GEOTA of Portugal wins 2023 Dam Removal Europe Award

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Thanks to the removal of the Vaqueiros Weir in the Alviela River of Portugal, GEOTA, a Portuguese NGO, along with their partners, was crowned winner of the Dam Removal Award 2023 during a ceremony held at the Free Flow Conference this week, in Groningen, The Netherlands.

The weir represented a significant barrier to river flow, measuring approximately 14 metres wide and 1.1 metre high. The project was a milestone for the dam removal movement in Portugal; following the removal completion, the Minister for Environment and Climate Action announced the initiation of a National Programme for the Removal of Obsolete Barriers.

GEOTA, together with its partners: the municipalities of Santarem and Alcanena, the Portuguese Environment Agency and E.Rio, and thanks to funding from the MAVA Foundation and the support of DIMFE, not only removed the weir but also restored a 100m section of the Alviela River, stabilising banks, recovering the riparian gallery, and re-establishing 3.3 km of river connectivity. After the removal, ecological benefits were immediately observed as connectivity was restored, water turbidity improved and invasive species decreased.

With this removal, GEOTA engaged in active stakeholders mobilisation, in close dialog with focus groups and  active communication with Alviela riverside communities, telling the story of the Alviela river and highlighting the history, past uses and customs. In fact, their moto was “By removing physical barriers and restoring river connectivity, we have the potential to remove social barriers and reconnect people and rivers.”

The award is hosted by Dam Removal Europe. Yurena Lorenzo, Head of Programmes at Wetlands International Europe, served on the jury and presented the award. The award included a 15,000 euro prize towards GEOTA’s next dam removal.

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