The State Secretary for the Environment has made up his mind on the controversial Salgados development in the Silves area, not that he has let anyone know yet.
The proposed Finalgarve development has provoked an unparalleled 22,000 signature international petition demanding that the area remains as a wildlife haven and important resting and breeding ground for indigenous and migrating birds.
A recent visit by bird expert and TV personality Bill Oddie confirmed the importance of this natural area, the last such green space adjoining the coast in the central Algarve. Oddie, no stranger to the Algarve, asked why it was felt necessary to add another massive tourist development for summer tourists when the birdwatching fraternity would flock to the area in the off season should it be remodelled and promoted as birding venue.
An Environmental Impact Study that covered only a part of the area to be built on was commissioned by Finalgarve, delivered to the CCDR and passed to the Secretary of State for his decision. The public consultation phase saw over 700 emails against the development of hotels, apartments and an 18-hole golf course over an estimated 350 hectares, most of which the developer does not actually own but hope to compulsorily purchase.
The change of local mayor seems to have had little affect as Rosa Palma, who took over from the interim mayor, is said to be against the development but has her own internal problems with no majority in the council and the opposition parties now ganging up to frustrate her plans for the Silves area. She refers to the Salgados area as an ecological oasis, but may now be powerless to halt the process should the decision be for construction, and the resulting destruction of this countryside zone.
Everything now depends on the State Secretary Paulo da Silva Lemos’s decision. On the one hand the government thinks it needs large building projects to create employment, on the other the tourism sector wants to develop projects and attractions that bring in off-season tourism in specific niche sector, such as bird watching.
It is not known when the decision of the Secretary of State will be made public but this may mark the end of the largest environmental objection protest the country has seen. The Friends of Salgados campaigning group has fought tirelessly to protect and improve the site and the developer has stuck to its claims of open dialogue while treating local sentiment and interested parties with arrogance and contempt.
To sign the 'Save Salgados' petition, CLICK HERE
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