After more than 20 years of complaints, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) announced the creation of the Natural Reserve of Lagoa dos Salgados, but Almargem warns that there is much more work to be done.

The environmental association added that Lagoa dos Salgados will have protection status, which is a victory for "those who have been fighting for more than 20 years for this final result" and also for nature conservation in the Algarve.

According to a note sent by Almargem, the Lagoa dos Salgados Natural Reserve “will be the second wetland in the region to be part of the National Network of Protected Areas - after Natural Reserve of Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António, which was the first Reserve found in Portugal in 1975 - which also includes the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina, the Natural Park of Ria Formosa and the Protected Landscape Areas of Rocha da Pena and Fonte Benémola. These areas cover about 8.6 percent (43,000 ha) of the Algarve's territory”.

To contribute in this regard, Almargem promoted a study in 2019 on three wetlands in the region - which included, in addition to Lagoa dos Salgados, two other wetlands - Foz do Almargem and Trafal (Loulé) and Alagoas Brancas (Lagoa).

“This study highlighted the importance of Lagoa dos Salgados and the need to promote its effective protection, and the review of the Municipal Development Plans in force in order to ensure and protect its natural values”, they said.

Almargem is happy with the local authorities of Silves and Loulé, as they were keen in following the guidelines of the study carried out by the association, unlike the Municipality of Lagoa that didn’t follow the suggestions in relation to Alagoas Brancas.

“At a good time the municipalities of Silves and Loulé accepted the measures proposed in the study - unlike the neighbouring municipality of Lagoa. This recognition represents an important decision”.

The Lagoa dos Salgados integrates a huge area, known as Praia Grande, which includes another wetland - the Sapal / Foz da Ribeira de Alcantarilha, which is of great scientific interest at a geological and biological level, not only because it has a large number and variety of bird species, but also for its richness in flora, which is the result of a lot of habitats that in addition to integrating those two wetlands, includes dune systems, meadows, dryland orchards, being one of the only free stretches of the central coast of the Algarve.

Protection

The association hopes that this classification will be followed by specific measures to promote the protection of the two wetlands in the area, “namely through the maintenance and recovery of the species that inhabit there, as well as the habitats, enhancement of the cultural heritage environment”, among others.

At the same time, despite the current Municipal Development Plan restricting the building works of the land in that area, Almargem recalls that the threat of a new construction continues to hover over this area as there are three 4 and 5-star hotels and around 350 residential units integrated in tourist villages (with a total of 4,000 beds as well as a 18-hole golf course) planned for the Praia Grande area.

“Six NGOs had already taken this project to court in 2012, claiming a challenge to the Praia Grande de Silves Plan, as well as the first Environmental Impact Statement, which is still being processed by the Administrative and Tax Court since then”.

Almargem, in the same note, suggests replacing this project “as green as the label may seem” for a proper sustainable project that respects the natural heritage.