Monte da Ribeira tourism project “repeats mistakes of the past”, slams Almargem

Environmental association Almargem has criticised plans to build a tourism development called ‘Monte da Ribeira’ in São Brás de Alportel, saying the project represents a “repeat of the same mistakes” that have been made in the Algarve in the past.

The Monte da Ribeira development involves building an 816-room tourist village, an 81-room aparthotel and 12 tourist villas on a 50-hectare area near the small community of Arimbo and the Alportel stream.

It is also “just 300 metres” away from a Special Conservation Area (Zona Especial de Conservação) and a Site of Community Importance, the association stresses.

The project was recently up for public consultation, which allowed Almargem to analyse the plans and conclude that they “should be halted”.

Says the association, the development would disrupt an “ecological corridor”, which it describes as “an important link between the coast and the inland area”. It is also recognised as such in the Algarve’s PROTAL land protection plan.

The association also says the project is guilty of “greenwashing”, which basically means “an attempt to convey false or misleading information in order to convince others that it is environmentally friendly”.

The environmentalists believe that the development follows the “same unsustainable model” of other developments which contributed to the “environmental degradation” of several parts of the Algarve, “especially along the coast but also in inland areas”.

Thus, the association is calling on authorities to look into these projects “more thoroughly”, as failing to do so could threaten the sustainability of the land as well as its potential for tourism.

It adds that the developers seem to focus almost exclusively on the property elements of the project, warning that the project’s size is “not compatible with the load capacity of the land”.

According to the NGO, the project “fails to live up to its goal of maintaining and protecting the environment which is vital to ecological balance of the area”.

Almargem also targets the municipal land planning document (PMOT), which was approved over 10 years ago and is “clearly out of step” with the extensive legal documents that have been created since then, such as the European Landscape Convention and the new PROTAL.

“We believe that this plan (PMOT) and the project should be reassessed in order to create a truly sustainable development, which can dynamise the surrounding area and eventually lead to the re-population of small abandoned communities,” says the association.

This is the latest planned development in the Algarve to raise environmental concerns. Citizen groups and associations such as Almargem are also battling touristic developments in Vilamoura and Portimão (click here).

However, as the Resident reported last week, these tourist projects could now be seen as opportunities for a country that desperately needs to reinvent itself and support young people, particularly by offering new jobs at a time when so many have suddenly ‘disappeared’.