Friday, 29 April 2016

Campaigners urge Elton John to boycott music festival in Portugal

In an open letter, environmentalists say locating Marés Vivas event near a nature reserve threatens nesting birds and wildlife

Elton John is due to play at the Marés Vivas festival alongside British singers James Bay and Tom Odell. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Friday 29 April 2016 17.24 BSTLast modified on Friday 29 April 201618.06 BST

Campaigners have sent an open letter to Elton John asking him to boycott a Portuguese music festival due to concerns it will be an environmental disaster to a nearby nature reserve.

Marés Vivas festival, which takes place every July in Gaia, Porto, has been moved for the first time to an area of land just 100m from the nature reserve of the Douro River Estuary.

The 150-acre reserve, which is protected under Portuguese law, is home to more than 220 species of birds, including eagles, kingfishers and cormorants, and is one of Europe’s most popular sites for birdwatching.

Local campaigners have written to John, who will headline Marés Vivas alongside other British singers James Bay and Tom Odell, asking him to take a stand against the “environmental damage”.

”More than your business and your art, please consider the environmental importance of the area. The reserve is very delicate, special and vulnerable... the area is very special to some species of birds for stopover and for nesting,” says the letter, which is signed by figures such as biologist Serafim Riem, Lucília Guedes, vice president of the Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals, and João Branco, director of Portuguese environmental group Quercus.

About 30,000 visitors a day are expected at the music festival, which was moved from its previous site after a dispute with the owners. Campaigners are concerned that crowds, noise and lights so close to the estuary will have a lasting impact on the nesting birds and wildlife.

The letter says “damaging” preparations for the festival had begun, including bulldozing and cutting down trees. It says the site of the show was home to the protected Iberian emerald lizard and that if the festival goes ahead “the whole area, including the nature park, is going to lose its state as a protected area”.

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