“The information we have from the ICNF [Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests] is that there are natural values that are rare in that location and, if there are natural values that are rare in that location, we do not see how it is possible for the project to go ahead,” Duarte Cordeiro told journalists.

At issue is a project by the company Finalgarve that aims to build a tourist complex in the wetland area in the district of Faro, for which an unfavourable Environmental Compliance Decision for the Execution Project (DECAPE) was issued in July 2018.

However, despite the unfavourable DECAPE, and following an appeal by society, the judges of the Supreme Administrative Court (STA) considered the act null, “due to the absence of a decision within 50 working days”, according to a ruling of 07 September, which could threaten the creation of the future Lagoa dos Salgados Natural Reserve.

According to the Minister of Environment and Climate Action “common sense would be that, regardless of this action, the promoter would seek an agreement” with the State.

“We are available to participate in finding another place for [the promoter] to carry out this project”, he assured, adding that it is necessary to “try to create a balance between what are private interests and what are natural interests”.

The minister also said that he considers it “very difficult” for the promoter to carry out the project in that location, since there are natural values there that are identified and protected by European law, reiterating his availability to speak with the promoter.

Meanwhile, the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR) revealed that it is evaluating the ruling in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Action, the ICNF and the municipality of Silves.

“This is a situation that began with the submission, in February 2013, of a request for an Environmental Impact Assessment of the urbanization works project in the preliminary study phase”, said the CCDR, after issuing the ruling, clarifying that in litigation is the issuance of an unfavourable DCAPE.

According to the CCDR, the decision is based on the defense of the nucleus of the Linaria Algarviana plant, a protected species of community interest, which presents a category of risk of extinction in Portugal of “near threatened”.

According to the ruling to which Lusa had access, the STA “decided to revoke the appealed sentence and partially grant the action, annulling the contested act and dismissing the condemnatory requests as unfounded”.

The proposal to classify the Lagoa dos Salgados Natural Reserve - covered by the municipalities of Albufeira and Silves - as a national protected area was subject to public consultation in 2021, a procedure applauded by environmentalists, after more than 20 years of demands.

If created, the Lagoa dos Salgados Natural Reserve will be the second in the region to be part of the so-called National Network of Protected Areas, after the Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Natural Reserve.