Olhão council is lodging an injunction to suspend demolitions of properties on the Ria Formosa islands as the destruction of houses may soon be considered illegal by the courts.
Olhão council also is one of the members of Polis, the agency which is organising the eradication of what it considers illegal homes to make the island prettier on spurious environmental grounds.
Olhão’s mayor, António Pina, has concluded that if the recent court victory against the demolition of a second home on Faro Island becomes a trend, Polis will be sued and Olhão, Tavira and Faro councils all will be liable to pay compensation to islanders whose homes have been trashed in the name of nature.
The Olhão move for fiscal self-preservation could not have come at a more opportune time for the islanders who face a further swathe of demolitions scheduled to start on the national day to celebrate Portugal’s revolution, April 25th.
The Olhão mayor’s reaction is based on the fact that the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Loulé decided this week to order the suspension of the destruction of a second home on Faro island.
The ‘renaturation process’ for the Ria Formosa area, launched by the Ministry of Environment, via the Polis programme, really is a polite phrase for tearing down 800 houses to clear up the area in preparation for high quality tourism.
Many of those living on the islands already have been made homeless and have lost their way of life and incomes.
One island that has been ‘taken back to nature’ is fully submerged at high tide, now that the shacks and the people have gone, making a mockery of ‘preserving the island for nature.’
The Polis Litoral Ria Formosa programme is implementing the Coastal Zone Management Plan approved in 2005, which should have been completed by 2014, but was extended for another year. The programme now is being rushed through by an inept management that is out of control and by demolition contractors that are ‘just doing their job.’
In fact these jobs are not being done very well as asbestos and other building materials have been worked into the sand by the machinery leaving a hazardous mixture which over time will leach into the water.
"The judge ordered to suspend the demolition," said Olhão’s mayor Pina, adding that the Loulé judge considered that there were questions to be clarified by the court.
Pina suspects that there are "procedural flaws in the constitution of Polis and the decisions by Polis that have meant this whole process is unlawful."
The Loulé court decision was based on the fact that procedures had not been followed including the need for the official adoption of the Polis strategic plan by the councils whose residents are affected.
Pina also points out that the Polis organisation itself is operating illegally as “its expiry date was 2014."
Olhão council also is using nature to play Polis at its own game as a further court action is being lodged claiming that Polis did not comply with the provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect the chameleon, a protected species which lives on the Ria Formosa islands.
The disruption to fauna and flora has been extensive with trees and shrubs uprooted and destroyed where many chameleon thrived.
Polis is intent on carrying on with its demolition programme and should it go ahead in the face of these well-argued and sensible legal moves, its contractors will be met on the 25th of April by a human chain, national and international television news services and ladies and gentlemen of the press.