Sunday, 30 March 2008

Save Wied Garnaw Action Group turns four

From Malta 30th March 2008.

In March 2008, the Save Wied Garnaw Action Group turned four!
The Group takes this opportunity to inform the friends of Wied Garnaw and of Malta’s countryside about the Group’s work, what it has achieved -- and also not achieved -- in these four years.
The Save Wied Garnaw Action Group has campaigned continuously to prevent the destruction of Wied Garnaw by industrial and other developments which should be sited in industrial estates not in valleys.
The Action Group has also lobbied strongly for better legislative protection and enforcement of the law so as to save all Malta’s countryside, the outside development zone (ODZ). The Action Group members have sacrificed time and money towards this end but at least one takes satisfaction in seeing that the Group helped put ODZ areas in the national spotlight, it helped show MEPA’s inability to protect ODZ areas and the need for action to remedy this situation. To be constructive in its approach the Group also presented a brief of proposals to the Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment on how certain ODZ shortcomings may be remedied.
The Action Group’s pressure ensured that MEPA refuses an application for a permit to build four warehouses, and another application to build a residential complex and garages in Wied Garnaw.
The Group has also actively supported the following campaigns to oppose the building of: a tourist village and marina at Hondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo, a villa complex at Ramla l-Hamra, and bungalows and other structures on Ta’ Cenc cliffs.
Moreover, the Action Group’s pressure has ensured that MEPA twice refuses the application to build a plant to sort metal, tyres, wood, paper and other inorganic waste in Wied Garnaw. However, every victory consitutes only temporary respite, as ODZ applicants reapply if refused the first time round, and then appeal if refused twice. In fact, the waste sorting plant application is now stuck at the appeal stage. For over a year now, the Planning Appeals Board has been deferring this hearing.
The appeal process is riddled with bureaucratic inefficiencies and turns a blind eye at applicants’ evident attempts at protracting the process when the outcome does not look promising in their regard. This is because until the appeal is still underway, there is still hope that the appellant cracks the system in the end.
The appeal re the waste sorting plant has been deferred five times now. The fifth hearing was on 26th March 08, this Wednesday and has now been deferred to May 08, simply because the appellant didn’t bother to inform the PAB beforehand that the appellant wanted an MP to be questioned as part of the hearing.
Save Wied Garnaw Action Group members have attended these five hearings. In the process of attending hearings that get deffered, members waste their time without getting any compensation for it. But the PAB and the appellant’s architect have no incentive to stop deferments -- PAB members and the apellant’s architect get paid every time they attend a hearing. So these continued deferrments are often used to psychologically wear down the resistance made by ordinary citizens who cannot keeping taking leave from work, leave their family and fork out their time for free.
But, i believe that nobody can deny the writing on the wall any longer -- most Maltese people do not want these bureaucratic and other abuses in the development planning system. Most Maltese people want a MEPA that promotes sustainable development and respects not only those who can pay architects and lawyers, or who have party political contacts, but a MEPA that respects every law-abiding ordinary citizen. Because this requirement is at the basis of a true democracy - all should be equal in the eyes of the law.
The Save Wied Garnaw Action Group wishes to thank all those of you who have shown support to Malta’s countryside and to the Group’s efforts. The Group would be very happy to receive your comments, suggestions and feedback, by email or by post.
With best wishes for a green, beautiful and healthy Malta,

Catherine Polidano
Save Wied Garnaw Action Group

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