The estimated 800 demolitions planned on the Ria Formosa islands continue to provoke strong protests from those being made homeless.
After hundreds attended a protest meeting last month in the municipal auditorium in Olhão, with the support of members of the Socialist and Communist parties, this Wednesday the deputy Minister for Regional Development, Miguel Poiares Maduro, was greeted on arrival at Faro’s 'Teatro das Figuras' by noisy and upset protestors.
Maduro arrived to present the 'Community Support Framework 2020' but on arrival was faced with a crowd of islanders, most of whom had received a letter from the Society Polis Ria Formosa instructing them to move out of their properties which were due for demolition. No alternative housing provision has been made and some now are even sleeping rough in Olhão docks.
The situation is close to riot, warned José Lezinho, a fisherman from Hangares and slogans written on banners referred to “Social Terrorism", "1st House Destroyed" and "Homeless."
The protestors were angry, bewildered at their evictions and some were in tears, shouting at the minister as police moved to protect him.
Poiares Maduro was asked by reporters to comment on his unwelcomed reception but he replied only with a "no comment" which many saw as a confirmation of the government's stance that the poor will always be with us, should be ignored at all times unless there are votes in it and these ones can just sleep rough.
On Thursday, outside the CCDR-Algarve building in Faro, the head of this regional development body David Santos, ministers Poiares Maduro and Jorge Moreira da Silva (Environment) and the Faro mayor, Rogério Bacalhau, were booed by residents of the islands, but not one of these public officials would offer even a comment on a social situation they have helped to create and one that seems not conveniently to be going away.
Local pressure group, the social media forum Olhão Livre, commented that the ‘terrorism’ is not only social but also is environmental and economic as those dependent on the Ria Formosa see daily pollution from untreated sewage which poisons the waters where people are working to grow and harvest the area's famous shellfish.
The Ria is polluted, all the officials now have had to admit this, and most of the shellfish nurseries have been downgraded due to poor water quality. The workers receive no compensation when pollution forces a harvesting ban – now most of them also will lose their houses.
Olhão Livre says that in the case of the demolitions, the programme should immediately be suspended and reviewed with public participation including those affected.
Secondly, the pollution, which is easily identifiable, should be stopped and those that continue to allow sewage and industrial waste into the Ria Formosa area should be treated like any other polluter and fined.
Thirdly, AmbiOlhão was granted €500,000 to prevent the sewage spilling into the Ria Formosa from the local sewer by the passenger pier entrance; where is this money as it clearly has not been spent on the designated purpose after 16 months.
For as long as the government ignores the plight of these citizens and the illegal dumping of sewage and toxic substances into the Ria Formosa, the groundswell of opinion and protest will continue and grow.
A petition now has been launched on Avaaz: