Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Mepa’s not-so-protected areas in Rabat

Mepa’s not-so-protected areas in Rabat

My association feels it has once more to draw attention to the fact that the information given in the One World series (August 2) is again misleading in the sense that it does not really give a full and realistic picture of the Ta’ Baldu and Wied Ħażrun area, limits of Rabat.

The Ta’ Baldu area has been the subject of many complaints with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority by our association on account of the many sanctions, as many as five (with two still in the pipeline), granted to works carried out illegally on the site. Old wooden-beam ceilings were replaced with concrete and a second floor added, landscaping carried out to “prettify” the site as a villa-type garden, a clearing created for a turfed (invasive species introduced) football pitch and a swimming pool was installed. All infringements were sanctioned by Mepa and subsequently forcefully condemned by its own Audit Office. Even wedding receptions and parties have been held on the site, while a national heritage like the Roman grotto has been barred to the public. Needless to say, the idyllic scenic views there are no longer what they had been for centuries.

As for the Wied Ħażrun area, which hosts the historic Simblija troglodyte settlement, readers are not informed that for these last months it has no longer been possible to visit this other national heritage on which public and EU funds were spent in the Aramis project rightfully launched with much fanfare by Francis Zammit Dimech. Access has recently been closed by the part-time farmer who leases the surrounding fields from the government. And this time with the full protection of the law!

People who dare go beyond the gate to see the mediaeval chapel are prosecuted. We find this strange; in fact, very strange. We have even made representations on the matter with Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi.

Our association asks in favour of what or whom are these areas protected? Certain verbs in the write-up reveal that it was written some 10 years ago and conditions there have now changed drastically. Since the write-up is probably Mepa’s own, the compilers of this series would do well to take note and show more respect for their readers.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

NGOs welcome EPD's Hondoq project refusal recommendation

NGOs welcome EPD's Hondoq project refusal recommendation

MEPA's Environment Protection Directorate's recommendation of a refusal of the Hondoq project application has been welcomed by the Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and the Ramblers Association .

In a statement they quoted the report which states that the Qala creek project to build a yacht marina, hotel and 283 villas, flats and bungalows amounts to a major urban development in an ODZ area which should be kept free from even small-scale development.

The EPD said there was no justification, environmental improvement or similar public benefit but rather, various negative impacts related to traffic noise and emissions and to water quality.

The report on water quality established that the seawater in the Hondoq area was one of the safest and cleanest for Gozo, however the project risked major damage to Posidonia meadows in the Gozo-Comino channel from construction dust while other substances such as nitrates and phosphates could be released into the bay.

Further effluent from sea craft and the sewage purification plants could also pollute the Gozo-Comino Channel.

Dust emissions during excavation and construction were also expected to affect Qala village as well as surrounding agricultural land as wind could disperse the dust up to half a kilometre.

Set to double the size of the existing village, the impact of this project had always been a serious concern for the NGOs due to vehicle air emissions. During the 18-month excavation period, heavy vehicle traffic would amount to one truckload every four minutes, while if built, the complex would generate some 2000 vehicles per day, causing harmful social effects due to noise and air pollution and changes in the demographic fabric.

The NGOs said they were particularly concerned by what MEPA described as "the prolonged failure by the EIA Coordinator to address the issues in a comprehensive and acceptable manner. The supposedly impartial assessment reveals its bias towards the Hondoq ir-Rummien site using expressions such as "The site cries out to be developed" and "Developing a marina at this location offers a win-win situation". Thus while the report on 'Development of Yachting Facilities in Malta' had completely excluded Hondoq as a potential marina site, this EIA claimed it was the most suitable site, using the pretext of the existing few boat trips per year at Hondoq to justify a marina of 150 yachts.

The NGOs concurred with MEPA that that any claimed benefits of the project could be created without the need for new development, through improving the site by clearing the accumulated quarry debris, distillation plant and coastal debris, and regenerating the former habitats through afforestation, recreation of the valley and improvement of the beach recreation facilities. These measures were proposed by the Architecture Award projects organised by the Qala Local Council, Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and the University of Malta Architecture Department.

The area, the organizations said, should be turned into a national park for the enjoyment of the public and to the benefit of Gozitan tourism.

They hoped the application would be refused by the MEPA board.

The decision has also been welcomed by the Qala council.


Post comment

Mr Alexander Pace Gouder.

Today, 17:31

Prosit - Keep it up. We Balluta Residents Association also welcome this outcome. Alexander Pace Gouder PRO Balluta Residents Association (Registered NGO)

C Galea

Today, 16:21

Keep it up MEPA. No for development in this area but yes for a clean-up and rehabilitation of the quarry. It has impinged an ugly scar to the environment and it is now high time to be restored.

Mr Joseph Thwaites

Today, 16:17

Phew! So glad to hear that Hondoq and Qala will remain as they are - unspoilt and there for all to enjoy. I visit the bay 2 or 3 times a year and its always one of the highlights of my Gozitan holiday.

I know my Gozitan friends will be of the same opinion, I vividly remember the pride in Vic's eyes when he first introduced me to the bay.

Well done to all the NGO's - it would be unthinkable for MEPA to allow the project to proceed now.

Martin Langford

Today, 16:10

I hope this is the end of this as its seems to be the way in Malta for it to raise its head again with decisions being reversed.and the refused and then finally granted.I will watch with interest to see if this is the case.( I hope not)

Mr Joseph Grungo

Today, 15:00

This area should be turned into a national park to be enjoyed by the public and I urge those organisations concerned to keep campaigning to save this beautiful part of the island from becoming another concrete monstrousity. Sadly there are already far too many of these !!
Hope MEPA sees sence and refuse the application.

Bernard Storace

Today, 16:21

A national park ....... for picnickers and others who, out of experience, will not respect it....will leave litter all over the place.....will build b-b-q's and leave the debris and ash behind......will not respect the flora and fauna found there but will drive through and trample with big feet all over the place. I say leave it in its pristine condition but give it a good clean. Remove wrecks, plastics, broken bottles, alumunium cans, paper and rusty relics of the past then let nature look after it for everybody.
I trust that MEPA will respect the wishes of the people and the advice of its own Directorate and see the sense of it all and not be blinded with empty promises. ECO-Gozo is at its best in Hondoq.

Mr Patrick Zammit

Today, 14:38

Mepa should be loud and clear and say:

Keep your grubby fingers off our natural heritage.

Jo Azzopardi

Today, 14:31

Well Done Another saved area for our future generations!!
Keep it up

Josette Buttigieg

Today, 14:12

Hope that MEPA follows on this recommendation and turn down completely the application for development. This development would only mean the rape of Hondoq and of the village of Qala as the tranquillity and beauty of this village would be destroyed forever. Follow on the idea of the creation of a public park and embellishment. After all this is not anything new as the idea was already mooted about twelve, thirteen years ago

Just one point. The plan for development includes a chapel. Please note that the chapel is there, it has been there hundreds of years and it belongs to the people of Qala and nobody else. So please keep off it. It's part of our heritage and we love it and treasure it.

The bay too is part ofm our heritage and we also love it and treasure it in its present pure, clean , and natural state.

Thanks to those responsible for the wise suggestion that the application for this sinful development should be turned down.

Ms C Galea

Today, 13:18

Mepa Bord should give this application the TUMBS DOWN .

Well done to all the NGO`s


Today, 12:34