New golf courses attract opposition

PROJECTS TO construct two golf courses in the Algarve, one in Loulé and one in Alcoutim, are attracting protests from the Algarve’s environmental protection groups, Almargem and the Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN), the nature protection league.

Ludo in Loulé is an area of great environmental value, claim environmentalists, with some even labelling it a nature sanctuary. It includes the Ribeira de São Lourenço, where diverse ecosystems – woodland, farmland, streams and marine zones – exist together in harmony and are enriched by important fauna and flora. A reality which environmentalists describe as a rarity in the Algarve.

MegaGolfe and Formosa Golf are the two companies intending to build an 18-hole golf course on the site, together with a clubhouse, artificial lakes and a bird observatory.

Almargem reportedly guarantees that the project contravenes national and international nature conservation legislation, due to the fact that the area is within a nature reserve, which is part of Rede Natura 2000, is a protected area for birds as recognised by Bird Life International and is also written into the Ramsar Convention, concerning humid areas.

Environmentalists do not believe that a golf course, and all its accompaniments, could be built in this area, when it is clearly violating all the rules of the Convention. Meanwhile, the LPN has denounced the environmental impact study, accusing the authors of writing nonsense that does not, in any way, challenge the project, perhaps due to the fact that it has already been approved.

The course’s heavy use of water and its likely affect on the Algarve’s fragile resources have also been challenged by environmentalists. Almargem goes as far as to say that the behaviour of promoters of golf courses is out of control. They believe it is an industry controlled by money, with little respect for environmental issues. The area surrounding Ludo already has three golf courses.

In opposition to the protests of environmentalists, investors complain that the LPN should start thinking about people and not upset the only investment in the Serra Algarvia, pointing out that the LPN never seem to complain about the rivers of Foupana, Odeleite and Cascão drying up every year, due to the lack of maintenance of the weirs, a situation that is putting their rich biology at risk.

As well as the golf course, a 200-room hotel is also planned for the site as is a tourist hunting reserve. The total investment involved in the project is thought to be around 10 million euros.

Iberian lynx at risk with new

Alcoutim golf course

Meanwhile, a new golf course proposed for construction in Alcoutim, in the eastern Algarve, is causing fierce rows to erupt between environmentalists and the local council. The developer, José Maria Duarte Júnior, owner of the Hotel Montechoro in Albufeira, intends to build an 18-hole golf course at Herdade de Finca Rodilhas.

An environmental impact study was carried out at the proposed site and the study’s public discussion period has just concluded, bringing angry protests from the region’s environmental protection groups.

The LPN points out that there is research to support the fact that the area is an important habitat for the Iberian lynx and the Bonelli eagle. In fact, biologists have found five Iberian lynxes in the vicinity, a cat that is in danger of becoming extinct.

The league has reminded officials that the protection of the species is not only a national pledge but also an assurance that has been made by the whole of the Iberian peninsular and, furthermore, is a world undertaking. This obliges the Portuguese State to do nothing that could compromise the existing lynx population in any way.

Another significant argument being put forward by the environmentalists is the consumption of water. The LPN considers that the amount of water used to maintain the golf course would only further aggravate the region’s water shortage and has insinuated that those responsible for the environmental impact study have been over optimistic in respect of the water issue, considering the climatic reality in the Algarve.

Although the environmentalists recognise that investment is needed in the interior, they lament the fact that the proposal is for the construction of yet another golf course – a project that would cause a drain on the region’s water supply, they say.

However, the President of Alcoutim Câmara is quick to dismiss the environmentalists’ claims, saying: “I am sorry that the LPN cares more about animals than it does about man – an endangered species in the Algarve interior.” The president points out that Alcoutim is the most deprived borough in the Algarve and one of the poorest in Europe, where there is a serious lack of investment.

With regard to the water consumption, the Câmara President points out that the developer intends to utilise a system used at golf courses in California, which means water consumption is very low. The president is furious as he feels environmentalists are making claims without checking their facts and without considering Alcoutim’s situation.