Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Eco-Gozo campaign credibility in the balance

Eco-Gozo campaign credibility in the balance - NGOs

Seven environment and heritage NGOs maintain that the credibility of the Eco-Gozo campaign hangs in the balance as the Qala Creek project to build a hotel, 250 residences and a yacht marina in the Hondoq hillside is assessed.

Archaeological Society Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, GAIA Foundation, Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq, Ramblers Association and the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement said that the approved Gozo and Comino localplan proposed the Hondoq ir-Rummien area as a site of ecological importance, a site of scientific importance for its geology, an area of ecological importance and as a category ‘A’ valley. It is also a proposed area of high landscape value (which imposes the tightest restrictions against residential, commercial or tourism development, including roads and public utility services.

The organisations said they were seriously concerned about the impact of the project on the residents of Qala, 85 per cent of whom had voted against the project.

In 2002, a Mepa air pollution study found Qala to be twice as polluted as Sliema, mainly due to heavy vehicle traffic to the nearby hardstone quarry.

Mepa surveys on Gozo yacht marinas eliminated Qala as a potential site due to its pristine waters. Although the developers insist that the sandy beach would not be touched, their own scientific report clearly stated that Hondoq Bay would definitely be affected by the release of the anti-fouling compound.

While conscious of the need to create employment in the tourism sector, the NGOs questioned whether this project would achieve this in significant numbers since other tourist establishments in Gozo were resorting to low-wage foreign labour.

Much of the project, they said, was s planned as multi-ownership units which would attract Maltese buyers but would generate fewer employment opportunities.

The NGOs said that the present neglect of the area should not justify a speculative project. Prior to 2002, the land was designated as a national park; in fact the dumping was approved by the Qala Council as infill to start implementing the park plans.

“The proposed development of a port, hotel, yacht marina and tourist village would change the character and very nature of this area; the present peace and quiet which are the main attraction of Hondoq ir-Rummien will be totally destroyed with the coming and going of yachts and the heavy traffic to be generated.

“With Marsalforn and Xlendi already ruined by speculative development, Gozo needs to protect its quiet, rural character which is what draws tourists to the island.

“It is not just Hondoq ir-Rummien that will suffer with approval of this project, but the whole of Gozo.

“Not only will the marina sacrifice circa 10,000m2 of precious limited land to the sea, but once approved, the project could trigger a string of developments which would devour the whole eastern coast of Gozo,” they said.

The NGOs maintained that the best use of this area would be its integration into a wider context of maritime, cultural and agricultural landscapes, combining a natural park planted with local trees, organic farming, a heritage trail to include bicycle tracks and pathways connecting to the fort at Ras il-Qala, rock climbing and an open air theatre.

With the reinstatement of the watercourse, a managed beach offering barbeque stations, the provision of car-free transport and facilities integrated into the landscape, a holistic project would attract more tourists year-round than yet another speculative project.

Such a project as proposed by the University architecture students in the FAA/University/Qala Council award would result in a win-win situation for the residents of Qala who would continue to enjoy the area.

It was also economically feasible - the MEPA Natural Heritage Committee remarked that the EIA “completely put aside the fact that both mineral extraction and infilling generate a substantial amount of revenue. The Panel feels that this latter alternative has only been superficially explored, definitely not exhaustively and deserves further consideration.”

The NGOs said that refusal of this project would permit the government to purchase the site at non-development rates and to convert the quarry into a national park as previously planned, attracting more tourists to Gozo allowing present and future generations to enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of Hondoq ir-Rummien.

The NGOs said they strongly supported this recommendation and urged Mepa to refuse this project.


lesley kreupl(5 hours, 12 minutes ago)
To even consider building an enormous tourist complex at Hondoq would not only be the death of the bay and surrounding area, but possibly of the tourist industry in Gozo. Who wants to visit a concrete jungle, even if it is floating in the sea? A jungle consisting of thousands of empty, derelict and uncared for buildings and a sea which would no longer be fit for swimming in...

The pollution resulting from a marina in Hondoq and the effluent from hundreds of apartments and hotel rooms would not only be detrimental to the Gozo coastline, but would effect Comino and the Blue Lagoon as well.

I understand the developer is a Gozitan, if so, he should be run off the island as he has lost the right to be called a 'Gozitan'!

There is already a huge problem with sewage and other waste on the island, not to mention the shortage of water which will only get worse. Surely the developers and the Ministry for Gozo as well as MEPA realise that more development on the island, especially in ODZ areas, is a death warrant for the island? If they don't, then they are more stupid than I thought!!!!

Paul Pace(20 hours, 54 minutes ago)
Being an eco-island requires bold and courageous choices towards sustainable development that is sensitive to social needs and environmental concerns ... besides economic ones. The challenge of policy makers is whether they maintain the same modus operandi that has already sacrificed a large proportion of our national heritage or whether they feel the responsibility to protect what's left for the enjoyment of our current and future generations. MEPA board members need to assess the FULL cost and repercussions of their decisions.
D. Farrugia(22 hours, 20 minutes ago)
Hondoq project is definitely not in the interest of protecting our nation's remaining areas outside development zone, what little is left of them. Stop massacring our coastal and rural areas!! Where's MEPA reform???
A. Xerri (1 day ago)
Qala is half dead already from the quarries to the north so as the centre of the village from dump trucks that circle Qala continuosly six days a week and sometimes on sundays, going by primary and kinder schools using the narowest of roads spewing deisel fumes, carbon monoxide, dust, noise, damaging peoples property, a car and a truck cannot go by each other in places. People died of cancer on some of these narrow roads. The health and safety knows about it but never did anything about it. This is not all, the bottom of the sea around the quarries is all full of garbage, rubble walls are all buldozed and burried with other garbage that these trucks are carrying. The final blow to Qala village will come if MEPA issue permits to built QalaCreek Project at Hondoq Ir-Rummien. It will be like an arrow pearcing through every heart of the 85% of the residents that voted agaist this project. How can anyone respect and trust MEPA when bad things like these are hapening around this village. MEPA is to protect the environment first not the developers they should be ashamed of themselfs, reform or no reform.
James A. Tyrrell(1 day, 1 hour ago)
This is the one, which will decide once and for all if MEPA and the Maltese Government are serious about environmental protection and the Eco-Gozo concept. If MEPA give permission for this development to proceed then it will be proof that MEPA and the Government are corrupt as the whole world already suspects.

Within the past few weeks MEPA have turned down quite a few applications fuelling the hope that things are changing at long last and that the authority are taking environmental protection seriously. Could it be however that certain smaller projects are being turned down so that big ones like Hondoq can be passed?
Joe Morana(1 day, 2 hours ago)
Xlendi, Zewwieqa in Mgarr, and many other areas that made Gozo 'the jewel' it once was, but are no more. The jewel is fast losing its lustre. Taking away Hondoq from the people will be another nail in the coffin. Gozitans will be squeezed from the north, the south, the east and the west, in much the same way many parts of Malta have squeezed out local residents. The Sliema area is a prime example.
Charles Sammut(1 day, 4 hours ago)
If it's not broken do not fix it...such goes a very wise saying. Sure Hondoq could use a little tweaking but please do not even think of building a Marina and Hotels down there.Barring some money hungry developer everybody with Gozo's interests at heart is against this project. After all Hondoq is one of the few spots left on Gozo where one can enjoy bathing in a clean environment and once the project is approved that would be the end for this wonderful place..A place that is so popular with so many residents and tourists alike would be lost forever.. And please do not for a second think that MEPA is there to safeguard these natural treasures.. Has anyone ever heard of a fox safeguarding a chicken coop?
Astrid Vella(1 day, 6 hours ago)

@B Schembri : Unfortunately it's not only MEPA that can't always be trusted.

MEPA's Natural Heritage Advisory Committee has highlighted the fact that “the Co-ordinator of the EIS has shown a certain bias in his remarks” and quotes subjective favourable remarks which are inappropriate to an EIA. The concluding title of the Non-Technical Summary “Yes to the Hondoq ir-Rummien Yacht Marina” is most inappropriate, as is the consultant’s recommendation of “a good public relations exercise when it comes to the visual impact of this project”.

The NGOs ask what measures MEPA intends to take in view of such an obvious bias, especially in the light of the provisions of the reform of EIA procedures.
c galea(1 day, 7 hours ago)
@ j farrugia
did you know that the quarry and its surroundings were requisitioned land up to 2002, and that the qala council had already started to turn it into a park however with a simple signature the land was given back to the agostinians (who were the owners back then) and then shortly after an application for this huge village and yacht marina were submitted. and in turn the gozo local plan was conveniently changed behind the councils back to accomodate the application
these dev. have acquired 68 tumoli of land for a small amount of money because back then it was odz and if you read the full text of the above press release it says that “completely put aside the fact that both mineral extraction and infilling generate a substantial amount of revenue. and that is where the money could come from.
So I think before you start slamming the ngo's you should know your facts
joseph cutajar(1 day, 8 hours ago)
If Malta and Gozo are run as a Democratic country ,the 85% result in the referendum would have been enough to throw out this application out the door or even better burn it ,please do not let some hungry money developers dictate were is to be ruined or not ,mepa please please for a million times we ask you do the right thing regarding Hondoq , do not take Hondoq for granted .please clean up Hondoq and leave it as it is ,and just remember that everybody is against this disaster ,and one last thing whos talking about creating jobs ,yes there will be some jobs during the distruction of hondoq and then what ?? no more jobs after that cause the apartments,hotels and whatever the hell you built will stay empty for ever ,once again i say WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE BEFORE ITS TOO LATE
Amadeo Mifsud(1 day, 8 hours ago)
We are used to promoters of envrionmentally deleterious projects claiming heaven on earth. We heard promoters of the Gozo "airstrip" (read airport) say all it takes is a little extension. The DCA report shows the "little extension" to be from the existing 157m to 560m... more than THREE TIMES. But the promoters were not happy! They actually criticised the DCA report and proposed a strip of over 700m... well over FOUR TIMES the existing one (not ocunting peripheral development).

The same tactic will be used with Hondoq. The project will not harm this, that or the other. It will only do good for everyone and everything. Once the horses are out, it will be too late to close the stable door. Now is the time to secure it and keep it shut.

I hope the Qala major and council continue to receive support as they are doing a very good job in protecting their community and local environment.
john pollacco(1 day, 8 hours ago)
Unbelievable how we Maltese exaggerate when it come to such things - why does it has to be a Hotel and 260 residence and not something much less. Anyhow, I feel that we should not go for a hotel and residence area.

I do however feel that the entire area should be developed into a recreational / garden area with space for picnicing, walks, camping / tents (not caravan), and an indoor pool in the unused RO plant.
J Farrugia(1 day, 9 hours ago)
can someone tell me if this piece of land in Qala is government owned, private property or what? If it is government land, then No building permits should be issued and the area developed as the residents of Qala want. If it is private property, then only MEPA allowed permits are to be issued according to the structure plan for the area and no NGO has a right to voice its opposition to such development. If the NGOs want to acquire this piece of land then let them make an offer to the owners and we'll take it from there.
B Schembri(1 day, 7 hours ago)
If MEPA could be trusted, that is what should happen but unfortunately we know how unpredictable MEPA can be.
lgalea(1 day, 5 hours ago)
J Farrugia EVERY NGO has a RIGHT to oppose the destruction of the environment as it is also the duty of EVERY PERSON to do so whether the land is private or not.

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