Uncertainty as to when an appeal court in Lisbon will make a decision on an Algarve municipal council’s refusal to order a developer to make an environmental impact study is exacerbating frustrations among campaigners determined to save the wetland site known as Alagoas Brancas.
Mayor Luís Encarnação and the municipal council of Lagoa believe that the economic benefits of a project to commercial develop the site would outweigh the environmental consequences of doing so. In support of that argument, they are warning of the high cost to the municipality if they have to indemnify the developer for cancellation of the project.
Luís Encarnação thinks it financially wise to allow the developer to turn the wetland into an already planned and approved commercial area, thus creating a dispute that has been going on for four and a half years.
Anabeta Blofeld (pictured above) and several other Portuguese residents, plus members of the expatriate community who make up 21% of the local population, began the ‘Save Alagoas Brancas’ campaign in January 2017. They were joined by environmental agencies that have been cooperating ever since. The extremely active Salvar as Alagoas de Lagoa - Save the Alagoas of Lagoa Facebook group have now nearly 3,000 members and more than 6,500 petition signatures.
Dr Manfred Temme, a German biologist and ornithologist, (pictured above) began studying and photographing the wetland’s prolific birdlife during annual autumn to spring visits as far back as 2008. He has recorded the presence of 88 species ranging from wildfowl, waders and even sea birds, to raptors and song birds. Observations by other ornithologists have raised the number of species to more than 120.
“Glossy Ibises have increased tremendously over the past ten years, sometimes with as many as 100 to 900 of this spectacular, long-legged wader feeding by day or roosting at night,” says Dr Temme.
His records show that many of the 50 Spoonbills present in February and March 2917 had been ring combinations from the Netherlands and sometimes Spain. Some Black-tailed Godwits resting during migration have been carrying ring combinations from the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Ringing information is regularly exchanged between scientific institutions.
The Save Alagoas campaigners can rely on the firm support of Almargem, a well-known regional non-profit organisation devoted to studying and safe-guarding historical, cultural and natural sites in the Algarve, as well as the newly form Association Cidade da Participação - Associação Cívica based in Portimão, which promotes active citizenship in the protection of cultural heritage identity, natural or built. The local campaigners also have the cooperation of the Portuguese ornithological association, SPEA. Political backing has come from the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda) and the People-Animals-Nature (PAN) parties at local level and in the National Assembly, but the other main political parties have remained largely silent.