Victory for Porto: suspension of Leixões harbour works


Last friday, February 28, Porto Chapter took another step in its fight against the Leixões the breakwall project at Matosinhos. After the Surfrider Coastal Defenders team presented their position to the council, the Portuguese Minister for Infrastructure decided in favour of the ocean and officially suspended construction until the results of additional environmental impact studies can be analyzed.

A 320 Million euros project with devastating environmental impacts

The Coastal Defenders' action started in March 2017, when the harbour extension project of Porto, Leixões, was launched. This work, amounting to 320 million of euros, aims to transform the port into one of the largest in Europe. This massive development threatens the beaches of Matosinhos and Porto where between 500 and 1,000 surfers and beachgoers come to enjoy the waves each weekened. Beyond obstructing sports activities, the harbour extension has the potential to significantly increase pollution levels in and around the port, contaminate water quality and create an economic strain by forcing the closure of surf schools, sea side restaurants, and other establishments who rely on money from surf toursim. 

The Surfrider Porto Chapter and the Diz Não Ao Paredão movement mobilized since 2017

Since the beginning of the project, Surfrider Europe’s local chapter in Porto has demanded a revised plan that would reduce the environmental risks of such development, by encouraging construction authorities to choose the least impacting option possible.

Despite protest, the project moved forward and broke ground at end of 2018. In May 2019, Surfrider Europe increased its support for the local environmental movement, Diz Não Ao Paredão, working to measure the impact of the harbour extension. A petition, “Say no to the breakwall”, circulated with nearly 7,000 signatures.

A petition brought to the Portuguese government

The strong community resistance, represented through signatories of the petition, won the attention of local government and on February 27, the case was discussed during the Portuguese National Assembly. It was a historic moment for environmental activism and coastal protection in Portugal marking the first time that a petition for the suspension of work the size of Leixões has been reviewed by a committee of the Portuguese assembly. Surfrider Foundation Porto and Diz Não Ao Paredão movement were present during the disussions. All issues related to the project have been addressed and the legality of the work has also been questioned. Thus, the opportunity has been taken to show the project's lack of environmental impact study.

The following day, February 28, the Portuguese Minister of Infrastructure, Pedro Nuno Santos, declared that the project will not be validated until all the missing studies have been carried out, analyzed and approved. It is therefore a big step in our fight against the development of this port and to save the beaches of Porto and Matosinhos. However, the efforts must not stop there. The fight continues for Surfrider Porto which you can follow and support.

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