1.         Alto Douro Wine Region (Portugal) (C 1046)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2001

Criteria  (iii)(iv)(v)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1046/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1046/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

April 2011: ICOMOS advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1046/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

On 8 February 2012, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report that responded to the recommendations of the ICOMOS advisory mission invited by the State Party to consider the potential impact of the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project. The mission was carried out from 4 to 6 April 2011. By that time, planning for the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project had been completed, and initial construction work had already commenced.

a) Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project:

The Dam Project is part of a National Plan for Dams of High Hydroelectric Potential developed by the Government of Portugal in 2007.

The proposed Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project would be located one kilometre from where the River Tua joins the River Douro. It consists of a dam and reservoir in the buffer zone of the World Heritage property and a hydro-electric power station located 400 m downstream from the dam within the boundaries of the property. Associated infrastructure, such as power lines, would also be located within the property. Overall the area affected within the property would cover 2.9 ha (out of the property’s total area of 24,600 ha).

The dam would reach a height of 90 m above the river and would have a span of 270 metres. It would create a reservoir located in the buffer zone that would flood an estimated 421 ha of the Tua valley.

The Dam Project, despite being considered in the National Energy Plan dated 1989 and the Douro River Basin Plan 1999, was not mentioned in the nomination file. In 2008 the Portuguese Water Institute promoted a public tender for the project. The project was conditionally approved in 2010. The State Party only notified the World Heritage Centre of the project upon request in 2010. At the time of the mission, impacts of the project were still being evaluated by the national environmental authorities.

b) Results of the ICOMOS Advisory Mission:

The mission noted that although an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been undertaken this did not include an assessment of the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

The mission considered the potential impact of the overall project on the property and concluded that if the Outstanding Universal Value of the landscape had been taken into consideration, the EIA would have determined that the project would have a profound effect on a wide area of the property, resulting in the permanent physical loss of part of the cultural landscape.

The mission considered that the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value would thus be severe and irreversible. The mission did not consider that the impact of the dam could be mitigated, as suggested by the State Party, by the creation of initiatives that would maintain the memory of the cultural and natural heritage affected by the dam, or by the creation of a museum. The project would not contribute to the key management aim of conserving and improving the living, evolving vini-cultural landscape that was set out at the time of inscription. Overall, the mission considered that the Management Plan had not been put into action and that there was a lack of an overall effective management system.

The mission recommended that the State Party reconsider the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project as part of a review of the overall National Programme of Dams for High Hydroelectric Power Potential. It also considered that the management system for the property needed revising and consideration should be given to strengthening protection for the setting of the property.

c) Main Points of the State Party’s State of Conservation Report:

In its report, the State Party stated that the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project had been put out to public consultation between 6 December 2011 and 31 January 2012. It also stated that projects such as this may only go ahead after a favourable or conditionally favourable Environmental Impact Assessment is issued by the Secretary of State for Environmental and Territorial Planning. The deadline for issuing such document was 12 April 2012. However, on 11 May 2009 the project already received a conditionally favourable EIA.

In its comments on the mission report, the State Party stated that water had been extracted from the River Douro since the 1950s and this had added to the scenic and heritage value of the property. It also stated that, as the property is considered as an evolving cultural landscape, ‘life’ and ‘evolution’ should continue to be assured. The dam would not impact specifically on the vineyards, which it sees as the core attributes of the property.

Further the State Party stated that amended designs had been drawn up for the buildings and associated structures, some of which are now proposed to be put underground in order to reduce their visual impact. The power plant has been divided into two buildings and the slope of the reservoir adjusted to 45 degrees. No detailed plans were provided.

Construction started in April 2011 and is continuing. Work has been undertaken on excavations on the River Tua downstream river bed as far as the river mouth, the dam abutments on both banks, and the exterior platform of the power plant. Over 70% of the power plant access tunnel is underway. Excavation work is complete on the River Tua diversion tunnel and the access routes to the construction site. The State Party recognizes that the project involves major construction work causing significant transformations at local level. However, it states that the development of the project will be based on ‘premises of landscape integration’.

The report also refers to a draft retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value that was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in February 2012, and it further states that the Management Plan is to be reviewed, taking into account the monitoring of the state of conservation of the cultural landscape.

Finally, the State Party underlines its readiness for cooperation and expresses its wish that another mission be carried out by the Advisory Bodies as soon as possible to verify the state of the development and to access all affected and potentially affected places of the property.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the report of the Advisory Mission and its conclusion that the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project constitutes a potential severe threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. They also note that information on this project, although already included in earlier national energy provision strategies, was not formally communicated to the World Heritage Centre until 2010 by which time an EIA had already been given a conditionally favourable approval. 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the World Heritage Committee expresses its concern that the planning processes for this project do not seem to have taken full account of the World Heritage status through a thorough analysis of the project’s impact on the Outstanding Universal Value. While acknowledging the State Party’s invitation of the advisory mission in April 2011, they are also concerned that no time was allowed for the recommendations of this mission to be considered by the World Heritage Committee before construction work commenced.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further note that the State Party has stated that project work commenced in April 2011 and is continuing. Revisions to the design of the power station buildings and to various other aspects of the landscape works are said to be underway, but no detailed plans have yet been provided. The overall project, however, including the dam and resulting reservoir in the buffer zone, appears to be maintained according to plans presented to the advisory mission.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that, as a matter of urgency, any construction works should be halted until full and detailed revised plans of the dam, power station and other landscape works linked to infrastructure and a heritage impact assessment have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies. Work should be halted until a joint reactive monitoring mission has been undertaken to review the potential impacts of the revised project on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and the mission’s recommendations have been transmitted to and commented by the State Party. If the impacts of the revised plans are considered as being adverse, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies would recommend that the overall rationale for the Foz Tua Hydroelectric Dam project needs to be re-considered and alternative energy saving projects investigated. If the impacts of those construction works already carried out within the property and buffer zone are confirmed to constitute an ascertained or potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies would recommend that the World Heritage Committee consider the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 37th session in 2013. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.81

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B,

2.   Recalling Decision 25 COM X.A, adopted at its 25th session (Helsinki, 2001),

3.   Notes with concern the conclusions of the ICOMOS advisory mission that the potential impacts of the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project on the property and its setting would cause irreversible damage to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

4.   Also notes with concern that initial planning processes for this project have not taken full account of the World Heritage status of the property through an analysis of impact on its Outstanding Universal Value, and that an Environmental Impact Assessment had already given a conditionally favourable approval;

5.   Regrets that information on this project was not mentioned in the nomination dossier and was not communicated to the World Heritage Centre before commitments have been made, as required by Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, but notes with satisfaction the explanation which has since been provided by the State Party;

6.   Expresses its concern that construction works commenced in April 2011, before the recommendations of the advisory mission were known and before the World Heritage Committee could consider the project;

7.   Notes with satisfaction the invitation by the State Party for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider the potential impact of the revised Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam project on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and to consider the property’s management system, the protection of the setting and the overall state of conservation of the property;

8.   Takes note of the decision of the State Party to significantly slow down the pace of the  construction work of the Foz Tua Dam and related infrastructure, as from the adoption of this decision until the report of the joint reactive monitoring mission is published and to implement the recommendations;

9.   Decides to request the Director-General, in consultation with the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, to officially put forward concrete requests for action to the State Party based on the results of the joint reactive monitoring mission, if necessary;

10.  Notes that the State Party is revising the plans for the dam, power station and other landscape works linked to infrastructure and requests that full details of these plans, together with a heritage impact assessment, be submitted as soon as possible to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;

11.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the revision or reconsideration of the Foz Tua Hydro-Electric Dam project and on the overall state of conservation of the property for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.