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Ten coachloads of Ria Formosa protestors travel to Parliament

parliamentTen coaches carrying nearly 500 Ria Formosa islanders will depart early on Friday morning - destination Parliament - so that MPs and Ministers can see the people who are affected by their decisions.

The protestors, many of whom already have lost their homes, are going to watch the parliamentary debate which is based on resolutions from the Communist, Socialist and Left Bloc parties which call for a suspension of the ‘social terrorism’ that has already seen many island homes razed to the ground.

The islanders say that as they have been paying rates, water and electricity bills for years, some of the houses have been on the islands for 100 years or more, the actions by the Ria Formosa Polis Association are unlawful, that they have a right to housing under the constitution and the government has no right to demolish their property.

Last night, Faro councillors met and voted that the motion against demolitions in the Ria Formosa should be upheld and that a complete review of the Coastal Zone Management Plan should be updated, taking into account the needs of people as well as the ecology of the area. Olhão council already is against the continuation of the destruction.

The Communists want those islanders who have been displaced to have homes rebuilt in the islands' urban areas that are not affected by the demolition plans, that there should be support for local economic activities and that the Ria Formosa waterways should be dredged to improve the output of the shellfishing industry.

Faro council members heard several representatives from the affected communities over nearly five hours of debate attended by an estimated 500 people.

The president of the Association of Culatra Island Residents, Silvia Padinha, criticised the use of public money for demolitions that were authorised on environmental grounds, when there are no plans to put an end to the 30 sewage outlets that illegally discharge directly into the Ria Formosa’s waters.

Eco-group Almargem weighed in yesterday with a press release sharply criticising the health and safety practices of the demolition crews who have left the cleared areas on the islands littered with building waste and asbestos now mixed in with the sand.*

Another gripe is that some homes are knocked down and others are left standing based ostensibly on ‘first home’ status, a practice that already has been proved to be flawed and open to interpretation by the management company which is accused of favouring the rich over the poor.

Yesterday in Lisbon, the three opposition parties presented their various draft resolutions to the parliamentary Environment Commission calling for a halt in the demolitions.

Five Algarve MPs attended the meeting and the debate moves to Parliament on Friday with the Left Bloc asking also for the Ria Formosa to be upgraded ‘as a way to preserve its natural value, its water quality and the seafood restaurant and shellfish nursery economies which are the main local and regional economic activities and on which many families depend.’

Ruling Social Democrat party MP Cristóvão Norte stopped short of calling for a halt in the demolitions but has demanded that those who have been made homeless should be provided with social housing as detailed in the original management plan, a pledge to date that conveniently has been ignored.

Whatever the outcome of the debate on Friday, the islanders have shown a true democratic fighting spirit and have refused to be barged out of the way by the state which wants to tidy up the islands on spurious health and safety grounds.

An as yet unproven allegation is that when the fishermen's houses have been destroyed, developers will be offered the land on which to build luxury homes and that beach concessions will replace the homes of hard working island fishermen who provide the seafood for the region's restaurants and for those exports that the nation is being exhorted to increase.

* http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/4940-ria-formosa-demolitions-asbestos-and-debris-now-littering-the-islands

A petition now has been launched on Avaaz:

https://secure.avaaz.org/po/petition/Assembleia_da_Republica_Portuguesa_Parem_imediatamente_com_as_demolicoes_na_Ria_Formosa_1/?czxqMab

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