Saturday, 13 March 2010

Reason for protest is to highlight Mepa’s inconsistencies – NGOs

Reason for protest is to highlight Mepa’s inconsistencies – NGOs
by Scott Grech

Spokespersons for the eight non-governmental organisations (NGOs) taking part in a rally on Saturday said yesterday that the reason behind the protest march is apolitical, its purpose being to highlight the inconsistencies of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which are ruining the Maltese landscape and surrounding environment.

The protest is expected to start around 10am, with the meeting point being City Gate, Valletta. Protesters are then expected to march along Republic Street.

Alex Vella, secretary of the Ramblers Association, said that the reason behind the rally is for the NGOs, which are representing a significant segment of the population, to voice their disgust at Mepa’s inconsistencies, with the authority continuously giving the go-ahead for permits which are harming Maltese society.

Mr Vella also said that heritage NGO Din l-Art Helwa, which made the news over the past few days for refusing to take part in the protest, was never expected to take part in the first place since it is not entirely against the Valletta Regeneration Project. Mr Vella added that Din l-Art Helwa has constantly supported other NGOs in other matters concerning the environment.

One need only go on a long walk in the countryside, said Mr Vella, to see the continuous degrading state of the Maltese environment, which is a loss of the country’s identity and natural heritage.

“Buildings continue to be constructed in Outside Development Zones (ODZ), vehicle scrap yards are opening shop left, right and centre, like the one in Burmarrad, which is partially hidden by trees, the Seabank Hotel has been granted a permission to extend into previously untouched landscape, protected species continue to be shot, while the black dust saga shows no signs of ending.

“To make matters worse, Mepa’s chairman (Austin Walker) only excuses himself when illegalities that have been going on for quite a while are publicly announced, but does nothing to stop similar matters from occurring again. The purpose of Saturday’s protest march is to raise awareness that rules and regulations which safeguard the Maltese environment cannot keep being broken,” said Mr Vella.

Astrid Vella, on behalf of Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), said the NGOs are confident of a strong turnout, adding that the failure to find a solution to the black dust problem is of “grave concern, putting at risk the health of Maltese society as a whole”.

“The main purpose of the rally is to highlight the failure of proposals which have long been promised but not implemented. Attempts at solving the black dust problem are few and far between, VRT testing does not take place on a regular basis, while a Mepa reform is simply not enough,” said Mrs Vella.

The environmentalist also voiced her disappointment at the failure of the Maltese government to open itself up for public consultations with regard to the Valletta Regeneration Project.

“To make it clear, we are not against the regeneration of Valletta, but against the ineptitude of the government to consult with NGOs or to take the advice of other organisations on board. With around 80 per cent of the public opposing certain plans, it is not fair that the government continues to go ahead with such plans in such a stubborn manner,” stated Mrs Vella.

Tolga Temuge, Birdlife Malta’s international director, said that prior to the last election, Lawrence Gonzi had put environmental issues on top of his agenda, yet two years later, permits in ODZ areas are still being granted, illegal killings of protected species take place regularly while extracting water from illegal boreholes is still a common practice.

The eight NGOs taking part in Saturday’s protest are BirdLife Malta, FAA, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Graffiti, the Malta Organic and Agricultural Movement (MOAM), Nature Trust and the Ramblers Association, with Mrs Vella saying that the protest is being supported by several local councils, among which are those of Rabat, Dingli and Birzebbuga and several resident groups.

No comments: