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Surfrider stands against the breakwall project in Matosinhos
The mission of the Coastal Defenders, a community of Surfrider volunteers engaged on the ground, is to act against the human-caused pressures that threaten the oceans and coasts. Our Surfrider Porto chapter is now confronted with a construction project of which the consequences could be as disastrous for the environment as for people.
A controversial development project
Since the start of this year, the coastal town of Matosinhos in the north of Portugal has been the scene of an significant civic protest. In question is a project to expand the seaport that may irreversibly degrade an already fragile coastal area.
The project, led by the local Port Authority (APDL), intends to extend the seawall of the Leixoes harbor by 300 meters. Doing so would permanently prevent waves breaking on Matosinhos beach.
In addition, the health of all beach users could be affected by this project. Given already relatively poor water quality in the area, the absence of swells will likely also lead to a stagnation of the existing pollution in the area and increase the degradation of that ecosystem.
Making a bad situation worse
The polluted state of the coastal waters in the area has been confirmed multiple times by scientific analyses conducted by Surfrider Porto. The Surf and Clean Water project and several sample collections have highlighted the organic, inorganic and micro-biological pollution of the Matosinhos coastline.
In particular, high levels of Escherichia coli and intestinal Enterococci have been found. These are two potentially disease-bearing bacteria generally stemming from feces. This is not surprising since on-site research has identified the discharge of untreated wastewater into the ocean by certain rivers and wastewater treatment plants as the main cause of pollution.
Surfrider at the front line
In short, polluted water unable to renew itself and the loss of a surf spot is what awaits the inhabitants of Matosinhos if the construction project goes ahead. For Surfrider Europe and its volunteers it was therefore clear that they needed to act alongside the many local stakeholders who are worried about the risk of a damaged coastline.
A petition has been launched to challenge the project in its current form now counting 6,500 signatures. We are calling for an immediate discontinuation of the breakwall project given the many faults in the environmental impact study for the project.
The petition also encourages strong citizens mobilization against the extension of the harbor. On 7 April 2019, nearly 700 people attended a protest event at Matosinhos Beach and more than 1,500 people participated in a march to show their discontent with the project.
Soon the petition will be reinforced by a strong physical symbol, which will be offered shortly to the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic: a surfboard signed by well-known people who wish to join the fight, including athletes, local representatives, business leaders and NGO representatives.