properties, they’re starting to become abandoned and the danger of fire is a constant concern, just like what happened in 2013,” said José Rachado.

In order to echo these concerns, the Association of Owners of the Lower Sabor River and Lagos do Sabor was legally established at the beginning of January 2023. It has managed to bring together more than a hundred farmers and investors from the four municipalities of the Lower Sabor, and is currently based in the four municipalities of this territory, specifically in Torre de Moncorvo, Mogadouro, Macedo de Cavaleiros and Alfândega da Fé, in the district of Bragança.

For her part, Olga Guimarães, who also works as a farmer in this area of the north-east of Trás-os-Montes, said that she will start planting 23 hectares of almond trees on the right bank of the River Sabor in October, but there are concerns about the investment due to the lack of access.

“We’re afraid to invest because we don’t have decent access to the perimeter of the reservoir here in Felgar. We can only get to our properties using 4×4 vehicles. If we don’t create a waterfront on the perimeter of the reservoir, we won’t be able to get through or remove our crops,” he said.

Rui Pombo, another of the affected producers, argued that other ideas include the installation of a boat to connect the two banks of the River Sabor and transport agricultural machinery and the production of crops such as olive groves and almond trees.

Farmer Jorge Encarnação argues that when the Baixo Sabor dam was built, EDP should have taken care to create accesses that would provide decent connections within the perimeter of the Baixo Sabor reservoir.

The concerns have already been conveyed to the government, the Portuguese Parliament, the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), the Northern Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR-N), the Baixo Sabor Municipalities Association, the European Parliament, among other bodies.

MEP Nuno Melo recently visited the Baixo Sabor and brought the dam project and the daily constraints on the region’s farmers to the attention of the European Commission.

“Every day, due to the lack of access to land that belongs to them and has been divided by the waters of the dam, Sabor farmers are forced to travel around 100 kilometers in order to carry out their agricultural activities, which has become an unsustainable and absurdly costly practice,” he said.

Nuno Melo stressed that the Baixo Sabor is part of a low-density region with huge structural problems, which the construction of the dam has exacerbated. He therefore questioned the European Commission about the possible allocation of funds for a problem that the Portuguese government has not taken care of since the beginning of the dam construction project.

The Baixo Sabor reservoir has about 70 navigable kilometers, covering four municipalities – Torre de Moncorvo, Alfândega da Fé, Mogadouro and Macedo de Cavaleiros – in the Bragança district and covering an area of 2,300 square kilometers with a storage capacity of 1,095 cubic meters of water.

The reservoir of the Baixo Sabor dam began to fill in 2013 and was inaugurated in 2016.

Iris Lavan
Iris Lavan
With a background as a consultant in the medical industry, Iris Lavan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Portugal Pulse. Iris also runs a company in Tel Aviv offering marketing, business development, content creation and public relations services. She holds a degree in economics and management, giving her a solid grounding in business strategy and financial planning. Iris' commitment to Portugal Pulse is reflected not only in her consulting career, but also in her impact on the Portugale media landscape in Israel. She was an interviewer for Hadshot Portugal חדשות פורטוגל, a media outlet that broadcasts news about Portugal in Hebrew, where she provided valuable information on current affairs, healthcare and the economy. Since July 2023, Iris has also been part of the Portugal Pulse team.

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