“Decision is in the hands of Lagoa Council,” Secretary of State said in Parliament
Any last hopes that the government may step in to save the threatened Alagoas Brancas wetland site in Lagoa have been dashed this week.
The bottom line is that the “decision is in the hands of Lagoa Council,” Portugal’ Secretary of State for Nature and Forest Conservation, João Paulo Catarino, said in Parliament on Tuesday.
In other words, the government will not override any decision made by the council, which has always maintained that cancelling development plans for the area would leave the council in financial ruin.
Environmentalists and local citizens who have been protesting the project – which involves destroying the wetland site to make way for an “industrial park” and “commercial areas” – continue to call for the plans to be ditched, citing the hundreds of species of wildlife that Alagoas Brancas attracts.
“What I was told by the mayor of Lagoa is that there are acquired rights and that this is a matter that cannot be considered, as it would financially impair the council for many dozens of years,” the secretary of state said.
Lagoa mayor Luís Encarnação has said many times that if the council were to go against the project, it could have to pay the developers “millions of euros” in compensation.
The secretary of state added that “any other solution apart from the one that is approved will only be possible if the local power agrees with it.”
While he said that the government is available, through the Nature and Forest Conservation Institute (ICNF) to “find a solution to manage and safeguard the wetland site,” Catarino clarified that any decision to halt the project will have to come from the local council.
Turtles to be moved away from Alagoas Brancas
Joâo Paulo Catarino also confirmed that ICNF, the local council and the developer have agreed in recent meetings to “begin the process of capturing and relocating” the animal species found at Alagoas Brancas to “an area with the same characteristics.”
Among them are the Iberian pond turtles that have delighted so many local nature lovers. Citizen’s movement ‘Salvar as Alagoas Brancas’ has already reacted in dismay.
“If this act is allowed, the injunction filed by PAN may fall and lose its suspending power and Alagoas Brancas will be destroyed,” the group warns.
“All these manoeuvres reveal the colluding between certain public institutions and private interests. How is it possible for an institution that should protect biodiversity and habitats to act this way? How is it possible that Alagoas Brancas is not submitted to an exhaustive, serious and unbiased environmental impact study? Who monitors the activities of these entities,” the movement questions.
A protest against the project is scheduled for Wednesday, April 19 at 4pm near the municipal auditorium of Lagoa.