Ducks and waders in relaxed mode at Alagoas Brancas Photo: Dr Manfred Temme

Alagoas Brancas saved from destruction after seven-year battle

Environmental Fund has transferred €3.7 million to council’s coffers to buy wetland

After a seven-year battle which at times seemed practically lost, environmentalists are finally celebrating the salvation of the Alagoas Brancas wetland in Lagoa.

The municipal council of Lagoa has already received €3.7 million from Portugal’s Environmental Fund (Fundo Ambiental) in order to purchase the land from developers and pave the way for the creation of the Natural Park of the City of Lagoa (Parque Natural da Cidade de Lagoa).

The news has been confirmed in an official statement by the Portuguese Government.

“The Environmental Fund of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Action has signed a protocol with the Municipality of Lagoa that will allow the acquisition of land in Alagoas Brancas. The amount of €3.7 million has already been transferred by the Environmental Fund, and the Municipality of Lagoa can move forward with the acquisition of approximately nine hectares of land for the creation of the future Natural Park of the City of Lagoa,” the statement reads.

The project will cost €4.4 million in its entirety, the government clarifies.

“The technical project, under the responsibility of the Municipality of Lagoa, will involve a renaturalisation project to create a natural area suitable to be visited and enjoyed,” it adds, explaining that it will undergo review by the ICNF (Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests) and is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

According to the government’s statement, the site of Alagoas Brancas is a “wetland area of about six hectares in the municipality of Lagoa. Despite its size, it has an interesting diversity of bird species and is important from the perspective of conserving national and European populations.”

It adds that environmental association Almargem conducted a study of three wetlands in the Algarve in 2019, involving various experts and funded by the Environmental Fund.

“Alagoas Brancas (Lagoa) was one of the three wetlands analysed in detail, and the natural values identified in this study provided a correct perception of the existing biodiversity on the site,” the statement reads.

“The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Action has committed to finding the best solution, in collaboration with the municipality of Lagoa, to safeguard and properly manage this wetland area and its natural values, in accordance with the law,” it adds.

“In this context, during the year 2023, and in conjunction with the Municipality of Lagoa, the option of acquiring the Alagoas Brancas plot and adjacent lands was evaluated.

“The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Action has thus committed to supporting this project, through the Environmental Fund, aimed at creating the Natural Park of the City of Lagoa in the Algarve, a commitment that has now been secured,” the government statement adds.

Speaking to RTP, Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação revealed that the project for the Natural Park will be sent to ICNF and several environmental experts once it is completed in order to “gather the largest number of contributions possible.”

For years, local citizens and environmentalists have been fighting the plans to effectively destroy the wetland area in order create a large-scale commercial establishment.

Their case has always been based around the hundreds of bird species and other wildlife that can be found at Alagoas Brancas, from seldom-seen birds to rare plants.

By Michael Bruxo

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