Lagoa dos Salgados – Situation Update (April 2005)
SPEA / RSPB Algarve visit – March 2005
From 29 March - 1 April a joint delegation from SPEA (BirdLife Portugal) and the RSPB (BirdLife International in the UK) visited the Algarve. The joint delegation undertook a series of meetings with the President and other technical staff of Comissão de Coordenação de Desenvolvimento Regional (CCDR Algarve, the land planning agency) and with the CEO and technical staff from Águas do Algarve SA (the regional water company). The delegation was comprised of Luis Costa (Executive Director, SPEA) and Jose Tavares (RSPB Country Programmes Officer for Portugal, Greece and Turkey), João Ministro (local IBA Caretaker), and Matt Self (senior RSPB Reserves Ecologist).
SPEA / RSPB study on the land-use zonation & hydrology of the lagoon
As confirmed to all stakeholders late last year, SPEA and the RSPB are now jointly undertaking this study. The resulting report will be made available in May, and will inform the debate and decisions being taken on Lagoa dos Salgados. João Ministro is currently writing up the zonation analysis that will map in detail the relevance of the margins of the lagoon for the various wintering and breeding bird species. Matt Self undertook fieldwork over a period of several days at the site last week to complete the site hydrological assessment. This will cover issues including the annual cycle of flooding and drying, water volume and quality, water budget to determine supply requirements, and water inputs and outputs.
Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Water treatment plant
At the meetings held in October 2004 with key stakeholders, one of the main concerns identified regarding this site was that the new water treatment plant, to be constructed a few miles away, would not provide any water to the lagoon. The wetland is currently extensively fed by water from an old treatment plant close to the lagoon that will be decommissioned once the new one is ready. The original plans for the new treatment plant, drawn up many years ago, did not include any outflow to the wetland. Therefore, in recent months SPEA / RSPB have written and lobbied both the CCDR and Águas do Algarve to ensure that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the new plant would consider the water needs of the lagoon. A crucial step in this procedure is the establishment of the terms of reference for the EIA study, which are set by an EIA Follow-up Commission that is established for each specific EIA. It is encouraging that because of the recent discussions both the CCDR and Águas do Algarve have confirmed that in the Water Treatment Plant EIA Follow-up Commission defined that the EIA must analyze the water needs of Lagoa dos Salgados. A private consultancy company is currently undertaking the EIA study, so the results are not yet public. The study currently being completed by SPEA and the RSPB aims to inform and contribute to this EIA. As soon as the EIA report is released to the public SPEA and the RSPB will jointly analyze its findings.
CCDR position on proposed development
CCDR confirmed to SPEA / RSPB that they are maintaining their previous binding opinion that the proposed golf course and large-scale tourism resort planned for the west of the lagoon can only be built above the 4 m above sea level height contour (deemed to be the historical flooding height). They have maintained their position in spite of the recent legal, but non-binding opinions from the Instituto da Agua, and the Camara Municipal de Silves, dismissing the 4m criteria. This is good news as it means at present the development still has not been approved. The emphasis is now on the developers, who will have to resubmit a counter-proposal to CCDR.
December 2004 Lagoon opening
It has been confirmed that the most recent opening of the lagoon to the sea in December 2004, was legal and officially sanctioned. As mentioned previously, the CCDR can give permission for the dunes to be breached between December and February (inclusive). The existing golf course company on the east side of the marsh is usually the company that request authorization, because their facility is periodically flooded by high water during the winter. It was confirmed that late in 2004, the golf course company applied, and received permission to open the wetland to the sea. The marsh dried out considerably because of creating the channel to the sea. However, barely two months later, the water levels had recovered to the initial level. A good range of bird species were seen in good numbers, including hundreds of flamingos. However, the water quality was extremely poor as winter 2004/5 has been very dry, with almost no rain throughout. As a result, the wetland’s water predominantly originates from the current sewage treatment plant that is not working effectively. It is highly probable that this coming summer will witness another botulism eruption that would be expected to cause the now familiar summer mortality of birds.
Lagoa de Salgados – Siltation problem identified
In the lengthy technical discussions held with engineers and technicians from both CCDR and Águas do Algarve different alternatives to correctly manage the water level and quality of this wetland have been analyzed and discussed. These alternatives will be listed in the SPEA / RSPB report. A new issue regarding the water management at this site has also been identified. The opening of the lagoon to the sea during the winter months is currently necessary for two reasons. Firstly, this releases the polluted water, but additionally to purge the considerable volume of silt that accumulates rapidly in the wetland. This siltation comes in part from the vast amounts of treated sludge emanating from the old water treatment plant. It is clear that without regularly opening the lagoon to the sea, Lagoa dos Salgados would rapidly then silt up.
Kite-surfing problem emerges
Finally, a local SPEA member has recently informed SPEA of a new threat to Lagoa dos Salgados from people kite-surfing on the lagoon. It is inconceivable that anyone would want to pursue this sport in such polluted waters, especially as such good conditions for this sport exist out at sea in Praia Grande nearby, but this has happened on more than one occasion. Each time this has caused an enormous amount of disturbance to the birds foraging in the area. SPEA have already alerted CCDR and the local police force about this problem, and asked what can be done to prevent this being repeated, especially through any legal instrument, taking into consideration the Birds Directive.
SPEA to meet Ministry of Environment
SPEA will be meeting the new Deputy Environment Minister of the new Portuguese government in April. Among a number of national and site-based issues on the agenda, SPEA will raise the plight of the Lagoa dos Salgados, and the need for some legal protection of the lagoon as a Special Protected Area under the Birds Directive.
If any of these points require clarification, please contact me directly. I will circulate a further update on developments in July 2005.
José Pedro Tavares
Country Programmes Officer for Portugal, Turkey and Greece
Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK
Rua da Vitória, 53 -3º Esq
1100-618 Lisboa, Portugal
This update, produced jointly by the RSPB and SPEA, was circulated on 7th April 2005. It has some very positive points and in repsonse to this I wrote (via email on 10th April) directly to Jose Tavares (RSPB Country Operations Officer for Portugal).
This was my response:
Thank you for your email of 7th April and the update on the situation with Lagoa dos Salgados. I am sure I speak on behalf of many people, in addition to those to whom the update was copied, in saying that I am very pleased with the progress that has been made to date and I congratulate you and your colleagues at SPEA and Almargem for your hard work. I am pleased not just because there are now some concrete results and some cause for optimism, but also because you have made the debate public. This was the cause of much frustration, if not anger, in the past - no-one actually knew what the situation was. The very large number of birdwatchers visiting this site each year, many of them having done so for several years, could only base their opinions on what they saw for themselves: constantly encroaching development, badly polluted water and periodic draining of the lagoon at apparently inappropriate times when birds were nesting. I myself was totally unaware of most of the information which you have released over the past six months regarding the large number of interested parties involved and the overall complexity of the situation.
The two most positive notes are that the EIA Follow-up Commission is requiring the Environmental Impact Assessment to include the water needs of Lagoa dos Salgados, and that the CCDR are maintaining their stance that development to the west of Salgados should be above the 4 metre sea height flooding contour. I do not yet see victory in these matters; I have lived in the Algarve long enough to know that the Portuguese "machinery" moves in mysterious ways and where developers and local government politics are concerned there is no such thing as "an insurmountable hurdle". Let us hope that things proceed for the benefit of the lagoon and its birdlife.
Regarding your statement on the December 2004 Lagoon opening being legal and officially sanctioned, I remain unconvinced about some aspects of this. Clearly the Salgados Golf Club is the prime activator in this, but I am not sure about their motives. I have never seen (or heard) any evidence of the golf course being flooded, even when the water level in the lagoon was very high two winters ago. The water level certainly was not high enough to be a flooding risk when the lagoon was drained in December last year. I happened to meet four golfers recently at Salgados who were regular players on this course. They told me that when the water in the lagoon becomes unpleasantly smelly, and players complain to the club, they arrange to have the lagoon drained regardless of timing and deleterious effect on the birds. We must accept the necessity for period draining until such time as (hopefully) a cleaner source of water feeds the lagoon, but I think that in the past it has been done (e.g. in late March 2004) at an inappropriate time. Also, I do not accept the golf club's denial that they are taking water from the lagoon (or at least the stream which feeds the lagoon); I, and others, have witnessed this first hand.
The kite-surfing problem which you mention is worrying. This is not something I have witnessed at Salgados but it is becoming a very popular nuisance across the Algarve and I see the effect it has on the thousands of roosting birds in the Ria da Alvor, where I live. I am not sure whether the local police are the people to cope with this; they have been alerted to the illegal shooting of ducks, etc (from the birdwatching hide!) and equally illegal mist-netting to trap birds coming in to roost in the evening, but have failed to take any action. I have a contact (Capt. Rui Moreira) within the SEPNA (Equipa de Proteccao da Natureza) branch of the GNR in Portimao who could be more effective. [contactable on Tel: 282 420750 TM: 96 1193296 Linha Azul: 808200520] They are over-worked and under-staffed but are very keen to tackle any "crime against nature" - I will try to contact them about this but it might be useful if a more "official" approach could be made by SPEA and Almargem. Otherwise, let us hope that the lagoon becomes strewn with the half-commatose bodies of people in wetsuits suffering from surfer's botulism.
The forthcoming meeting of SPEA with the new Portuguese Deputy Environment Minister sounds encouraging. If, at the end of the day, Lagoa dos Salgados can be elevated from an IBA to an SPA then I think that the future of this very special site might become more secure. It really is worth preserving; it might rank lower than other deserving Portuguese sites in terms of total area and actual numbers of birds, but for its size it has an incredible number of birds and variety of species, including many rarities, and it also has the very special quality of easy accessabilty, and that is of prime importance in terms of educating Portuguese schoolchildren (and possibly even their parents) and at the same time attracting eco-tourism.
I look forward to hearing news, hopefully good news, of further developments.
My very best wishes,
I did not receive either an acknowledgement or reply, and we are now awaiting the promised further update due this month (July).
Here are some photographic reminders of some of the threats which we are fighting against:
A view to the east of Lagoa dos Salgados where five 5-star hotels and accompanying recreational support is being constructed - this will complete the development of the coastal strip between Albufeira (the "Blackpool" of the Algarve) and the Lagoa dos Slagados golf course. At the moment there are proposals to continue development on the west side of the Lagoa as far as Armacao da Pera and current plans indicate that this development will touch the western edge of the flood - the consequences of this are probably that the current expanse of water will cease to exist (together with the supported population of birds).
This is the pump-house which both SPEA and the RSPB deny exists - it is taking water from the stream which supplies the Lagoa to provide irrigation for the Salgados golf course.
The beach at Praia Grande, the south-east corner of the Lagoa, where the dunes are periodically breached by bulldozer to allow the heavily polluted water to escape to the sea. RSPB and SPEA claim that this is done to "simulate natural processes" and that it is done "sensitively" so as not to disturb the birds. I have evidence that this is done indiscriminately at the bequest of the golf club, not (as has been said) to prevent flooding of the greens, but because the smell of the sewage-polluted water is offensive to the golfers. Last year draining took place in late March when most birds had already nested and were sitting on eggs.
SOME GOOD NEWS
In recent weeks there has been an attempt to revive the lagoon as an environmetal asset. The local Camara Municipal (District Council) of Silves had erected a birdwatching hide, nature trail and numerous information boards. The hide went into disrepair, part of the trail was closed off and all the information boards were removed eighteen months ago in what many thought was a prelude to obliterating the lagoon completely. In recent weeks the hide has been repaired and several new, informative boards in both English and Portuguese have been erected.
We are still a long way from achieving a victory but the actions of the RSPB and SPEA are now more positive, there is an information-flow, and an attempt is being made to co-ordinate the views and wishes of all parties involved. I have heard recently that an application is being made to have Lagoa dos Salgados given the status of a RAMSAR Site which might be another step in raising the site's level of protection from IBA (Important Bird Area) to SPA (Special Protection Area); the latter would almost certainly guarantee the site's future preservation. I would like to thank everyone who has written to the RSPB and/or SPEA to express their concerns and offer support for this crusade and to especially thank Derek Honnor, without who's initial protestations to the RSPB at their headquarters in Sandy, the progress seen in recent months would not have taken place.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
A single sub-adult male bird found by C H Key at Ria da Alvor, Quinta da Rocha, on 22nd April 2005
Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)
Single bird found by Les and Margaret Jamieson at Ria da Alvor, Quinta da Rocha, on 9th March 2005
Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)
One of a group of four birds (probably all juveniles) found by Roger Skan at Vale Santos, Cape St. Vincent, on 22nd August 2004.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
LAGOA dos SALGADOS
Lagoa dos Salgados (meaning “salty lake”) is inaptly named since it is one of the few areas of fresh water within the Algarve area. However, the adjective “fresh” must be qualified; during the rainy season the lagoon is fed by a small stream which flows in from the north but this is supplemented by discharge from the local ETAR, a sewage treatment works which is unable to cope with the volume of waste, especially during the tourist season, and is now contaminating the lagoon to such an extent that avian botulism is killing many hundreds of birds annually. A new, higher capacity, ETAR is planned to cope with the increasing number of hotels, houses and apartments being built immediately adjacent to the lagoon but at this time no-one knows what effect this will have; it might result in the release of cleaner water into the lagoon but it might also mean the release of no water at all. The adjacent Salgados Golf course might pose an additional threat. They claim that they are not drawing water from the lagoon for irrigation but this has been challenged by other observers. It is also possible that any run-off from the golf course will add nitrates (derived from fertilizers) and other toxins to the water as has happened near other courses in the Algarve.
In recent years there has been a practice of breaching the natural retaining dam (I.e. bulldozing away the sand-dunes) at the south-east corner of the lagoon to allow the polluted water to escape. This would be commendable if done at the appropriate time but there is evidence that it has recently been done when the water was not seriously polluted or when birds were just about to start breeding. The most recent occurrence was in December 2004 when the water quality was relatively clean, the water level was just about perfect, but apparently the Salgados Golf course requested this draining (carried out by the local council) in order to prevent flooding of their greens. The effect on the birdlife of this very rapid drop in water level is devastating.
Anyone who has visited this site recently (or, like many, is a regular visitor) will realise that the threats to its future existence are immense. Massive development to the east is well under way and there are proposals for even greater development on the western side which could result in building up to the present edge of the lagoon. The lagoon straddles the boundary between two councils or municipalities (Camara Municipal), C.M. Silves and C.M. Albufeira. Both of these municipalities are supportive of any development which will increase tourism and hence jobs within their domains, irrespective of cost to the environment.
There is a fight to preserve Lagoa dos Salgados but it is very much David v Goliath. The site has no national or international protection status; it is not an SPA (Special Protection Area), RAMSAR Site or part of the Nature 2000 network. It is an IBA (Important Bird Area) but this is notional and has no legal status. Portugal is being urged (by the EU) to create more SPA’s but is defiant because such legislation would severely impede tourist development, construction of dams, etc.
SPEA (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves) is Portugal’s BirdLife International partner working with, and receiving funding from, the RSPB. Compared to the RSPB it has a tiny membership (just over 1,000) and very few staff. In a country with such a rich diversity of habitats and so many environmental and ecological problems it simply cannot cope.
The RSPB has an International Operations Director and also a Country Programmes Officer; the latter has responsibility not just for Portugal but also for Greece and Turkey.
There is a Portuguese Governmental body, the ICN (Instituto da Conservacao da Natureza), which appears to be both impotent and totally uninterested in matters such as this. The present dire state of the Castro Marim Nature Reserve, one of Portugal’s prime RAMSAR Sites which has received a large amount of EU funding for its new Interpretation Centre, bears witness to this.
ALMARGEM (The Association for the Protection of the Environments of the Algarve) is an NGO based in Loule which has a staff member appointed as “caretaker” for the Lagoa dos Salgados IBA; his brief, we believe, is to observe the progress (or otherwise) of events at this site and report back to interested parties.
Over the past few months we have had dialogue with the RSPB and SPEA expressing our concerns over the future of this site. The situation is extremely complex because so many different parties, with different objectives, are involved and in Portugal the administrative and legal machinery moves very slowly and in very mysterious ways. Our concern is that Lagoa dos Salgados seems to be a very low priority in the Portuguese scheme of conservation (a fact admitted by the RSPB). We are not sure whether SPEA and the RSPB realise just how important this site is. It does not have the large area or sheer numbers of birds of, for example, the Ria Formosa or Castro Marim but Lagoa dos Salgados does, square metre for square metre, have an incredible number and variety of birds (over 160 species recorded, including many scarcities and rarities). Moreover, it is very easily accessible to the large number of visiting birdwatchers from overseas many of whom come here year after year. In short, it is a unique gem which the Algarve cannot afford to lose. Hotels can be demolished and replaced with bigger and better ones, but this is not so with this Lagoa; if or when it is lost it will be irretrievable - it cannot be rebuilt and the birds will not return.
So, the purpose of this missive is two-fold: firstly, we have tried to explain and simplify a complex situation; we meet many visitors at this site who want information as to what is happening and ask how they might help. Secondly, we urge you to contact any or all of the organisations involved to let them know the strength of feeling about what is happening at Pera so that they can see the level of concern. Please write, telephone, email or even visit them in person, but please do something - or it may soon be too late.
RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL Tel: 01767 680551 http://www.rspb.org.uk/
Alistair Gammell, Director, International Operations amailto:Alistair.firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Day, International Office Mark.Day@rspb.org.uk
Jose Tavares, Country Programmes Officer for Portugal email@example.com
Professor Ian Newton, Chairman of RSPB Council c/o Sue.Steptoe@rspb.org.uk
SPEA, Rua da Vitoria, 53 - 3.° Esq., 1100-618 Lisboa, PORTUGAL http://www.spea.pt/
Ivan Ramirez, IBA Co-ordinator for Portugal firstname.lastname@example.org
ALMARGEM, Apartado 251, 8100 Loule, PORTUGAL http://www.almargem.org/
Joao Ministro, IBA “Caretaker” for Lagoa dos Salgados email@example.com
Some useful links:
http://www.spea.pt/MS2/ibas/35.html * in Portuguese, but has a link to an informative document in English
The officers and employees of these organisations are, inevitably, severely overworked and may not welcome an inundation of letters, emails and telephone calls. This, however, is no excuse for not making your voices heard and opinions known; there will not be a second chance, and time is running out very quickly.
If you are a member of the RSPB you should be aware that part of your subscription is going towards financing BirdLife International partnerships (in this case SPEA), and you have the right to have a say in what is to be done.
If you are a regular or even just an occasional visitor to Portugal and your passion is for the wonderful but ever-diminishing natural environment and its fabulous wealth of resident and migratory birds then please consider supporting SPEA by becoming a member; €22 per year is a very small price to pay to help protect Portugal’s birdlife.
Amigos da Lagoa dos Salgados
“The Friends of Pera Marsh”
The following statement was issued jointly by the RSPB and SPEA
Brief Introduction about the Lagoa IBA
The Lagoa dos Salgados is a well-known coastal lagoon, one of the few wetlands in the western Algarve coast. This site is extremely important for birdlife, including breeding little bittern (4-6 pairs), purple heron (3 to 7 pairs) and ferruginous duck (1-2 pairs, the only breeding site for this species in Portugal), while black-winged stilts and purple gallinule are common (6-10 pairs breeding, up to 85 in winter). In total more than 150 bird species have been seen there. Accordingly, the site as been recognised by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) as an Important Bird Area (IBA). However, the lagoa lacks of any legal protection status.
In the last couple of years Lagoa dos Salgados has received a lot of attention in both the Portuguese, the UK and the international press.
Existing Golf Course:
The east side the lagoon is already limited by a golf course, and behind it a massive development (Heredade dos Salgados) is under construction. Contrary to what many people believe, this golf course is not taking it's water from the lagoon. The lake (and incidentally this golf course) receives most of it’s water from a sewage treatment plant upstream - without this plant, the wetland would not exist today as we know it.
West side of the Lagoon
On the west side of the lagoon there is still a vast (> 200 Ha) , idyllic expanse of fields and shrubs, just behind the protected coastal dunes, rich in bird life, particularly migrant and wintering passerines. It is on this greenfield site that a company wants to build a rather big tourism project, comprising 2 hotels, dozens of villas, and a surrounding new golf course. They had bought this land 4 years ago, and are thus seeking to cash on their investment. The planned development totals 10,500 beds – as a comparison, the Silves council has a total of 30,000 inhabitants! This new development would not destroy the lagoon, but would reach right to its edge, and does not plan to include any buffer zone between the open water and the projected golf course.
A planned development threats the site
Plans to build in this pristine site have led to a big outcry in Portugal and elsewhere. Many British birdwatchers, who regularly birdwatch around this site while on holiday in the Algarve, have written to us and to others about the impending threat. Press articles have been written, and regularly we are contacted about this issue.
During the last 12 months, both SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have been very active on the case. Most of this work has involved policy and advocacy actions to try to find a solution that will secure the conservation of all the natural values that make this site so special. Recently SPEA, the RSPB and a local NGO called Almargem have held a series of meetings with all the relevant stakeholders in the Algarve, to get the latest round of information and emphasize SPEA’s and the RSPB’s concerns and position regarding the future of the site. This briefing serves to update and circulate information to all that have expressed in the past some interest about this issue in the past.
Lack of legal protection status
As far as SPEA and the RSPB are concerned, the ideal solution would be to declare and manage the area as a Special Protected Area, under the Birds Directive – the site does not have any dedicated legal protection status now. BirdLife considers that all IBAs qualify as potential SPAs. SPEA has tried to lobby for the protection of this site under the Birds Directive. However, the Portuguese Government has publicly announced they’ve no intention to add new SPAs to the existing network. In Portugal (and elsewhere) SPAs are strongly disliked by mayors, local councils and politicians as they are seen to limit development and progress. Portugal will go through a long and complex electoral period, including three major elections in 2005 and 2006, so there is no political will to take this unpopular measure. We believe this is bad news for nature in Portugal, so we continue to lobby in order to shift this situation.
What do other institutions think about the proposed development?
They are fully supportive of the new development on the west side of Lagoa dos Salgados. Local council budgets are mostly dependent on taxes levied on construction.
SPEA and RSPB have repeatedly raised their concern on the impacts of the planned development on the biodiversity of the lagoon, and have requested from the developers some flexibility to adapt their project to the ecological needs of the site.
The main reason why this development is not yet under construction is because the regional land planning agency (CCDR- Algarve) has formally rejected the planned development, not only because there was a problem with an excessive number of beds, but mainly because the new golf course would be below the historical flooding level of the lagoon. CCDR- Algarve has therefore requested the developers to plan the boundaries of the new golf course above this water level, which would reduce considerably the area available for construction, and would secure the survival of important marshland and farmland habitat around the lagoon.
Aguas do Algarve and the new Sewage treatment plant
Another major threat to the site comes from local water politics: the current sewage treatment plant that is feeding the lagoon will soon be substituted by a higher capacity plant already under construction. The current plant does not have capacity and technology to cope with the volume of water needed, and so the water reaching the lagoon is of very poor quality, which often result in severe episodes of botulism that have caused severe bird mortality, particularly in the summer. Also, with the spring rains, the existing golf course is sometimes partly flooded by foul-smelling water, and so for a few years the golf course owners took the initiative to open the lagoon to the sea by themselves. Often they did this in May and June, during the breeding season, with massive impacts on the breeding birds. In the last couple of years this situation was corrected, after many complaints about this state of affairs. The regional land planning agency (CCDR- Algarve) has stepped in and now opens the lagoon to the sea a couple of times every year, during the winter, to mimic a natural process and prevent the accumulation of badly-polluted water in the marsh - a perfectly sensible conservation management action. SPEA and RSPB receive every spring many letters claiming that the marsh is regularly drained - this is not the case!
The main problem is that the original project for the new water treatment plant does not include any structure to send treated water to the lagoon, even though the amount of water to be discharged by the new plant will be much higher – most of it will go to the sea through a submarine outflow, while the nearby golf courses will receive some water after tertiary treatment.
SPEA and the RSPB have met the directors of the company managing all waters in the Algarve (Algarve Waters), and evaluated all possible alternatives. The Environmental Impact Assessment for the new plant is also now starting, will run parallel to it’s construction. Both SPEA and the RSPB will make sure that the needs of the lagoon will be taken in consideration, thus imposing a major change to the original project, and securing that the lagoon will receive the needed water in the future.
Recent meetings with stakeholders
In November 2004 SPEA and RSPB staff have met with all stakeholders (Algarve Waters, Silves Council, CCDR and the developers). It was positive to see that virtually all recognised the ornithological importance of the site, and accepted SPEA’s capacity and position, and all confirmed they would like to see the continuing existence of the Lagoa dos Salgados, including the developers. More importantly, we have also obtained in the latest round of meetings a sincere compromise from the developers to analyse our proposals (see below) and eventually re-formulate their project.
Our next steps
The challenge is to find a compromise solution between differing expectations, since all stakeholders want different things: the Silves council just wants the whole thing to be finally approved, the developers want the lagoon (which they think will add value to their resort) but do not want to reduce the area for construction, the CCDR wants the flooding limit respected, while Aguas do Algarve can send water from the new water treatment plant as far as someone pays for it!
The RSPB and SPEA are now going to do a quick assessment of the biodiversity importance of the immediate surroundings of the lagoon, considering the local hydrological regime. This study will use the vast wealth of information collected so far about the site, as well as the data from a host of competent local Portuguese birdwatchers and scientists that have been studying the lagoon for years. The final report (due by Spring 2005) will be submitted to all stakeholders for consideration.
The future of the Lagoa dos Salgados rest on this complex, intricate and political mire. Both SPEA and the RSPB have got plenty of work ahead, but we hope that the current dialogue will bring a brighter future for the site.
Last, but not least, we would like to thank you again for your support. All the records so far collected about the site (many included in all the letters that British birdwatchers sent in response to the pleas and alerts published in several magazines) have been included in SPEA’s annual assessment of the Portuguese IBAs. Let us assure we are doing all we can on this issue, and please feel free to contact us with any other issues you may have.
José Pedro Tavares
Country programmes Officer for Portugal, Turkey and Greece
Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK
F. Iván Ramírez
IBAs Programme Coordinator
Rua da Vitória, 53 -3º Esq
1100-618 Lisboa, Portugal
Monday, July 04, 2005
Two views of how the "flood" at Pera (Lagoa dos Salgados) look with and without water. A recent trip (end of June 2005) revealed moderate water level for this time of year, considering the lack of rainfall last winter. The local ETAR (seage treatment works) is currently the only source of water into the lagoon and, surprisingly, the the water quality is fairly good; there is no sign yet of extreme (raw sewage) contamination and the resultant avian botulism. Success rate of breeding birds also appears to have been good with most water birds rearing at least two broods. As of now (3rd July) there are still Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and LittleTerns sitting on eggs.
On an unhappier note, on my last two visits, I have witnessed stray dogs (reportedly from the fishermens' beach at Armacao de Pera) running amok over the flood and reed-beds and killing stilt chicks, and quad-bikes driving over the dried-out parts of the lagoon and disturbing large flocks of waders and gulls (the latter including a recent count of 35 Slender-billed Gulls).