The area of land, lake and wetland between Herdade dos Salgados and Armação de Pêra, home to a wide diversity of species and on the edge of pitched battle between environmentalists and property company Finalgarve, is to be tended, developed and publicised using a major grant from Toyota.
The nature and citizenship conservation of protected areas project "will take place in two important areas for birds and biodiversity; Lagoa dos Salgados (Albufeira/Silves) and Barrinha de Esmoriz/Lagoa de Paramos (Ovar/Espinho)," according to the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA).
The two year project is being organised and run by the SPEA and is the only project in Europe that the Toyota Motor Corporation is sponsoring this year.
The purpose is "to promote new models of management and participation in natural areas through partnerships between local authorities and citizens for conservation and the promotion of activities related to nature."
How environmental education, volunteerism and awareness-raising of the natural environment will go down with Finalgarve remains to be seen.
The property company still wants to start its Praia Grande/Salgados mega-development of tourist accommodation, three hotels, and a golf course on 230 hectares of the Algarve’s fast-vanishing countryside including access to the beautiful Praia Grande, parts of which locals fear may be sectioned off.
According to SPEA, "employees of Toyota, schools and local partners will be involved in various actions, which aim to promote civic participation for the conservation of nature and to make known the importance of these places that are rich in biodiversity."
At Lagoa dos Salgados, SPEA will identify conservation and education needs, monitor the area and create a volunteer network for the active conservation of the site.
The property development is planned to stop just short of the lake which recently has been remodelled by Aguas de Algarve to maintain water levels and encourage bird breeding.
Luís Costa, the director of SPEA, points out that "first of all, this Toyota project is a way to protect natural areas, then these fantastic places can be promoted to local communities to get them involved and motivated to value their natural heritage."
"There is still much ignorance about the natural values of these sites, even for those who live next door to them. We believe that this pilot project can be replicated in other Important Areas for Birds and Biodiversity (IBA) and Protected Areas in Portugal," added Costa.
But it is Linaria Algarviana that has put the Finalgarve property development on hold. This rare plant somehow was missed off the Environmental Impact Assessment commissioned and paid for by the developer but confirmation of the species existence was made by the Portuguese Botanical Society after government approval for the mega-tourist project had been granted by the then Environment Minister, Paulo Lemos, in an act that did nothing to protect the environment.
Because this rare plant grows in areas that the developer wants to turn into another ‘me too’ tourist offering, the CITES’ red-listed species of plant needs some careful study and protection, according to the court. The botanical survey was undertaken at the request of Friends of Salgados,* a collection of concerned individuals, businesses and NGOs.
This court decision has delayed the destruction of the countryside habitat adjoining the now famous lake while environmentalists continue their campaign to have the whole natural area recognised as a wildlife zone.
An on-line petition to protect the site was started in 2012, has gathered nearly 34,000 signatures and now is recognised as Portugal’s second largest ever environmental protest.
Thus the Toyota grant legitimises the lake as a special area for wildlife and does no harm at all to the campaign to leave this beautiful section of countryside and coastal Algarve as it is for the benefit of tens of thousands of tourists and locals who love its wild beauty and the fact it creates a rare green buffer in a coastline that, if property developers got their way, would be filled with luxury tourist 'offerings'.
© Paul Rees
Frank McClintock and Bill Oddie at Lagos dos Salgados, discussing what can be done to preserve this unique habitat...
* The 'Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados' platform includes the following organisations:
A Rocha, Aldeia, algarvedailynews.com, Almargem, Birding in Portugal, Birdwatching Algarve, LPN, Portugal Resident, ProActiveTur, Quercus, SPEA.