From the Times online Saturday, 29th May 2010 - 18:41CET
Proposed Qala project designed to serve private interests - NGOs
Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and the Ramblers’ Association have deplored the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s handling of the public consultation on the Environment Impact Assessment of the proposed hotel, villas, apartments, and yacht marina at Hondoq ir-Rummien.
They said in a statement that In view of the fact that a sizeable crowd was expected, the Qala school hall was chosen as a large enough venue.
“Why then, was part of the hall partitioned off, reducing the space available?
“By the time the public arrived, over half the seats were already occupied by the pro-development lobby, which meant that some members of the public were told they could not be accommodated. Why did it have to be Paul Buttigieg of Moviment Harsien Hondoq to demand that the partitions be removed, and not the Chairman of the MEPA session,” they asked.
The organisations asked why did MEPA’s chairman uphold the development lobby’s demand that not a word was to be said in English, one of Malta’s official languages, even though a good number of residents were foreigners.
The NGOs argued that while dangling the job-creation carrot to gain permits to build hotels in outside development zones (ODZ) was a common device, the reality was that many of these hotels were using foreign, low-wage staff, rather than Gozitans.
The NGOs echoed MEPA’s Natural Heritage Advisory Committee in condemning the EIA for its obvious bias in favour of the project.
A dangerous precedent was also being set by the building of a ‘temporary’ road for developers’ trucks to motor through green fields and potential archaeology sites, a state of affairs never permitted before.
Similarly dangerous was the probability of anti-fouling and other hazardous chemicals leaching into a yacht marina adjacent to a popular swimming beach.
The Traffic Impact Statement, they said, did not reflect the reality of Qala’s narrow village roads, already overwhelmed by heavy vehicles.
The NGOs maintained that a National Park at Hondoq, along with heritage trails, an amphitheatre, organic farming, nature study facilities and improved beach facilities, would not only create local jobs but would do far more to attract tourists to Gozo than further over-development.
But the proposed project was designed to serve the private interests of a few people.
“The EIA tries to give the impression that the public is being catered for, while in reality this project will ride roughshod over the wishes and well-being of the Qala residents and the vast majority of the residents of Malta and Gozo,” they said.
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