Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Salgados is a matter of common sense


There still seems to be confusion about the situation at Lagoa dos Salgados. There are misconceptions about the lagoon’s vulnerability and what should be done about it.
It’s all fairly simple really.
The biggest threat is not the hotel, villa and golf complex planned for nearby. The real and present danger is that the lagoon itself is being neglected and abused.
Its future could best be assured by designating the area a SPA, a Special Protected Area.  SPAs are places of international importance for breeding, wintering and migrating birds, especially rare or endangered species. SPAs provide enhanced protection under EU law.
Portuguese government authorities have ruled this out. But another reasonably good solution has already been devised. To conserve this wetland habitat, it needs to be properly managed. This was recognised by several key national, regional, municipal and NGO bodies during years of deliberations culminating in an agreement in 2008.
Some of the parties have not abided by the agreement.
The authorities involved must overcome their indifference and ineptness. They must now get their act together. The ministry of  environment must become absolutely committed and insist on proper management and protection.
It is absurd to ignore or let such a popular and ecologically important site disintegrate. It should be coveted as a national, natural treasure.
With a carefully conserved Lagoa dos Salgados, everyone can benefit in all sort of ways - even economically, for goodness sake, as it attracts so many birdwatching tourists and enhances the region's reputation.
It’s only common sense to look after the place.

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Pedro Silvestre, Director of the Salgados golf course, categorically denies that water has been taken from the lagoon, illegally or otherwise , to irrigate the course. He couldn’t use the lagoon water even if he wanted to because it is too salty, he told me today.
He said both the lagoon and the golf course were suffering this summer because of the lack of rainfall last winter and spring, coupled with a shortage of recycled water being passed on from the nearby sewage treatment plant due to the dramatic drop in tourism in the area.
Of the 3,500 cubic metres of recycled water being produced daily, only 700 cubic metres were going to the golf course, the rest to the lagoon. The water from the plant – the golf course’s sole source – was only sufficient to irrigate the tees and greens.
The rest of the water from the plant is clearly not enough to stop the lagoon level receeding.
“It’s the worst year for water I can remember since the course was built in 1994,” said Mr Silvestre.
                                                                                                      
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It goes without saying that the Algarve does not need any more hotels or golf courses. The Praia Grande / Salgados complex will be yet another major blight on the Algarve’s coastline - if and when it goes ahead that is. But in the Lagoa dos Salgados context, it’s not the main problem, provided the already agreed plan is stuck to.
The development was planned years ago. After SPEA, the RSPB, ALMARGEM and others all had their say, the building density was more than halved and a buffer zone inserted between the development and the lagoon.
Before final approval in 2007, there was an opportunity for the public to air opposition. There was no public outcry then. There’s plenty now, but it may be a tad too late.
Public opposition to the ruination of the natural environment along much of the Algarve’s coastline has been muted for decades.
A quote from my ebook People in a Place Apart:

As tourism and the associated construction industry replaced unprofitable farming and unsustainable fishing as the major economic activities, the Algarve was up for grabs. Outsiders moved in big time. Investors and builders - sometimes aided and abetted by incompetent or corrupt local lawyers and politicians - engaged in a frenzy of development, often at the expense of wetlands and other natural habitats. The Portuguese said they would never allow the sort of crass over-development that had occurred along the coast of southern Spain – but did just that, albeit it on a lesser scale.
Standards of living for the Portuguese people in general improved so much and so quickly that few bothered to seriously reflect on what was happening to large areas of their precious environment. By the time organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, Quercus, and many smaller groups and individuals were able to make their voices heard, bad planning and the misuse of European funding had led to some disastrous decisions. Parts of the ecosystem had suffered irreparable damage with many species being pushed to the verge of extinction.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks Len & «BEM HAJAS» for your interest in Algarve and Salgados all together!

    PRESS ON, regardless!!!
    Luís Garcia

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  2. Thank you Len, it is unbelievable that things have got to this stage. Please can I urge all your readers to support the petition and urge their friends to sign up. How can there be support for nature tourism without any nature to enjoy !
    Rosie

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  3. Thanks Len. Take a look at www.birding-in-portugal.com ...

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  4. I'd just like to say that there was an outcry in 2007 - at least from some of us, but I don't believe that it was made full use of by the official bods concerned. There was an appeal for funds by the RSPB and SPEA to stop this development and up here at the Quinta we collected and gave them quite a bit - but we never saw any difference or were kept informed on progress.
    That's why I set up the petition, so that these bodies - and Almargem, the LPN et al - can make use of it.
    Late I know, but better late than never, but perhaps it should not have been left to an Alentejano to have started it; surely these official bods could have done something along these lines far earlier?
    There's national and international indignation that Portugal is not fully protecting this unique area, and this is being shown by the petition ... let's hope that the bodies that are fighting this battle can use it.
    It stands at over 5,500 this morning 11 days after it was started. We've got various publications running stories worldwide about it, but what we want is a Nature-media celebrity on board - does anyone know one? Please write to them.

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  5. The outcry against the Praia Grande development comes only now, possibly, because in 2007 no one saw how terrible things were set to become in Algarve tourism.
    Frank's petition:

    http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_Salgados_a_unique_internationally_recognized_birding_sanctuary_from_being_destroyed/

    talks about 55% hotel occupancy. We also have hotels going out of business left, right and centre and face increasing competition from holiday destinations abroad.

    Thus now, 2012, is a very good time for a public outcry.

    People can see that plans decided upon to sustain Salgados wetland in 2008 are not working; they can see that more development would only furtner compromise the lagoon's future, and they can see public pressure these days CAN change policies!

    There is a saying by Margaret Mead, that comes to mind:

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

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  6. "How can there be support for nature tourism without any nature to enjoy!" R. Peddle 2012.

    With what is left of the tourist board concentrating on the unchallenging task of promoting 'sun and sand' holidays it ignores other segments at the region's financial peril. The steady growth in nature tourism over the years has largely gone unrecorded as it is hard to track and quantify.

    I found this definition of the natural tourist bird:

    'requiescit advenus' (n) - this type of resting migrant, independent of flight and nesting at smaller quintas and guest houses, is by nature quiet and hard to spot even in its chosen habitat.

    When visiting the Algarve pairs can be observed in the evenings in bars and restaurants away from the busier town and city areas, quietly chatting away and planning the next day's exploration with or without guide.

    During the day they can be observed in the hills and along the shoreline of the Algarve, usually in pairs but sometimes in small groups.

    Essential to the natural and economic health of the region they are best nurtured lest their habitat be disrupted by unwanted developments and they choose to rest in Spain or other Mediterranean countries.
    _____

    As with the the current Higgs boson research, just beacause you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't there. Nature tourism brings huge benefits to the region, an unseen, quiet, strong flow of income to many businesses at the margins of the mainstream.

    Therefore, stopping the financially pointless development next to the Salgados lagoon is both a practical as well as a symbolic step.

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