Coastal demolition plan will get “same consideration as that given in Ria Formosa”

Portugal’s environment minister has begun meeting mayors in local control of the latest stretch of Portuguese coastline threatened by mass demolitions (click here) – and he managed straight off to put his foot in his mouth.

Talking to journalists, João Pedro Matos Fernandes stressed that his ministry was “open to proposals” and that ponderation of these proposals “would be like that visible in the demolitions of Ria Formosa”.

The trouble is that islanders affected by demolitions along Ria Formosa do not believe their proposals have had sufficient “ponderation”.

“His ponderation was to map out our lives with a ruler and set square”, said Vanessa Morgado, of SOS Ria Formosa, the group that has tirelessly campaigned to save islanders homes.

This week has seen “intense pain” by islanders who feel their Constitutional rights have vanished under the rubble of a new round of government bulldozers.

“If this is all about rising sea levels (as the ministry claims), why don’t they come up with ways to protect communities?” Vanessa rails. “Demolition is the only answer? How stupid can he think we all are? What about all the tourist developments built beside the sea? How come they’re not at risk of flooding?”

Thus Matos Fernandes’ assurances that mayors of the areas between Caminha to Esposende will be heard have to put be into a Ria Formosa perspective.

“We have to understand that the beaches are for everyone”, the minister told Público. “They are public maritime property that does not permit perennial occupation, only the granting of concessions”.

It’s a phrase that has suddenly amplified islanders’ suspicions that demolitions precede the creation of a VIP tourism complex (click here).

Only time will tell. But in the interim it may be that the fishing communities threatened with demolition in the north decide that combining forces with those in the south could be helpful.

Certainly SOS Ria Formosa has had its successes: properties currently under threat are a fraction of the number originally targeted by government agency Polis Litoral. But with the sea left to create further inroads as homes disappear, there is always the spectre of further ministerial ‘ponderation’.

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