Shifting sands cause concern

The partial destruction of a sand barrier that separates the sea from the Rio Formoso is killing off shellfish and causing concern among the population of the small village of Fábrica, who fear that their homes could be flooded.

The strip of artificial sand serves to protect the coast and residents of Fábrica in the freguesia of Vila Nova de Cacela, in the concelho of Vila Real de Santo António. According to people living in the little settlement, situated a kilometre from Cacela Velha, the barrier started to give way during last October’s storm. Since then the maritime currents and winds have swept away more and more sand.

Local resident Maria Rita said that the hole in the barrier has caused changes in the sea’s movements and has badly affected shellfish. “The shellfish have died in large numbers and we have caught less than normal,” she claimed, observing that when there are high tides “it’s even worse”. The resident, who lives in a house built just a few metres from the coast, fears that, if there were a storm, the water could reach her home, something which she thinks “could happen next winter, if the problem isn’t resolved shortly”.

Alveirinho Dias, a lecturer at the University of the Algarve and a specialist in the geology of the Algarve coast, confirmed the possibility of flooding in the event of storms. “We need to intervene as quickly as possible, so that the situation is under control by the winter,” he added. According to the specialist, the situation is not surprising, because the artificial barrier, constructed around five years ago, began to show signs of erosion early on.

Local fisherman Rui Gomes says that people living in the area knew that this was bound to happen. “It would have been much simpler to have constructed a proper sea wall, but at the time the Ria Formoso Nature Park did not authorise it, because they said it would not be good for the environment,” he explained.