Despite all the efforts from Esporão and Save the Tua Platform, the reservoir has entered its final filling phase.
Few weeks are left so that hundreds of hectares are completely submerged and the region's landscape forever changed.
While losing this part of Portugal, discontent gives way to reflection and solidarity towards local communities.
We thank the thousands of people who have joined this cause, have seen and shared the videos of the campaign and sent up to 23.000 letters to UNESCO, seeking the protection of the Alto Douro Wine Region and its historical, scenic and natural heritage.
The strength and mobilization invested in the defence of Tua's Valley and Railway Line ought to be transformed into encouragement and hope, so that no more harmful and useless dams are built in our and other countries.
Thank you all
Dear members of the World Heritage Committee and Centre,
The Foz Tua Dam construction works started in 2011, endangering the Alto Douro Wine Region (ADWR), which has been classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
Since the very beginning of this process, NGOs, corporations and thousands of citizens have demonstrated to UNESCO that the flooding of such important cultural landmarks and ecological assets (inseparable from the Douro and an integral part of the landscape) will jeopardize the region’s potential for sustainable development.
Wine producers have expressed their grave concerns regarding the impact caused by the future reservoir on wine production; associations have demonstrated the importance and value of the Tua mountain railway; adventure sports clubs continue to combat the loss one of the country’s best whitewater rivers and surfers have voiced concerns about sediment retention in new dams, which prevents natural replenishment of sand on beaches and aggravates coastal erosion.
United by ‘Save the Tua Platform’, all sectors of society have proved that the constraining and compensating measures stipulated by UNESCO are currently not being followed and will be ignored in the future.
Therefore, I ask UNESCO to fulfil its true role: that of an organization that safeguards places like the ADWR from destruction and to ensure future generations benefit from such unique places.
I urge UNESCO to take action by visiting the area, meeting all those involved and adding the ADWR to the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Alto Douro Wine Region, UNESCO World Heritage
The dam is located on the Tua River, a tributary of the Douro, about 1 km from its confluence. The 108-metre-high concrete dam is located just a few metres from the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, and the dam, as well as most of the reservoir, are within the buffer zone. The impact on the classified landscaped will be enormous, further aggravated by the high-voltage power lines that blight the region where the world famous port wine is produced. UNESCO initially identified a conflict between the dam and the ADWR; however, in 2012, it considered the project compatible with the classification, provided that a number of guidelines were followed. This has not occurred.
The Tua railway and landscape
The Tua mountain railway is remarkably scenic, especially the 21 kilometres of the near-wild valley submerged by the new reservoir. The 134-kilometre railway that once connected the Douro to the north-east of Portugal is interrupted, forever precluding a rail link between the region (Trás-os-Montes) and Porto or the Spanish new high-speed train.
Irreplaceable nature and agriculture
The dam will be an ecological disaster, destroying rare ecosystems and agricultural land. It will flood more than 400 hectares of olive groves, cork oaks and vineyards, as well as protected habitats. Instead of flowing, the river is contained in a reservoir. Water quality will degrade and consequently pollute the Douro River. Evaporation will increase, leading to greater air humidity and increasing the incidence of vine diseases, such as mildew. The reservoir also blocks the flow of sediment, keeping it from replenishing sand on beaches and further contributing to coastal erosion.
Clean and cost-effective electricity production
This dam has the sole purpose of producing electricity, supposedly to decrease dependence on external energy. However, it will contribute just 0.1 % of total national energy consumption (0.5 % of electricity). It will be heavily subsidized, becoming a heavy burden on both consumers and taxpayers. Alternatives, such as energy efficiency, the refitting of existing dams and solar power, among others, guarantee much better cost-effectiveness. In addition to this, unlike large dams, they also provide clear environmental benefits.
Regional ex-libris for sustainable development
Beauty and uniqueness create value. Destroying the Tua Valley and its railway damages the region’s potential for a more equitable and sustainable social, environmental and economic development. It scars the heart of the Alto Douro Vinhateiro, which is more than just the source of the world famous port wine. It is part of a unique heritage where mankind and nature have forever existed in harmony.
Historical and social heritage
Alto Douro Wine Region
Agricultural and forestry heritage
Flora, vegetation and habitats
Land fauna: invertebrates
Land fauna: vertebrates
Esporão’s mission is to make the finest products with what nature provides, in a responsible and inspiring way. Respect for nature is not only an integral part of everything we do, but also part of our main objective: to produce unique wines and olive oils that are ever better and more authentic, while protecting the natural and human resources that determine their quality and continuity.
More than a work philosophy, this is a serious commitment, as demonstrated by the “Countdown 2010” initiative. Esporão was the world’s first wine producer to sign up to this European agreement, which established measures to preserve the environment and biodiversity.
Based on this commitment, we decided to associated ourselves with the “Save the Tua” platform.
The effects of building the dam are extremely harmful and irreversible, particularly the visual impact of a huge concrete wall at the Tua river mouth, the flooding of one of the richest wild river eco-systems in Portugal and the climatic changes that will have a negative effect on port and Douro wine production.
What is at stake here is not just the environmental preservation of a region classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. It is also the economic, social and cultural preservation of the Alto Douro Vinhateiro, the world’s oldest demarcated wine region, whose unique characteristics are threatened by a project that offers no benefits to the place nor its inhabitants.
These are the reasons that made us support this cause untill the very end.