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Ria Formosa Islanders demand immediate suspension of demolitions

culatraMore than 300 people from the Ria Formosa islands of Culatra, Hangares and Farol descended on Olhão on Saturday afternoon for a meeting of protest in the municipal auditorium.

The topic of course was the continuing demolition of houses on the Ria Formosa islands as part of the Coastal Zone Management Plan of the Algarve being carried out ruthlessly and with no regard for human cost by the Polis company.

The meeting drew together members of the island associations with council officials and the welcome presence of Algarve MPs Miguel Freitas and Paul Sá.

The participants agreed that the government should "immediately suspend" the demolition of so-called illegal homes and that the whole scheme should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

The head of the Culatra residents association, Silvia Padinha, said that the suspension of all Polis activities "is a question of law" claiming that one of the Polis members, Olhão council, "already reported that Polis has been operating illegally since January 1st."

Olhão  mayor António Pina recently has spoken out in favour of the islanders saying that alternative housing must be in place before people are moved as currently the provision is zero.  

Padinha argues that as Olhão council is an institutional member of Polis and that it disagrees with aspects of the Polis programme, then the demolitions should be suspended while alternative housing is found for displaced islanders and a review is held on many homes that have been slated for demolition but are in fact first and only residences.
The island associations said that they will continue to fight "with all legal means to halt the process and to find a solution that satisfies the claims of the residents."

"We will take the case to its logical conclusion, including to the European Court, to stop such injustice being committed by the Portuguese state," concluded Sylvia Padinha.

Polis started demolitions on the Ria Formosa islands in January 2015 and this week demolished more than a hundred properties on Faro island.

Many locals believe that there are powerful interests at play that want to clear the islands of people to make way for luxury developments.

This, many claim, also is the reason that pollution has been allowed to build up in the Ria Formosa to disrupt the once vibrant shellfish industry which gives employment to so many locals.  

Locals fear that by moving people from the islands and killing the clam beds with an untreated sewage and chemical mix from the waste water plant between Olhão and Faro, the way will be clear to offer prime building land to developers.

Isabel Soares’ Aguas de Algave is responsible for polluting the Ria Formosa yet will not have a new sewage plant fit for purpose until 2017.

Government agencies strangely are not interested in halting the pollution yet shellfish still are harvested and sold after periods in cleaning tanks, thus adding to the cost of production.  

The meeting in the municipal auditorium of Olhão showed a united front for the first time as islanders are fed up with instruments of the Portuguese state doing what they want with no reference to the electorate, a disregard for housing needs and the destruction of jobs in an shellfishing industry that is centuries old.

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