SOS Hondoq News

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wasal it-Tmiem ta' Hondoq ir-Rummien?

Published on Il-Huttafa by BirdLife Malta

Erba' snin ilu konna ktibna li hemm progett li bih ha jirvinaw wied sabih f¹Ghawdex jismu Hondoq ir-Rummien. Dak iz-zmien konna sperajna li dil-gennata ma ssirx, ghax biha nkunu tlifna ghal dejjem rokna ohra naturali mill-gzejjer sbieh taghna. Il-bicca mbaghad kienet ikkwitat u hsibna li mietet.

Imma l-mostru ma kien miet xejn, imma rieqed biss. Anzi waqt li kien rieqed bidel il-gilda biex forsi jidher sabih. X'jigifieri? Jigifieri min holom bil-progett irranga ftit il-pjanijiet biex taparsi jidher iktar naturali.

Ara kif jista jkun f'wied zghir bhal Hondoq ir-Rummien tibni lukanda 5-star, 25 villa u 260 apartament u tghid li se jsebbah l-ambjent! Kemm hasbuna injoranti!

Min holom bhal-progett mhux isebbah l-ambjent irid, imma jaghmel muntanja flus. Ghalhekk bhalma ktibna erba' snin ilu nergghu niktbuh illum: progetti bhal dawn, li jridu jkomplu jnaqqru l-ftit kampanja li baqghalna, imisshom jintremew mill-ewwel.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Where's the difference?

Published by The Times of Malta on 24th September, 2006

I humbly express my sincere concern as to how it is possible to retain Hondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo as a place suitable for swimming when yacht owners are given access to the proposed new marina there, as suggested in the letter by Mark Farrugia, MLP executive (August 23).

The idea seems prima facie as ludicrous to contemplate as that of the Barracudas swimming zone in St Paul's Bay remaining suitable for swimmers when the planned Xemxija marina there comes to reality.

The principle (Msida/Pietà) remains simple and identical: Where yachts are moved in, swimmers are automatically being asked to move out. Capitalism continues to win!

John A. Consiglio, St Paul's Bay.

Using rehabilitation as an excuse

Published on The Malta Independent on Sunday on 24th September, 2006.

In his article on Hondoq ir-Rummien Noel Grima spoke about the “rehabilitation” of the bay in question (TMIS, 10 September).

I would like Mr Grima to realise that the developers are not giving Hondoq a facelift but are destroying the whole body to create a Frankenstein monster that will eventually come to haunt us.

If the authorities are finally becoming aware of the illegal dumping that was allowed in this pristine area, they should have cleaned up the mess rather then building another village as an excuse.

He also spoke of its aim to boost tourism. This goes against the principle of recreating reasonable priced property for the Maltese starting out in life. What tourists and locals want are affordable prices and relaxation. At Portomaso, I saw Ralph Lauren Polo shirts for Lm36. Which tourist is going to spend that much on a shirt when he can probably get that shirt back home for a third of the price! If one has money to spend on tourism, then one should have spent it on solving the jellyfish problem. Spain suffered a drop in tourism due to these jellyfish – many people just want a nice beach where they can swim and not an overpriced flat whatever the view. Take the Mgarr Hotel – excellent hotel with an excellent view! Why did this five-star hotel shut down? And now they want a hotel at Hondoq! Why? So they can then declare bankruptcy and convert it into eight-storey apartment blocks!

Also, is the whole story being told to the people? Will they be charged for using the underground parking facilities? Will the yacht marina area be off-limits to the general public and used only by the boat-owners? Will part of the beach be fenced off for private use by hotel residents? The only question to which we know the answer is: who will benefit from the Hondoq project? The speculators.

Joanna Refalo

The Green Whistleblower

Published on The Sunday Times on 24th September, 2006 by Alan Deidun.

SOS Qala
Fr Lawrence Theuma's cri de coeur (The Sunday Times, September 17, p. 16) deserves a resounding accolade since it comes from an individual who is going against the grain. In fact, while some in the Church are laudably involved in pro-environmental initiatives, like the Green Commission, others, like the Augustinians who owned the land at Hondoq ir-Rummien or the Church authorities in Qala, are sitting on the fence, effectively undoing all the commendable work done previously by Mgr Karm Refalo who has managed to marshal Qala's residents against the project.

This comes hot on the heels of revelations that the Gozo Curia had asked for more land to be included in the recent scheme extension, despite Bishop Emeritus Nikol Cauchi's views on the need for sustainable development (The Times, July 15).

How can the Church look the other way when the prospect of bathers having to swim against the backdrop of yachts, rather than pristine waters, or of thousands of truckloads of hard rock excavated on site trundling their dusty way through tranquil Qala, is becoming more likely?
In a nutshell, a 170-bedroom hotel, as well as 25 villas, 260 dwelling units, 10 shops and five restaurants and a yacht marina accommodating 100-150 yachts are being proposed. If proponents of the Qala creek project have Gozo's tourism industry so much at heart, why don't they remove any mention of the villas and dwelling units from their proposal, since Gozo is already replete with these (as the recent closure of L-Imgarr Hotel shows) and lobby just for the yacht marina?

One slight consolation offered by the pro-scheme extension camp was that no more ODZ developments would be condoned and that a minimal 0.4% increase was being proposed - if the Hondoq ir-Rummien, Ta' Cenc, Hal Ferh, Smart City and any other developments still in the pipeline do materialise, the 0.4% figure would have to be revised and any comfort it offered would have petered out.

Despite a few still equating environmentalists with Flower Power, the green movement has diligently organised itself - regarding the Ta' Cenc and Xaghra l-Hamra projects, the objection has led to the creation of a Website, where one can sign an online petition - - hosted by the Moviment Harsien Hondoq.

Yacht marina drive
I happened to come across the "Yachting Potential Subject Study, Public Consultation Summary", compiled by the MMA and MEPA, which critically assessed a number of sites around the Maltese Islands for their yacht marina potential.

In the 'site sieving' exercise conducted for such a report, 23 sites were considered, either for a marina location or for a yard/hard standing site. Interestingly, Qala quarry site was listed in the report as an unlikely site, while the short-listed sites were Dockyard Creek, Lazzaretto Creek, Kalkara Creek, French Creek, Malta Hydrofoil site (Marsaxlokk) and Xemxija Bay. If view of this technical report, why are the Qala Creek proponents trying to revive the project?

The report objectively compares the pros and cons of every site. For Xemxija, advantages include the fact that it is protected on three sides, does not present any navigational problems, boats are already a feature on site, water is already polluted, a large water area is present and there is space/potential for a large marina and site offers existing tourism/catering facilities.

On the other hand, a marina development at Xemxija would not be financially feasible on its own and would be the most expensive to develop of all the short-listed sites, with a 300-berth marina costing around Lm3.2 million (i.e. double the cost for developing a marina at Kalkara or Dockyard Creek).

In addition, opportunities for developing other income-generating infrastructure, such as tourism and residential units, are limited due to space restrictions and Structure Plan policies SET 1 and SET 11, which limit additional accommodation or ancillary development in the area. To crown it all, the envisaged traffic impact would be significant, the site is exposed to north-easterly gales and a large marina would monopolise the inner part of the bay.

Friday, September 22, 2006

AD meets Qala residents

Published on on 21st September, 2006

Officials from Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) headed by Dr Harry Vassallo met with members of the Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq in Qala, Gozo to discuss the application for a major development complex and marina at Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

"The re-emergence of the marina proposal after four years of silence should not be taken as a surprise," Dr Vassallo said. "Nor should residents opposing this development be disheartened by the fact that their referendum giving an 85 per cent majority of the population against the development appears not to have been given sufficient weight. The referendum result is a clear fact that will have to be given due weight in any final decision," Dr Vassallo said.

Dr Vassallo explained that nobody should be deceived by promises of new employment opportunities resulting from this project as no detailed breakdown of the job opportunities which could result by this project in the short, medium and long term is provided in the Project Description Statement.

He said that what Gozo needs is sustainable development that will differentiate it from Malta. Projects for specific tourist niches which have long been identified should be implemented without any further delay. Much more could be done to attract foreigners to settle in Gozo which would result in economic benefits for many Gozitans. Such mega projects like Ħondoq will kill these possible job opportunities and destroy the distinct character of Gozo forever.

Dr Vassallo asked if any audit and feasibility studies have been carried out to justify the need for a five star hotel catering for 170 bedrooms, approximately 25 villas, 60 Self Catering Units, 200 Multi-Ownership Residences, 731 Underground parking spaces (only 90 of which are to be allowed for public use), 10 shops, 5 restaurants and a marina for between 100 to 150 crafts.

Dr Vassallo thanked the Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq campaigners for their commitment and support in this common cause. "It is essential that residents and all who value the public beach at Ħondoq take heart once more and realise that their work is not yet over. It is time for the 85 per cent of Qala residents to make its presence felt once more and to remind the developers that they will not be ignored," Dr Vassallo concluded.

AD meets Qala residents on Hondoq ir-Rummien project

Published on The Malta Independent on 22nd September, 2006

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party and AD Gozo Regional Committee led by AD chairman Harry Vassallo met with members of the Moviment Harsien Hondoq in Qala, Gozo to discuss the application for a major development complex and marina at Hondoq ir-Rummien.

Dr Vassallo said that a referendum in which 85 per cent of residents opposed the proposed project was not given sufficient weight by the authorities. He said this should be taken into consideration in the final decision.

Dr Vassallo said nobody should be deceived by promises of new employment opportunities resulting from this project as no detailed breakdown of the job opportunities which could result in the short, medium and long term is provided in the project description statement.

What Gozo needs is sustainable development that will differentiate the island of Gozo from Malta, he said, adding that projects for specific tourist niches which have long been identified should be implemented without any further delay. Much more could be done to attract foreigners to settle in Gozo which would result in economic benefits for many Gozitans.

He said such large projects will kill these possible job opportunities and destroy the distinct character of Gozo forever.

He referred to the current context, whereby the major hotels in Gozo, such as the Mgarr Hotel, the Andar Hotel and the Atlantis Hotel have ceased to operate as hotels since this situation was being considered as not sustainable, resulting in the loss of job opportunities. Dr Vassallo asked if any audit and feasibility studies have been carried out to justify the need for a five star hotel.

He said the project will have a hotel catering for 170 bedrooms, approximately 25 villas, 60 self-catering units, 200 multi-ownership residences, 731 underground parking spaces – only 90 of which are to be allowed for public use – 10 shops, five restaurants and a marina for 100 to 150 crafts.

“What must be made clear at this stage is that the application process still has a very long way to go and all those who recognise the inappropriateness of the development must be prepared for the long haul. Qala residents and all interested parties are due a clear explanation and Alternattiva Demokratika is committed to giving it to them.

The planning process is often complex and unclear especially with regard to a major development, however everybody can be made to understand what the situation is at present and we will provide the information residents need,” he said.

Dr Vassallo said the AD Gozo Regional Committee has been following developments closely and will be able to respond to residents’ queries by holding an information meeting in the village in the coming days. It is time for the 85 per cent of Qala residents to make their presence felt once more and to remind the developers that they will not be ignored.

Hondoq ir-Rummien

Published on Times of Malta on 22nd September, 2006

Where are the studies, AD asks Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Harry Vassallo yesterday asked if any audit and feasibility studies had been carried out to justify the proposed development at Hondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo.

The plans involve a five-star hotel with 170 bedrooms, about 25 villas, 60 self-catering units, 200 multi-ownership residences, 731 underground parking spaces (only 90 of which are to be allowed for public use), 10 shops, five restaurants and a marina for 100 to 150 boats.

Dr Vassallo was speaking during a meeting with members of Moviment Harsien Hondoq in Qala.
"The re-emergence of the marina proposal after four years of silence should not be taken as a surprise," Dr Vassallo said.

"Nor should residents opposing this development be disheartened by the fact that their referendum giving an 85 per cent majority of the population against the development appears not to have been given sufficient weight.

"The referendum result is a clear fact that will have to be given due weight in any final decision," he said.

Undermining Mepa

Published by Times of Malta on 22nd September, 2006.

An institution stands or falls on the level of public support it commands.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority is such an institution, and, I am sorry to say, over the past few years its credibility has been eroded to such an extent that it is now probably at an all time low, possibly irreparably damaged. Let me prove my point.

In the past couple of months we have had a glimpse inside the inner workings of Mepa. This glimpse was provided in two no-punches-pulled interviews in The Times with a serving audit officer and a former official.

The gist of their comments was that they wanted Mepa to be an effective and robust regulatory body, because as things now stand, it is virile with the small fry, and impotent with the big fish.

It has been touted that the Hondoq ir-Rummien project will have "zero impact" on the marine environment. Cynicism apart, this is testament to the clout of the environment lobby, because whereas not so long ago such a project would have been promoted on the strength of its job creating potential, today the developers are trying to sell it as being environmentally beneficial.

This is a desperate, but patently futile attempt by the developers not to raise the ire of the environment lobby. A Policy number TOU 4 of the Structure Plan specifically and unequivocally lays down the areas where tourism related projects can take place on Gozo. Hondoq ir-Rummien is not one of them.

This is not the first time developers have proposed a project that is diametrically opposed to the Structure Plan. It is about time Mepa sends out a clear signal that it will not tolerate any more infringements by rejecting such proposals instantly.

Matters are not being helped by the government either. Despite widespread opposition, including significantly enough by the Chamber of Architects, Parliament recently approved the extension of the building zones under the guise of rationalisation.

The government has run roughshod over Mepa and created an ugly precedent: Hypothetically speaking, a future Labour government, despite its grandstanding on this issue, may very well feel free to do likewise should it suit its needs.

As if this were not enough, there are reasons to believe that the government has surreptitiously removed the Ta' Cenc area from the list of 23 sites designated as Special Areas of Conservation (known as Natura 2000 Sites) as part of its obligations under EU environmental legislation. By its actions the government is sabotaging the Structure Plan to the point of turning it into a document not worth the paper it is printed on. As rightly pointed out in The Times editorial (August 7), Mepa is acting rather bizarrely in this whole affair.

All Mepa has to do to regain public confidence and not remain a taxpayers' money guzzling behemoth is to fall like a ton of bricks on any infringement by the big developers. Unless it does so, they will keep second-guessing its reactions to the detriment of us all.

Toni Farrugia (AD Gozo)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Labour's stand on Hondoq ir-Rummien

Published on the Times. Written by Victor Galea, AD spokesman for Gozo, Gharb.

Labour's media executive Mark Farrugia (August 23) rushes in to write that Labour is in favour of a yacht marina in Hondoq ir-Rummien Bay in Gozo. People in Qala are confused.

So Labour is in favour of ruining their favourite swimming spot after all!

Mr Farrugia clearly states that "Dr Sant also explained that the proposal put forward by the Labour government between 1996 and 1998 for Hondoq ir-Rummien was that of developing a stand-alone yacht marina. The Labour government gave its assurances that all swimming and other recreational facilities at Hondoq ir-Rummien would still be fully accessible to the people of Qala."

Oh, so now we have it! The Labour Party policy appears to support the proposal whereby the people of Qala should swim a few metres away from the yachts in the marina with all their effluents.

Are the people of Qala and visitors supposed to swim a few metres away from hundreds of yachts in a polluted yacht marina? I would like to invite any of the Labour MPs to come and swim in the Mgarr marina (Zewwieqa) or the other marina at Ta' Xbiex.

Can the Labour's media executive explain how Labour come up with these fantastic ideas of yacht marinas and sea fit for swimming in at the same time?

The people of Qala now finally know who is really on their side. Gozitans surely can distinguish between those who really care for Gozo and those (as evident in this case) whose interest lies solely in not losing electoral votes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SOS Qala

Published on The Sunday Times of Malta on 17th September, 2006

The residents of Qala, disgusted and disillusioned, are looking for fresh blood to lead them against the proposed and imposed project at Hondoq ir-Rummien.

This project was rejected a few years ago by an absolute majority vote of 85 per cent in a referendum held by the local council. Rumour has it that the council was under pressure from Castille to accept all that is laid down in the project throughout.

On the other hand, contrary to what happened at the time of the outspoken Mgr Karm Refalo, now archpriest of Xaghra, we are witnessing a thundering silence on the church's part.

There are indications that the local ecclesiastical authorities have been gagged. In this matter, neutrality can only be seen as serving business interests and is very damaging to the Church.
In this state of affairs, urgent and immediate resignations are called for in both fora to pave the way for a new leadership and save Qala from total destruction and irreversible environmental disaster.

Father Lawrence Theuma

Loopholes on purpose?

Published on Malta Independent on 17th September, 2006

It seems to be common practice to build tourist-related facilities to get around planning regulations and build outside the development zones.

Let us take as an example the application concerning a development near Ramla Bay in Xaghra, Gozo.

The developer has made an application to demolish the existing commercial complex (commonly known as the Ulysses Lodge) and build a good number of bungalows (or villas?). So since these have the appeal of investing in tourism, the application is approved, with the consequence that the developer builds a number of houses outside the development zone. Isn’t it nice, my dear? Yes, sweet, this is the way to go about it!

Or the Hondoq ir-Rummien application. The developers, while dangling the investing-in-tourism carrot in front of politicians who are hungry for success in tourism, will build 250 (!!) residential units (they are houses or apartments) outside the development zone. And maybe, you never know, the hotel may also be turned into apartments, as happened to Mgarr Hotel!

I am against granting permission for such applications. If the developer wants to tear down Ulysses Lodge, he’ll be blessed if he changes it back to its natural habitat. And if the developers are so anxious to embellish Hondoq ir-Rummien, let them rehabilitate the quarry to a natural habitat.

Why do we allow such loopholes in our Develop-ment Act? Why not declare “No Development Outside the Development Zone?” It says so in the name itself, silly! And why not set the boundaries? Or are we to continue bending them according to what serves best the interests of power and money? Why should not the land, our precious natural land, be accorded the same status as education and health?

Joe Portelli

A Fairy Tale

Published on MaltaToday on 17th September, 2006

imagine an idyllic bay. it's mid-september to june. quiet. relaxing. you're listening to the birds, watching the capers in bloom. the lone fisherman on the rocks. the chapel on the cliff.

fast forward to summer. now this beach is crowded. it's like squeezing 600 people into a 300 max-capacity theater. the serenity of this bay is gone for the summer.

yes, i'm talking about hondoq ir-rummien. now fast forward to the near future with this bay suffocated by development like an encroaching cancer. if the hondoq project is realised, then hondoq will be no more. the problems hondoq faces in the summer will be magnified. many believe it's Qala's problem. in fact, it's everybody's since this bay is popular with maltese and foreigners as well as gozitans. also, it will be a symbolic struggle--if hondoq falls to the developers' greed, then no 'green area' will be safe from being exploited. what will be next? A golf course at ta'Cenc? Ramla? There were rumors once of a hotel there? They plan a hotel at Hondoq--Why? The Mgarr Hotel closed down in spite of it's being chic and having a great view. And who is going to afford the flats proposed at Hondoq?--not the newlyweds, i bet!

A philosopher once spoke of 'The greatest good of the greatest number'. then surely, hondoq should be saved for the good of the many and not be prostituted for the pockets of the few.

if the plan is realised, then in the near future poarents will narrate to their children: once upon a time, there was a beautiful bay........................

Joanna Refalo

Ajjut, Ajjut Qala.

Published on it-Torca on 17th September, 2006

Sur Editur,

Bhal issa, ir rahal tal-Qala jinsab taht theddida li l-ambjent jinqeridlu b'mod irriversibli, darba ghal dejjem. L-amministrazzjoni ta' Gonzi ser tirrombla fuq il-poplu u timponi fuqu l-progett ta' Hondoq ir-Rummien.

Dal-progett gie irrifjutat mill-poplu ftit tas-snin ilu meta, f'referendum li nzamm mill-Kunsill lokali, ir-rizultat kien, b'maggoranza assoluta ta' hamsa u tmenin fil-mija, kontra. Bhal issa, mar-rahal qed jigru xniehat li minn Kastilja hemm pressjoni fuq il-Kunsill Lokali biex jaccerta kollox kif ippjanat, b'detriment ta' sahhet il-poplu.

Minn naha l-ohra, silenzju kbir qieghed jirrenja fl-ambitu tal-Knisja. Ghal min ghandu rasu fuq ghonqu, kontra dak li gara fi zmien l-Arcipriet, illum il-Mons. Karm Refalo, Arcipriet ix-Xaghra, hemm indikazzjonijiet cari li l-awtorita' lokali hi maqbuda f'nassa, b'sarima f'halqha. In-newtralizmu f'haga bhal din hu ta' hsara kbira. Kristu stess qal: "Min mhux mieghi hu kontra tieghi, min ma jigborx mieghi ixerred".

F'sitwazzjonijiet bhal dawn il-poplu jistenna rizenji, malajr u minn kull naha. Dan biss jista' jwitti t-triq ghal tmexxija gdida li tmidd ghonqha ghax-xoghol u ssalva l-Qala minn dizastru ambjentaliu rriversibbli fiz-zewg ambiti.

Dun Lawrenz Theuma

Qala's 'no' to Hondoq project

Published on The Times
Mr Joe Falzon, Qala.

The people of Qala have already expressed their opinion - no to the project at Hondoq ir-Rummien. So why not respect their opinion, expressed in a referendum?

MEPA did not grant garage permits at Nadur's Dahlet Qorrot to protect the natural environment, so how can it be ready to turn Hondoq ir-Rummien into some Portomaso?

Why destroy the natural beauty and serenity that attracts people to this bay? People are forbidden to use wild thyme sprigs to decorate Christmas cribs and yet MEPA is now ready to destroy all those thyme and caper bushes?

Incidentally, Hondoq ir-Rummien is one of Gozo's caper meccas, people coming from all over the island to pick capers there. The only impression that the people are getting is that MEPA's laws apply to the little people.

MEPA must decide whether it is there to serve nature and the environment or the real estate developer. One cannot serve God and Mammon.

Environment NGOs speak out against development projects

Published on the Malta Independent on 10th September, 2006

The Coalition of Environment NGOs held a press conference yesterday to protest against the environmental problems that threaten to beset the north of Malta and Gozo.

Members of the various groups spoke about the ongoing or proposed developments at Ta’ Cenc, Wied tal-Madonna in Mellieha, Hondoq ir-Rummien, the Xaghra l-Hamra golf course and the proposed road in Manikata.

Mellieha residents and representatives from Ghaqda Wied il-Madonna spoke out against the danger Wied il-Madonna in Mellieha would be exposed to if applications made by two developers were granted.

Mellieha resident Stephanie Agius said the valley is threatened by two pending applications lodged with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA).

The first application requests an extension to an existing hotel that includes the construction of 12 conference rooms, flats and multi-storey car park, and provision for future access to a public car park.

The second application by another developer wants permission to demolish an existing building and reconstruct 18 flats across the valley with a complete disregard of the building line. Ms Agius pointed out that buildings in the area are one storey from street level, two storeys below street level and not more than 60 feet from the road.

She added that one of the developers has built a temporary road at the back of the hotel that cuts across the valley and is used by the hotel for services and maintenance.

“An enforcement notice was issued by MEPA but was never imposed,” said Ms Agius. She claimed the developer dumped concrete blocks, rubble and placed air-conditioning split units on the side of the temporary road.

“To make matters worse, these proposals are being considered by the MEPA board notwithstanding the various policies and reports, which verify the considerable amount of rain and water that runs through the valley,” said Ms Agius.

Spokesman for the Committee to Safeguard Rural Life in Ghajn Tuffieha Mario Cardona said government proposals for the construction of a golf course and motorway in Manikata will destroy acres of fertile arable land and archaeological remains.

“The proposed golf course will negatively affect about 30 tenant farmers on government-owned fields, as it has robbed them of their lands,” said Mr Cardona. “The authorities also withdrew the tenancy of two other families who still live in a government-owned farmhouse.”

The proposed Manikata bypass will destroy prime irrigated farmland, which cost the farmers thousands of liri to install.

However, Mr Cardona stated that there are several rumours that both projects will be scrapped.

He appealed to the authorities to take a clear stand and state their decision on both issues.

“It is immoral to play with the farmers’ livelihood for PR purposes and electoral calculations,” said Mr Cardona. “This is a dirty game being played purely in the interest of the ruling party.”

He added that the farmers had been told that the government was having second thoughts on the Manikata bypass. However, “Minister for Roads Jesmond Mugliett said the bypass would only be scrapped if a new viable alternative is found.”

David Pisani from Moviment Harsien Hondoq spoke out against the proposed Qala Creek project, which includes a yacht marina, a 170-bedroom hotel, 25 villas, 60 apartments, 200 residences, 10 shops, five restaurants and 731 parking spaces.

Mr Pisani said the project will ruin the beach and clear waters of Hondoq ir-Rummien.

“All the rubble and excavated rock will be transported through Qala, as according to the developers’ studies it is not viable to use sea transport. Apart from all the dust and inconvenience it will cause to Qala residents, it is calculated that traffic will increase to approximately 2,000 vehicles a day, destroying the peace.”

Mr Pisani added that Moviment Harsien Hondoq wishes to see the quarry converted into a national park as was listed on the Gozo national plan a few years ago.

Ramblers Association secretary Alex Vella said it is a national scandal that Parliament omitted to include Ta’ Cenc in the Natura 2000 network when all reports commissioned by independent bodies were in favour of inclusion.

“Because of this omission, Ta’ Cenc lost substantial EU funds for career opportunities in rural development for a national park at Ta’ Cenc. The national park would create career opportunities for rangers, planners, technicians, ecologists and archaeologists among others,” he said.

Sannat residents and the local council made it very clear from the very beginning that they were against the project, said Mr Vella.

The proposed Ta’ Cenc project will not create more employment for Gozitans, he said. “It will only create more menial jobs for Gozitans while discouraging tourists who come to Gozo to find peace and nature.”

Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar spokesperson Astrid Vella said MEPA has plenty of “excellent regulations which unfortunately are only picked and chosen at whim, and interpreted according to the will of powers that be”.

Marina in a beauty spot - HONDOQ

Published on the Times of Malta on 6th September, 2006 by Alex Cali (AD Gozo).

Alfred Grech from Mosta (Embellishment Projects, September 1) seems to care very little about the beautiful Hondoq ir-Rummien Bay andsustainable jobs in Gozo. His argument seems to be that a marina is better than a clean swimming spot. That is his opinion and he isobviously entitled to it. Moreover, his contention that a yacht marina in Hondoq will have little if any adverse effect on water quality is as implausible as it is fatuous. This is not to mention the issue of free public access which as clearly indicated in the Project Description Statement produced by the developers, the whole foreshore (PDS, Figure14.4, page 107) currently accessible to the general public will be taken up by the marina entrance. When is the rampant expropriation of public land at the very real expense of the community going to cease?

That the whole proposed project is a half-baked shambles is symptomaticof the haphazard ineptitude of the MLP/PN duopoly. Instead of wasting millions on the Mgarr Harbour Terminal for a roll-on-roll-off passenger ferry, an extension of the already existing Mgarr Harbour could have created space for additional berths at Mgarr Marina. Even an extension of the harbour in order to host cruise liners would have been beneficial to employment creation in Gozo. But, somebody decided to spend the money otherwise and incompetence prevailed.

Mr Grech also stated that "It will also be protected from the prevailing winds from the north and the west." Does he not know that there exist other very strong winds called the North East as well as the South West?

In conclusion, Mr Grech cites "two rocks between Hondoq ir-Rummien and Iz-Zirka" around which the proposed yacht marina could be developed. I welcome readers to contemplate for themselves the damning implications of further irreversible destruction of the natural beauty of Gozo.

As to Mr Grech's accusations on Mr Galea gaining votes, well, if people are intelligent enough to realise that it is in their best interest to safeguard Gozo, and are wise enough to know how they should vote to get their message across, so be it! Gozitans are fast realising that AD cares for Gozo. ___________________________________________

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Why bother to consult?

Editorial of Malta Independent 4th September, 2006

The Coalition of Environment NGOs has submitted to Mepa its comments on the major development being planned at Hondoq ir-Rummien, Gozo. Three months ago, NGOs were invited to listen to the fine words and promises at the Sustainability Conference organised by the Environment Ministry.

Just two weeks later, all that was said there was swept away by the Rationalisation Schemes. Only two weeks after the approval of these plans said to “seal, once and for all, the development boundaries”, we are asked to comment on proposals to build a whole village Out of Development Zone. This project, coincidentally, happened to re-surface at the same time as the issuing of the new Local Plans. Also coincidentally, the policy of the Qala (Hondoq) Local Plan seems to echo the developers’ proposals and is diametrically opposite to what was set out in the previous Local Plan.

This begs the question: what is the point of requesting public consultation and reports on the environment prepared by local councils, environmental NGOs and Commissions for Sustainable Development when these are routinely ignored? Why sign and ratify all sorts of international environmental conventions and agreements focusing on planning, conservation of natural resources, species and habitats when these are conveniently sidestepped when called into the case?

Why be citizens of a democracy if we are stepped upon by the greed of a few businessmen who are echoed by politicians speaking of developments as the latest brilliant economic boost and favour to our country? Haven’t we already been there and were left with the bitter taste of undisputed loss? The loss of crystal clear and uncontaminated seas; coasts that one could go to for some relief from the hassle of our already crowded and stressful life; marine life that children and adults could learn about and admire while swimming or snorkelling; underwater biodiversity we could all rely on when scuba-diving or fishing. Equally, we are fast losing our typical village cores, our country walks where we could appreciate typical Mediterranean habitats, as well as some peace and quiet enjoying the clarity of stars at night.

Can the Maltese Islands afford to give away more chunks of its coasts, land and sea to development excluding Maltese access and impoverishing further our quality of life? Can we overlook the fact that eleven major tourism projects in Malta and Gozo have failed and lie abandoned, while countless hotels have closed, are struggling or are up for sale? Still, we continue to build new tourist projects on virgin countryside, causing more unemployment by putting off the very tourists we wish to attract. Why persist on a policy which has led us to a record ten-year decline in tourism?

NGOs are asked to comment on the process of preparation of each Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) that Mepa requests from developers. Yet, as in the case of Hondoq ir-Rummien development application PA 03798/02, Mepa has accepted the developers’ choice of their site without demanding that a serious site selection exercise is carried out, which is the essential stage before commissioning the EIA! Terms of reference (issues to be addressed in an EIA) are frequently ignored. There may be a dangerous tendency to use EIAs as a sop to silence the public, with very little attention being given by Mepa to the far-reaching and long-lasting impact each development has on local human, plant and animal life. There may also be the tendency to adopt a verdict of “No significant impact” after costly but often limited EIAs. These assessments are routinely written by the same experts who were commissioned by the developers to prepare their own project reports, a blatant case of conflict of interest. This is habitually followed by equally costly but non-effective monitoring and enforcement, not to mention plans for rehabilitation and conservation without funds available for management. So why more EIAs? Why have a Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa)? Why is there money for destruction and none for protection?

The Coalition of NGOs feels it is its duty to comment on this plague of environmental deterioration. However, the official reaction is that its members are asked to “be reasonable' (ie, tone down their outcry). Their courageous stand is rewarded by comments trying to diminish their integrity as well as all sorts of problems placed in their way by government departments and officials, Mepa and ministers.

Why are local and global obligations to sustainable development and nature conservation being flagrantly contravened? Is all this just a smoke-screen to preserve our image at the international level while selling our soul, land and heritage at home?

The Coalition of Environment NGOs

Dr Sant condemns speculation in Gozo

Posted by on 1st September 2006

Speaking during a social activity in Gozo, Labour leader Dr Alfred Sant, condemned the laissez-faire attitude of the Gonzi government which is allowing Gozo to be ruined by land speculation in various areas of natural beauty.

Dr Sant said that while various hotels which had so far provided employment for hundreds of Gozitans were being demolished, the Gonzi government now wants to approve a project in Hondoq ir-Rummien, Gozo’s last remaining bay which is still in its pristine state. This is being done under the excuse of building a marina and a hotel but which is really about speculation by allowing the building of apartments. Dr Sant said that Labour does not agree with this proposal as it is being put forward because if one really wants to provide jobs for the Gozitans one had to preserve Gozo’s natural environment otherwise there will not be anything which attracts people to come to Gozo.

Dr Sant said that Gozo needs a plan which gives serious attention to that which Gozo can achieve as a region and work on for its future development. This is precisely what the 1996 – 1998 Labour government did emphasised Dr Sant. He added that this is what Labour is doing again with its plan for Gozo’s regeneration and development which was approved in Gozo itself during an extra-ordinary general meeting held by Labour precisely for this purpose.

Dr Sant continued saying that this plan aims to support Gozo’s tourism, agriculture, fishing, crafts and manufacturing industry with the aim of achieving the objective of providing work for the Gozitans in Gozo itself. This was the way forward to give the Gozitans work, welfare and dignity.

Dr Sant thanked all those Gozitans who have always supported Labour and also the ever increasing number of Gozitans who are becoming convinced that it is only Labour which can drag Gozo out of the dead end which the Nationalist administration has lead it into. This is the administration which is only looking out after the interests of the few rather than that of all the Gozitans.

Dr Sant concluded by pledging that Gozo will remain at the forefront of the attention and activity of the Labour party.

Gozo minister defends Hondoq project

Posted by "AD Gozo Regional Committee"
28 August 2006

Gozo minister, Mrs Giovanna Debono, has defended the proposed construction of a marina and tourist village at the picturesque and environmentally sensitive Hondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo, saying that it is good for the sister island.

Mrs Debono told One News that everyone should agree with any project which is beneficial to Gozo as is the case with the proposed development of Hondoq ir-Rummien in Qala.

However, the Nationalist led Qala local council has presented a series of objections to the project. It had also conducted a referendum on the project when it was first mooted in 2002. The result showed overwhelming popular opposition to the project by the residents who want to preserve the only bay in Gozo which is still in its natural state.

Proposal for 'a whole village' outside development zone

Coalition Press Release in Times
Today's Sunday Times report:

The proposal for development at Hondoq ir-Rummien in Qala makes a mockery of the government's statement that the controversial rationalisation process would at least settle the development boundaries issue once and for all, according to the Coalition of Environment NGOs.
The Coalition, the same group of NGOs behind the protests against the rationalisation process, lambasted the proposal, saying that a whole village is being proposed outside the development zone.

Moreover, the statement said, this proposal has resurfaced at virtually the same time as the new local plans for the area are being approved. A similar proposal to build a yacht marina, surrounded by luxury apartments, was turned down by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) in 2004.

"Also, coincidentally, the policy of the Qala (Hondoq) Local Plan seems to echo the developers' proposals and is diametrically opposed to what was set out in the previous Local Plan," the statement added.

The statement also criticised the fact that MEPA accepted the developers' choice of site without demanding a serious site selection exercise.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Prayers over Hondoq

Published on Malta Today

The provincial of the Augustinian priests knows his order stands to gain well over half a million liri from the Hondoq ir-Rummien development if the project is given the green light. But he declares indifference to the controversial issue.

Hondoq ir-Rummien’s future hangs in the balance. Between the prospect of its mega-development into Gozo’s most grand tourist complex, and the protest of environmentalists and Qala’s residents, a community of priests demand their right to remain neutral over the profit they could stand to gain over the development of the area.

Fr Lucjan Borg, the provincial of the Augustinians, is knowledgeable of the conflict that hangs over the controversial development of Hondoq ir-Rummien, whose acres of countryside separate the picturesque bay from the village of Qala.

But equally controversial is his viewpoint that the order he heads, which sold the land to Gozo Prestige Holidays for just Lm150 per tumolo. If the Gozitan company, headed by lawyer turned entrepreneur Victor Bajada, is issued a permit to develop its project, the Augustinians’ paltry Lm10,200 stands to turn into Lm680,000 – Lm10,000 for each tumulo of land.

As he contemplates the prospect of the Augustinian’s enrichment with such a far-reaching project, Fr Lucjan Borg says the order has every right to sit back and reap the profits from the land it has sold.

“We don’t want businessmen fooling us the same way they did in the past,” Borg says about how many local parishes dispensed off their lands for pittances to businessmen.

Instead, the provincial claims, the order will be getting a much greater, “fair value” of the land if Gozo Prestige Holidays are successful with their application to develop Hondoq ir-Rummien.The EUR75 million mega-project is indeed expansive: a five-star hotel, 285 residential units, even a yacht marina. After four long years of hibernation, the developers want to change to transform a disused quarry they claim will resemble “the work of nature itself”, giving the impression that the new village “evolved organically over the last century”.

The people of Qala are squarely against the project. Back in November 2002, following a campaign spearheaded by parish priest Dun Karm Refalo, 85 per cent of residents voted to keep Hondoq ir-Rummien free of development, in a referendum organised by the local council.

The new Nationalist-led council, has not yet made its position public on the project, a worrying prospect for many in the village.

Among the headaches for the nearby residents will include the ongoing construction of the hotel, right up until 2010, which will first start off with the extraction of 900,000 cubic metres of rock from the old quarry, to be stockpiled for re-use in nearby quarries. Excavation will take place over 15 to 18 months, where 60 trucks will leave every day between 7.00am to 7.00pm, six days a week.The developers claim they will be creating 200 jobs during construction and 400 new jobs once the project is underway.

Back in St Augustine parish church, Valletta, Fr Lucjan Borg protests against accusations that the order stands to profit from such a controversial project by sitting on the fence.

“Nobody ever gave us a cent. No government ever did. We need thousands for the extension of our school, and it was deemed appropriate that the Order should capitalise over its property so it can be able to forward its mission, which is education.”Unlike the transfer of land from the Church under the 1992 Church-State agreement, the Augustinians’ private transfer of land carries none of the obligations that prohibit such land from being developed for commercial reasons.

But Fr Borg refuses to “rationalise” what appears to be an ethical conundrum for the Augustinians, who stand to make a sizeable return from a project which has already been refused by the majority of Qala residents.

“Let’s be precise over where the battle is. If it’s a battle over the environment, we cannot rationalise something that was not an environmental concern back in the time when we sold it,” Borg says.

Borg admits he would like to see the environment “being safeguarded”, but he is adamant to see that the order is paid for the value of the land should it be given the green light for development.

“We’re indifferent. Don’t we have a right to remain neutral?”

But isn’t it immoral for the order to sit on the fence, ignoring the social ramifications of such a far-reaching project?

“Just because we’re priests? We’d have to say then that any capitalist transaction is immoral… With whose right can anyone force us to be against this project? If this is a legal endeavour, we also have our own civil rights.”

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hondoq ir-Rummien Project Unsustainable

Published on Times of Malta ( Sunday, August 20, 2006)

Nature trust has called on the government, and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, to stop the proposed project at Hondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo. Because of its outstanding ecological and scenic value, Nature Trust favours a restoration project based on forestry instead.

The Cabinet recently succeeded to extend the development zones by a further 2.4 per cent, despite opposition by the public, and it is now faced with a massive project outside the development zone (ODZ).

If this project is approved, apart from additionally increasing the development zones and setting a precedent that the permanent boundaries are not permanent at all, the Cabinet must explain its behaviour. The NGO considers this application for development as a moment of truth for the Cabinet.

The site is close to a recently established Dark Sky Heritage site, which is a big asset to promote and preserve the rural aspect of Gozo's landscape.

For more information contact Nature Trust (Malta) PO Box 9, Valletta CMR 01. Tel./Fax: 2131-3150 or 9942-2086; or click on the Website:
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