UNESCO reply on The Last Days of Tua campaign

Dear Tua River Friends,


Following more than 24 000 letters sent since The Last Days of Tua campaign was launched, UNESCO replied to PST – Platform Save the Tua (see here) and published a note on their website (whc.unesco.org/en/news/1498). None of them address our concerns and requests. Instead, UNESCO once again redirects the issue to the Permanent Delegation of Portugal to UNESCO and the National Commission of Portugal for UNESCO.


PST was created to promote a viable development model and protect the Tua Valley – part of the Alto Douro Wine Region classified World Heritage – from the construction of the Foz Tua Dam and power line. Thereafter, PST considers UNESCO’s inaction as proof of disregard towards the real impacts of the dam on the Tua Valley heritage and the property’s integrity.


This has been the attitude for the last years: evading responsabilities everytime we proved the infringements commited by EDP and the contempt of the Portuguese State over UNESCO guidelines, by sending several reports and letters. As a consequence, PST has replyed contesting:


A. Outstanding Universal Value of Alto Douro Wine Region. Impacts from the Tua Dam and Power Line are enough to classify the site as In Danger, according to UNESCO’s own criteria: they deteriorate the structure and ornamental features, by degrading the visual quality of the landscape; the natural environment, by endangering protected species and habitats; and represent a loss of historical authenticity, by implying a definitive destruction of the Tua Railway Line, connecting the Douro with the Northeast since the XIX Century. Together with other dams, these regional projects significantly deteriorate the landscape and its characteristics, and were proven to have impacts on climate and other environmental aspects.


B. Impacts on grape and wine production. Many wine producers in the region have shown increasing concerns about habitat loss, water quality degradation and microclimate alterations, which will increase production costs due to higher humidity levels. Together with the Tua railway deactivation, the impacts of the dam will decrease the high quality and potential of activities such as Wine Tourism. These concerns have not merited a substantive response.


C. Lack of transparency and involvement. The only involvement allowed to NGO and other interested stakeholders has been procedural and inconsequent in decision making. The well founded objections of NGO, wine producers and other stakeholders have been disregarded.


D. Environmental impacts. The Portuguese Authorities Report states water quality, flora, fauna, land use, hydromineral systems, noise and air quality monitoring plans have been implemented, showing no significant changes so far. This is meaningless report, as major impacts will only be visible if the dam is concluded and the valley flooded.


E. Landscape impacts. According to UNESCO, the power house – inside UNESCO area – had visual impact, but architectural redesign solved the problem; the dam however – located in the buffer zone and meters from the core area – did not. There is no justification for how a concrete wall higher than the Big Ben and a power line higher than Niagara falls do not pose a serious threat to the landscape integrity.


F. Mobility plan. The mobility plan appears as a solution to the Tua Railway line submerging. It is five years delayied and the new project – still to be presented to the communities – indicates a doubtfull touristic solution and an unsufficient daily mobility one.


G. Health and safety. The high number of occurrences due to lack of safety on the construction site demonstrate disregard towards UNESCO guidelines. UNESCO should have demanded a clear evaluation and assure that information on these occurrences was made public.


From the 10th to 20th of July will take place the 40th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Istanbul. This is the moment the World Heritage Committee will meet, and one of the last chances to inclue this topic on the agenda, discuss this issue and consider classifying the site as in Danger.


Please continue spreading the message and campaign! We can still make the Tua Dam part of the history!

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