White Alagoas and the lack of strategy

What is happening there is the result of a huge incapacity on the part of our planning and environmental “authorities” and a huge lack of strategic vision on the part of Lagoa City Council.

Earthworks have already begun. In the sky, a flock of black ibises – Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

The destruction of the small, but important, wetland that, in recent years, began to be called Alagoas Brancas, next to the city of Lagoa, is underway. There are the machines in motion, earthing, moving earth, excavating. To the side, in what is still left of the marsh, the noise and movement of the machines makes hundreds and hundreds of black ibises take flight, in great fright, as well as other birds.

Batrachians and tortoises, poor things, these don't take off, nor can they flee anywhere. But I'll get back to them soon.

This was the only area that remained of the so-called Alagoas, after decades of landfills and drainage to build first a football field, then the Fatacil precinct, warehouses and industrial facilities, houses, hypermarkets.

It is the final blow to a swampy area in winter and often dry in summer, as is always the case in temporary ponds typical of the Mediterranean landscape. Habitats that are even protected, they say…

It seems that there will be more warehouses, another hypermarket.

For me, who have been interested in and actively participating in ecological struggles for decades, what is happening there is the result of a huge incapacity of our planning and environmental “authorities” and a huge lack of strategic vision on the part of Lagoa City Council. And it's not just the current executive's lack of strategic vision, mostly PS. It also belongs to the previous municipal executive, mostly PSD. Nobody arm themselves in offended virgin or in White knight because everyone has faults in the registry office!

Yes, because what is happening there, in the urbanization of Alagoas Brancas, is the result of an operation that began to be outlined almost two decades ago, and which even followed all legal rules, passed through the opinions of all entities – namely the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission, the Portuguese Environment Agency/ARH, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests -, who never spoke out against the destruction of this wetland.

There were even mandatory “public discussion” periods for the project. But during all these years, in which the future of this last stronghold was being designed, no one ever spoke out against it. Nobody.

More than 15 years ago I wrote an article in the newspaper where I worked at the time, even before the construction of the current Aldi and Apolónia hypermarkets, when the detailed plan for the area was about to be approved, which provided for the diversion of the drainage ditch, as came to be done, the construction of these commercial areas and the opening of a new road, with respective roundabouts, waterproofing more soil. For this article, I spoke to the Chamber, I spoke to the CCDR Algarve, I spoke to environmental organizations. No reader has ever reacted, as far as I know, to this news. And the plan went ahead...

After these constructions, all that remained, in the middle, was the so-called Alagoas Brancas area (which is the name of the urbanization planned for there, I don't know if you're seeing the irony of it…).

As nothing happened for many years, birds, batrachians, tortoises, plants (some of them rare) took care of it, thanks to the water that, in that former temporary pond area, accumulated there when it rained.

The birds were the delight of those who like to watch them. Moreover, the Alagoas Brancas became a frequent landing spot for huge flocks of black ibises, birds that I had never seen around here before.

It was necessary for the land to be fenced, for people to start talking about leveling all that to start building, for people to wake up to the problem, about ten years ago.

In an extreme of positions, the Lagoa Chamber shielded itself from the inevitability of construction, taking into account the approved projects, arguing that its interruption would mean the obligation to pay a high compensation (supposedly of more than 1 million euros) to the promoters of the urbanization.

On the other hand, the defense movement of Alagoas Brancas turned its batteries against the Chamber, demanding that the project be stopped and fighting, even through legal channels, for that.

In my opinion, the current situation results from the lack of strategy by the Câmara de Lagoa. Once again, I insist, a lack of strategy that is not just now, it is always present, regardless of the party or the president who occupies the seat of power.

It's just that, if there was a strategy, it would have been time, some 15 or 20 years ago, to realize that a wetland like the Alagoas, at the gates of the city, should be preserved and even valued, integrating it into an urban park that Lagoa needs. desperately (and it's not Fatacil's premises, no matter how much cosmetic arrangements they make, that will ever be able to play that role!).

If there had been a strategy, one would have thought that, at a time when there was so much talk about problems caused by construction in floodplains or wetlands, or when there was even talk of climate change, it would not be a good idea to allow growth from the city to the lagoons.

If there had been a strategy, one would also have thought that building hypermarkets and warehouses in such a place would not be the best solution for spatial planning and for the growth of the city.

If there were a strategy, Lagoa would not be a dormitory city without a life of its own, with a desertified center, without people, nor commerce, nor points of attraction for investors, residents and visitors, dotted with pseudo-casuistic solutions that come out of the Chamber's hat like if they were poorly groomed rabbits.

It is necessary to think about Lagoa, as a whole, in the most varied aspects. It is not enough to collect labels, awards and good places in rankings based on data that in reality translate nothing. You have to think about how you want Lagoa to be and be in the year 2023, but also in the year 2030, 2040 and 2050…

Modern city management is not sympathetic to short electoral cycles.

It is necessary to create critical mass and not be afraid of the ideas that may arise from it, to truly think about what you want for Lagoa, in the future, which is already tomorrow.

Even before I finish, I want to talk again about an important aspect. In this matter of Alagoas Brancas, it is not only the Câmara de Lagoa that should be pointed the finger. In fact, after all, the autarchy is perhaps the least guilt it has it all, because it is at the end of the chain.

Fingers should be pointed, right away, at CCDR Algarve, APA, ICNF, that is, at all the entities that, over the years, hiding in opinions and more opinions, never really bothered to defend what that even by law they were obliged to defend: the wetlands.

Do you want to know the height of ridiculousness? Now that the machines are already there, leveling everything, the ICNF will send one or two of its employees to catch some tortoises (which are said to be a Protected, poor people…) and save them from claws of progress. Nobody knows how many tortoises there are in the area, so it doesn't matter if you catch 20 or 50, it's all the same: it's just one operation for english see.

The problem is that, with the turn things take and the lack of strategy, any day no Englishman will want to see Lagoa…