Ria Formosa islanders in new battle to save their homes

After all the jubilation – the belief that finally the government was prepared to listen (click here) – Ria Formosa islanders have come to the bitter conclusion that the less-than-transparent policy for “inconsequential demolitions” of long-standing homes is ‘back on the blocks’ – ready to kick into gear once more on February 22.

Launching a new appeal for islanders everywhere to turn up in force to defend Culatra island, SOS Ria Formosa sets the record straight over the thorny issue of homes precariously perched over the water’s edge.

They are only there, said the group’s latest Facebook post, because successive governments have sanctioned mass-dredging of sand for building purposes “for years and years”.

Householders whose homes were set back at least 50 metres from the waterline are now all within spitting distance of a shoreline that actually never changes. (That is another ‘red herring’ in the argument centring on the government’s contention of “clear risks” for the safety of homes on the Ria. The shoreline inside the estuary – facing Faro and Olhão – is barely affected by the tide, albeit these days it is exceptionally ‘reduced’ in size.)

Locals can still remember the days when sands in front of their homes stretched metres before touching the water.

The double-irony of the situation is that the firm that won the business of dredging sand in the 80s and 90s, is now the company that has clinched the tender for demolitions.

As SOS Ria Formosa maintains, there is no such thing as a coincidence here. This is dirty business that no matter which government seems to be in power just continues to be allowed to ‘carry on regardless’.

“We never thought we would have to make this appeal”, the battling group explains. “We thought this process would be sensible”.

But new demolition notices for the communities of Hangares and Farol would suggest that nothing has really changed at all.

As the group explains, “we know these first demolitions will be the beginning of many more. There is no plan to protect the island” (despite the group having delivered one personally to environment minister João Matos Fernandes last summer) “and as soon as (bulldozers) start turning the sands, the water will advance more easily, giving the government new pretext for more demolitions.

“This is the beginning of the extermination of Ria Formosa’s population, and we cannot let that happen”.

Reiterating the valiant cry of “one for all and all for one”, the group says it needs all its supporters on the island (in Farol nucleus) on Wednesday 22 to face-off against government officials intent on serving eviction notices.

More details to follow closer to the time.

[email protected]