Environmentalists protest against end of ecological reserve

Cross Posted from Algarve Resident




The four largest environmental organisations in Portugal have issued a joint statement protesting against the government’s decision to scrap the National Ecological Reserve (Reserva Ecológica Nacional – REN), following an interview the Minister of Agriculture Assunção Cristas gave to newspaper Expresso earlier this month.

The minister told the weekly Portuguese newspaper on November 10 that REN would be brought to an end, prompting the issuing of a joint press release by Portugal’s Nature Protection League LPN, Quercus, the Environment and Land Use Planning Study Group GEOTA and the Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals FAPAS, which labelled the minister’s comments as “an insult to the country’s nature conservation and planning organisations”.

REN encompasses several environmentally sensitive areas which, due to their importance, are under the protection of a special set of rules. 

According to the four largest environmental associations in Portugal, the decision to axe the reserve “deserves nothing but absolute contempt on behalf of environmental organisations, as the potential suppression of an essential protection network such as REN is a serious mistake which will not work”.

Making a stand against the measure, the Nature Protection League has even relinquished its position as a representative of the Portuguese Confederation for the Environment Protection Associations (CPADA) as part of REN’s National Commission. 

Staying in the commission would, according to the environmentalists, “validate a farce, because REN is being intentionally destroyed and the protection that it once represented is now being ruled to irrelevance”.

Assunção Cristas told Expresso that the decision to drop REN was part of her goal of eliminating “redundancy and excessive bureaucracy”. 

“REN will disappear and whatever it has left that’s relevant will be part of the Water Law or the Basic Law for Land Use Planning, Soil and Urbanism, which will be soon sent to Parliament,” said the minister.

Denying that REN is redundant in any way and accusing the minister of downplaying the environment’s role in her policies, the four environmental organisations claim that ending the reserve will “contribute to the elimination of a significant part of the areas which are in desperate need of a nature conservation system”.

Another major concern expressed by the environmentalists is the potential lack of rules when it comes to building, which could bring “speculation regarding the land’s worth and urban chaos,” warned the associations.

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