I saw a great quote the other day on Facebook; it went, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.
It’s so appropriate right now I quote it again, as our little petition to try to save Salgados has had the most amazing effect!
We started the petition because we thought someone had to stand up and say “ENOUGH!” and if no-one else was going to, well, it might as well be us, but we never thought that it’d be as successful as it has been. It’s gone right around the world – and then some – continues to grow and grow and has had really great consequences.
First of all, it’s raised awareness of the issue and put Salgados on the map as far as a groundswell of opinion against further development of this fragile area is concerned, but it’s done much, much more.
The water levels at the lagoon are rising to where they should be at last, (though unfortunately too late for this year’s breeding success as a great number of birds didn’t make it), and as far as rockets under “competent authorities” backsides are concerned, it’s been as great a success as any I’ve ever known. APA, the Portuguese Environment Agency, put out a press release the other day in an attempt at Damage Control, blaming the water loss on a single farmer … this was quickly picked up by the press and shown to be a fabrication and distortion of facts. APA’s already dubious competency took yet another knock. It also became common knowledge that, notwithstanding an agreement of management having been signed with SPEA and the RSPB over four years ago, they have yet to even install a meter for the neighbouring golf course – so have no way of knowing how much water has been taken by that entity, despite saying that they have taken 30% less water this year than last. The publicity engendered by the petition has shown APA in a very bad light indeed, and I sincerely hope that lessons will have been learnt.
Another good thing to have come out of the petition is a letter from the Ramsar Convention to the Portuguese Government. This is really quite an achievement and has been generated uniquely by the raised awareness granted by the petition.

There have been some organisations that have really helped the petition along the road, principally of course Avaaz themselves, (so if you haven’t joined their organisation I suggest you do), but notably also the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust that have pulled out all the stops to grant it more publicity, so a very big thank you to them and to SPEA too who are right there and have been since the beginning.

We had a meeting last night chaired by Almargem and there were representatives from Quercus, the LPN and SPEA as well as several concerned individuals like myself and members of the local press. Amongst other actions, we’re going to invite the Portuguese President, who’s coming on holiday just down the road in a few week’s time,  for a quick view of Salgados itself and the neighbouring, empty and derelict resort … I wonder whether he’ll reply!

So, what happens now?

Well, the effort continues, so if you have friends who haven’t yet signed the petition, beat them around the head until they do, that’s the first thing! Only with the petition growing steadily but surely can we give the NGOs the tool with which to fight for greater protection of the site and a rescindment of the building permission already granted. This is seriously important.
Next, if you’re in Portugal come along to Salgados on the 6th August at 14.00 and join our protest – the more the merrier. We’ll be at the Dunas Café on the western edge – and if you know any members of the press do tell them about it!
Now I have to do just that, so see you there!