This week, I’ve had a couple of great meetings – with Theo – a psychotherapist and owner of health organisation Crescimento and with Steve Hugman, President of A Nossa Terra – a local environmental association. Steve is also a water and environmental consultant and a member of the Monchique Municipal Council.
Both men are part of a pressure group opposing government plans to build a feldspar (ceramic) quarry which will cover a large area across the mountains of Monchique. The local council are also opposed to the proposal.
There is massive pressure on Portugal to improve its economy so they are getting desperate trying to find ways to make money quick. The quarry is a very real risk and is deeply opposed by local people as it would wipe out slowly growing tourism in Monchique (from dust in the air, pollution of the water, clogging up the roads and the creation of an eyesore mining site reaching from Picota to Foia) Especially, the rise of eco and rural tourism in Monchique would be obliterated.
Steve said that what is desperately needed are accurate statistics about the value of tourism in Monchique. He said a lot of businesses (eg. restaurants) in Monchique are not officially classed as ‘tourist businesses’ hence there are no real statistics.
Steve also thinks it is vital to find out the additional value of housing stock because of tourism (ie. Tourists drive the price up so the land is worth a lot of money) Again, this would inform the argument against the quarry as the worth of the land for tourist housing is worth a lot more potentially than for a quarry) The council’s main income comes from tax on properties so it is in their benefit to keep the land for property too.
The fight continues….