By SOPHIE MCCARRICK [email protected]
Silves mayor has strongly defended the controversial plans to create a multimillion euro tourist resort on the doorstep of an important wildlife sanctuary adjacent to Praia Grande in the Algarve.
In response to widespread protests from several environmental and wildlife protection associations, as well as residents, Isabel Soares has argued that the concept was originally planned with all the appropriate entities.
She believes, therefore, that the development will enhance rather than damage the environmental beauty of the area and also create many new jobs.
“We believe it is in the best interest of the developers of this project to look after the environment and the local fauna and flora, as these are of great importance in attracting possible clients,” she said.
She added: “Naturally, the municipality will also always be alert in defending the interests of the district, since tourism is one of the principal economic activities of the region.”
The local authority believes that this private development can be an asset and that the developers can apply management models to ensure the security of employment and the profitability of the resort “because this location is extremely beautiful, has warm and friendly people, excellent cuisine, beaches, sun and sea, all of which is of great interest to visitors”.
The plan, initially approved in 2007, was given the final go ahead last month and involves the construction of three hotels, five holiday villages, shopping complexes and an 18 hole golf course.
Building work on the infrastructures – access roads, water and sanitation outlets – is due to start early next year and the first hotel is expected to welcome visitors in 2015.
A wave of protest flared up because part of the 247 hectare site borders the Salgados lagoon which is an important sanctuary for wildlife and threatens to create a concrete jungle on one of the last unspoiled stretches of the Algarve coastline.
The lagoon is a haven for resident and migrant birds such as the rare Purple Gallinule, an endangered species.
Others include Grebes, Gulls, Little Terns, Coots, Flamingos, Black Terns, Peregrines, Black Winged Kites and Collared Pratincoles.
Among the protestors is the Royal Society of Protection of Birds (RSPB) and its Portuguese counterparts.
Already more than 6,000 residents have voiced their disgust via an online petition which brought a negative response from 91% of Algarve Resident readers who voted on our online poll about the development.
The environmental group Almargem and League for Protection of Nature (LPN) have both lodged formal complaints with the European Commission (EC).
To sign the petition, please visit the following address to register your name: www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_Salgados_a_unique_internationally_recognized_birding_sanctuary_from_being_destroyed/