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Montijo Airport looking to buy or rent salt flats to compensate for destroying bird habitats

montijo birdsThe Portuguese airport authority ANA – Airports of Portugal is seeking to rent or buy salinas to compensate for the avian wildlife affected by Montijo airport’s construction, in light of a recent environmental impact report.

A letter sent by ANA to the owners of the nearby salt marshes states that “in light of the conclusions of the environmental impact study on Montijo airport, it is necessary to take compensatory measures to curb the significant impacts to the birds of the estuary.”

“Contacts with several salt farmers were made in July, following requests from the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) for clarification, in response to the first version of the environmental impact study and shortly before the submission of their final version, “, the letter revealed.

An APA study estimates that 246.4 hectares of bird refuge areas will be disturbed by the construction of the airport, with fears mainly focused on the area’s local bird population. The goal is to compensate with at least 370 hectares of new refuge areas.

According to TSF news, the salt pans should be ecologically identical to the affected areas, have food zones and should be away from air routes. At least three private entities have already shown themselves to be available to discuss the sale or rental of the salt flats they own.

On Wednesday, the Environment Minister said that he considered ANA’s proposal to be “beneficial”, going on to state that it is of the upmost importance to “take care” of degraded salt flats to compensate for the avifauna that could be harmed by the construction of Lisbon’s Montijo Airport. “It is an absolutely normal proposal, and was a recommended solution in the environmental impact study – EIA,” João Pedro Matos Fernandes told reporters in Porto.

The minister noted that report includes the possibility for ANA “to take care of a set of degraded salt flats that could be a new habitat for birds” in the area where the airport is to be built, an initiative also followed when the Vasco de Gama bridge was constructed.

“This has already happened in other instances. With the construction of the Vasco Gama Bridge, the Samouco salt pans were a compensation area. Also when the changes to the EN10 was made, in which an estuary in the municipality of Loures was disturbed, the Alverca salt pans were used as compensation space for birds, “pointed out Matos Fernandes.

As for Montijo airport, the minister noted that “the environmental impact assessment is being carried out by the evaluation committee and is currently under public discussion”. “The takeover of salt flats is a technical decision that will be made about the airport,” he said.

The minister noted that “the environmental impacts of a construction job can be minimised and compensable” and, in the case of impacts on birdlife, “it is desirable to be compensable”. The report on the future Montijo airport, which went into public consultation at the end of July, points to several avifauna threats and negative effects on their population health.