The coalition government today kicked out three draft resolutions from opposition parties that aimed to suspend the demolition of properties on the Algarve’s Ria Formosa islands and to take some account of those islanders affected.
About 200 hundred protestors from the islands mounted a protest in front of parliament as MPs voted to continue the demolition of their homes, the others entered parliament to listen to the debate.
The Communist, Socialist and Left Bloc parties all had wanted the ‘immediate suspension’ of the demolition of island houses and had called for a detailed review of the demolitions and an investigation into the consequences for the people affected.
The 'renaturation' process on the Ria Formosa islands was launched by the Ministry of Environment through an environmental regeneration program run by the Polis agency which waited years before starting the demolition of 800 island properties last December.
“The destruction of homes should be stopped until the parties are assured that the principle of equality and the right to housing are in place,” was the main theme but this was comprehensively ignored by the majority government in a vote which many said put 'politics first and people second.'
The opposition proposals were rejected by the government which in place of suspension of the work, submitted its own proposal to carry on knocking down properties and to "enhance the Ria Formosa and clarify the legal status of the settlement of Culatra.”
This weak and diversionary draft resolution was presented as the parliamentary majority rejected the other proposals and it now will be discussed sometime in the distant parliamentary future. Ria Formosa Lite was fronted by PSD MPs for the Algarve (Cristóvão Norte, Elsa Cordeiro, Pedro Roque and Bruno Inácio) which suggests meekly that the Government "appreciates the Ria Formosa."
This politcially led counter proposal reads that parliament should recommend to government that the ongoing demolitions should merely 'take care' that first homes are left standing, while mentioning 'consideration' for the ‘socio-economic contexts of those households concerned.’
The proposal recommends also an application for the Natural Park of the Ria Formosa "to receive the European certification of sustainable tourism in a protected area," presumably when the inconvenient poor have been moved on, their properties demolished and hundreds of years of social history expunged.
The recommendation does suggest that the coming review of the Coastal Zone Management Plan, news to many, “takes into account the cultural and historical aspects of Culatra, clarifying its legal status and creating conditions for this community to preserve its identity." This review is unlikely to take place until all 800 houses have been destroyed and there will be little idenity left to preserve.
The government proposal recommends that its plan should "pursue the path of economic and environmental sustainability, in particular through the actions planned for the renaturation and ecosystem balance replacement of the Ria Formosa, including dredging to improve the hydrodynamic conditions of the Ria Formosa" and "give priority surveillance and enforcement actions on waste water discharges in the area of the Ria Formosa."
The promise of dredging is raised again but the last point is a first in response to the 30 sewage outfalls into the Ria Formosa, a situation which makes it hard for people to believe that the shellfish nurseries are able to provide fresh produce from the allegedly crystal clear waters described in the tourist books.
The government and its agencies have ignored the deliberate dumping of sewage into the Ria Formosa for years and an early resolution to this practice is not expected. Olhao was awarded €500,000 to sort out its sewage outflows but themoney can not now be traced.
495 protestors travelled to Lisbon to demand an end to the demolition of their homes and their way of life, displaying placards with slogans such as "I will not allow them to destroy the house my parents built "and" these houses were built during the day and with the knowledge of the authorities."
Protestors in the public gallery were equally vociferous and pledged that the fight will continue, especially as they claim that the unfair nature of the demolitions can be seen every day by looking at the luxury apartments in the riverside area of Fuzeta and the Del Mar apartments next to these, which are as near or nearer to the sea as the houses that are being destroyed on the islands because they are too near the sea.
The protesters claim that ‘friends of the political regime’ have been excused the very laws that are being used to remove houses from the poor.
Despite the set-back in parliament today, the trip to Lisbon has served further to unite those affected. At least the sewage problem has been raised at the highest political level.
A petition now has been launched on Avaaz: