National Geographic : 1959 Mar
Happy Madeirans Cheer the First Trickle in a New Levada, or Watercourse Lush vegetation deceives the visitor, for it suggests an abundance of rainfall. For the most part, only the uplands are well watered; lowland slopes support lux uriant growth by a tremendous canal system that brings water from the mountains. For hundreds of miles the stone-and-concrete chan nels creep along sheer rock faces, traverse ravines, and tunnel through mountains. Engineers marvel at the ingenuity and bravery that made them possible. Here, near Ribeira Brava, farmers and Funchal offi cials join in the dedication of the island's largest levada. Its 33-mile length, passing through 31 tunnels, cost the lives of 35 men. Farmfolk sample their new water supply. When a man buys farmland, he also acquires the right to irrigate with levada water on certain days. Arguments about such rights cause most of Madeira's litigation. Untold water power lies un tapped in the levada system. Hydroelectric stations along a series of new channels are bringing electricity to every part of the island. Hikers who can stand dizzy ing heights find the levada pathways a magnificent chal lenge. Flower-banked walks, sometimes no more than a foot wide, lead to scenery of the wildest variety (page 388). Village girls do the family wash in a levada branch that waters their garden. 384 KODACHROMESBY DAVID S. BOYER, NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF © N.G .S .