Photo: ANABELA BLOFELD

PAN joins protests against destruction of Alagoas Brancas

Political party to lodge complaint with Public Prosector’s Office against what it describes as an “environmental attack”

PAN (the People Animals Nature party) has announced it will lodge a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office against the “environmental attack” taking place at the Alagoas Brancas wetland in Lagoa.

“At stake is the preservation of one of the last freshwater wetland areas of the Algarve, Alagoas Brancas, which is home to a wealth of wildlife, including species protected at a national and international level,” the party says in a statement to the press.

NGOs warned two weeks ago of the “imminent destruction” of the wetland area after “urbanisation works” started.

PAN says it has heard reports of reeds being destroyed at the wetland “despite the presence of around 500 ibis birds”, while animals such as Iberian pond turtles are reportedly being buried alive by the bulldozers.

“(The Iberian pond turtle) is a species listed as Vulnerable in the European Red List and IUCN Red List,” says the party, adding that it is also listed as a species at risk of extinction and its habitat as a Special Area of Conservation in the EU Habitats Directive.

“It is unacceptable that the local council is going along with this environmental crime against its biodiversity, having allowed the start of the works and consequentially its destruction,” said PAN spokesperson Inês de Sousa Real.

The party’s sole MP adds: “Defending the environment cannot only be a little flag that is waived during elections but which is easily discarded when it comes to effectively protecting the environment, animals, people’s life quality and the rights of future generations.”

Sousa Real also stressed the efforts of local citizens and NGOs which have been fighting for over five years to protect Alagoas Brancas from destruction and highlighted that Parliament actually recommended the protection of the wetland.

“Now, in 2022, bulldozers are destroying this natural sanctuary where over 140 species of birds, hundreds of species of insects, and more than 70 species of plants, rare and threatened amphibians live,” she said.

PAN’s statement came around a week after around 100 people took part in a protest against the destruction of the Alagoas Brancas wetland. The event was organised by citizen group ‘Salvar as Alagoas Brancas’ with the support of environmental NGOs such as SPEA, Almargem, LPN, FAPAS, A Rocha, GEOTA, ZERO, TAGIS and SPECO.

Luís Palma, president of Almargem, defended at the protest that the wetland should be classified as a Local Protected Area.

“We argue that this space should be reclassified as an area of leisure and enjoyment of the population, always respecting the conditions of wildlife, and could also be used as a place of environmental education activities for schools in the county, and even as a place to stop for ecotourism companies, particularly for birdwatching,” he said.

Members of the local citizen’s group have also been in contact with Duke University Professor Brian Silliman, who estimated that given the size of Alagoas Brancas “there will be lots of stored carbon in it that will start to release if the area is no longer wet.”

Professor Silliman is co-author of a recent study that found that wetlands sequester four times more carbon from the atmosphere than forests of the same size.

By Michael Bruxo

michael.bruxo@portugalresident.com