MARE researcher warns: Building dams is not the solution

Is building dams the solution to the water shortage that our country is facing? MARE researcher Maria João Feio says it's not. In celebration of World Water Day, the researcher explained to Diário de Notícias the importance of this essential resource for ecosystems, and how the construction of dams can alter their proper functioning.


"What seems to me is that people are aware of the importance of water not being polluted, but not of the fact that water is integrated into ecosystems, and that in order for it to be in good condition, the ecosystem must also be in good condition," explains Maria João Feio, who points out that this is the perception not only of ordinary citizens, but also of local authorities. For the researcher, the legislation is not applied in such a way as to guarantee water in greater quantity and with better quality.

The same is true in the agricultural sector. The researcher also mentions the increased use of water in irrigated agriculture, especially in areas with greater natural water scarcity, such as the Alentejo. "A simple matter such as cutting down all the vegetation on the banks, often done by farmers or local councils, is done because people don't realize that it is part of the ecosystem and is essential for its maintenance and to guarantee water quality," adds the researcher, who considers fresh water to be a scarce commodity: "not only because we live in a country where half of it has a very Mediterranean climate, and we know that, at least in summer, there is always less water."

What is the solution? For Maria João Feio, building dams to combat the growing scarcity of water would be "solving one problem by creating another", since "this leads to turning rivers into lakes, and with that we not only worsen the quality of the water (it stands still for longer, more pollutants accumulate) but we also encourage invasive species, which will compete with our native ones. In addition, the riverside forest changes and becomes dominated by plantations that were higher up." Instead, the researcher believes that the real solution is to "Create protected river areas. Protecting the rivers and creating zones that include riparian vegetation, where absolutely nothing can be done in terms of construction or agricultural fields." 


To read the interview (in portuguese), click HERE