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Demolition time

Government announces €16.6 million bulldozing of 835 ‘illegal’ coastal homes
Demolition squads are ready to bulldoze 835 ‘illegal’ homes along Portugal’s coastline – almost all of them in the Algarve – on the pretext that the areas involved are at risk of coastal erosion.
The shock announcement, made by environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva in Parliament this week, is certain to cause heartbreak and controversy. It has already outraged a council chief and coastal authority expert in the area where the bulldozers are set to start.
José Ribau Esteves, president of CIRA, the Aveiro association of borough councils representing five coastal municipalities – three of which face serious problems of coastal erosion – claims the government is using the illegal homes as scapegoats for its own inefficiency.
“Portugal is a coastal country and should be dealing with that” and “not coming up with virtual solutions,” he told Lusa news agency.
However, Moreira da Silva justifies the decision that will see €16.6 million ploughed into the demolition of coastal homes, starting in May or June this year and extending to the end of 2015. “We don’t want a repeat of scenes of destruction from the sea like we had in Fuseta years ago,” he stressed in parliament. “People and property are being protected in areas where there shouldn’t be either.”
The news, explains Público, follows a promise made by various governments but never before acted upon.
It centres on 808 homes on the Algarve’s Barrier Islands of Ria Formosa area and another 27 up north at S. Bartolomeu de Esposende.
Intriguingly, the coastal plan for 2012-2015 actually calls for ‘urgent demolition’ work to the tune of €45 million, but for the time being the government has only sanctioned the spending of €16.6 million.
Esposende’s demolitions are expected to be the most “pacific”, writes Expresso newspaper, but they will still involve re-housing expenses.
The town’s mayor Benjamin Pereira was quoted in Correio da Manhã last week as saying: “The announced redevelopment of public space at S. Bartolomeu is a good example of what has to be done a little throughout the coastal areas of the country”, adding that there were another 200 homes in the areas of Cedovém and Pedrinhas awaiting the same treatment.
But Ribau Esteves is adamant. “I disagree entirely with the argument that we have to move communities away from the coast,” he said.
Instead, he affirmed, the government should be defending the coastline.
“It is good to be aware that coastal erosion comes from the sea and not the land, and that it is not the houses that cause it,” he added, with a touch of sarcasm.
“One of the causes for the advance of the sea is the current government and the previous three – none of which did any of the work envisioned in the POOC (coastal management plan).”
It is very important, he added, that besides the bulldozing announced by the environment ministry, the government “does everything that it can to comply with the POOC by constructing the coastal defences that were planned years ago, and updating the plan rapidly.”
Elsewhere, local people around the Barrier Islands of Ria Formosa (including Praia de Faro, Hangares and Farol) are mobilising against what they see as another case of the government hammering the little guy.
“What is being prepared once again in the Algarve is the demolition of houses deemed illegal belonging to the ‘descamisados’ (meaning ‘the shirtless’, or in other words the fishermen),” writes the political/social blog Olhão Livre – adding that people must “organise and fight” the bulldozers.
“The government talks about illegal constructions that should be demolished, but what about the hotels constructed illegally on public maritime land, or the thousands of luxury mansions built on public maritime land, like Quinta do Lago at Ancão”, queries the blog’s latest post.
“The situation should see everyone mobilise who has homes above the dune levels on the barrier islands”, exhorts the blog – adding that the government will start by bulldozing homes on S. Lourenço, then on Cobra and Praia de Faro, followed by Farol, Hangares and “even Culatra”.
Photo: Algarve’s Ria Formosa Barrier Islands.
Photo by: Turismo do Algarve