Thousands of Dutch citizens have signed their names to a new petition calling for the Portuguese government to pull back from its “ecologically disastrous” plan for an airport at Montijo.
Concerns centre on the future of Holland’s national bird – the black-tailed godwit – that returns from its winter migration to Africa via Portugal every year, feeding and resting in the Tejo estuary right next to the airport site.
Scientists estimate that between January and February every year around 50,000 black-tailed godwits use the area.
These tiny birds fly at great heights, the kind that would spell disaster on a busy flight path.
The petition, started by a Dutch birding NGO in partnership with the larger Birdlife Europe, is “highly critical” of the government’s plan that has already been lambasted from multiple corners, not only those concerned with the environment.
Civil engineers are against it, for reasons that could also spell disaster in the short-term (click here); civic groups are up-in-arms, stressing the downsides for a dense residential community far outweigh benefits, while environmentalists have lodged court actions (click here).
This new petition has already amassed over 26,000 signatures and highlights the “shock” felt in Holland that any government could plan an airport in an area that is (meant to be) protected by Rede Natura 2000 legislation.
Said the NGO’s spokesperson Thijs den Otter, the area close to Lisbon is crucial for his country’s signature bird. If there is a problem mid-way between the journey from Africa to Holland, there is a much higher risk of ‘serious consequences’ to the black-tailed godwits’ chances of survival.
Thijs den Otter expanded concerns to cover all birds using the wetland area beside the airport site, stressing Portugal is risking “ecological disaster” if it presses ahead.
But just as TSF published this latest attack, Público gave space to an opinion article by Secretary of State for communications Alberto Souto de Miranda whose message was headlined elsewhere as “birds aren’t stupid”.
In fact, texts appearing subsequently delivered the full sentence, which read: “Birds aren’t stupid and will probably adapt”.
It’s that last part that sends a chill through campaigners who continue to push for a different site entirely (click here).