In Portugal, on the Estoril coast, a coastal forest is threatened by a vast real estate project

Barefoot, in neoprene suits and boards placed on the sand, around ten apprentice surfers discover the basic positions to hold on the waves in the company of a long-haired instructor. About twenty kilometers west of Lisbon, the long beach of Carcavelos, which extends over 2 kilometers, emerges from its morning torpor under the worried eye of Pedro Jordão, lawyer and spokesperson for the SOS association Quinta dos Ingleses. “This place must be preserved,” he insists.

With its back to the beach, on the other side of the expressway that borders the coast, the Quinta dos Ingleses is a forest, partly abandoned, and one of the rare natural spaces on the Estoril coast to have escaped frantic urbanization of the Lisbon suburbs. Well, for now. Because a vast real estate project involving the construction of more than nine hundred housing units, a five-story hotel, a shopping and business center and green spaces is about to enter its first phase of construction .

Already, at the end of March, the land where precarious workers camped, unable to cope with rising rent prices in the Portuguese capital, were fenced off and these same workers were warned that they had to quickly leave the premises. “Nowadays, destroying an urban natural park is an unforgivable crime, continues Pedro Jordão, who filed a complaint on behalf of the association against the town hall of Cascais, to which Carcavelos depends, for having authorized this project. We know how necessary these trees are to capture carbon dioxide, but also the risks posed by such urbanization. »

A sad decision

On April 7, the demonstration organized by SOS Quinta dos Ingleses brought together several hundred people in Carcavelos against a project that the association describes as “megalomaniac”. Environmentalists, surfers and housing rights activists also took part. “We carried out a study ten years ago, warning of the risks weighing on Carcavelos beach, whose dunes have already been cut by a road, explains Pedro Bicudo, physicist and spokesperson for the SOS Salvem O surf association (“Let’s save surfing”). Many Portuguese beaches have disappeared or have lost a lot of surface area due to the urbanization of the coast. Carcavelos is one of the few beaches that has survived up to this point. »

Of the 54 urbanized hectares, 21 will be left to the public domain. But if we remove the roads, sidewalks and parking lots, there will be less than 10 hectares of nature left to accommodate a park, with playgrounds and sports fields, according to the project approved by the Cascais town hall. As for the luxury apartments, they will only be accessible to “ millionaires”, despite the housing crisis which is hitting the Portuguese working classes and middle classes.

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