Dredger at Alvor’s Praia dos Três Irmãos

Alvor fights erosion amid controversy

Most of Alvor’s massive shoreline of golden beaches will be open to beachgoers this weekend, just in time for the start of the bathing season. But a 200-metre stretch of sand along Três Irmãos will be restricted to the public as sand replenishment efforts are still underway and will continue into summer.

The assurance came from Alvor parish council president, Ivo Carvalho, who told the Resident this week that the ongoing dredging works will serve a double purpose – to make the Ria de Alvor estuary easier and safer to navigate and, at the same time, to ensure the eastern section of Alvor beach is replenished with sand and the dunes protected.

“We tried to convince the environmental authority (Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente – APA) to complete the work by the end of May, but they told us this would be impossible as sand replenishment at Três Irmãos had to continue or all their work could be lost to the tides,” said Ivo Carvalho.

It was “a risk that everyone” – Portimão town hall, Alvor parish council and APA – “agreed wasn’t worth taking”, even if summer is just around the corner and nearby businesses and hotels – the Pestana group recently opened a five-star, all-inclusive resort 10 minutes’ walk from Três Irmãos – are certainly keen to see the work completed so that tourists can enjoy the local beaches without restrictions.

“People will still be able to walk around the restricted area and enjoy any other part of the beach,” the parish council president added.

The works are expected to add 10 metres to the dunes and 25 metres to the beach once completed.

Costing around €2 million, most of which is covered by the EU (€1.7 million), the dredging project has faced controversy over the last few months mainly due to the black silt that was pumped into the sea which many feared was sewage and a public health risk. Social media was abuzz with pictures of the black water being spurted out of large pipeline tubes.

But as Carvalho told us, “anyone from Alvor knows that the bottom of the estuary is mostly mud.”

And that is exactly where the sand is being dredged from and pumped into the sea.

“Many people would take pictures of the mud and post them on social media, but if they came back an hour later, they would see that it had already been washed away by the tides,” he said.

What’s important, he says, is that people realise the importance of the work that is being done.

“Every year our shoreline is receding,” Carvalho explained, adding that these works are essential to ensuring that the village’s beloved beaches are not lost.
The dunes have also been “reinforced” with sand to help protect coastal areas in the case of storms.

The parish council president also said that the feedback he has received from fishermen about the dredging work in the estuary has been “positive” and that hopes are that it will make life easier not only for the fishermen but also for maritime tourism companies and visitors arriving by sea.

Carvalho also cited a study carried out by the University of the Algarve that showed that Ria Formosa’s biodiversity had improved after similar dredging work was carried out in that estuary.

“I even asked if this project could help recover Alvor’s ‘conquilha’ (saltwater clam) population which has all but disappeared. The answer I received was ‘let’s see…’,” he said.

The estuary dredging and beach replenishment work will resume in September, confirmed the parish council president.

“There were many delays, many of them caused by the large amount of rubbish that was found at the bottom of the estuary,” Ivo Carvalho told the Resident, adding that for every hour of dredging, another two hours were spent removing the rubbish from the sand.

Just a few months ago, piles of rubbish washed up on Tavira’s Praia Deserta following dredging works at Rio Gilão. The beach became covered with all kinds of plastic waste, including “a packet of butter from the 1970s”, glass, cans, car parts and fishing equipment.

Bathing season starts on Saturday in most of Algarve
Although it has already started in some municipalities such as Albufeira and Lagoa, the official bathing season will open in most of the Algarve on Saturday, June 1.

The bathing season is described as the time of the year when beaches are crowded with people, usually between June and September, and lifeguard supervision is in place.

This year, the Algarve will again fly the most Blue Flags in Portugal, with 88 beaches and four marinas receiving the coveted seal of quality in 2019. Lagoa’s Praia do Pintadinho has, however, lost its ‘Blue Flag status’.

Fish farming plan up for public consultation
A plan that aims to outline the areas that can be used for aquaculture (fish farming) in Portugal is available for public consultation.

The document can be consulted online on the website of the board of natural resources, security and maritime services (www.dgrm.mm.gov.pt) and on the ‘Participa’ portal (www.participa.pt).

Included in the plan are all geographical areas where saltwater from the ocean mixes with freshwater (brackish water or ‘águas de transição’ in Portuguese), such as Ria Formosa, Ria de Alvor, Lagoa de Santo André, Lagoa de Albufeira, Lagoa de Óbidos and Barrinhas de Esmoriz.

The plan is considered vital for the development of the fish farming industry in Portugal, described as “strategic for economic growth”.

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Photos: Michael Bruxo/Open Media Group

Dredger at Alvor’s Praia dos Três Irmãos