Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Salgados Fiasco

Where do I start with this? I could write an entire book, but am tempted to write nothing at all - perhaps a few poignant words are in order.

It is now almost seven years since Derek Honnor, Michael Benington and myself began the campaign to save Lagoa dos Salgados (“Pêra Marsh”) when we realised the threat it was under. Derek actually visited The Lodge at Sandy, Bedfordshire (RSPB HQ) and did a bit of “table banging”, after which their International Division became involved and José Tavares (RSPB Country Programmes Officer for Portugal, Greece and Turkey) began to liaise with SPEA, “Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves”, the Portuguese “Birdlife” partner.

Hunting dogs on the loose just after the lagoon was drained

View of the drained lagoon from the "Eco-Via"

There were moments of optimism a few years ago when “Finalgarve” (the company who are due to develop a new golf academy and a large amount of residential property on the western side of the lagoon) announced that they would pull back their development from the very edge of lagoon (I believe that their initial intention was to drain it completely), retain the wetland as a part of their development (in much the same way as the lagoon at Qta do Lago is an integral part of the São Laurenço golf complex), and they even offered the ruined farm buildings at the NE corner of the lagoon as a potential “Visitor/Interpretation Centre” (for which the RSPB actually commissioned architectural plans).

This is now all history and with so many different “parties” involved nothing, as is usual in Portugal, has been achieved. This year has been the worst for breeding birds at Salgados, mainly due to the frequent draining of the lagoon in the spring by Herdade de Salgados Golfe. The installation of the “Ecovia” (the walkway - cycle track funded by the E.U. and planned to run from Vila Real on the Spanish border to Cabo de São Vicente) has brought in a mass of undesirable tourists and dog walkers from the eastern side, and other human disturbance has been jet skiers, para-planers, quad bikers and horse riders in addition to the usual “Sunday afternoon riff-raff”.
A fund-raising charity to specifically pay for a controlled outflow sluice which would negate the “all or nothing” method of draining the lagoon has failed miserably, despite accumulating more than the target figure - the money, collected by the “Just Giving” organisation over twelve months ago has still not been passed on to the RSPB. The whole business has degenerated into a circus and shown all the parties involved to be totally incompetent at planning, implementing and completing a business proposition.

In short, they are totally f*****g useless at what they are supposed to be doing. As a result I have cancelled my long-standing membership of RSPB and will take no further part in supporting or campaigning for the preservation of Lagoa dos Salgados. The RSPB should be deeply ashamed of their dilatory performance in this matter.

Three views of how the "lagoon" looks now (Nov 2009)

It has taken almost seven years for this bunch of incompetents to achieve absolutely nothing - this superb birding locality is now worse-off, and in greater danger from human disturbance, than it was when the campaign to save it began.


Mel & Gill said...

Hi Colin,
We visited Pera on Thursday 26/11/09 and found it with more water than we have seen on previous visits.Usual species there, except we didn't see a Bluethroat. 2 large dogs charging around putting everything up.
MelG and GillE, Redruth, Cornwall

Colin said...

Hello Mel & Gill,

yes, the water level will rise since the development at Herdade dos Salgados (on the eastern side) has gone below the water table and they are frantically pumping water into the lagoon. Also, the old ETAR (sewage treatment plant) is still putting its overspill (untreated sewage) into the Ribeira Espiche (a small stream which flows into the lagoon at the north-east corner), plus the recent rainfall will have added a little bit.

BUT, when it is full again???