RAM is very pleased with the news that the Today Public Policy Institute (TPPI) has presented an important MEPA Reform document to the Prime Minister. We are confident it contains well thought-out suggestions, which should hopefully lessen, if not stop, the endless onslaught on what is left of the Maltese countryside. We have seen this assault increasing over the years, and, as our President Lino Bugeja rightly said, "nothing is sacred any longer".
RAM calls on the Prime Minister to take on board these suggestions for the sake of the victims of this ongoing rape: us Maltese citizens, our countryside, and our tourism industry.
RAM would, however, like to put forward some of its own suggestions for reform.
As everyone knows, despite the pre-election declaration that "ODZ is ODZ", any person can still apply for "development" in an Outside Development Zone. Not only; if an application is rejected, then that same person can apply again, possibly with minor amendments, in a few months' time. Even if an ODZ application is rejected the first time around, this does not mean a definitive victory for environmentalists; the developer can in fact keep applying, until finally the objectors, often public-spirited citizens working in their free time, are worn down. An application like the one for the development of Ramla l-Hamra, rejected in October 2007, is up again for reconsideration next June, just eight months later. Along with that for the Ta' Cenc villas and bungalows, of course.
Regulations applicable for development in an ODZ area should be effectively tightened up, to the extent that only applications for agricultural or public projects (such as waste treatment plants) shall be accepted. Indeed, an application for an ODZ project, once rejected, should not be considered again. If, because of legal requirements, the need is felt to accept the same ODZ application for reconsideration, then this should only be allowed after a suitable period, say five years.
In need of substantial beefing up is also enforcement in ODZ. As everybody knows, at present this is practically non-existent.
We still maintain that our government set up MEPA to rectify past mistakes, not to perpetuate them. Any breach of the ODZ regulations should not be condoned, whether it concerns boathouses, supermarkets, cemeteries or any other constructions.
RAM would also like to see the Prime Minister setting up a unit of concerned citizens, specifically for the purpose of lodging reasonable objections to development applications. This group should be chosen from among people of proven environmental credentials and unblemished track record. The group would be funded from MEPA funds, and be totally independent of MEPA. Nor can it be otherwise since MEPA has consistently proved that its structure is totally inadequate for this purpose.