Image from 2018 showing airbus 380 landing at Beja's little used airport. Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa
Image from 2018 showing airbus 380 landing at Beja's little used airport. Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa

Beja airport back in frame as solution for ‘desperate need’ for new terminal

Montijo option falls foul of black tailed godwits

Beja airport suddenly appears to be ‘back in the frame’ of strong possibilities for the new airport so ‘desperately needed’ to service the capital, and the country’s growing international tourist market.

After all the hullabaloo over Montijo – including the aborted government dispatch signalling its expansion, in spite of plentiful issues (not least that the land itself could be underwater by 2050) – a new study shows the plan would have “much more impact” on birdlife than previously estimated. 

Around 68% of black-tailed godwits would be affected – “a value considerably superior to the 6% estimated in the Environmental Impact Study, commissioned by ANA airports authority, writes negociosonline.

Published in the scientific journal Animal Conservation, the article centres on the black tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), explains the online – a bird that is on the list of species due to which a section of the Tejo estuary was designated a ZPE (zone of special protection).

A black tailed godwit. Photo: Rod Baker

To be fair, the overspill airport plan was never in keeping with the ZPE status of marshlands nearby – thus this latest study may just help kick the option firmly into the bullrushes.

This would delight the various municipalities that have been against the idea since the outset, as well as save hundreds of thousands of people living in and around Montijo from the misery of added noise and air pollution.

Environmentalists and conservationists who have battled for years to explain that the notion of ‘redirecting migrating birds’ is quite literally ‘birdbrained’ will also be able to relax finally.

Says negociosonline, the study shows that “individual birds are very loyal to a small number of sites throughout their lives, so they may not use the new habitat areas eventually created due to the construction of an airport”.

But, until recently, the government seemed set on Montijo ‘come what may’.

Yesterday in Évora that appeared to be changing: minister for territorial cohesion Ana Abrunhosa “reiterated that Beja International Airport has a very large potential for exploration”, as well as “conditions to function as a logistics platform interconnected with entrepreneurs” in China and Macau.

Explain reports, Ms Abrunhosa was questioned by journalists on the sidelines of a visit to works on the new Alentejo Central Hospital “about a recent trip she made to Beja which was not accompanied by journalists.

The trip involved Infrastructures minister João Galamba, a Secretary of State “a small group of Chinese business people”, and the Chinese Ambassador to Portugal.

Farms with energy production and projects supported with European funds were the focus of the visit, but the group also passed through Beja airport “with a view to understanding the potential airport has as a logistics platform for companies”.

And, surprise, surprise, Ms Abrunhosa  appears to have come away with the firm conviction that the airport is ready-built, with all the necessary potential for improved accesses, and a clear absence of black tailed godwits (or indeed other species of migratory bird).

“It is an airport that does not have slots”, she added – this largely being because it is so underused.

Today, investigator Manuel Tão of the University of the Algarve, has been continuing this theme, in interview with Lusa.

He pointed out how Beja is also on the Alentejo railway line, which if improved, would be able to ferry passengers up to Lisbon, or down to the Algarve, within an hour.

The decision on where to site ‘Lisbon’s new airport’ has been presented as ‘urgent’ for the best part of 50 years. As negocios online concludes, it is now being “analysed by a commission created for this effect” against a backdrop in which airlines and ANA airports authority have lamented the time a decision is taking.

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