Olhão’s riverside gardens to be torn up

olhaoparkThe price being paid by the State for the silence of Olhão mayor António Pina’s surely now ahs peaked with the latest a bung of €2 million, in aid of a local development, already causing dismay to residents.

The dock area, near the island ferry ticket office, where the artisan fishermen and small marine tourism businesses currently moor their boats, is to be turned over to the wealthy yachting fraternity with space for 220 shiny vessels paying for the priviledge of of mooring, but this is just part of a larger project that includes the destruction of one of the city's landmark twin parks.

The small-scale and rather inconvenient fishing people will be 'moved on' to use the larger commercial dock to the east with the additional danger of collision with commercial fishing trawlers and the poor nighttime security.

The Ministry of the Sea, through Docapesca and 'in cooperation with Olhão council' is launching a public tender for a contract to ‘rehabilitate, modernise and exploit’ a dock and leisure area of 2.5 hectares which includes tearing up one of Olhão's two waterfront  parks.

The money for mayor Pina’s silence over the destruction of further properties in the Ria Formosa islands also will pay for all sorts of marine services, most of which the State, the council or other bodies should be providing anyway, including ‘ongoing support to vessels, car parking, port cleaning services, eco-points for waste and waste oil collection, maritime signaling services and radio broadcasting, video surveillance, first aid and other complementary services.’

The environmental impact of this development "will be taken into account," but not with much seriousness as the tenders submitted will be judged according to the overall value of the investment (22%), the percentage of operating revenue paid to the council (11%), the rate per square meter of area occupation land (34%), additional services (22%) and environmental sustainability of the project (11%).

Whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is planned, bearing in mind the additional pressures on the marine ecology and the environment from an additional 220 vessels using the Ria Formosa area, remains to be announced.

What the council has skirted around is that the tree-filled park adjoining the fruit and vegetable market in Olhão will be torn up as part of this geneneral redevelopment, around 80 trees will be destroyed and the green area converted into a zone for cars parking, restaurants, cafes, shops and a trendy boardwalk.

The 1968 Jardim Patrão Joaquim Lopes after years of neglect, is to be destroyed under the very mayor who should be defending the city’s culture and heritage, António Pina, with the willing financial help of the Minister for the Environment.

Olhão locals generally are OK about another development planned from the western end of the river frontage with a café area and shops in front of the Real Marina hotel in an open area that has been left deliberately free to accommodate this development. This project does not involve cutting down trees and reducing the amount of scarce green space available for public use.

The plan to remove one of the two major green spaces next to Olhão’s iconic markets may be seen as wantonly destructive and certainly will detract from the feel of the city which partly is defined by its balance of twin parks and twin markets.

Environmental concerns will be swept away by the money on offer in this latest collusion between the State and the town council which, far from representing voters, promotes a brutally modern view of Olhão which is at odds with the city's appeal to tourists and to the increasing number of foreigners who have chosen to live there.

Whether Olhão’s local voters will be given the opportunity to comment on these major developments remains to be seen.

When local heritage was attacked and destroyed in the recent past, most Olhão locals stood by and did nothing as ancient cobbled streets and squares were ripped up and modern, machine-cut paving installed with piercing halogen lights to complete to affront.

The foreign community in Olhão may be vociferous but many have failed to register to vote despite having an economic stake in the city’s prosperity: it's votes that count.

Transparency in local government does not exist in Olhão which is all the more reason for its population to be alert and to demand full plans and answers to questions as voters may welcome this sort of modernisation but would like the park to remain.

The mayor will never know unless he asks, but this is unlikely to happen in the fiefdom of Olhão.


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