Friday, June 7, 2013

Lawlessness at Lagoa dos Salgados

 The Lagoa dos Salgados coastal lagoon has suffered   shocking abuse this spring. Unrestrained dogs and roaming livestock continue to be a major hazard to breeding birds. They have been attacking chicks and damaging nesting habitats. These animals and their owners go unchecked because the environmental authorities, including the ‘Green’ police, do nothing about it.
In contrast to last spring, there has been almost too much water rather than too little in the lagoon. This has had the effect of pushing nesting waders into more remote spots, out of sight of visiting birdwatchers - but not out of the way of predators. Many eggs and chicks, particularly of Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, have fallen victim to marauding dogs owned by a shepherd. 
In a rather different example of wanton disturbance to sensitive nesting species such as Purple Heron and Little Bittern, a large wedding party last weekend watched from the lagoon’s boardwalk as a plane flew low over the water pulling a banner congratulating the bride and groom.
The disturbances are getting worse, says Rui Eufrasia who for the past eight years has been closely monitoring the situation at Salgados for SPEA, the Portuguese society for the study of birds. “The place has been abandoned. There is no law.” 
There are, however, some significant rays of hope. A source in Brussels has unofficially indicated that the European Commission may be poised to urge the Portuguese government to declare Lagoa dos Salgados a special protected area within the Natura 2000 network. This may come about as a result of an appeal last year from the Algarve conservation NGO, Almargem, and even earlier proposals by the Birdlife International partners SPEA and RSPB.
In another positive sign, the regional water supply and treatment agency, Águas do Algarve, has reiterated its intention to put in place a sustainable management system that will control the level and quality of water in the lagoon. It will be done in co-operation with the APA national environmental agency and the ARH regional hydrographic institute.
The high water level this year has been due to the heavy winter rains in contrast to the previous winter’s relative drought. This sort of thing is a natural consequence and not unusual in coastal lagoons. Caring human intervention is needed if optimum all-year-round levels are to be maintained for breeding, wintering and migrating birds.
Isabel Soares, the former mayor of Silves who is now the head of Águas do Algarve, confirmed this week that the money is in place for extensive works to install a series of ditches, islets and dykes. The works will also include a pipeline to bring waste water from western Albufeira to the Salgados treatment plant instead of depositing it, as at present, straight into the sea off the nearby beach. Water from the treatment plant will continue to supply the lagoon.
The overall €1.2 million scheme “will mean a very positive improvement for the whole area,” said Soares. Work is scheduled to start in mid-September and to be completed by March next year.
Declaring Lagoa dos Salgados a protected area under EU law and installing a sustainable management system are vital if the lagoon is not to be “destroyed” as feared by some protesting commentators.
Serious concerns remain, however, about the possible impact of the huge tourist complex planned for the Armação de Pêra side of the lagoon. A spokesman for the development company, Finalgarve, part of the Galilei group, said this week there had been no significant progress with the project since their announcement four months ago of an ‘environmental park’ within the complex.
The future of the tourist development project may hinge on a comprehensive environmental impact study, which is expected to be soon completed and released for public discussion.


  1. Cheers for the update Len. Can't wait to get an eyeball on the EIA!

  2. But have you seen the water level now? Far lower than it should be again ... It has obviously left me wondering why as it can't, (with approx 30% reduction in occupied hotel beds so far this season), be laid like last year on the doorstep of over-use by tourists ...