The Algarve’s mayors have demanded the "immediate suspension" of the demolition plan planned for villages on the Ria Formosa island of Culatra, specifically at Hangares and Farol, and want clarification of the objectives for the Polis Litoral Ria Formosa company as set by the Environment Ministry.
The decision to stand up for the islanders unanimously was approved at a meeting of AMAL on Tuesday despite five of the councils being shareholders in Polis and having board level representation.
Polis Litoral Ria Formosa has had its remit extended once again beyond the ten years it was given to carry out a work programme that it has failed to complete.
A statement by the Minister of the Environment, João Matos Fernandes, regarding government action over the islanders’ homes seems to differ little from the position of the previous government, says AMAL, adding that there are other signs that are "not very reassuring" about the demolition programme.
In view of the Polis extension, AMAL say its members want concrete confirmation of the company's objectives and of its action plan while assuming that the government’s intention is still to demolish buildings on Hangares and Farol including properties that are not within the crucial ‘40 metres from the sea’ areas.
AMAL says, with remarkable understatement, that explanations urgently are needed "as a feeling of uncertainty has settled among the populations living on the barrier islands.”
The current situation is that many island properties have legally been seized by the State and will be demolished some time soon.
The minister said that each property will be dealt with on a "case by case basis" but neither he nor Polis have entered into any communication at all with those affected, except by seizing their properties and seeing which islander has the money to go to court to lodge an injunction.
The mayors say in addition, that measures to protect the natural heritage of the Ria Formosa area "should, in parallel, defend the heritage and interests of the resident communities, which in many cases live on the resources of Ria Formosa itself."
The clock is ticking and demolition day soon will be announced with the contractors hired by Polis eager to get on with the job of destroying island properties, many of which are outside the 40 metre limit and are permanent homes.
This limit, argue the islanders, would encompass significantly fewer properties if the sand that has been removed over the years to be used as a building material, was replaced.
There is support from the public for this group of citizens, support from Algarve MPs and now from the region’s mayors whose behaviour to date has been erratic as many are involved in the overall management of Polis as well as some councils being shareholders.
The minister has said one thing to parliament and then done the opposite, further inflaming passions by failing to enter into any sort of meaningful dialogue with those affected whose physical isolation from the mainland seems to have made them second-class citizens under what should be an inclusive socialist government.
Whether the mayors’ action, somewhat late in the day as the property possession notices already have been served, will in fact halt proceedings remains to be seen.
In the meantime, the islanders end each day with the gnawing fear that tomorrow will be the day that this State-approved policy of possession and demolition will start.