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Crucial Portuguese wetland gets last minute reprieve from developers

10/01/2013 23:14:12
birds/2012_july/salgados_glossy_ibis

Glossy ibis on Salgados. The lagoon is threatened by a vast new luxury hotel development

Lagoa dos Salgados development halted, for now

January 2013. An on-line petition that has gathered 21,000 international signatures has stopped a mega-tourist complex from destroying a unique wetland bird sanctuary in southern Portugal. The bird sanctuary, Lagoa dos Salgados, has been given a last minute reprieve while an Environmental Impact Assessment is carried out.

Despite this unique coastal lagoon being of prime importance to many breeding, over-wintering or passage species and despite being internationally recognised as a bird watching hotspot that brings in many hundreds of thousands of tourist dollars every year - as well as being a study area for schools and universities throughout Europe - it has never had any official protection, and has been threatened with development throughout the last 15 years.

Avocets on the threatened Salgados Lagoon.

Avocets on the threatened Salgados Lagoon.

Huge hotel complex
This threat was dramatically highlighted six months ago with the grant of building permission over an area of 247 hectares, (more than 600 acres), bordering the lagoon. The building permission allowed for a luxury mega-tourist complex of hotels, resorts, and golf courses that were scheduled to break ground in April 2013, but the developers had used loop-holes to sidestep regulations and steam-roller through the permission.

This was enough to galvanize local feeling and an on-line petition was started by a local bird watching guide, Frank McClintock, to provide a voice for those opposed to the plan and to highlight the continuing lack of any protection for the lagoon's unique habitat.

Successful petition
The petition has been such a success that it has turned what was a purely local affair into Portugal's largest environmental campaign for over 30 years, garnering support from all of Portugal's leading environmental NGOs, and the first 21,000 signatures were handed in on a CD to the Minister for the Environment during the first week in January.

The response was immediate; within hours there had been a radical U-turn, with the Government announcing that no building would be allowed before an official Environmental Impact Assessment had taken place and its findings implemented.
Of course there is a long way to go before the lagoon is fully protected, and the fight continues to protect this special place for future generations, but round 1 has gone to the environmentalists, which is both a step in the right direction and an excellent way to start the year!

Sign the petition

There has been an on-line petition set up to persuade the Government to change its mind, rescind the permission and grant SPA status in order to preserve this habitat for future generations. You are urged to sign it here and to share it on Facebook and Twitter. 

Flamingos frequent Salgados.

 

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

More Wetlands Of International Importance In The Iberian Peninsula

For a long time, the wetland of importance in the Iberian Peninsula, was Donana National Park in Spain. But now there is Lagoa dos Salgados in Portugal. Spain and Portugal can serve as an example that they are not places in Europe, where wildlife disappears, but instead places where wildlife thrives.

Posted by: Tim Upham | 12 Jan 2013 02:48:26

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