In March, we reported that the owner of Quinta da Rocha had been convicted of environmental crimes: a series of illegal actions between 2007 and 2010 which damaged the Ria de Alvor; one of the best wetlands in southern Portugal. Now, in a separate court action against his property development company, initiated by A Rocha Portugal (who led a coalition of six national NGOs) the company has been ordered to completely restore the habitats that were destroyed.

Tiago Branco, National Director of A Rocha Portugal, said, ‘This was a case that looked as though it would end like so many others when Portuguese protected areas have been destroyed. After the habitats are ruined, and a nominal fine is paid, the way is opened for multi-million euro developments on land that has been purchased very cheaply. But an effective antidote exists and finally the law has applied it – the owners are obliged to restore the habitats to their original condition. In this case the owners are completely forbidden to undertake any work on the protected habitats for ten years, allowing the wetlands to recover.’

Update: Paula Banza, A Rocha Portugal’s science director and co-director of the field studies centre in the Alvor estuary, wrote a very personal story of the legal campaign on our blog: “Miracles happen when people pray”

We are very grateful to all those who supported the campaign – thank you!

Small image: Ria de Alvor is an important refuelling site for waders such as Sanderling Calidris alba as they migrate between Africa and their arctic breeding grounds. (Peter Harris)

Related link: A Rocha International Press Release: Historic decision for Portuguese environmental law