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High voltage eletricity transmission lines, Portugal

Govertment's approval for new transmission lines sparkles protests by local people and the creation of a national civic movement called Movimento Nacional Contra as Linhas de Alta Tensão nas Zonas Urbanas


High-voltage power lines, also called transmission lines, are the ones with a nominal voltage that is greater than or equal to 60 kV. These lines connect power plants (thermal, hydro, and wind) to substations or one substation to another. Most are overhead lines, but they can also be run underground. In Portugal, the Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN, National Power Network) was planning to construct towers in various parts of the country. This led to protests by local people and the creation of a national civic movement called Movimento Nacional Contra as Linhas de Alta Tensão nas Zonas Urbanas (National Movement Against High Voltage Power Lines in Urban Areas). Communities are concerned because numerous studies show increases in the incidence of leukemia in children, a higher risk of brain tumors, and cases of stress and depression due to the low-frequency noise emitted by high-voltage power lines.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict: High voltage eletricity transmission lines, Portugal
Location of conflict:Sintra, Silves, Foz Tua, Albufeira, Portimão
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The high-voltage line Fanhões-Trajouce has over 40 km and runs at 220 kV. The high-power towers would have between 31 m (the lowest) and 75 m (the highest), most of the towers measuring about 50 m, as stated in the Environmental Impact Study.

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:500,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN) from Portugal
Energias de Portugal (EDP) from Portugal
Relevant government actors:Ministérios do Ambiente e da Economia, Ordenamento do Território e Poder Local, Tribunal Fiscal e Administrativo de Sintra, Supremo Tribunal, Tribunal Central e Administrativo do Sul, Câmara Municipal de Sintra, Assembleia da República, Ministério as Saúde, Assembleias Municipais
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ação, Liberdade, Desenvolvimento, Educação, Investigação, Ambiente (ALDEIA)
Associação Ambientalista Olho Vivo
Associação de Defesa do Património Cultural e Ambiental do Algarve (ALMARGEM)
Associação de Moradores da População de Vale Fuzeiros
Associação dos Amigos do Vale do Rio Tua
Associação dos Amigos do Vale do Tua (AAVT)
Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza (Quercus)
Associacón de Afectados pela Liña de Alta Tensão Fontefria - Fronteria Portuguesa (Aalat Valiñas Poste)
Comissão de Moradores de Sintra
Coordenadora de Afetados pelas Grandes Barragens e Transvases- Seção Portuguesa (COAGRET)
Fundo para a Proteção dos Animais Selvagens (FAPAS)
Grupo de Ação e Intervenção Ambiental (GAIA)
Grupo de Estudos em Ordenamento do Território e Ambiente (GEOTA)
Liga para a Proteção da Natureza (LPN)
Movimento Cívico pelo Enterramento da Linha de Alta Tensão
Movimento Nacional Contra as Linhas de Alta Tensão Nas Zonas Urbanas
Plataforma Salvar o Tua
Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsA number of studies suggest the increase of leukemia cases in children, higher risk of brain tumors and the frequency of stress cases and depression due to low frequency noise from high-power lines.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impactsTourist and agricultural activities are affect. There is a property depreciation in lands that are crossed by these lines; situation recognized by case law of Porto Appeal Court, dated actions in 1995 and 2001.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:In some cases, alternative solutions consisted in the use of a line already in place for the electricity transmission or deviation in the planned line route in order to sidetrack the affected area. There was also the question in relation to alternatives to the construction of dams, the structure associated to the need for high-power line installation in the case of Foz Tua. These alternatives would be the repowering of the old dams and investment in energy savings
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The fight against high-voltage lines fulfilled the role to educate the general population about the risks of these infrastructures. In many cases, local movements with the support of national movement support, managed to cancel the installation projects, redirect their path to locals less dangerous to populations or perform the burial of these structures.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Portaria n.º 1421/2004 de 23 de Novembro
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Estudo sobre o Impacto das Linhas Eléctricas de Média e Alta Tensão na Avifauna em Portugal
[click to view]

OLSEN, Jorgen, H.; Nielsen, Annelise; Schulgen, Gabi. Residence near high voltage facilities and risk of cancer in children. Papers, v. 307, p. 891-895, 9 Out. 1993.
[click to view]

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION-WHO. Electromagnetic fields and public health. Exposure to extremely low frequency fields. Jun. 2007.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

AGÊNCIA LUSA. Alta tensão: assembleia municipal de Portimão exige ao governo alteração do traçado naquele concelho algarvio. Sapo Notícias, 10 Jan. 2008.
[click to view]

REVÉZ, Idálio. Algarve discute traçado de linha de alta tensão. Jornal Público, 17 de Fevereiro de 2002.
[click to view]

AGÊNCIA LUSA. Estudo de Impacto Ambiental apresenta 8 soluções para linha de alta tensão no Douro. Jornal i, 6 de Abril de 2014
[click to view]

GALRÃO, LUÍS. Greve de fome contra alta tensão no Parlamento. Diário de Notícias, 23 de Outubro 2007.
[click to view]

CORREIO DA MANHÃ. Sintra: cem contra muito alta tensão. Notícias, 4 Mar. 2007.
[click to view]

PÚBLICO. Ambientalistas levam linhas de alta tensão a Bruxelas. Jornal Público, 19 de Agosto de 2006.
[click to view]

CARMO, Helena. Alta tensão em zonas habitadas. ESQUERDA NET. 26 de Novembro de 2007.
[click to view]


News Article. AGÊNCIA LUSA. Contestada linha de alta tensão que vai ligar Barragem do Tua a Armamar. Porto Canal, 27 nov. 2014b.
[click to view]


News Article. AGÊNCIA LUSA. Estudo de Impacto Ambiental apresenta 8 soluções para linha de alta tensão no Douro. Porto Canal, 6 abr. 2014a.
[click to view]

BERENGUER, Márcio. Estudos científicos alertam para os perigos de viver ao lado de linhas de alta tensão. Diário de Notícias da Madeira, 3 de Abril de 2007.
[click to view]


News Article. QUEIRÓS, Luís, M. Unesco impõe exigências duras para contemporizar com barragem do Tua. Público, Notícias, 13 out. 2012.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Reportagem do programa Nós por Cá da SIC sobre cabos de muito alta tensão.
[click to view]


PAeM – LAT Trajouce-Fanhões, Sintra
[click to view]


PAeM – LAT Tunes-Estoi
[click to view]


PAeM – LAT Espanha-Porto
[click to view]


PAeM – Vídeos sobre Linhas de Alta Tensão
[click to view]


PAeM – LAT Foz Tua – Armamar
[click to view]

Other comments:Since there were protests in many places, the GPS refers to the geographic center of Portugal. GPS of each conflict: Sintra: 38.812198, -9.382556 Vale Fuzeiros: 37.250686, -8.352163 Foz do Tua: 41.208884, -7.420833 Albufeira: 37.092785, -8.247788 Portimão: 37.144183, -8.539399.
Meta information
Contributor:Inês Ribeiro, Lúcia Fernandes and Stefania Barca
Last update18/08/2019
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