By: CECÍLIA PIRES
PortimÃo and Lagos councils have called for real estate development in the area to be checked and the protected area status of the Ria de Alvor estuary reinforced.
The call came in an official letter from the permanent committee of the two municipal councils, who fear the growing threat of real estate development in the area.
The document was sent to Portimão Câmara, the Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Algarve (CCDR), the regional territory planning authority, the Instituto de Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade (ICNB), which is the national authority on environmental issues, and the Instituto Portuário e de Transportes Marítimos (IPTM), the national authority on ports and maritime infrastructures.
Filipe de Abreu, president of the permanent committee, told The Resident that the purpose of the alert is to “remind authorities that the country’s regulation on protected areas must also be respected in the Ria de Alvor” and that the committee’s aim is to ensure that “no one is forgetting that”.
The area is already under the special protection of Rede Ecológica Nacional (REN), the country’s ecological network of protected areas, the Rede Agrícola Nacional (RAN), the Portuguese network of protected agricultural areas, the Natura 2000, a special law created in 2000 establishing protected natural areas and of the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty signed in Iran in 1971, that ensures the conservation and the wise use of the wetlands in the world.
Of the 12 Ramsar locations officially existing in Portugal, two are in the Algarve, one being the Ria de Alvor and the other the Ria Formosa, near Faro.
Despite several laws protecting the Ria de Alvor, the ICNB told The Resident that some private owners in the area have been repeatedly inspected and fined due to illegal or unauthorised land removals.
One of them is Quinta da Rocha, a 200 hectare property belonging to Imoholding, a well known real estate and construction company, whose president is Aprígio dos Santos, the president of Naval 1º de Maio, a Portuguese first division football club.
The Quinta da Rocha owners are considered “the most active” in the area and local environmental organisations have repeatedly complained about them, especially Associação A Rocha, a local non-governmental association dedicated to the environmental protection.
The company keeps a low profile and a spokesperson from Imoholding told The Resident that they don’t “make comments to the press” about that property. However, a visit to the company’s website (www.quintadarocha.com) confirms that the place is being promoted by the marketing teams with expressions such as “this land is for a tourism/residential project, washed by the Ria de Alvor, and surrounded by magnificent landscapes”.
Portimão Câmara, however, says no project has been presented for licensing in the area and the CCDR said that the only project they knew about was related with a fish-breeding centre, which is being promoted by Aqua Rocha, also part of Imoholding.
ICNB and IPTM have still not replied to the document officially, although a spokesperson from the ICNB told The Resident that the Ria de Alvor case is a priority for 2008.
The Special Protection Area status project to be implemented on the Ria de Alvor is expected to be finished by Portimão and Lagos câmaras during the first quarter of 2008, according to the president of the permanent committee, who believes the Ria de Alvor protection is vital for the region’s economic sustainability.
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