water of Madeira

In the sixteenth century the Portuguese started building levadas to carry water to the agricultural regions. The most recent were made in the 1940s. Madeira is very mountainous, and building the levadas was often difficult. Many are cut into the sides of mountains, and it was also necessary to dig 25 miles (40 km) of tunnels.

Levada comes from the portuguese word levar which means to carry. It carries the rain and the aggressive Atlantic storms from one side of the island to another, from the forests to farmer’s fields in the remote foggy mountains. While the whole idea of civilisation in the heights of Madeira is pretty shocking, the advancement of their water system shows some extreme determination. Paul said these people really wanted to settle here.

The land of Madeira is quite an impressive one too. Sharp, soaring mountains are covered with jungle and farms, levadas filled with fresh water, forming almost mathematically straight lines in the wild, distant landscape.

I tried to document the special relation of Madeira and the water. I got a strong impression, that people from Madeira have a special, conscious relation with its water, unlike most of the Western civilisations. There’s over two thousand levadas on the island, and beside their primary function as a water providers, they found another one, as paths, jogging tracks, everyday commute ways to school, fields, or work. Built by prisoners in the early times, the extremely hard and risky job, the water system has become something way more than what it was primarily created for; it’s a part of the island’s culture.

2

levada dos Torres, Noguera

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3

levada dos Torres, the water tank

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4

levada do Norte

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5

levada dos Torres, Camacha

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6

levada do Norte

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7

western fields

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8

western fields

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9

western fields

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10

western fields

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12

Camara dos Lobos

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13

Cabo Girao

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