Debating a Dam is Debating Dams - Internet environmentalist discussion group on Alqueva dam, where networks «spring and spin», and local territorial relations and Europe show how entangled they are...
Dept. Sociology - School of Economics and Management SOCIUS - Centro de Investigação em Sociologia Económica e das Organizações Lisboa, Portugal
de Sousa, Marta A. P.
Dep. de Sociologia - Universidade do Minho PhD Student - Centro ICS Braga, Portugal
The Alqueva Dam [1961-2002] was a huge project in terms of time and resources and people. It is a big dam, and has become the synonym for the environmentalist movement of all big, expensive and non-environmentally friendly projects («That is another Alqueva project!!!»). In this presentation, it will be addressed the internet group discussion of the environmentalist movement, since 1990 until the beginning of the dam. The internet list shows the circulation of the dam through the networks, and the construction of the environmentalist speech in a chain of argumentation, that tells the history of the pressure and lobbying that environmentalist Portuguese movement tried to exercise, without much success. European Union, International debates on big dams, organization of conferences, demonstrations, and lobbying the European parliament and the European commission did not stop the dam. The internet discussion, the parliament discussion and the newspapers articles show the history of a country, of social movements, parties and a new reality emerging (EEC, European Union, etc) in successive waves, against which the Alqueva seemed to exercise an almost unstoppable capacity of building inertia and conquering what opposition came to arise. And most importantly, Alqueva was a political project that embraced environmentalist opposition, offering the movement a controlled, nevertheless real, process of incorporation of environmental design in itself. The movement that was against its coming to being, was in the end discussing its water level and impacts, and every avenue seemed to come to the same conflation ? Alqueva was going to happen, against the backdrop of arguments that start in water scarcity, climate change, agriculture, etc until those stemming from environmental impacts, heritage loss, de-localization of an entire village, and golf courses... Europe was, before Alqueva, the big helper for the environmental movement to succeed in their arguments against local politics. However, with Alqueva, EU was simultaneously the provider of the conditions necessary for the dam to begin its inexorable construction, and at the same time, the tour de force of the environmental movement by lobbying and arguing in Brussels against a much wanted (it seemed) project in Portugal.