Tranquility of birdlife on the water of Lagoa dos Salgados - a wetland NGOs are determined to wrestle from the rigors of development

More ‘good news’ for Lagoa dos Salgados wetland 

Thwarted developer told “best bet is to develop elsewhere”

Thwarted developer ‘Finalgarve’ – the company that sought to create a mega-touristic development over one of the Algarve’s last remaining ‘coastal wetlands’ – has heard that its best bet it to “try and do a deal with the State”.

Talking in Alcoutim last week, minister of the environment and climate action Duarte Cordeiro, said it will be “very difficult” for the developer to get its way, even if it continues to pursue its claims through the courts (as it has been doing).

“We are available to participate in the sense of finding another place for (the developer) to carry out its project”, he said, stressing the government’s focus is in “trying to find a balance between what are private interests and those that are natural.

“If there are natural values that are rare in that location, we don’t see how the project can go ahead”, he said.

The natural values in the area have been long proven, and just as long fought for. 

The battle to ‘Save Lagoa dos Salgados’ from Finalgarve’s plans was one of the most heroic in recent environmental history. 

It saw thousands of nature enthusiasts team up with NGOs and scientists to argue that the area was unique, offering rare plant species and sitting alongside an important birding wetland that could not possibly thrive close to the intensity of touristic activity envisaged.

Good sense would be that independent of this (court) action, the developer seeks a deal” with the State, said Mr Cordeiro.

The latest court action is very much Finalgarve’s final stab at securing this much-contested project

Indeed Finalgarve is really no more than a name: the company went bankrupt some years ago, with its assets taken up by Millennium BCP.

This final stab may thus be the bank’s attempt to play various legal technicalities – hinging on an ‘unfavourable DECAPE’ (Environmental Compliance Decision for Project Execution) which has since been ‘annulled’ on appeal.

By annulling the decision, theoretically Supreme Court judges have opened the way to ‘Finalgarve’ getting the green light it needs. But this is only ‘in theory’. It has always been understood that Finalgarve did not have the money to develop this project. In the early days of promotion, the company’s plan had been to find investors in Angola

In other words, this has always been about property speculation – a reality that goaded detractors in their fight to save what is, in final analysis, a last glorious stretch of natural wilderness.

In the intervening years, a plan has been devised to create a Lagoa dos Salgados Natural Reserve, and the local municipality’s PDM (development plan) has axed the development from council intentions

Technically, ‘Finalgarve’s’ (Millennium BCP’s) insistence to pursue its claim, puts the plan for a natural reserve at risk. But only technically. As reports keep stressing, the proposal has already passed through the public consultation stage, seeing environmentalists applaud it as the culmination of more than 20 years fighting for natural preservation.

“If it is created, the Lagoa dos Salgados reserve will be the second in the region to be part of the National Network of Protected Areas, after the Castro Marim Vila Real de Santo António Marshland Nature Reserve”, writes Lusa. 

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