Lagoa wetland champions ready to “throw in towel” citing systematic campaign of indifference

It is a tiny, sadly largely forgotten, wetland in the heart of urban Lagoa – and no matter how hard campaigners try to alert to its importance the authorities appear determined to concrete it over.

Chief Portuguese campaigner Anabela Blofeld has been talking to the Resident as “Salvar Alagoas Brancas” has received yet another hammerblow.

This time the bad news has come in the form of a “deeply inadequate” and “wholly misleading” report from forestry and nature institute ICNF.

Says Anabela, it is yet further indication that none of the so-called ‘authorities’ in this fight are playing fair – not even the NGOs purporting to be concerned with flora and fauna.

“It’s like we’re beating our heads against a brick wall”, she told us.

“Almargem, SPEA – we need their support but we are just not getting it.

“We have challenged this terrible report (by the ICNF) – of course we have, but I feel really that this whole matter has already been decided.

“They are going to concrete this special place over, and once the machines move in, people will be back on Facebook complaining.

“Until then, we are on our own. Of the original group, only three of us are working constantly, and it is too much. I am neglecting my family, my animals. For what? All the efforts we make are going unanswered – in fact at the last protest we were made to feel we could be bankrupting the council if we succeed in stopping the builder from going ahead with the work”.

The background to this story is that the land on which Alagoas Brancas sits has been earmarked for an industrial site.

There appears to be some confusion over building licences (as Anabela says: “We are not being told the full story, but there is clearly a lot of money involved”) though the campaign was told recently that building works could resume “any moment now”.

“We were told it is just a matter of a €30 licence, and the bulldozers will be back”.

Meantime, the ICNF report that concludes that Alagoas Brancas “does not present the values that justify its classification as an area of birding importance” will now lend weight to the council’s position which is that the lagoon can be moved, to become integrated with the planned Fatacil urban park.
“This seems to be what all the authorities are working towards”, said Anabela. “It is completely unacceptable. It will be a fake lagoon. Birds choose where they want to go, and goodness knows what will happen to all the other wildlife that will be buried alive”.

“It has got to the stage where I am ready to give up”, she admitted. “Local people do not seem interested. They call us “os malucos dos passarinhos” (the mad bird people) – no one seems to get the importance of what is one of the Algarve’s last birding wetlands”.

Anabela’s belief is that the ICNF report has failed primarily in even understanding the behaviour of birds.

Apart from “ignoring” a “wealth of expert opinion”, it has failed to recognise that every ‘aquatic site’ in the area is connected, and “cannot be considered in isolation”: Alagoas Brancas, nearby rice fields, Lagoa dos Salgados – “each has its part to play in the ecology of the area”.

So, what next in this David v. the ‘Goliath of indifference’ battle? Anabela’s last efforts will be in going national: both in the media and through MPs (Bloco de Esquerda and PAN being the most promising).

“Those small parties have ears in government, and I have to try and get them to pull at them”, she said.

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