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Positive developments in residents’ quarry war

By SOPHIE MCCARRICK [email protected]

A group of residents who have been fighting an “endless battle” against the construction and development of quarries in the areas of Faro, Tavira and São Brás since 2010 received reinforcement from the European Commission on May 2.

In addition, there has been other considerable activity achieved as these local people push forward with their aim to stop the environmental destructions being caused by quarries in the area.

Association PROBAAL, resurrected by a group of local residents in February 2010 in response to the threat of an additional quarry being built in Tavira, in the past two years have placed numerous official complaints with the Câmaras and the Courts, initiated legal battles against the quarries for a variety of reasons and overall raised awareness among other residents of the social, environmental and economic consequences that the quarries have created.

PROBAAL, which also assists local people with a range of issues regarding the environment of the area, claims that the quarries located within the municipalities of the Barrocal Algarvio vicinity have a huge impact on society and agricultural activities.

As works carried out at the quarry in Peral saw the construction site grow in size last year, suspicions of locals gathered as to whether the quarry had licensing to do so, and questioned this by bringing it to the attention of the European Commission.

In doing so, they also expressed their concerns that the Peral quarry could now be releasing pressure in the underground reservoirs resulting in ground water being pushed out and the risk of salty sea water replacing in affected hundreds of people and agriculture in the area.

In a statement to a member of PROBAAL last month, the European Commission states: “We have enquired to the Portuguese authorities about works carried out at the Peral quarry and inform that we have identified a problem related with the licensing of the quarry, as the national authorities recognised that the quarry had extended beyond the limits of its license.”

Furthermore, the official document goes on to say that the case will now be further investigated by the EU’s Directorate General as “the extension of the Peral quarry had been co-financed with EU funds.”

A spokesperson from the PROBAAL association told the Algarve Resident: “No one is against economic development but development at the expense of people’s quality of life (a constitutional right), human rights (provision of water for example which neither Tavira, Faro, São Brás or CCDR Algarve – Regional Development and Coordinating Commission of the Algarve, have addressed), people’s health and sanity, the environment, as well as personal wealth are being sacrificed. This does not appear socially responsible.”

Killing two birds with one stone, the European Commission also relay in their official statement that a wider picture of the quarrying activities in the Algarve and their compatibility with EU environmental legislation, notably the proliferation of small quarries seemingly without an assessment of their cumulative impacts on the environment, have been picked up on and will be addressed.

As a result, the European Commission has now sent a formal notice to the Portuguese authorities.

The PROBAAL spokesperson said: “This is important because the cumulative effect of all the quarries on the ground water supplies is immense and people, tourism and agriculture depend on this water, which is being ruined.”

In addition, a local resident has recently won a court case action against Faro Câmara and CCDR Algarve stopping the construction of 14 quarries.

There has also been a number of cases via the Loulé Court, which include action against Tavira and Faro Câmaras and the CCDR Algarve.

A case that was granted an injunction against Tavira Câmara and CCDR Algarve, over the Santa Catarina quarry, is now expected to go in for its final appeal.

If this case is won, it will require Tavira Camara, CCDR Algarve and the members of the Tecnovia Group, responsible for the quarry, to reinstate the protected area to what it was. Court actions progressing with the backing of local residents continue.

To contact PROBAAL, please email [email protected]