Photo: ANABELA BLOFELD

Court halts Alagoas Brancas “wetland destruction”

PAN vows to not give up on Alagoas Brancas

Environmentalists are celebrating a court ruling which has suspended all works at the Alagoas Brancas wetland area in Lagoa.

Loulé’s Administrative and Tax Court has ruled in favour of an injunction filed by political party PAN (People, Animals, Nature) on Monday, November 7, bringing the urbanisation works at the environmentally-sensitive area to a halt at least for now, much to the delight of environmentalists, NGOs and an ever-increasing number of citizens who over the years have been fighting to put an end to the wetland’s “destruction”.

Reports from distressed citizens about the works began two weeks ago, from reeds being destroyed “despite the presence of around 500 ibis birds” and animals such as Iberian pond turtles reportedly being buried alive by the bulldozers.

PAN spokesperson Inês de Sousa Real has celebrated the “emotional” news.

“It has been with great sadness that we have witnessed the progressive destruction of an area which is a refuge to hundreds of birds, many of which boast protected status under the Habitats Directive, and other species such as the European pond turtle,” said Sousa Real, lamenting that the local council and other government authorities failed to act to stop what she calls an “environmental crime”.

Said the spokesperson, “serious and irreparable damage” has already been caused despite the latest good news.

We do not accept and cannot understand the position of Lagoa council, which completely goes against what should be the concerns of a 21st century society which is facing the impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity at an unprecedented rate as a consequence of human action,” she said.

“It is not enough to preach to the international community that we are worried, we must show that this is a real concern and that we do not go along with projects that lead towards more destruction of our natural legacy,” Sousa Real added.

“We will not give up and will do everything to conserve Alagoas Brancas.”

Lagoa vows to respect court decision

Meanwhile, Lagoa Council has reacted to the news in a 15-point statement in which it defends its stance on the Alagoas Brancas situation up to this point, and vows that it “respects and will always respect any decision from Loulé’s Administrative and Tax Court or any other court.”

The statement mentions many of the points that Lagoa mayor Luís Encarnação touched upon during last week’s interview with the Resident, in which he explained that the council’s hands are ultimately tied when it comes to this subject.

“There is a decision from the Central Administrative Court and Lagoa’s Urbanisation Plan, dating back to 2009, which gives the developer total legitimacy,” said Encarnação, adding that the plan has ‘thumbs up’ from all relevant entities, including the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA), CCDR Algarve and the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF), and was available for public discussion more than once.

“Inverting this process would mean not following the law,” he stated, adding that a series of consequences would follow including a multi-million-euro compensation for the developer which would jeopardise the local council’s financial stability.

By Michael Bruxo

michael.bruxo@portugalresident.com