The Tejo (or Tagus, in English) is Portugal’s biggest river (with its source over the border in Spain). It flows magnificently past the capital, Lisboa, and is in my opinion the reason why Lisbon is ‘the city of light’ – because of the sun reflecting off the river. You hear about the Tejo in many of the area’s traditional fado songs. But biologically, and therefore culturally, the river is a shadow of its former self, as are the lands alongside it.
The Portuguese roads company, BRISA, asked New Next Futures (partners of Green Blue World) and ourselves, to advise upon their existing biodiversity strategy. The company has been funding the creation and management of the Evoa bird sanctuary that is located within the Special Protected Area of the Tejo estuary (near Lisbon). They’ve also been funding projects seeking to demonstrate how agriculture can benefit economically from increased biodiversity: specifically supporting Portuguese NGO, Quercus, in the running of the Tejo International Natural Park, as well as an area managed by Companias das Lazerias, in the Charneca cork-oak savannahs in the Ribatejo.
We spotted the potential to extend these projects into a multi-stakeholder collaboration taking the river Tejo and its catchment hills as the defining aspect of a bioregion. BRISA and its existing partners, as well as collaborators with New Next Futures and Green Blue World, can form the incubating nucleus that welcomes more and more contributors. The opportunity is to demonstrate truly integrated land use that maximises ecosystem services (food production, biodiversity provision, eco-tourism, water capture, carbon sequestration, flood alleviation, etc) throughout the Tejo region, re-wilding the river and its landscapes and re-wilding its people and visitors. ‘Sustainable Tejo’ could become a premium brand identifying sustainable produce (and services) from the area, speeding the transformation from harmful (and struggling) economic activities to activities that look after everything.