Saturday, June 30, 2012

Salgados - a shoddy and shameful saga

A new spurt of public interest in Lagoa dos Salgados has focused the spotlight once again on a well-known bird site that years of painstaking negotiations have failed to protect.
Portuguese government authorities have long stymied efforts to have the lagoon formally declared a Special Protected Area (SPA) under EU law.
Various governmental and non-governmental bodies have held endless meetings about other ways of conserving Lagoa dos Salgados rather than letting it become destroyed through neglect or overwhelmed by yet more development.
Then in 2008, the RSPB in close collaboration with the Portuguese bird society SPEA, felt able to announce that just one last hurdle remained before a final deal could be struck between all the public and private parties involved in the discussions.
 The hurdle involved control of the water level so that the wetland habitat could be carefully managed for the benefit of the many species of breeding, wintering and migratory birds, as well as many resident and visiting nature lovers.
Since 2008, things seem to have gone backwards.
At the climax of the breeding season this year, the water level was dropping alarmingly. The northern and western end of the lagoon was drying up because of a lack of rainfall and allegedly because a regional water authority was not supplying water from a new treatment plant to the lagoon as well as a neighbouring golf course as previously agreed.
A few weeks ago, SPEA expressed concern about this. The ARH hydrographical administration reacted by putting out a press statement saying it was taking measures to correct the situation.
SPEA accused ARH of lying because the water level continued to drop. It has done so to such an extent that much of the lagoon is now an exposed expanse of cracked earth. 
  There was no explanation from the ARH in Faro or the Portuguese Environmental Agency in Lisbon to which the ARH had deferred questions.
Following a complaint from a member of the public, the GNR’s specialist ‘SOS Ambiente’ unit briefly looked into claims that the neighbouring golf course and private gardens were illegally siphoning off water to the determent of the lagoon. The police saw no reason to take the matter further.
The golf course in question, along with an unfinished hotel and a closed aparthotel currently in the hands of banks, is owned by the CS Group, which is now in administration. The Albufeira municipal council is believed to have cut mains water supplies to the development.
On top of all this came an unexpected announcement at the end of last week from the Silves municipal council about construction of another huge tourist development on the opposite side of the lagoon. The developers, Finalgarve, are expected to start early next year.
The announcement was unrelated to the fact that Lagoa dos Salgados was drying up (though conspiracy theorists have sought to spot a link). However, it sparked an outcry in the form of press reports, an online petition, and a letter from the Almargem environmental group to the EU.
The Finalgarve golf and hotel complex was planned long ago. It was finally approved in 2007 only after the project had been considerably scaled down, with far fewer beds and a buffer zone between the golf course and the edge of the lagoon.
The international financial crisis delayed the start of construction. It was scheduled to start in 2009 and should have been well on its way to completion by now.
The recent go-ahead announcement seemed barely believable given Europe’s deepening financial worries, serious regional tourism troubles, and the unsightly CS "resort" at a standstill on the opposite bank.
Even if the Finalgarve project does go ahead next year, Salgados could have a future as a safe haven for wildlife – but  only if it is kept supplied with water.
For far too long the area has been subject to the vagaries of two municipal councils, two water entities, two major developers and a clutch of ineffective governmental and non-governmental environmental organisations. There has been far too much babble and not enough positive action to finally create a permanent sanctuary.
It has been a shoddy and shameful saga. It’s not too late to save Salgados from greed, ineptness  and stupidity– but there is no lasting solution yet in sight.


paul rees said...

An excellent summary of the Salgados saga. Must every piece of the Algarve be trampled over by big business, which in this case has no money, no credibility and has already created a wave of local opposition.

Natasha said...

My burning question is if this new development is aiming at the high end of the tourist market, will these "high end" tourists be content, sitting in a sea of concrete beside a sad, dried out lagoon that once boasted a wealth of wildlife?
Something is indeed very wrong in this whole sorry saga.

Anonymous said...

"Must every piece of the Algarve be trampled...": a resounding YES!

I've heard a lot of complaints from tourists and ex-pat residents in the Algarve (and I have a lot of friends in this latter group) about the Algarve lacking the things they'd like to see - more roads, more shops (closer to them so they don't have to drive into the big shopping centres in Guia and Portimão, for instance), a decent airport in the western Algarve, not being able to build an investment villa in a green zone (I mean, what kind of backward government prevents you from building a house), and the whinging just goes on. Back in 2006, when the public had an opportunity to have its say on the matter, there were about 30 golf resorts in the Algarve, and the PROT called for another 30-odd. All this development isn't going to happen overnight, but it certainly is in the pipeline. In a region that suffers from water shortages...


Anonymous said...

Seems to me the powers that be are discriminating against the low class 'Daily Mirror' reading tourists who comes to the Algarve with his kids to spend his wages. Won`t they be allowed in if they are Ryanaire or Easyjet clients, it won`t be long before Portgal bans black, yellow, obese people and anyone who it doesn`t appreciaite or understand. No poor tourists allowed in Portgal!! what next.

Why is it we have so many golf courses? because its a rich mans game but look at them now virtually empty along with the hotels and our motorway. Or haven`t you noticed.

Where are the touristic attractions for kids, where`s the nearest Disneyland, holiday camps, boating lakes and caravam parks etc, we don`t have these do we because the powers that be are just simply snobs and well above their station in life which is being proved by the the dismal tourism figures we have. What is a Butlins Holiday Camp if you don`t know you are a snob, never been to one? then you are a snob.

The attitude to campervan owners is abysmal and almost racial as they are scorned upon as a travelling gypsy horse thief would be, when these are some of the nicest people their are and from all walks of life. And what does Portugal provide for them, absolutely nothing at all. I understand there are 40,000 of them around and yet thats just a fraction of what could be here if Portugal provided sites in all major cities run by the state and not by some local money grabbing company who has an eye to making a fast buck and give a lousy service.

Developing Salgados is a stupid move, its a bad business move, its a criminal move to ruin a beauty spot and its so clear why the council allowed it. They don`t care about nature, its profit and the 35 million income estimated but it`ll never come to the income stage believe me as it`ll be a white elephant from day one, do we really need another golf course and another three hotels. If I had my way I comandere half the golf courses and turn them into camp sites to accomodate the people who really want to be here for half a year, and thats the motorhomers and campers......or hadn`t you noticed them.

There should be a very large sign erected in Salgados ''Abandon all hope ye who enter here''

Ivor Grouz

Helen Cafolla said...

Hello Anonymous ! Ivor, Do you really believe
what you have written !"Low Class Daily Mirror
Reading Tourists" Behave !!
What excatly is a SNOB ? I think you will find
each letter has a meaning !S N O B ....
I have resided in Algarve for over 20years the Moterhomers as you call them are well known for
using free Parking in areas often near golf courses so they can USE FREE fACILITIES or havent
you noticed that? Campers on the other hand are
well respected and like to pay their way. I do
agree with your Salgados comments It is so very
Wrong to ruin this Beautiful Natural Area ....

Fiona said...

Why is there no insistance on completing unfinished properties first just look at S De Rocha ... one completed hotel that has never opened ... why? One half completed hotel that must have been like that for at least 15 years! Look at Porches development what a blot on the landscape shell of a devolpment covered in graffiti must have been like that for 15 years ... why?

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Anonymous said...

"...not being able to build an investment villa in a green zone (I mean, what kind of backward government prevents you from building a house)"

A backward government is precisely the one that allows to ruin green zone that should be classified as a conservation area to build yet more empty villas, hotels and golf courses to satisfy the greed of business men/women, politicians and mayors/mayoresses (I'm not mentioning any names here). Backward government isn't the right description, the right description is criminal government.