SOS Tartarugas works in Cape Verde protecting nesting loggerheads turtles (Caretta caretta) and their habitat. Cape Verde is the third most important nesting area for loggerheads in the world. Turtles are at risk from hunting for meat, stealing of eggs, removal of sand for building and unregulated tourism development. Our email is
lease subscribe to the blog or follow us on Twitter or on our Facebook page to keep up to date. (You can also read this blog in a different language, please use the tool in the sidebar).
You can apply to volunteer with us by clicking here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Breakwater on Sal to go ahead despite opposition.

Versão em portugues aqui

On Tuesday the Director General of the Environment, Moises Borges addressed a restless and somewhat noisy audience as he answered questions about the breakwater on Algodoeiro that has been proposed by The Resort Group.

The breakwater, according to The Resort Group, is necessary to provide better swimming conditions for tourists who visit their three properties; Melia Tortuga, Dunas and Llana Beach.  According to Victor Fidalgo, formally the president of Cabo Verde Investiments (who are responsible for tourism development) but now a representative of The Resort Group, Sal has little else to offer but beaches and this breakwater will attract more tourists and therefore provide more economic prosperity for the people of Sal.
Exposed rocks at low tide make entering sea difficult for tourists
Although it was very difficult to get a direct answer, it seems that the breakwater proposal is not yet approved, but has gone to the Minister for signature.

Those who oppose the breakwater have several concerns; that the breakwater will affect the world famous wave of Ponta Preta, that it will affect the nesting of endangered loggerhead turtles & that the beach will, in effect become 'private'.  These three concerns were dismissed as irrelevant, since, according to Sr Borges, there is insufficient evidence to support any impact on the wave; that the turtles on Sal 'only' account for 7% of the total population of Cabo Verde and that the privatisation of the beaches is a 'silly' argument.

Turtle nests near breakwater location at Llana Beach
The emotion of many of the surfers who attended the meeting was very high, but it seems that this, in itself is not enough to save the beach.  While Sr Borges admitted that the petition that has gained more than 5,000 signatures was considered as part of the evaluation, it was dismissed because it lacks any technical background and that the majority of people who signed it were foreigners.  Several times the sentiment seemed to be 'you are not engineers so your opinion does not count'.  So it seems that a desire to preserve the natural heritage of one's country purely for its own sake does not matter to the Caboverdean government.
Director General Environment Moises Borges
Furthermore, it is ironic that while the only justification being given is that the breakwater is being built for the benefit of foreigners, the fact that so many of them are against it, is not being taken into consideration! 

While it is true that only 6% of the signatures on the petition are from people living in Cabo Verde, it is testament to the fact that Ponta Preta is so famous and so precious that internationally this has caused such a storm.
Type of materials to be used
How the breakwater may look
In terms of technical reports, the evaluation submitted by SOS Tartarugas should be sufficient to prevent construction as the breakwater will have a detrimental effect on an already decimated population of turtles that is in danger of extinction.  SOS Tartarugas evaluation of breakwater.  The fact that the breakwater is in a Protected Area funded by the United Nations is also being ignored.  Members of the team from the United Nations were present at the meeting, so they must be aware now of the level of concern.  There has also been a technical report submitted by Aguas Ponta Preta who are concerned that the breakwater will affect the supply of desalinated water. 

It seems that the only evaluation that counts is the one that has been prepared by the construction company, WW–Consultores em Hidráulica e Obras Marítimas, S.A, a company that surely has a vested interest?  
Loss of beach caused by a breakwater in Spain
Of course it is undeniable that tourism can bring benefits to the country and increase the prosperity of the people.  The question here is about the type of tourism that is being developed on Sal (and incidentally, Boa Vista).  It seems that only one type of tourism is recognised - the all-inclusive, mass tourism model.   The development of low-impact, sustainable, environmentally conscious tourism such as kite-surfing or surfing seems to have very low priority. 

An elegant way to put this can be found in this blog post

"A luta aqui é entre velhos senhores sentados num gabinete climatizado, a ver os cifrões a cintilar na imaginação, e uma geração jovem,que pensa diferente,pensa natureza, quer um vida diferente, mais justa, mais ecológica para estas frágeis ilhas."

("The fight is between older men who sit in air-conditioned offices and see dollar signs in their minds and the younger generation who want a different life, more just and more natural and green for these fragile islands.")

No waves.  No surf.  No fish
It is, in any case, debatable how many extra jobs this will create because there will only be more work during the construction phase.  The jobs created by the hotels will be there anyway. 

According to the DGA (General Directorate of the Environment), the project was analysed and 'highly rated' by a team of well-qualified people from various institutions.  These experts, despite clear evidence from around the world that contradicts their opinion, believe that the breakwater will not cause irreversible environmental damage.

Trying to change the nature of the island has already had consequences.  Building hotels that block the wind from replenishing the sand has resulted in loss of beaches after only a few years. 

Idyllic beach scene on The Resort Group's website will soon not be the reality
After destroying the natural heritage of the beaches of Sal, what is next?  The mining of the volcano on Fogo, the destruction of Cidade Velha on Santiago?  The world famous conditions at Ponta Preta and the nesting turtles are more valuable than a quick (and questionable) solution to less than perfect swimming conditions on Algodoeiro.  Let the tourists come to the island because of what it offers, it is surely madness to try to alter the island to suit?! 

Although it looks like the project will be approved, the Director General stated that it has the potential to be halted at any stage if sufficient technical information emerges that demonstrates irreversible environmental damage.

In a previous meeting, The Resort Group representative, Sr Fidalgo dismissed the petition stating that there may be 5,000 signatures on it, but that he could find 10,000 that would be for it.  However, it has been impossible to find one single person on Sal who is in favour.

We understand that the City Hall of Sal, the team from the General Directorate of the Environment and the General Directorate of Tourism all rejected this proposal - so who, in fact, is in favour?  And with so much opposition, how did it gain approval?

The social movement created around this cause is inspiring to see. 

"A questão da Ponta Preta não é se a geodinâmica altera ou não, se ficam mais tartarugas ou não. Nem se é legal ou não. A questão é de cidadania. A questão é que várias alterações vão sendo perpetuadas na frágil ilha do Sal e ninguém fala. Quando um grupo, realmente ferido na alma, protesta, o poder mostra como tem mão pesada. Decide!..O ponto essencial, que as autoridades fingem ignorar, é que para todo o fiel, neste caso os surfistas, que são das pessoas mais religiosas que conheço, quando se deita um lugar sagrado no chão, isso representa uma afronta que não podem calcular senhores. Fiquem atentos à raiva gerada."

Tomorrow, Saturday June 8th, World Oceans Day, people will show their opposition with a walk from the centre of Santa Maria to Ponta Preta and on to the beach of the proposed breakwater. 

Sign the petition here.

No comments:

Post a Comment