João Paulo Catarino was heard in parliament at the request of the People-Animals-Natureza (PAN) party on the destruction of Alagoas Brancas, a wetland in the municipality of Lagoa, in the district of Faro, where there are hundreds of species of birds and where a commercial development is on the cards.
In 2017, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) considered that “there are no environmental values” that would justify the zone being classified as a nationally protected area, “understanding that it would be up to the municipality to create a local protected area, which did not happen”, he noted.
According to the official, the ICNF has followed the urbanisation plan approved by the municipality for the space, which foresees the implementation of an industrial park and commercial areas, a project that is part of the Urbanisation Plan of the City, approved in February 2008.
The development project was approved in July 2013, after the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), the Algarve Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR) and the ICNF issued positive opinions on its implementation, “not pointing to any environmental interest for the site in question”.
Environmental associations, PAN, and a civic movement of citizens want to stop the project, but the municipality claims that making the work unfeasible would imply the payment of several million euros in compensation to the project promoter.
"According to what the mayor of Lagoa told me, there are acquired rights and it is a question that cannot be asked, as it would make the Chamber financially unfeasible for many decades", said the Secretary of State.
Questioned by PAN deputy, Inês Sousa Real, about a possible intervention by the Government to safeguard the wetland, João Paulo Catarino noted that “another solution other than the one approved will only be possible if the local government is in agreement with it”.
João Paulo Catarino reaffirmed the availability of the Government, through the ICNF, "to find a solution with a view to managing and safeguarding the wetland", stressing that any decision to stop the project is the responsibility of the municipality.
The minister also mentioned that from the meetings held between the ICNF, the municipality and the promoter, it was decided “to trigger the process of capturing and relocating animal species, to a place with the same characteristics”.
In November 2022, the Administrative Court of Loulé accepted an injunction from the PAN and ordered the suspension of construction work on the commercial development, an action that was contested by the municipality on the grounds that it considered that the law was being complied with.
The subdivision of Alagoas, where the commercial construction is inserted, is an integral part of the Urbanization Plan of the City, which defined the south zone of the city as an expansion of economic activities and implantation of industrial, commercial and service areas.
The citizens' movement Save Alagoas Brancas promises to continue fighting to stop the project, having called for April 19, at 7pm, a protest rally at the municipal auditorium of Lagoa.