The wetland area that gives the city of Lagoa its name is being erased by earth-moving machinery that is preparing the land for an, as yet, unknown development - but most likely to be a new Continente supermarket.
Thousands of Glossy ibis are being pushed from their winter habitat of Alagoas Brancas as the natural area to the north of the Aldi and Apolonia stores is being destroyed.
It’s not just the beautiful ibis that is on the move as the quiet marshland area is home to a variety of birds including spoonbill, egret (pictured), snipe and various ducks, mammals and insects, all now threatened by the developers.
Environmentalists and concerned locals have joined the birding community in condemning this destruction, but who is to blame?
There is no ‘aviso’ notice, a legal requirement to show what is proposed and who is authorised to carry out the work on this land, and the environmental association Almargem suspects the town hall has licensed the work that will create housing or more stores, of which Lagoa, per head of population, has more than its fair share.
The association’s spokesman said the Glossy ibis is an endangered species which only recently has been logged as returning to Portugal, probably from Spain where their habitat in Andalucia also has been disturbed by relentless human intervention.
Meantime, long-term Algarve resident James Watson says, “This site is particularly important as it is a fresh water wetland.”
On his ‘Save Lagoa’s Lagoa’ Facebook page, James Watson reports on a visit to the site this week with João Santos from Almargem along with personnel from the Ministry of the Environment and from the GNR’s wildlife preservation body, 'Serviço de Proteção da Natureza e do Ambiente' (SEPNA).
“What we all noticed was that there was no sign up with all the details and references to the works. This in itself could be a legitimate reason to stopping them,” reports Watson.
Lagoa council has remained silent throughout but with the GNR and the Ministry of the Environment now on the case, an explanation should be forthcoming.
Whether the council has the right to allow the destruction of this wetland remains to be seen but with the government’s recent move to give Portugal's councils more leeway in re-classifying ecological zones, this may be just such a case.
Birding expert and campaigner, Frank McClintock, on hearing of the destruction in Lagoa, while on a fact finding trip to Sri Lanka, said this is an uphill struggle - but a worthwhile one.
"The main thing to do is to check the legality of what is going on, the next step is to raise awareness," said McClintock, before offering further support and advice. McClintock is noted for his 'Save Salgados' campaign which attracted over 35,000 signatures to halt a hotel and golf course development in the Silves council area.
Both these essential first steps have been taken in Lagoa and it's now over to the council to explain what is going and why a valuable natural habitat is being destroyed.