Project WCD / IMS - Sabor / Coa

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CITIDEP Project concerning the projected dams for the Sabor / Coa rivers, Portugal

Last updated: 10 July 2003


Portugal has a history of building controversial dams. Unilateral decisions on building dams led to either multiple policy shifts and decision reversals (e.g., River Coa, with a projected dam endangering valuable archeology findings), or long, controversial processes (e.g. Alqueva dam), thus increasing considerably the development costs, with questionable results for the public interest and local populations. Recently, the sluice gates were closed on the Alqueva dam, which is flooding valuable forests and farmlands and represents Europe's largest reservoir ever built. The long-term ecological and social costs of the project are staggering while its economic benefits seem to have been vastly overstated. Alternatives to the project were never really seriously considered.

Now the government plans to build a dam on either the Sabor river, one of Europe's few remaining wild rivers which is located in a pristine region protected under national and European environmental agreements, or the Coa river (again), or both. Naturally, there are legitimate arguments in favor of this decision, but no less legitimate against it; and what is at stake amply justifies an effort to promote a sound, transparent decision-making process.


This project is based on CITIDEP's in-depth knowledge of environmental decision-making processes, including the development of methodologies and tools to make the best of the new information technologies to support public participation in complex decision-making, e.g. environmental impact assessment reviews [ref.: Project IMS].

Caracterize Problem

Identify Actors

Multidisciplinary Vocabulary

Domain Taxonomy

Issue Taxonomy

Antecipate FAQ List

(Frequently Asked Questions)

Collect FAQ Answers

Multimedia Documentation




The project is also making use of the rich experience of the World Commission on Dams, in particular its latest report: "Dams and Development: A new framework for decision-making". We support a public consultation process involving all stakeholders, including Portugal's major utility company (in charge of the Dam process) and Environmental NGOs.

5 Core Values

5 Recommendations

7 Strategic Priorities

7 Priorities Checklist

5 Key Decision Points

4 Criteria of Success

Such a process will lead to a more comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits, consequent externalities, as well as of project alternatives. As a result, we should be able to avoid repeating the mistakes of precipitated and unilateral decision-making of the past and better preserve our country's rich ecological and cultural heritage.

Supporting Documents


CITIDEP is actively seeking funding to enable both the scientific and social contribution goals of the project. We are grateful to the Greengrant Foundation, at this moment, the sole project support.


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