Thursday , February 25 2021

The road surrounded by quarries. Respondents, warnings and unanswered questions – Observer



Destroyed by the former highway 255 at Borba leaves many questions still unanswered. There have been warnings and the pictures seem to indicate a reported tragedy. Who are responsible?

The degradation of a road in the inner county, located between several marble quarries, brought to light two issues that were completely out of the media agenda, revealing unknown realities outside the universe of those who have to decide, invest, roads, quarries, and a deadly combination that has led to an undetermined number of deaths have begun the debate about where the responsibilities of the various actors and individuals begin and end. The questions are many, the answers remain only a few. But it is already known that there were warnings about the security risks on the old 255th highway, which reached the government and the autocracy. And that there were quarries licensed under old legislation that does not comply with the current rules on safety distances.

Former National Road 255 was excluded from the national network when a variant was built as part of the construction of A6, the motorway is linked to Spain. In 2005, a protocol signed between the then Estradas de Portugal and Câmara de Borba transferred part of this road to the sphere of the municipality. Another section was sent to the Vila Viçosa City Hall in 2007. From these transfers, the road became municipal and the Borba municipality was responsible for its operation and maintenance.

Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques was very clear about the end of the central state's responsibility. "What the government can do is: in the streets that it is their responsibility to do what it does", that is, to watch. "In what is under the responsibility of the central administration and this ministry, we are watching, investing and, for example, in this case, it has been decided for many years to implement a variant which is the one that works," said Pedro Marques.

"What the government can do is: in the streets that it is their responsibility to do what it does", that is, to watch. "In what is under the responsibility of the central administration and this Ministry, we are watching, investing and, for example, in this case, for many years, it has been determined to carry out a variant that is the one that works"

Pedro Marques, Minister for Planning and Infrastructure

The minister adds that when the road was transferred to the municipality's responsibility, the variant was presented as "a safe alternative and direct access to the populations." This variation is governed by the state.

From the information gathered by the observer there is no census or national register of municipal roads. This was at least the indication of Ribau Esteves, Vice-President of the National Association of Municipalities of Portugal. Each municipality will have its land registers and maintenance plans for the municipal road network, but these data will not work in a comprehensive and systematic way, as is the national network managed by Infraestruturas de Portugal, a new name of Estradas de Portugal.

In terms of national evaluation very few. This in addition to the general estimates of the poor condition of certain municipal roads. Ribau Esteves said that many streets in the rooms from Estradas de Portugal needed projects and that no financial resources had been provided for these interventions. ANMP Vice President, Almeida Henriques, tells Público that they are there thousands of kilometers of roads that municipalities have no money to keep.

How many kilometers, what is the state of maintenance of these kilometers and what priority interventions should be done, are issues for which there does not seem to be an answer. Unlike the national network managed by the IP, which is monitored for safety and operational conditions, which results in an annual report on the state of conservation of infrastructure. Special attention is also paid to the supervision of works of art – tunnels, bridges and bridges – a project that began to develop after the fall of the Entre-Os-Rios bridge. But we always talk about the national road network. There are those who admit that the Borpas accident could have a similar effect on the municipal road network.

According to reports from the Infraestruturas de Portugal, there are more than three thousand kilometers of roads that have been blocked by the national network but have not yet been transferred to the municipalities for various reasons. The most obvious are the financial constraints. The municipalities themselves refused to take responsibility for new roads without this being accompanied by financial resources or previous reviews.

Ribau Esteves points out that in talks on decentralization of powers the debate on these transfers did not proceed when the government acknowledged that there were no financial resources to meet the demands of the chambers.

However, before this process and especially between 2005 and 2008, many kilometers passed to the municipalities, in accordance with the protocols signed with Estradas de Portugal, now Infraestruturas de Portugal. The official source of the company reports to the observer that this passage was part of the National Roadmap (PNR) adopted in 1998 that roads not included in the PNR will incorporate municipal networks through protocols to celebrate between the Standing Committee (former Portuguese roads) and municipal councils, following maintenance interventions that restore them to good use or, alternatively, by means of a quantitative agreement with their respective municipalities. "

Ribau Esteves, Mayor of Aveiro and Vice President of ANMP, said the streets were transferred to the municipalities without the necessary works

Ribau Esteves points out that many of these protocols assume that public funds and community funds will be available for projects but that the financial and economic crisis has ceased to exist. Remember this The European Commission has limited the use of EU funds for road axes. It also points out the government's investment cut from the crisis and continues with captive costs affecting street, health and school projects.

However, not all transported roads were accompanied by financial allocations or intervention plans. Ribau Esteves gives the example of highway 109. The section transferred to Ilhavo when he was a mayor was associated with an intervention plan, but another part of the same road that was transferred to Aveiro did not have the same treatment.

In the case of Estrada Nacional 255, the protocol signed with Câmara de Borba did not foresee projects, according to the information gathered by the observer, but the document was not made available by Infraestruturas de Portugal.

Asked about the extension of the road network transferred to the chambers, Infraestruturas de Portugal refers only to the fact that, since 2009, for municipalities, 543.3 km of blocked roads, which involved 89 municipalities.

Company data show that the IP had an annual cost of more than EUR 10 million under protocols with municipalities for road maintenance but these figures have decreased dramatically in recent years and were under one million.

ANMP Vice President recalled that the entity proposed to the government the creation of a municipal fund to support the redevelopment of municipal roads that the chambers did not have for rehabilitation, but the proposal made two years ago was not taken for economic reasons. However, several sources that come into contact indicate that there are other problems and indicate a lack of staff or even a lack of technical staff at the level of local authorities, especially smaller ones, which ensure local monitoring and identification of intervention needs. The lack of engineers, consequence of the crisis, and in particular geotechnical staff with training and experience, was highlighted by many experts.

There is another thought. Even without the money to do the necessary works, municipalities can always decide to impose traffic restrictions on a particular street, close the road to traffic for safety reasons. This is because the risks are indicated and recognized correctly. And at this point begins the most complicated discussion in the case of the Borba alloy.

The aerial photographs that appear after the accident on Monday show a reality that seems to be talking about herself. A road surrounded by both sides by cliffs, valleys in the terrain of several tens of meters that resulted from years of excavation to extract the marble, which was a major source of wealth for the provinces of Alto Alentejo. It is also possible to observe that for those who circulated on the old National Road 255 the proximity of these cliffs was not visible because there were obstacles, some of the vegetation, which limited the perception of danger. The pictures seem to reinforce the thesis of those who claim that it is a reported tragedy, which Borba and Borba's mayoralists refused.

But if, in terms of roads, responsibilities are more or less limited to the Infraestruturas de Portugal, the national network and the municipalities, the municipal roads, when we get to the quarries, the issue becomes more complex. There are more responsible and the protagonists have changed their guardianship over the last few years, through the movements in the organic structure of the state. One thing is certain: road was already there when many of these quarries have started to work and have been licensed for many years not meeting the minimum safety distances.

Currently, licensing and supervisory competence belong to Directorate-General for Energy and Geology (DGEG), an entity that until the last reformation was responsible for the Ministry of Economy and which, since October, went to the Ministry of the Environment and was under the authority of Minister of Energy João Galamba, who, at the end of DGEG's Director General last week. But this is only the last of the moves. By 2015, the licensing authority was the Regional Directorate of Economic Sciences. He was also the person in charge of this entity who participated in meetings with the Borba Chamber and the marble builders who warned of the dangers of the road and where it was discussed until the possibility of closing the road, according to the November 2014 News Radio Bell.

João Filipe de Jesus left office a few months after the unpublished statements that acknowledged the existence of a security issue that could endanger people and revealed the existence of an incomplete study by the National Laboratory of Mechanics and Geology that confirmed it. By 2015, the regional economic directorates have disappeared and these responsibilities are at the core of the DGEG operating in Évora and where it is responsible. This is a kind of return in the past, because in a previous period these functions were already in the sphere of the predecessor of DGEG, the Directorate General of Geology and Mining.

A quarry must be licensed for the activity but must also present a exploitation plan, which is reviewed every three years. The increase in capacity also requires a permit and of a certain size, the project must have an environmental impact study with a favorable statement passed by the Portuguese Environmental Agency.

In response to this question, an official source from the Ministry of the Environment, which inherited this competence, identifies the quarries Olival Grande Sebastião and Carrascal JS, licensed in 1989, on the basis of legislation no longer in force. One of these quarries is active and the other is suspended, which, under the law, complies with the Environmental and Landscape Recovery Plan.

In the same answer, the Ministry of the Environment acknowledges that there were already holdings when legislation came into force which imposed a distance of 30 meters from the defense zone.

Faced with the existence of an "event" of these quarries, the licensing authority then considered that "the granting of licenses led to the imposition of rules and conditions more suited to its settlement in exploration work and security. That is, the quarries were already under the conditions found and it is technically not possible to move them to 30 meters of the defense zone. Furthermore, taking into account the actual situation, it was considered that granting them would allow the imposition of measures on the safety of the holding".

The Ministry of the Environment also points out that, with the exception of old and existing quarries, "all quarry permits respect the statutory defense areas (from 1990 national or municipal to 50m)".

It adds that DGEG's Southern Duty Directorate (DPS) has been closely monitored at the technical level by companies, both at the on-site inspection level and at the level of meetings and contacts, in particular with the technical managers of the quarries. DGEG accompanies the ACT in the area visit "what happened in this case, as the official source of the Working Conditions Authority said.

It also notes that conditions have been imposed by the entity that is also responsible for supervision, which includes the presentation of the technical studies (Instituto Superior Técnico and the University of Évora), in particular as regards the stability of the slopes, as well as the adoption of the " pregagens "to avoid slipping.

First of all, exploring the company, which must have a Technical Director with training and experience signing the mining project and who is responsible for overseeing the quarry security conditions. According to the owner of one of the farms, Jorge Plácido Simões, security requirements are met. The company has requested technical studies that have assessed the slope stability since at least 2001 and have made the interventions proposed by the technicians and that they passed next to the carving (to fasten the structure with metal hooks).

The latter will be in 2015, he told the Observer. And watching the fractures found in the well wall in some of these studies that the issue of road dangers has been raised has led some industrialists to suggest Borba Mayor closing the road to be held in June 2014. These initiatives were also reported by Radio Campanário in November 2014, in which Borba Mayor, António Anselmo, states: "The cabin does not have to do any work on the road if there is a report proving that the road is not safe, what can be done is to limit traffic, it is a process that we evaluate very carefully and very calmly. "The municipality's responsibility in this case is not limited to responsibilities in relation to the municipal road, is also the civil protection authority.

The information released on Tuesday suggests that alternatives to the old road were presented 255 but that there would be no consensus among marble entrepreneurs on the solution to be adopted. Significant risks have arisen from the technical studies of the quarry security conditions. There is at present no information that the House has requested an autonomous and concrete assessment of the road itself.

"Never in my life," said António Anselmo, Borba's mayor, when asked by Lusa's service if he had not been warned at the meeting with regional geological service technicians that the road was dangerous, it became a landslide for a quarry, which has caused at least two deaths.

"Never in my life," said António Anselmo, Borba's mayor, when asked by Lusa's service if he had not been warned at the meeting with regional geological service technicians that the road was dangerous, it became a landslide for a quarry, which has caused at least two deaths.

Γνωρίζουμε επίσης ότι το λατομείο στην πλευρά όπου καταστράφηκε ο δρόμος ήταν ανενεργό, αν και είχε ένα εγκεκριμένο σχέδιο εξόρυξης περίπου ένα χρόνο πριν για οικονομικούς λόγους. Υπάρχει επίσης ένδειξη για την ύπαρξη αρκετές εγκαταλελειμμένες εκμεταλλεύσεις και επιχειρήσεις αφερεγγυότητας ή εκκαθάρισης. Στις περιπτώσεις αυτές, η διατήρηση των συνθηκών ασφαλείας περνά σε άλλη οντότητα στο κράτος. A Επιτροπή Περιφερειακής Συντονισμού και Ανάπτυξης (CCDR) του Alentejo είναι υπεύθυνη για αυτές τις λειτουργίες και επίσης για την επίλυση των περιβαλλοντικών υποχρεώσεων που απομένουν από αυτές τις εκμεταλλεύσεις. Για το σκοπό αυτό, οι φορείς οφείλουν να παράσχουν κατάθεση κατά τη στιγμή της χορήγησης αδειών, η αξία των οποίων εξαρτάται από το μέγεθος της εκμετάλλευσης.

Δεν υπάρχει ακόμη οριστική απάντηση, μόνο υποθέσεις που έθιξαν αρκετοί εμπειρογνώμονες που ακούστηκαν αυτές τις μέρες. Το πέρασμα του α βαρέα οχήματα στο δρόμο κατά τη στιγμή της κατάρρευσης, ο εκσκαφέας που έπεσε στο φρεάτιο μπορεί να ήταν η σταγόνα νερού που έκανε την υπερχείλιση του γυαλιού, αλλά η βροχή η οποία έχει πέσει τις τελευταίες ημέρες, θα έχει επίσης διαδραματίσει σημαντικό ρόλο. Η καθίζηση μπορεί να οδηγήσει στο μετασχηματισμό του ανθρακικού ασβεστίου που υπάρχει στο μάρμαρο σε πηλό – στην κόκκινη γη που εμφανίζεται στις εικόνες – ένα πλαστικό υλικό που λειτουργεί ως λιπαντικό και δημιουργεί συνθήκες ευνοϊκές για τη διάβρωση και τις αλλούσεις, ειδικά στο στρώμα μεταξύ του μαρμάρινου τοίχου και του το δρόμο. Αλλά αυτή είναι και μια διαδικασία που απαιτεί χρόνο.

Ανεξάρτητα από τις άμεσες αιτίες αυτής της τραγωδίας, τα μεγάλα ατυχήματα είναι σχεδόν πάντα απρόβλεπτος συνδυασμός παραγόντων η οποία από μόνη της δεν θα είχε την ικανότητα να προκαλέσει το πρόβλημα. Το ουσιώδες ερώτημα που δεν έχει ακόμη απαντηθεί είναι εάν στην προκειμένη περίπτωση οι παράγοντες κινδύνου και η σύζευξη τους θα μπορούσαν να προβλεφθούν και να αποφευχθούν οι επιπτώσεις με συγκεκριμένες ενέργειες.


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