Montijo airport: second impact study cites “negative effects on fauna and populations”

The second environmental impact study (EIA) on the government’s plan to develop Montijo airport as an overspill terminal to relieve pressure on Lisbon has come up with almost exactly the same conclusions as the first: citing negative effects on every form of life in the area.

But as the government has said: “there is no Plan B” (click here).

Thus public consultation – which opens today (Monday) – may well be academic.

Readers may recall that environmental NGO ZERO campaigned unsuccessfully for a ‘strategic environmental impact study’: on the basis that the airport project needs to be scrutinised in much more detail than it has.

As it is, the EIA is presented as a “non-technical overview”.

Says TSF radio, the study shows “various threats to birdlife and negative effects on the health of populations due to noise levels”.

But having cited them, the document seems to conclude that “taken as a whole”, the effects for example to the 260 species of birds common to the area are “not as significant” as the first study suggested.

Nonetheless, they exist and threaten “elevated disturbance” on habitats: meaning feeding grounds and places of refuge.

The chances of ‘bird strike’ (birds and planes colliding) also persist, though the report suggests “none of the species will have its populations affected in an important way by death imposed by bird strike”.

As to human populations – particularly those in the areas of Montijo and Barreiro – the negative effects from a noise point of view “could condition the urbanistic expansion” to these areas, says the report.

Various measures to reduce noise might work to a certain degree, but the non-technical team concludes that populations are already experiencing noise from passing road and rail traffic, and that these alone are enough to cause negative health effects.

Indeed, they already do. Of the 97,000 people resident in the areas closest to the Montijo site, 12% already suffer heightened discomfort from noise, 17% suffer discomfort and “around 3%” say they have “elevated disturbances” of their sleep.

Disturbance, for the terms of this report, includes “a set of negative reactions like irritation, dissatisfaction, anger, anxiety, agitation and distraction”, says TSF.

In short, journalists conclude that the study “admits” that the greatest significant impacts on living beings “will remain, even after compensatory measures defined” are put into practice.

But as we heard earlier this year, the government is simply not prepared to consider any other options, and believes that a new passenger terminal in Montijo will bring another 25 million tourists to Portugal every year and generate 10,000 jobs.

This second EIA will remain open to views from the public until September 19, at which point the plan will return to Portuguese environment agency APA for approval or otherwise.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com