The Algarve’s Paulo Sá, Communist Party MP, finally has stated that which others skillfully have avoided mentioning for fear of reprisals.
At a Ria Formosa islands residents’ association meeting in Faro the outspoken MP said that the demolition of 800 homes and the displacement of residents being carried out on government orders is in fact all a ruse to pave the way for future "top tourism investments" on the islands.
It has long been held locally that the islands are being stripped of their local communities not only to take the area back to nature but to later enable the construction of luxury homes and associated top grade tourism facilities.
The communist MP headed a delegation which met residents of Culatra and Faro islands to gather information about the impact of the Government's decision to demolish homes in the 'maritime public domain' on the Ria Formosa islands.
Paulo Sá will now work with party colleagues and present findings and solutions at local council and parliamentary levels.
The MP said that there are ‘powerful economic interests’ at work behind the scenes which are intent on undermining the traditional economic activities in the Ria Formosa area which support the local island communities.
Paulo Sá regretted that out of all the activities listed for the Society Polis Ria Formosa to carry out, the Ministry of the Environment "has decided only to go ahead with the demolitions" and has "forgotten and abandoned" all the other measures that could have supported economic activities in the Ria Formosa such as dredging channels to improve navigation and shellfish production.
Sá refuted the Government argument that the demolitions only affect second homes, saying that he knew of cases of people being targeted whose homes are their only homes yet are due for demolition. This aside, the fact that Sá has accused the government of acting in concert with property developers is the sort of revelation that the Ministry and the Polis company have feared and swiftly will deny when the news becomes widely known.
"The issue must be addressed as a whole. Our position is that the existence of these communities is an historical reality, they use the islands for economic activity, as a space to support economic activity or as recreational space. This reality must be taken into account," said Sá, adding that "this is compatible with defending the environment and environmental values.”
Paulo Sá said that instead of destroying and demolishing property to renaturalise the islands the government should move towards upgrading the urban centers on the Ria Formosa islands and support and encourage economic activities related to the area.
On Culatra alone there are 90 people involved in shellfishing activities and 100 in coastal fishing. This is about 200 people and their families linked to fishing and shellfishing and these activities must be nurtured and supported.
Paulo Sá said that with the current clearances, the government is creating conditions for this type of traditional activity gradually to disappear so as to leave the field clear for developers of top-notch tourism projects, such as at Quinta do Lago.
There already are double standards over the use of the 'maritime dominion' rule as a justification for demolition with properties being authorised almost at the water's edge at Cabanas de Tavira, the building at Rua NªSª do Carmo, the Zona Ribeirinha da Fuzeta, and some of the up market properties at Quinta do Lago, and Ancão. In Fuseta a small fione was sufficient to allow developments to be registered.
If this is indeed has been the government's plan all along, and if the authorities have been using 'back to nature' as a way of clearing the inconvenient fishemen from the islands to make way for expensive island homes, this issue will rise from one of local concern to national disgrace.
A petition now has been launched on Avaaz: