Government pulls out stops to press ahead with demolition plan for Ria Formosa

Environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva has announced that despite the court decision that suspended the demolition of hundreds of homes on Ria Formosa’s barrier islands, he is determined to press ahead with what has been described as ‘a human cleansing operation’ in the name of the environment.

Talking in Espinho (Aveiro) on Saturday, the minister said: “We don’t agree with the (court’s) evaluation”.

There are ICN studies that show that what is required is “the renaturalisation of the islands”, he explained, and thus the government is pressing ahead with new studies which it hope will persuade Loulé’s administrative court to change its mind and allow the full-scale might of bulldozers to descend on homes on Farol and Hanagares communities.

The studies will be ready within the next 90 days, said the minister who revealed in May that the government’s end plan is to demolish all houses on all the barrier islands – even those that have been deemed legal (see:

“The government cannot substitute the courts, but I hope the decision of the courts can confirm the evaluation that we do”, he told Lusa.

“So far, 300 demolitions have gone ahead in the last five months”, he said, which is less than the 800 “that need to be demolished as part of the renaturalisation process approved a long time ago”.

As the PSD-CDS coalition has many times repeated, it is the “only government with the courage to implement” the unpopular plan that has seen local politicians side with islanders and demand a reprieve from the bulldozers.
This latest news has not caught anyone unawares.

The islanders’ campaign site SOS Ria Formosa is full of the implications, suggesting “time is running out” for the “mini-minister” and “pressure is increasing from whoever is behind this cabala to take control of the islands”.

Suggesting the next studies – to be elaborated by government-backed organisation Polis Litoral, itself on borrowed time – will be “far from impartial”, the message is that islanders are as ever standing firm.

“We will remain firm and faithful to our principles in the defence of our homes and serenely wait the definitive renaturalisation of the minister in October”, said the site, referring to the looming legistlative elections, and the possibility of Moreira da Silva losing his mandate.

The fight, in other words, is back on, with the government seemingly intent on demolishing hundreds of homes as the country gears up for national elections.

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Photo by: Zé Amaro