Citizens groups, movements and NGOs have been stunned by the government ‘tactics’ used to push through a new plan for “one of the most well preserved stretches of coastline in Southern Europe”.
If it was a well-thought out strategy, taking in contributions from people living in the area, there would be no issue.
But it has been presented in an indigestible deluge of documentation and annexes uploaded onto the public consultations site (click here) giving everyday citizens 40 days (most of them through August) for ‘response’.
The deadline for people’s contributions to the Consulta Pública do Programa da Orla Costeira Espichel-Odexeceixe runs out today (contributions can still be given as of today SEE UPDATE BELOW)- and those with vested interests in it (nature businesses particularly) have realised that not only is it “not ambitious” but that it leaves the door open to oil and gas exploration, the extension of intensive agriculture and does little if anything to address critical problems – from ‘excessive’ traffic in summertime affecting the coast, to nature conservation and the recovery of habitats.
Six main associations: Arriba, for the defence of Costa Vicentina, Rewilding Sudoeste, Juntos Pelo Sudoeste, Rota Vicentina (promoting nature tourism), Tamera – a communal project, ZERO and Triângulo em Transição, are campaigning for the time limit to be extended, so that people can read all the documentation carefully and then present their thoughts and feelings without pressure.
As they explain: “The current programme is the result of an extremely long and bureaucratic process in which at no time was civil society or local communities heard. Nonetheless, proposals have been put forwards that condition social and economic activities, impacting directly on the day-to-day lives of inhabitants”.
The groups has sent out its appeal in the form of press releases to newspapers giving 11 reasons why the public consultation period should be extended.
As it explains: “This is a geographical area rich in territorial conflicts” – it cannot simply be ‘slapped into the public eye’ when most people are on holiday, and then removed almost as soon as they return.
The associations have been particularly scathing about the lack of input sought from tourism entities … even fishing communities. “We cannot understand that in a territorial plan some regional entities have been called” to give opinions “but not the Regional Entity of Tourism for the Alentejo, or associations representing touristic operators or local businesses…” they say.
So now the wait begins. Will authorities yield to this last moment burst of public pressure?
For anyone reading this before the end of today (Friday), participation in the public consultation process remains open until this evening. Anyone can add their voice to the campaign – a text has even been compiled by Grupo Vila do Bispo coordinator Ana Carla Conceição, and uploaded onto Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ana.c.conceicao.3) for people to copy/ paste under “participar”.
The Programa da Orla Costeira Espichel-Odexeceixe (POC-EO) covers the districts of Setúbal and Beja, impacting on the municipalities of Sesimbra, Setúbal, Grândola, Santiago de Cacém, Sines and Odemira.
As Radio24 points out, it has an area of intervention of 476 sq kms, involving 220 kms of coastline.
UPDATE: Deadline has been extended… members of the public have until November 2 to make their feelings known, using link as given above.