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Tavira anti-oil protest exposes ‘new can of worms’

“Hundreds, if not thousands” of beachgoers joined hands to form a three kilometre-long human chain in the latest anti-oil protest held on Ilha de Tavira today.

Despite searing temperatures, locals and holidaymakers united as campaigners exposed a new can of worms in the escalating fight.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa may have likened the chances of finding oil off the Algarve coast to him “going to the moon”, but he took care on a recent visit to the Algarve not to include gas (click here).

Angela Rosa, president of Tavira em Transição – the group behind today’s massive show of force – explained this is very possibly because large reserves of gas, not oil, are at issue here.

Indeed the reserves are considered to be “superior to those in Huelva (further down the coast in Spain), she told SIC TV, adding that Huelva is marked by “the highest number of cancers in Europe around its gas refineries”.

“We are very concerned and there is no point people coming here and spouting words. Those comments about going to the moon and oil made no sense at all”, she said. “There is gas here and they want it”, she added, stressing that the fact that the coast of Tavira “always suffers earthquakes”, and any kind of drilling will see toxins leaking into the ocean, is exacerbated by the understanding that reserves off Tavira’s coast are “non-conventional”.

This implies added risks to any kind of future exploration.

“We don’t want the Algarve to have to run those risks”, she said.

People in Huelva may be sick but “we don’t want our area to be made sick as well. We want a sustainable country, a circular economy and renewable energies”.

Rosa’s impassioned speech, reiterating campaigners’ frustrations at being served platitudes by the authorities, played out as throngs of banner waving supporters made today’s stand a protest that has now been picked up by all major news channels.

As SIC TV’s reporter explained, “it started very small, beside the sea, and rapidly joined hundreds if not thousands of people here on the island of Tavira.

“Just to get an idea, the human chain extends for two, even three kilometres, from the ‘barra’ (sandbank) all along the island”.

The event is now being rapidly shared on social media as SIC explains campaigners will not be satisfied until the government “tears up gas and oil contracts” and delivers Portugal from the threat of fossil fuel exploration.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com