Friday, July 27, 2012

Water - and hope - back at Salgados

Lagoa dos Salgados is almost full of water again. Masses of birds are back. There is even a glimmer of hope that the authorities are going to take care of this important wetland area at long last.
Much of the lagoon was reduced to a dried-up expanse of cracked mud before the end of the nesting season. It started to fill again only two weeks ago. It is not up to optimum level yet, but it is getting there.
More than ever because of the lack of winter and spring rainfall, the lagoon is dependent on input from the local sewage treatment plant. This has recently increased, probably because of an upsurge in tourists now that we are into the peak season.
The lagoon shares the supply from the treatment plant with the neighbouring Salgados golf course. But as yet there is no proper metering equipment, according to the Portuguese bird society, SPEA.
Allegations that the golf course was taking more than its fair share, or even illegally pumping water from the lagoon, were flatly denied by the golf course director.
It is believed that the regional hydrographical authority in the Algarve (ARH) has now applied to the ministry of the environment in Lisbon for funds, (said to be €1 million) to install a water level control system.
The idea is to keep the lagoon level constant– neither too low as in June this year, nor too high and thus flooding parts of the Salgados golf course or even polluting the nearby beaches as in August 2008. 
Such control was agreed in principle in 2008 after years of negotiations between government agencies, municipal authorities, developers and environmental bodies - but it was never implemented because no one was able or willing to cough up the money.
Hopes of proper management of the lagoon should not be raised too high. Added to the history of governmental indifference and ineptness, we now have a deepening economic crisis.
Lagoa dos Salgados badly needs both proper management and protection whether or not the highly controversial new tourist development planned for the Armação de Pera side ever gets underway.
Incidentally, it is difficult to envisage any new tourist development being built, let alone prospering, when one walks around the bankrupt existing one - the sprawling CS Herdade dos Salgados on the Albufeira side of the lagoon.
It comprises a newly built hotel and block after block after block of holiday apartments – all standing eerily empty and abandoned amid a forest of withering palm trees and gigantic weeds. What a depressing monument to the shambolic times in which we live. 

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