Elton John asked to “boycott Portuguese musical festival”

Music legend Sir Elton John is being asked to boycott a Portuguese music festival due to concerns that it is sited too near a nature reserve.

Campaigners fear the Marés Vivas festival – scheduled to go ahead in July this year – could be an environmental disaster, reports the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Usually held in Gaia, Porto, the event has been moved “for the first time to an area of land just 100m from the nature reserve of the Douro River Estuary”.

“The 150-acre reserve, which is protected under Portuguese law, is home to more than 220 species of birds, including eagles, kingfishers and cormorants, and is one of Europe’s most popular sites for birdwatching,” says the Guardian.

Thus local campaigners have written an open-letter to Sir Elton who is due to headline the festival alongside other British singers, James Bay and Tom Odell.

“More than your business and your art, please consider the environmental importance of the area. The reserve is very delicate, special and vulnerable… the area is very special to some species of birds for stopover and for nesting,” says the letter, signed by biologist Serafim Riem, Lucília Guedes, vice president of the Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals, and João Branco, director of Portuguese environmental group Quercus.

As many as 30,000 visitors per day are expected at the festival which was moved from its previous site after a dispute with the owners, says the Guardian.

“Campaigners are concerned that crowds, noise and lights so close to the estuary will have a lasting impact on the nesting birds and wildlife.”

Their open letter says “damaging” preparations for the festival have already begun, including bulldozing and cutting down trees.

“It says the site of the show was home to the protected Iberian emerald lizard and that if the festival goes ahead the whole area, including the nature park, is going to lose its status as a protected area.”

Quoting the lyrics to John’s song “Birds” in their letter, campaigners explained they were “pleading” with Sir Elton to take a stand as they “strongly believe that if anyone is able to change the stubborn minds of the festival managers it is you.”

In the meantime, campaigners and Quercus are taking legal action, adds the Guardian.

“Last week, a judge ruled that construction and bulldozing on the land be temporarily halted because it infringed on the ecologically protected area.
“Another case will be heard next week about the environmental impact of the festival on the thousands of birds.”

As João Branco told the paper: “There are so many spaces where this festival could be held, I don’t know why they are insisting here.
They thought they could get away with this, but we are not giving up without a fight.”

Representatives for Sir Elton are understood to be keeping mum as the issue plays out in British and Portuguese media.

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