Standing for wildlife in Lagoa

12 Feb , 2017  

Just by the city of Lagoa, next to a major supermarket, lies timidly the last witness of what was once a complex flooding area of freshwater lagoons. An area after which the city itself was named. The place is locally known as Alagoas Brancas, a temporary lagoon and marsh, were several species of waterbirds feed and roost, mainly during wintertime.

Not many of these are left in the Algarve.

The local flag species is the Glossy Ibis. Some hundreds of birds of this EU protected species roost here, alongside Spoonbills, Little and Cattle Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, Godwits, Gadwall, Shovelers and many others.

Glossy Ibis. Michele Lamberti.

Glossy Ibis. Michele Lamberti.

The place is mapped in the city plans and urban area, so building is technically allowed. And so it was. Overnight the machines came, and started to cover the lagoon in debris, destroying margins and vegetation.

It seems a new large Continente supermarket is being erected there, in a street that already holds 4 of them – Apolónia, Intermarché, Pingo Doce and Aldi. By now, only the core of the lagoon still exists.

Alagoas Brancas today. Nuno Barros

Alagoas Brancas today. Nuno Barros

However, a bunch of brave citizens led by Carl Hawker – an Englishman for long living in Portugal – organized themselves, spread the word and managed to put the construction work on hold, for apparently the proponents forgot some permits.

With a peaceful demonstration scheduled for this Sunday morning, the workers tried to erect some panels to cover the whole thing during the night before, but were stopped in time, and the damage is still visible to all.

Nuno Barros

Human cord for Alagoas Brancas. Nuno Barros

So today, in a rainy Sunday morning, more than 100 people stood by the construction site to say they don´t need a 5th mega-supermarket in the same street, demanded for the development to stop, and for the city hall to convert the area in a nature park, suitable for visitation and environmental education.

What they ask is merely for the proximity between lagoon and town to be seen as an added value and not a constrain to urban expansion. Now it is – as usual – a matter of political will to do the right thing.

Walking the Earth for the environment for several years, Matin Hutchinson was joined the crowd. Nuno Barros

Walking the Earth for the environment for several years, Martin Hutchinson joined the crowd. Nuno Barros

It is a crazy world, one where this kind of opinion is the minority, where beautiful things lose their value, and one where the only rules of the game are plans and permits. One where if you have both – and some investment power to go along – you can do what you please, no matter if it is wrong or right.

The truth is a lot more of these areas were destroyed in the past, but no one demonstrated. Now some do. The tide is slowly changing. Yesterday there was none, today we were 100, tomorrow we will be 1000. Because in a world of plans and permits, only with enough people, does a cause become politically relevant.

It is a funny thing, political will. Decisions are usually made based on what is perceived to be the popular choices. That is why the road less travelled takes courage. But people follow courage. So what now?

Nuno Barros

Nuno Barros

Infinite “growth” regradless of its coast is an ilusion we should question. One only mad men, fools and economists believe in.

Again a word of praise for Carl and the foreign community for stepping up to the frontline in yet another environmental crisis. After a lifetime of moaning behind coffee cups, us Portuguese have a lot to learn from their urge to act.

How you can help:

Following this link made available by Almargem, you can send automatic messages to central and local government, asking them to stop this unnecessary destruction.

Preserve what is important to you, and be conscient enough to know what that is.

Nuno Barros

Nuno Barros

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