Another 11th-hour moment for islanders battling to save their homes in Ria Formosa has seen the Minister of the Sea promising a “balanced solution for all” today.
On an official visit to Olhão, Ana Paula Vitorino was met by a vociferous protest of angry householders – all of them under new pressure to save their homes (click here).
But something in the air has changed this week. On Wednesday, AMAL – the 16-strong group of Algarve councils – issued a statement calling on the government to drop reviled demolition plans once and for all (click here) and now Vitorino appears to concede things are about to change.
“I have only recently spoken on the phone with the Minister of the Environment”, she told protestors. “He guaranteed that he is giving his full attention to this matter… and that later he will talk to you. I have absolute certainty that a balanced solution for all will be found”, she added.
Vanessa Morgado, the ‘Joan of Arc’ of the SOS Ria Formosa campaign, has consistently explained that all islanders want is the pledge from Socialists – given before the party came to power as a result of last October’s elections – finally put into writing.
“They promised they would definitely stop the demolitions in the last elections”, she told Lusa. “Now they are in government, we want to see this promise on paper and carried through”.
Ria Formosa’s pollution problems – trotted out as a reason to bulldoze hundreds of island homes – do not come from the houses and fishing communities, she stressed, but from “other issues that need to be resolved, like the flow of sewage straight into the lagoon, and the silting up of sandbanks”.
As many have suggested, previous governments’ insistence on demolitions is more than likely to be based on “private interests” in developing the island paradise for luxury upmarket tourism.
For now, the government has yet to respond to calls from AMAL to drop the demolition campaign, described as ready to swing back into action after the collapse of scores of court embargoes won last year (click here).