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.