Battle to save Alagoas Brancas wetland suffers rearguard action

The determined battle to save a signature wetland area in the municipality of Lagoa has suffered a rearguard action. 

Judges at the Central Administrative Court of the South have overturned a previous decision by colleagues at Loulé’s administrative and fiscal court to embargo works at Alagoas Brancas arguing that a study accepted by the ICNF (State’s Nature and Forestry’s institute) and the CCDR (commission for regional coordination and development) was undertaken by specialists “whose legitimacy and competence could not be irrefutably attested”.

The fact clearly not considered that the only way the legitimacy and competence of the study could be irrefutably attested will be in the event that porous rock in the area collapses under the weight of buildings (when they are constructed), contaminating underground waterways that supply local farms and domestic boreholes (click here).

In other words, if you turn a blind eye to the competence of experts, you don’t need to heed their warnings.

Indeed, the judges did not appear to believe that earthmoving works on the site would even prejudice the existence of its current biodiversity.

Their sole focus was the municipality’s old PDM (a development plan compiled over 13 years ago) which pinpoints the area for the construction of storage warehouses.

As various reports have explained, the judges ruled that “since the original licensing complied with applicable rules, and no nullity has been attributable to it liable to compromise the decision, it is not acceptable that it be uncritically called into question by a later opinion”.

Bearing in mind this ‘later opinion’ came in a 97-page report compiled by technicians from SPEA and researchers at the universities of the Algarve and Lisbon, warning of catastrophic consequences of concreting over a floodplane, it is not really surprising that comments over social media have been scathing.

“Whoever decided this has certainly been bought”, says one commentator, vowing that the minute machines turn up at Alagoas Brancas, “we will be there”…

This has always been a fight between ‘the little people’ who care about their heritage and local environment, and ‘business interests’ which want the site for their own purposes.

In November 2020 all seemed lost when mayor Luís Encarnação authorised the constitution of 11 plots of land to be turned over to use for commerce/ services/ industry”, as well as a 265 sq m area to be taken up by a gas deposit.

A council notice explained there would also be space available for a council warehouse (click here).

Then in May last year, the group “Salvar Alagoas Brancas” won a major victory, with the help of Loulé judges (click here).

Now it is ‘back to the drawing board’.

Campaigners have posted online that “we cannot allow the Municipality of Lagoa to destroy all the lives that exist to give space to more tarmac, cement and pollution. Alagoas Brancas is local heritage; Alagoas Brancas is a floodplain; Alagoas Brancas is one of the last wetland areas in the Algarve, Portugal and the world; the (world’s) Alagoas Brancases depend on us, and our health, physical and mental well being depends on them…”

This is not an end to the fight. It is simply another bend in an uphill road full of pot holes.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com