Alviela river pollution by tanning industry and other activities, Portugal

The increase in industrialization in the region, the shoe factories’ growing demand for leather, and the lack of treatment of industrial waste linked to it led to very high levels of pollution


The headwaters of the Alviela River are located in the Serra de Aire and Candeeiros Natural Park in the municipality of Alcanena, in the parish of Louriceira. It flows into the Tagus River, near Figueira Valley, in the municipality of Santarém. Approximately 40 km in length, it is one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

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Basic Data
NameAlviela river pollution by tanning industry and other activities, Portugal
ProvincePorto de Mós, Santarém, Alcanena, Torres Novas and Golegã
SiteAlviela river basin
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesWater
Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe tanning industry is responsible for the Alviela river damages (arround 70 different companies), but a study identified a number of other sources of pollution: cattle raising, poultry, pigs and other livestock farms.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population~100,000 citizens from Porto de Mós, Santarém, Alcanena, Torres Novas and Golegã
Start Date01/01/1947
Company Names or State EnterprisesAssociação Portuguesa das Indústrias de Curtumes from Portugal
Relevant government actorsSecretaria de Estado do Ambiente, municipalities: Alcanena, e Santarém, Junta de Freguesia de Vaqueiros, Instituto da Água-INAG, , Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente-APA, Ministério do Ambiente, Ordenamento do Território e Energia-MAOTE.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersComissão de Luta Anti-Poluição do Alviela (CLAPA)

Liga de Proteção da Natureza (LPN)

Comissão de Defesa do Rio Alviela

Associação Amigos da Vida Selvagem

SOS Alviela
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Global warming, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
OtherChromium is a highly toxic and eventually carcinogenic heavy metal widely used in the tanning of leather.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherNegative impacts on the river ecosystem, affecting the livelihood sources of the riverside villages, mills, oil mills, fishing and sand extraction.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesThe Commission for Alviela River Protection has contributed to diagnosing and trying to solve the pollution problems and its impacts for coastal communities.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Founded in 2005, the Comission for Alviela Protection was composed by 40 entities, however they haven’t managed to put an end to the pollution and environmental degradation of the river.
Sources and Materials

FERNANDES, Rui. Ambiente e desenvolvimento. Da morte à ressureição de Alviela. V Congresso Português de Sociologia: Sociedades Contemporâneas, Reflexividade e Ação: Atelier Ambiente, p. 96-105, 2014.
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BENTO, Sofia; MEIRA, Teresa Bezerra; FERNANDES, Lucia de Oliveira; BRÁS, Oriana Rainho. Half a Century of Public Participation to Stop Pollution in the Alviela River, from 1957 to Today. Arcadia, Summer 2017, n. 20. Arcadia Collection: Water Histories. 2017.
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AGÊNCIA LUSA. Populares alertam para poluição no rio Alviela. Diário Digital, Sociedade, 6 Mai. 2006.
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AGÊNCIA LUSA. Governo e câmaras assinam novo acordo para a despoluição do Alviela. Jornal Público, 16 de Abril de 2014.
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TINTA FRESCA. Estudo sobre rio Alviela responsabiliza Santarém e Alcanena pela poluição. Jornal de Arte, Cultura e Cidadania, 24 Fev. 2008.
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Poluição e peixes mortos junto a nascente do Alviela
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TOXIC BIOS. A guerrilla narrative project. Toxic Bios. 25 jan. 2018.
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Media Links

Vídeo TV Ribatejo. Descargas poluentes de regresso ao rio Alviela.
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PaeM – Video sober Curtumes e o rio Alviela
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Other Documents

Comissão de Defesa do Rio Alviela Reunião de 17 de Março de 2006 Resumo Resumo da reunião realizada pela Comissão de Defesa do Rio Alviela no ano de 2006, ano seguinte ao da sua constituição, com o intuito de elaborar um levantamento minucioso do Rio Alviela, particularmente do problema da poluição e buscar soluções para este problema.
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Meta Information
ContributorFrancisco Fernandes, Lays Silva and Sofia Bento
Last update22/03/2018