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New signs of hope in Ria Formosa’s “demolitions nightmare”

The nightmare threat of demolitions that has been ravaging the lives of Ria Formosa island dwellers for months at last shows some sign of being effectively tackled.

With so-called environment agency Polis reported to be getting ready for a new round of home seizures, AMAL – the association of Algarve mayors – has come out with all guns blazing, passing a unanimous measure calling for the “immediate suspension” of all bulldozing plans.

As Faro’s man-at-the-top Rogério Bacalhau has said, quite pointedly: “No-one really understands this situation”.

Polis’ contention has (almost always) been that the demolitions were needed ‘in the name of the environment’.

This later wobbled slightly as former environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva said the demolitions were needed because the islands “should to be enjoyed by everyone not just a few”.

Critics have always maintained “there are superior interests at heart” and the cleansing of generations of islanders was simply a way of getting little people off land ripe for VIP tourist development.

Now, Bacalhau’s comments that “there are no risk factors” in the fishing communities of Farol and Hangares immediately under threat brings brave new hope to locals fearing the imminent arrival of government-backed bulldozers (click here).

“Political decision makers need to understand that these communities are part of Faro, and there is nothing that justifies their extinction”, Bacalhau told the meeting of AMAL earlier this week.

“If our pretentions are taken on board, there are instruments to legalise this territory”, he stressed.

Bacalhau’s comments could not have come at a more opportune moment for islanders mobilising to fight for their homes “to the very last breath”.

“This has been a complete nightmare for all of us”, leading campaigner Vanessa Morgado told us. “Many of the elderly residents have been made ill by this hounding by Polis. We have seen AVCs, heart attacks. The demolitions are slowly killing us”.

Coincidentally – and perhaps adding to seeds of hope – is the fact that the environment ministry has this week revealed it is going ahead with what it calls “the requalification of Culatra nucleus”, the community that shares Culatra island with the residents of Hangares and Farol.

Culatra nucleus’ 300 first homes and fishing huts are to be legalised which, the ministry explains, will “contribute to improving the quality of life of its residents”.

Failing to make any mention of Hangares and Farol, the environment ministry statement nonetheless described Culatra as a “fishing community with historic roots and clear evidence of social, economic and cultural occupation that deserves to be recognised and valued”.

As both Farol and Hangares would argue they have just as much evidence of these roots, it now remains to be seen what happens when AMAL’s carefully worded request reaches Lisbon.

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Photo: Natasha Donn – taken at one of the island’s largest protests, last April, that saw a human chain of 1000 people (see video)

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDFQSQU2_i0