By: CECÍLIA PIRES
LOULÉ COURT refused a request made by Alvor-based A Rocha association for a court order to stop owners from Quinta da Rocha, in the Ria de Alvor estuary, from using their land for grazing and carrying out cleaning works in the protected area.
The court-ordered suspension was considered by A Rocha members as a desperate measure to prevent any further damage to the protected plant species existing in the area (see The Resident edition of January 4), such as the Thymus camphorates, a threatened plant growing in the Algarve region, Linaria Algarviana, a flower from the family of the Scrophulariaceaes, and the carrascais, espargueirais and matagais
afins basófilos, which are types of bushes characteristic of the Mediterranean and almost deserted regions.
The denial of the court order announced by Loulé Court on December 21 is based on a technical argument related to the fact that the environmental association did not respect the three months deadline to formalise a complaint against the owners of Quinta da Rocha after requesting the suspension of the works.
The court’s position has been described as “incorrect” by A Rocha, whose arguments are that the “three months deadline is only applicable when the objective is to stop or cancel an administrative action”. In this case, and according to the association, “it was an attempt to prevent the continued, destructive and not authorised actions by the property owners”.
A Rocha also pointed out that the Public Prosecutor from the Loulé Court was informed, on several occasions, about the interventions in the area by Quinta da Rocha after the court suspension was requested.
In late December, these same illegal actions led the Portimão Public Prosecutor to name Aprígio dos Santos, the owner of Quinta da Rocha, as an arguido for disrespecting the Portuguese legislation with regards to protected areas.
The Ria de Alvor estuary, and specifically the 200-hectares inside the Quinta da Rocha boundaries, is under the special protection of Rede Ecológica Nacional (REN), the country’s ecological network of protected areas, the Rede Agrícola Nacional (RAN), the Portuguese network of protected agricultural areas, the Natura 2000, a special law created in 2000 establishing protected natural areas, and the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty signed in Iran in 1971, that ensures the conservation and the wise use of the wetlands in the world.
According to Lusa news agency, in its reply to the Court, the owners of Quinta da Rocha admitted to having knowledge of the environmental restrictions of their property but denied destroying any protected plant species and cleaning the land without the proper equipment. The company’s lawyer, Alexandra Costa, also refutes accusations of crimes against the environment being committed at Quinta da Rocha.
A Rocha association is now considering new legal actions, including an appeal of the Loulé Court’s decision in the short term.
For more information visit http://pt.arocha.org/home/ (site available in English). For more information about Quinta da Rocha, visit www.quintadarocha.com
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