Ria Formosa islanders “go right to the President”

It took months to clinch, but it could not have come at a better time.

Battling Ria Formosa islanders finally got their promised audience at the presidential palace of Belém on Monday, just as 22 residents on Farol and Hangares nuclei have been “surprised” by a new round of pre-demolition eviction orders, expecting them out of their homes by February 27 (click here).

Vanessa Morgado and José Lezinho wasted no time in explaining all the iniquities of this situation – criteria that appear to apply only to islanders, outlawing homes “for centimetres” from an “arbitrary line” from the sea, when elsewhere “as much as on Ria Formosa as any other corner of the Algarve” new buildings are allowed “on dunes and beaches”.

As the heroine of this fight conceded in a posting over social media: “We have achieved the impossible. We never thought we would get so far.

“We’ve gone through MPs, mayors, ministers. At least two prime ministers have heard our arguments.

“We have managed to be received by all parties in the Republican Assembly…. Giving up has never been an option”.

And now this: it wasn’t an audience with Marcelo himself, but his ‘assistant on environment’, Nuno Sampaio, who received chapter and verse on this gargantuan people’s struggle for recognition and justice.

In a communiqué released after the meeting, campaign group SOS Ria Formosa stressed that the government ‘promise’ to including islanders in on future decision making affecting their communities hasn’t been honoured, and that fears are that they will simply be confronted by more iniquitous fait-accomplis further down the line.

The afternoon in Belém ended with Morgado and Lezinho “asking President Marcelo to intercede” on islanders’ behalves so that problems “can be resolved without resorting to demolitions”.

And in the “more complicated cases”, they asked for displaced residents to be relocated in “the innumerous spaces that exist” within the nuclei.

It’s a solution, said the communiqué, that campaigners “have always defended for situations where there really does exist some form of (environmental) risk.

“Demolition for the sake of demolition is not the solution, particularly as there remains no protection plan for the barrier islands”, the statement concludes.

Job done and two delighted island representatives left Belém in the knowledge that lines of communication with the ‘man-at-the-top’ are now open, and “will be maintained”.

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