The Minister of the Environment today said that it was ironic that the demolitions on the Ria Formosa islands had been halted so as to preserve a species such as the chameleon as he believes that the habitat for this and other creatures will be improved when all the demolitions have taken place.
"It is precisely the renaturalisation of the Ria Formosa islands that will allow us to preserve all species," said the minister in a weak response to the suspension of the demolitions, adding that the government will appeal the decision made last Friday.
The Administrative and Fiscal Court of Loulé accepted an injunction presented by Olhão council in defense of the chameleon, and in a decision that delighted islanders, suspended demolitions on Farol.
The Minster said today that his master plan (to rid the islands of inhabitants) stretches over the next 20 years. This is well after he has left office so the point of this statement was further to destabilise and worry the islanders as to their future.
"The demolitions on the barrier islands in the Ria Formosa are planned for over two decades and are part of a development plans approved ten years ago. They are funded projects associated with the Polis Litoral Ria Formosa company since 2007, but we have always encountered some very convenient reason for the expected work not to go ahead,” said Jorge Moreira da Silva, clearly disappointed that the law has got in the way of his plans.
The minister omitted to mention that it is Polis that has failed to carry out its dirty work, mainly because the people affected and the general public do not see any advantage of clearing the islands of people who have the right to be there, and the islanders have used public opinion and legal avenues to thwart moves by Polis to destroy their properties.
The islanders on Armona whose properties are registered cannot be forced off but the neighbouring islanders now may be facing the full force of the state machine, even though the initial arguments from Moreira da Silva about chameleon habitat clearly did not stand up in court last week.
The minister went over the old arguments as to the illegality of buildings, failing as ever to account for the historical context of these island communities, their current touristic value, their stewardship of the environment and their economic input to the Ria Formosa area.
The minister has failed time and time again to explain why other buildings on the coast within the Ria Formosa nature area that lie within the Maritime reserve limit and hence are illegal, including expensive villas and luxury apartments, are not also threatened with demolition.
Moreira da Silva said that in recent months there have been about 300 demolitions on the islands, again claiming erroneously that no first homes have been demolished "as there has been no re-housing needed," which is a perverse and deliberate twisting of what has been going on.
The Mayor of Olhão, António Pina, said that the arguments presented in court are applicable to all of the Ria Formosa islands, but the court's decision made on Friday was only for a suspension of demolitions at Farol, not for the other affected islands but these should follow soon. The destruction on Farol was to involve 137 of 176 buildings.
The renaturalisation process of the Ria Formosa, launched by the Ministry of Environment, through the Polis programme originally involved the removal of 800 buildings, but recently Moreira da Silva said to a shocked Faro audience recently that that this was just the start and that many more would be flattened.
Today the minister said that this is all part of a 20 year demolition and renaturation project, which was news to everyone and - press await details with interest - as Polis is being wound up this autumn, unless it again is granted an extension, the minister is unlikely to be in charge of the Environment after the general election this autumn, let alone see through his 20 year plan which does not have the mandate of the people.