Navy ‘bombshell’ prompts environmental outrage

Days after the Navy announced it would be returning in force to its rundown base on Culatra island in Ria Formosa’s protected natural park, environmentalists have sent out a furious press statement, affirming they will lodge a complaint with the European Commission if the government doesn’t veto the plan.

Headlined: “Leave Culatra in Peace!”, the release recalls efforts by the association 22 years ago to stop the Navy using Hangares nucleus for defusing explosives.

Locals inform the Resident that the practice has nonetheless continued – even if Almargem is unaware of this.

Said the NGO’s statement, there are some benefits to the news: locals are to be given access to Hangares’ jetty – off limits to the public for years – and the “permanent presence of soldiers could have a positive influence on neutralising drug trafficking and other illegal activities in the area”.

But what kind of influence the plan will have on the government’s “policy of demolitions currently in force” is the unanswered question.

Says Almargem, it is “in no way admissible” that Culatra island “in the middle of Ria Formosa natural park and part of Rede Natura 2000 should once again be the focus of military exercises with the disembarkation of marines in high speed boats, operations with real firearms and the defusing of explosives.

“The quality of life of citizens, the vocation of Culatra island for fishing activities and for sustainable eco-tourism are absolutely incompatible with these actions.

“The Almargem association hopes to hear from the government, particularly the environment ministry and the ICNF, to get a much clearer picture of the situation.

“If nothing is done to stop this potential attack on areas that are protected both nationally and internationally, Almargem will be presenting a formal complaint to the European Commission”.

This subject is the theme of the Resident’s cover story in our printed edition this week. Islanders have told us that the Navy’s return could be their Holy Grail.

For the full story, see this week’s paper edition of the Algarve Resident on sale tomorrow (Thursday).

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