Olhão mayor fights for Ria Formosa in court

Ria Formosa island ‘champion’, António Pina – also mayor of Olhão – has had his day in court this week, fighting for the paradise locked in the shadow of a government-backed demolition plan.

Using the moment scheduled for hearing his heroic ‘chameleon’ bid, Pina told assembled reporters that now was the time to wrestle Ria Formosa from national control, and candidate for UNESCO natural heritage recognition.

Sociedade Polis Litoral – the agency tasked with the Ria’s protection – “just wants to demolish islanders’ homes”, he said – when the real issues are consistently ignored.

Pina’s famous ‘chameleon bid’ stopped bulldozers in their tracks last year when householders invoked similar concerns to halt Sociedade Polis’ insistence on levelling fishermen’s homes.

Those court actions have now ‘lapsed’, but Pina’s came up for its hearing finally at Loulé’s fiscal and administrative court this week – giving the mayor and residents’ associations further opportunities to explain the iniquity of their situation.

Farol residents’ association, in defence of the mayor’s bid, explained that there has never been a plan to safeguard the island’s purportedly-protected chameleon population as a result of Polis’ demolitions.

The tiny, slow-moving creatures live in almost every garden and tree in the threatened communities of Farol and Hangares, and in areas where homes have been demolished, “chameleons have never been seen again”, Hangares residents’ spokesman José Lezinho told the court.

As Pina explained, the previous council drew up a strategic plan for the islands, “without even realising that the chameleon population remained unprotected”.

He told Lusa afterwards that his council realises that Ria Formosa “has to be preserved” and does not “trust” the regional structure (Sociedade Polis) in this regard – hence the plan to candidate for UNESCO protection.

“We will have to involve all the municipalities in the area, as well as the university (of the Algarve) and other partners”, he said.

The boon to this plan is that thanks to the cyclical changes to Sociedade Polis administrative board, Pina is now one of the directors.

It goes without saying that islander campaigners SOS Ria Formosa are right behind him.

“We don’t know the full details of the plan”, said a source. “But if it means preservation instead of destruction, we are right behind it”.

As seems to be the case every year, 60 homes are currently in the ‘eye of the storm’, with demolition notices expected to start biting on February 22

A protest scheduled for that day is already appealing for supporters via social media (click here)

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