From The Malta Independent 22 Nov 2010 NGOs claim illegal dumping in Gozo
Officials of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) who are responsible for the state of neglect of the environment and mismanagement should step down, the NGOs Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse, NatureTrust and Ramblers Association said.
They expressed concern that in spite of the official message being given that the countryside is being protected, in fact many areas in Malta and Gozo are increasingly coming under attack.
In Gozo, illegal dumping has been taking place at Ta’ Muxi, near Qala, affecting an area of nearly 70,000m² or 60 tumoli.
Most of this dumping has occurred in an area of great geological interest and scenic beauty, proposed as a geological park. Mepa itself states: “Active conservation measures are required to protect the geology and landforms of Malta as an important and irreplaceable scientific, educational, cultural, aesthetic and potentially economic resource. If irreparable damage or loss was to occur then it is our own society that would be impoverished.”
If construction waste is used as infill on a building project, Mepa immediately clamps down. At Ta’ Muxi, construction waste has been dumped illegally and systematically with no action taken against the offenders. Furthermore, the Ta’ Muxi quarry operators have been using an illegal road to dump abusively for years, the NGOs said. “Yet Mepa expects us to believe that its officers are keeping a watchful eye on Gozo? they wondered.
While the NGOs support the steep increase on tax for rubble waste in line with the polluter pays principle, this needs to be accompanied by enforcement, as now many are dumping in the countryside to avoid the tax, they said. The NGOs asked where the Green Wardens’ priorities lie – they only seem interested in fining those who litter, while ignoring heavy dumping in the countryside.
The Ta’ Muxi quarry owners have violated several of the conditions of their permit, including failure to use the alternative route as stipulated in the permit and not preventing dumping by unauthorised persons. This quarry has failed to pay the sum of Lm2,000 (€4,659) due annually since 1998 to Qala council to cover road and water pipe damages as a result of the quarrying.
“In the face of repeated protests, until recently top Mepa authorities were insisting that the quarry owners were acting within their permit. Then, some three weeks ago Mepa backtracked and admitted that violations of permit conditions had taken place.”
The Ta’ Muxi quarry is now applying for the renewal of its quarry permit, the NGOs said. According to Legal Notice 337, when processing or renewing a permit, Mepa is to consider the impact of the proposed activity on the environment and to assess the applicants’ suitability based on their legal track record.
At Wied Ghajn Zejtuna in Mellieha, Mepa’s upgrading of the scheduling of the watercourse has in fact massively reduced the size of the protected area, allowing development to encroach closer to the watercourse, endangering the qabru (fresh-water crab) and aggravating flooding in the area.
At Benghisa, a vast area of fields, protected carob trees and dry stone walls is earmarked to create warehousing for the Freeport in spite of the existence of such facilities at nearby Hal Far.
At Zebbug developers have abusively uprooted many trees without the necessary permits.
“These examples of environmental neglect and mismanagement all over Malta and Gozo, culminating in the Dwejra debacle, show that Mepa lacks the will to prevent the encroachment of our countryside and the further destruction of Malta and Gozo’s natural beauty. As such Mepa officials responsible for this state of affairs should be held accountable and step down,” the NGOs said.