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Salgados update … about time too!

Flamingos at SalgadosSo this is a Salgados update, and the first question I want to answer is “Why’s it taken so long?

The short answer is that ever since last November I have been asked to keep shtum about the latest developments, despite being intimately involved with them … and as one who prefers taking action it’s been a tough call let me tell you!

However, now the cat’s out of the bag and here’s the gen …

You may remember that I started a petition a couple of years ago when it really seemed as if everyone else had chucked in the towel and building was about to start any minute.

Click HERE for petition.

That small action turned into Portugal’s largest environmental protest ever, and the signature count now stands just shy of 33,000. Personally I thought at the time that that would be an end to it, but the response was overwhelming and in some small way Daniela and I became spokespersons and collators of information.

Due to the success of the petition the Government requested the would-be developer to undertake an Environmental Impact assessment, (EIA), a course of action that it had been sidestepping with all the considerable force it could muster – and now we think we know why …

The EIA it subsequently furnished was a farce of course and I forwarded to the relevant authorities over 700 emails of protest against it. A great many were one-liners, but a fair proportion were studied and balanced requests for the Government to think again and leave an inheritance for our grandchildren of which we could be proud rather than ashamed – but it made no difference and not one of them was taken into account, (personally, I can’t remember ever hearing of an EIA that raised such a storm of protest but there y’go) … and that takes us up to last November when I received my gagging request … now, here’s another picture so you don’t get bored or depressed, ‘cos there’s some interesting news below it …

Linaria algarvianaIt was at this point that we, (or rather the Portuguese NGOs that stand firm in their commitment to do all they can to save this special place), commissioned a study of a rare plant that I had pointed out to them grew on the land to be developed. Personally, I didn’t know of it myself until Simon Wates, (who supplied the photo below), kindly pointed it out to me. Rather surprisingly, he said, this flower, Linaria algarviana, had found no mention whatsoever in the official EIA, even though it was well known to grow here.

It is a rare species that ONLY grows in the Algarve, so allow me to quote from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) Red List site...

Linaria Algarviana is listed on Annex II of the Habitats Directive and under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). It is legally protected in Portugal. Appropriate site management for this species including traditional grazing activities or control of urban and tourism expansion should be established.”

Getting back to the study commissioned at the end of last year by the Portuguese NGOs, it was carried out by the Portuguese Botanical Society, the highest body of its kind in the land, who found that not only did Linaria algarviana grow at Salgados, but that the colony here was the largest in the world and of utmost importance, and that’s why I was asked to keep quiet, for if the news leaked out prematurely we were all worried that there would be bulldozers at midnight – just as there used to be bulldozers draining the lagoon if the next door golf course looked like flooding.

Now the question is, “If it’s legally protected in Portugal, how come the largest colony of this Red Listed species somehow failed to find a mention in an EIA requested by the Portuguese Government – and what should be done now that this knowledge is in the public domain? Should Finalgarve still be allowed to “develop” a site that will destroy the largest colony of one of the rarest plants in the world – and one that Portugal is legally bound to protect?”

And that brings me on to another matter, the rehabilitation works on the lagoon itself carried out over the last year by Aguas do Algarve and APA, the Portuguese Environment Agency. In general these have been brilliant, and now not only is the water level likely to be much more stable in the future but also large new nesting areas and habitats have both been made. Many more species than ever before have been seen on the lagoon, (I even saw some Slender-billed Gulls there a couple of weeks ago), and nesting success this year looks for once to be an accomplished fact, … BUT …

WHAT IS THE PICTURE BELOW MEANT TO BE?

Salgados HideSurely it’s not a hide?

No! It can’t be! A 3 yr old could have done better!

‘Fraid so my friends. Apparently this is it, the finished product, the best that Portugal can offer as amenities for one of the most important birdwatching sites in the whole country.

A few planks nailed to a couple of uprights, no sides, no roof, no shade – and a “dog-proof” barrier that wouldn’t keep out a moose let alone a mouse.

The bins haven’t been emptied for over a month, (in fact there’s only meant to be one, but some kind soul donated another when the first wasn’t emptied), and now the litter blows around among the dying bushes. It’s not surprising really as vehicle access has been cut to the “hide” so one can’t even get close to it any more but have to trudge over 200 mts across a ploughed field and no bin man’s going to do that is he? It’s also pretty wearing to have to do it with all one’s birding equipment …. One would almost think the whole thing’s been planned to dissuade people from going there.

It’s a disgrace, a joke and a patronizing slap in the face to a large sector of Portugal’s tourist market and I’m disgusted – and ashamed that the country can act in such a manner towards its guests.

Apart from the disaster that this is at present, it could have been done so much better if someone with a tiny bit of brain had planned it rather than the wombat who obviously did, ‘cos it’s not rocket science; it simply needs more than half a brain awake, a designer who puts purpose before form.

One would have thought that valuable experience had been already bought when one looks at the other “hide” at Salgados, the one without even a front and from where one can’t see a thing, the one that’s never used, but maybe they were both designed by the same dimwit, and I have already had it suggested to me that the new “hide” could well win Birdwatch Magazine‘s up-coming competition, “The Worst Hide in the World”; taken together, the two definitely will!

And that’s quite enough from me at the moment.

I’m sure that over the next few weeks the press will pick up on it, as the news has already started to break locally …

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To sign the 'Save Salgados' petition, CLICK HERE

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The 'Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados' platform includes the following organisations:

A Rocha, Aldeia, Algarve123, www.algarvedailynews.com, Almargem, Birding in Portugal, Birdwatching Algarve, LPN, Portugal Resident, ProActiveTur, Quercus, SPEA

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and pray that Linaria algarviana saves this site for everyone and not just one company’s dodgy profit – and that APA wakes up to the fact that it’s making Portugal the laughing stock of the birding world.