Minister to appeal suspension of Ria Formosa island demolitions

riaformosaThe 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.

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-3 #9 Be Desmet, Belgica 2015-05-27 13:50
I Think every excuse is well enough to preserve the Ilhas as they are, with their inhabitants and their houses. What would Polis and the Ministers do once the have ridden the inhabitants and houses of the islands ? Will they then start eliminating all the tourists and make the Ilhas totally inaccessible?
-4 #8 nuno moreira 2015-05-26 23:23
Que vai suceder ás casas do núcleo dos hangares que não tem providencias cautelares visto o despacho que saiu na sexta é referente ao Farol
-3 #7 nuno 2015-05-26 23:21
Pelo que me deu a entender nesta informação é que a decisão desta sexta feira não abrange o núcleo dos hangares . Mas apenas o Farol. Que vai suceder ás pessoas que não colocaram providencias ?
+2 #6 SOS Ria Formosa 2015-05-26 22:09
The arguments of the government don't make sense and are so fragile, that even an 8 year old boy could argument against them.

We are very well prepared for this battle, and it will be impossible for them to take us out. We have rights, we have history, we have our grand-fathers who built those houses with a lot of effort, when there was no machines, all was done by hand. We will resist no matter what.

For those who doesn't know that islands come visit us, we will have a great pleasure to show you that marvelous piece of land that we have been taking care off since ever.

All the best for you all
+1 #5 SOS Ria Formosa 2015-05-26 22:09
And then we have the same situations, treated differently all over the coast. If it is forbidden to build houses by the sea, how do we have all our coast with lots of them? How did they get there? Who authorized them? Why are that ones legal and ours not?

For years the state just didn't care for those islands, they just abandoned that area to their own faith, but in the last years someone looked at it as a paradise, as a land that probably have a lot of potential for tourism, and make no mistake, that is the problem. Now they are looking at that as a million dollar land and want to clean the area as soon as possible to build something in the years ahead. They say that is not for building facilities, its just for environmental issues. We are not blind, we know how it all works. If it is for environmental issues, why didn't they started by stop the pollution in the Ria Formosa? Why do they allow the sewers to go right into the Ria without proper treatment? Isn't this the real environmental problem of Ria Formosa? Yes it is, but they just want to take our homes down.
+1 #4 SOS Ria Formosa 2015-05-26 22:04
But as i said, this is not the main issue. The main court struggle is for the houses themself. And there is already a preliminar decision that is very important for the all process. This struggle it has been prepared by the islanders since 2009, when we understood that this minister was really willing to destroy our homes. The Speacially the culatra and Praia de Faro islands have been colonized for centuries, the last houses to be build was in the late 70's, early 80's. At that time the natural park of Ria formosa didnt even exist. It came along in the late 80's. The constructions were authorized by port captain and the authorities at that time, but there were no written contracts. Who have already visited the islands, easely see that it was impossible to build those houses at that time, in the dark, whitout the authorities knowing it. The construction materials had to be authorized by the same authorities, there are papers that prove that.
0 #3 SOS Ria Formosa 2015-05-26 22:04
I know there's not a lot of information in English about this issue, but believe me, the foreign press is doing a really great job regarding this matter.

The chameleon is not the only battle in courts, it was not even the first, but it was the first to have a judgement, just because the facts were so clear that polis didn't even thought about the chameleons, that the court had no doubts about it. The protection laws for this specific species is very restrict, it came from the European comunity. There are some studies that prove the cameleons live around the trees and houses, because they have a lot more feeding oportunites. The humans atract a lot of insects, which is their main diet. The Islanders do not interfer in their birth, if there are a lot of chameleons near the people villages is because of them and not the humans, they even put their eggs benhead the trees, so the islanders helped develop their habitat and to mantain a huge colony in the islands. The number of Camelons on other areas that do not have houses is pratically inexistent. When POLIS demolished and take out the trees in Ilha do Coco, the chamelons just disapeared.
-4 #2 Rog Williams 2015-05-25 16:27
We now expect to see chameleon farms springing up on the islands !

OK its unfair but if these really are illegal, never registered developments ....

Surely so much of this kerfuffle could have been avoided if suitable alternative accommodation had been pre-provided keeping neighbours together where wanted. Splitting them up where not.

And that the Government and Regional Development made it absolutely clear that there was no intention ever - ,in perpetuity' of establishing elite VIP developments in the islanders place.

But who would trust this lot to run a whelk stall without fiddling every aspect of whelk selling ?
+7 #1 Peter Booker 2015-05-25 07:22
If government has been planning this destruction since 2007, it has not thought through: the likely reaction of the community; the effect on chameleons (or it would have had a compelling counter-argument); the re-housing issue; the unfairness of allowing high cost housing to intrude in a protected area; the assessment of the removal of hazardous substances like asbestos.

Of course, PSD was not in government in 2007; and if what Silva says is true, then we may expect the next PS Minister of Environment to take the same view. The islanders´ campaign needs arguments in addition to the chameleon.

What I want to know is: if it has been the Ministry´s plan since 2007, why has the government not thrashed out the issue in public over the last eight years? Why have we the impression that they have used the bulldozer as their first resort? Is the 20 year plan on the top secret list?

The Minister needs to show a professional plan which accounts for any issue which might be brought against him and Polis, and he has not even made a start. He makes himself seem a rank amateur.

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