Lagoon petition delivered

Lagoa dos Salgados 20,000-signature petition delivered to environment minister

By INÊS LOPES [email protected]

A 20,000-signature petition calling for the protection of Lagoa dos Salgados in Pêra and the “immediate suspension” of a multimillion euro tourist project planned for the area was delivered to the Minister of the Environment, Assunção Cristas, on Tuesday this week.

Members of the Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados (Plataforma dos Amigos da Lagoa dos Salgados), a group fighting for the legal protection of the lagoon, travelled to Lisbon to deliver the petition in person.

The aim of the petition, which had the support of people from around the world, is threefold. It requests: the “immediate suspension” of plans to build a large tourist development in Praia Grande and a “thorough” environmental impact assessment (EIA); the implementation of the lagoon’s management plan (Plano de Valorização e Gestão da Lagoa dos Salgados) this year; and that Lagoa dos Salgados is given the status of protected area and/or becomes part of the network Natura 2000 (European protected zones).

Soon after the petition was delivered, the Secretary of State for the Environment and Land Planning, Pedro Afonso de Paulo, released a statement confirming that the development project for Praia Grande would be subject to an EIA, contrary to reports last year that this would not be required.

As reported in previous editions of the Algarve Resident, developers Finalgarve (part of the Galilei Group) are planning a tourist development, including three hotels, five holiday villages, shopping complexes and an 18-hole golf course, for the unspoilt Praia Grande area, which neighbours bird sanctuary Lagoa dos Salgados.

According to the Portuguese Society for the Protection of Birds (SPEA), the lagoon is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International, due to its endangered aquatic bird populations. “It is, without a doubt, one of the most visited birdwatching spots in the country and is strategically important for the Algarve in terms of natural landscape, tourism, education and environment,” said SPEA. “The lagoon and Praia Grande areas have no legal protection despite there being enough scientific reason to support this.”

SPEA accuses the central and local governments of continuously ignoring the various calls by non-governmental organisations, which have “done everything within their power to protect this extraordinary place”.

It also criticises Silves Câmara for approving the development project (in 2008), when it goes against 2007 PROTAL (regional land development plan) regulations and has not been subject to an EIA.

The society goes on to say that implementation of the Plano de Valorização e Gestão da Lagoa dos Salgados, which was approved by the Ministry of the Environment in 2008, would resolve many of the problems relating to water management and excessive disruption in the area.

Entities that are part of the Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados include Quercus, SPEA, LPN, Almargem, A Rocha and Aldeia and nature tourism companies.