Back when the dinosaurs ruled the world, Daniela and I started a petition on Avaaz to try to save a little birding area down in the Algarve called Salgados. I say “little”, but it’s about 400 hectares of productive wetland and scrub, squeezed on all sides by high-rises, one of the last untouched pieces of original Algarvean countryside along the southern coast.
We’d been supportive of the effort for quite a few years beforehand, but in the spring of 2012, everyone else seemed to give up hope as the developers literally moved into the area. The latter had oodles of cash, local and national politicians in their pockets and planning permission apparently granted; it seemed that nothing could stop them. The first bulldozers were already on site…
Daniela and I were incensed that this unique piece of Algarve coastline was being thrown away in the never-ending rush for tourist dollars, so, as a last throw of the dice, we set up a petition and promoted it as if our lives depended upon it.
We threw ourselves wholeheartedly into the effort and largely put our lives and business on-hold. Everything went into the pot, all our family’s energy, most of our time and more money than we could afford.
We spoke to anyone and everyone, travelled here, there and everywhere, held demonstrations, garnered support from international celebrities, gave lectures, interviews and awareness-raising meetings both in Portugal and abroad, got the press to write articles, the TV to fill slots, NGOs from several different countries to lend their support, (most notably the British Trust for Ornithology in the UK).
We put our heart and soul into it, and it took over our lives more than we’d ever imagined it would.
Despite the normal “Why bother? You’ll never win” comments that came from all corners, we battled through the nay-sayers and, slowly but with an ever-increasing momentum, people joined us, an action group was formed with the help of João Ministro (who’d studied the area in depth at University), Paul Rees from the Algarve Daily News and Natasha Donn from the Algarve Resident. We became not-so-alone, and the ball started to roll again. It became apparent that there was a groundswell of opinion very similar to ours – the petition just happened to be the catalyst.
Quite quickly (in hindsight), we saw “our” petition rise to become Portugal’s second largest environmental petition ever.
On the strength of it, we raised a great amount of interest, had meetings with ministers and took the petition, nominally in a large collection of cardboard boxes, to the government in Lisbon.
Then we struck lucky. Thanks to a chap called Simon Wates, a knowledgeable and informed long-time resident of the area, we became aware of a rare, endemic, and beautiful flower on the site, “Linaria algarviana”.
This was a game-changer and larger, more knowledgeable organisations than lowly us, notably SPEA and Almargem, challenged the developer’s Environmental Impact Assessment in court and all exploratory work on the site was stopped pending the judge’s decision – and that’s where it’s been ever since … yes, don’t become involved in a legal process in this country unless you’re young, in good health and very, very patient.
With the affair in court, our lives returned to normal again as nothing could go ahead until the outcome of the court case, but, in the background, the effort continued quietly behind the scenes until, a few weeks ago, the ICNF (Portugal’s Environmental Agency) announced, out of the blue, that it wanted to make the area a Nature Reserve!
Wow! What a success! It’ll be the first new one in Portugal for over 20 years!
But hold your horses, it’s not a done deal … It has to go to public consultation before anything’s approved – and that’s where you come in.
It’s an online consultation, open for 42 days only starting on December 9, 2021, and anyone can make a comment, yes, anyone from anywhere, so I urge you, please, to do your bit.
Five minutes and you become a superhero, cape, mask, winged boots, the lot. Make your voice heard; it’s easy.
Go to www.participa.pt, say “No” to more unwanted development and help us save a little bit of nature for everyone.
OK, the site’s all in Portuguese obviously, and it can be a little daunting, so here’s step-by-step instructions that make it easy-peasy to make your voice heard. It looks difficult but it is really easy if you follow these steps to the letter.
1. Go to www.participa.pt
2. Click on “Registo” in the top right-hand corner.
3. Click “Individual”
4. Fill in your name (where it says “Nome”), your email address, choose a password, (minimum 12 characters but no need for capital letters, numbers or special characters), confirm your password and choose “Silves” in the following box named “Concelho”.
5. Go to bottom left corner and check the box that starts ‘Concordo…’
6. No need to fill in anything else on that page; just click “Submeter” in the bottom right corner.
7. Close down the page – you’ll open it again in a minute but close it for the time being.
8. The Portal Participa site will send you an email straight away. Open it and click on the highlighted ‘Ativação de Registo’ link.
9. This will open up www.participa.pt again on a login page but don’t use it. Just close the page completely and then open it up again by typing in www.participa.pt in your browser.
10. Now click “Login” in the top right-hand corner.
11. In the search box, enter “Salgados” and hit the magnifying glass.
12. Click on the big ICNF logo.
13. Scroll down and click “Participar” on the left-hand side below the text.
14. Choose “Outro”
15. In the following option, choose both boxes.
16. Choose “Outro” in the last option.
17. Now it is essential that you write something, otherwise the next option doesn’t open.
18. Click just below the word “Participação” and a box will open up in which you can write how much you value Salgados, how it’s wonderful that Portugal is looking towards the future and has its eyes on more than short-term profit for big business, how having natural spaces is so necessary nowadays and how pleased you are that this is now being valued by Portugal’s politicians for both Portugal’s citizens and its visitors etc etc
19. Now click on “Submeter” at the bottom of the page – NOT “Submeter anexo”.
20. Apply for your Superhero badge.
Oh, and why not sign the petition as well? It’s still open and the more the merrier! It’s at https://secure.avaaz.org/community_petitions/en/Save_Salgados_a_unique_internationally_recognized_birding_sanctuary_from_being_destroyed/
COMMENT By Frank McClintock