Eco-tourism comes to Portugal

GLAND, Switzerland and LISBON, Portugal, June 1, 2004, GreenBiz.com: World Wildlife Fund and its partner BioRegional have launched a large-scale tourism development in Portugal.

The development is part of an overall project that covers an area of 5,300 hectares and brings together sustainable housing, nature conservation, reforestation and ecofriendly transport. Work will begin over the next few months on the 6,000-house, €1billion (US$1.223 billion) scheme in Mata de Sesimbra, just south of Lisbon.

The development, which replaces a proposal to build a conventional tourist resort, will be completely powered by renewable energy, dramatically reduce waste to landfill — to just 5 percent of the Portuguese national average — and use rainwater collection and waste water recycling systems to achieve huge cuts in domestic water consumption and irrigation.

Furthermore, more than half the food served in tourist facilities will come from local sources.

There are also plans to create a sustainable transport network, featuring ,for example, shared and non-petrol vehicles and a cycle route encompassing the entire site. The aim is to eliminate the need for private cars in the area.

The project includes a 4,800-hectare nature reserve in which habitat corridors, linking surrounding protected areas will create safe havens for vulnerable nesting birds such as Bonelli's eagle.

The site will also be home to one of Europe's biggest privately financed forest restoration projects which aims to recreate native indigenous woodland — mainly cork oak and umbrella pine — replacing the existing eucalyptus and non native pine forest.

According to WWF, over the next 20 years tourism in the Mediterranean will rise by 50 percent to an estimated 350 million people visiting the region each year.

"Tourism is eating into our natural capital. It can often have a very negative impact on the environment, " said Dr Claude Martin. "New models such as Mata de Sesimbra are vital if tourism is to go hand in hand with sustainable development."