Friday, 28 September 2012

Avenida Marginal

The Avenida Marginal along the sea front at Faja Grande is now more or less finished and contrary to earlier misgivings that big concrete retaining wall along the seaward side has been very skillfully faced in freestone and is undoubtedly a work of art:-

I do have one small problem with the Avenida Marginal, however. Up at Faja Grande's village square, there are half a dozen little lights on bollards.

They used to light up the square causing a pleasant glow under the trees on a warm summer's evening with the cicadas chirping as the old gents of the village gather on that bench to pass the time (I was going to attempt the Portuguese velhote there but thought better of it as I'm not sure if that word connotes "nice, wise older person, salt of the earth" or "tiresome old fart who's a thoroughgoing pain in the arse")

But I digress, where was I? Oh yes, unfortunately the mood lighting in the square has been switched off for as long as I can remember now. A sticker on each of the lights explains why:-

For anyone who doesn't read Portuguese, that says "Lighting switched off under the energy saving programme".

But what have they just stuck up along the new Avenida Marginal?

Un-fucking-pardon-my french-believeable!

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not some kind of namby-pampy, wishy-washy, hoity-toity, lah-di-dah, middle class, tree-hugging, greeny-weeny, lefty, liberal tree hugger. Far from it - we run our washing machine and dryer during the day at premium electricity rates and pay the fellows and damn their impudence.

And I've always felt it's not my place as an incomer to this island to march in and start lecturing the locals how to run the place. But come on, Camara Municipal das Lajes das Flores - 45 new lamp-posts along a road that's a dead end and has only one house along it? You're having a laugh!

What kind of message does this send to the world about the Azores' commitment to the environment? The island of Flores is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, for Christ's sake.

Apart from general issues about the energy consumption of all these useless street lights, there's a purely local issue as well - cagarros. These are Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea), a sea bird which breeds in burrows on the cliffs of Flores.

Photo credit - duffbirder
Every October, the young birds leap off the cliffs to fly out to sea for the first time. Except some get distracted by the street lights and land in the village. Unlike most birds, they can't take off again from a standing start so will die unless rescued and taken down to the shore where they can take a run at the sea to get airborne. We used to get a few in our garden every year until we learnt to put our outside lights off at this time of year. The picture below is of a juvenile cagarro, the first time we got one in our garden:-

We took that one down to the shore and it flew off out to sea just the thing - very satisfying.

Below is pic of a clutch of juvenile cagarros which ended up in an empty swimming pool as a result of the same syndrome of being distracted by lights from flying out to sea.

I don't know if the owner of that swimming pool was planning to release them or make a pot of soup but the point is, what have the Camara just constructed along the seafront of Faja Grande but a great big illuminated landing strip for cagarros? And the irony is that, every year, there's a "Save the Cagarros" campaign with flyers handed out telling you to switch off your outside lights etc. ...

Of course, I know the Avenida Marginal is being paid for by EU grant schemes. And I realise that this funding is helping keep people of Flores in work building it in troubled times for Portugal. But my point is, is this European assistance being targetted properly? Is it, dare I say "sustainable"?

If the EU wants to pay for a night-time landing strip, then could it not perhaps pay to upgrade the lights at Flores Airport? I understand that this is the issue which prevents SATA's planes from landing here after dark and thus permitting the chance of getting to or from Lisbon in a day.

It is not at all my style to whinge. Especially not in an adopted country. But I do pay taxes here in Portugal and I simply cannot bear to see money being wasted. If we're going to pay people to dig holes and fill them up again, could we not pay them to do it in the right places?


Saze said...


Kim K said...

Where did you go?? Miss your posts very much