SOS Hondoq News

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gozo, the golden egg - 1

Published on 26th November, 2006 on The Sunday Times of Malta. This is part of the article by Barbara Bode.

"Why kill the goose that lays the golden egg?" Astrid Vella, asked Dr Francis Zammit Dimech, Minister for Culture and Tourism. She's spokesperson for Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (Together for a Better Environment, the organisation of environmental activists.

His was the final presentation at Heritage Malta's third International Conference, entitled "Island Fragility and Cultural Resources". The minister's speech was pretty standard stuff: how important Malta's heritage is; how much Gozo has to offer; and how we need to strike a balance between cultural resources and economic development.

As for golden eggs, Ms Vella explained that, often through MEPA, decisions are made that would spoil some part of the country. Malta and Gozo are the geese, as she describes the fairy tale, and the golden egg is the islands' heritage that attracts tourists.

She continued: "While Government is sinking record amounts of funds into restoring its monuments, speaker after speaker today stressed that culture is more than churches and museums, it is the whole context of the country. Many spoke about the authenticity and distinctiveness of Gozo. Continue along the current path, overdevelop, overbuild and ...distinctiveness is gone." Because of Government's recent rationalisation scheme, more of Gozo's lands are being tossed to the winds of speculation.

"Why," she asked, "is Government killing the goose that lays the golden egg by backing projects like that proposed for Hondoq ir-Rummien in Qala? Both the Minister for Gozo and the Prime Minister have announced their support for it and yet permits from MEPA have not been approved or issued."

The minister replied that it is actually MEPA, the independent planning agency, which makes such decisions. Moreover, no application should be denied automatically, he said, before he hurriedly left the room.

It's compelling, this issue of cultural preservation vs. development - of protecting history at the sacrifice of new building - because in a sense it's a clash of cultures. Limited space overwhelmed by cultural riches. But also, as the conferees heard, cultural appreciation is being overwhelmed by pressure to build bigger buildings, higher towers, marinas... and pave more roads.

The problem for an island nation, the reason we are considered "fragile", is that very soon the builders run out of land to build on. Then what? Build over top of historic sites? Tear them down? Bulldoze them out of the way? These were some questions this conference dealt with.

Appeal of Hondoq's abandoned quarry

Not far from Nadur and Ramla Bay, a developer looked at an abandoned quarry with a beach and small dock below Qala where people go to swim and barbecue. The water is pristine, the beach is open and the land was owned by the Augustinian order in Malta. The water could be a yacht marina and the quarry, a five-star hotel. He made the order an offer, which they accepted. They agreed that if it is ever permitted to build on the site, he'd pay them more.

The architect responsible for Portomaso and Cottonera drew up a Project Development Statement and four years ago, in 2002, they submitted it to MEPA.

Meetings and challenges and protests followed. The people of Qala united to oppose this project. It deprived them of their beach; exposed them to years of construction-related inconvenience; and essentially diminished their quality of life. Who needed that? Not the people of Qala. In a referendum, more than 85 per cent of them voted No.

Four years passed and, probably encouraged by the government's "rationalisation scheme", the Project Development Statement for the "Qala Creek Yacht Marina and Tourist Complex" has resurfaced. Same plans, same players and the same disregard for community concerns.

It's not just Qala that will be affected. All of Gozo and in some instances, Comino, will suffer from the altered coastline, the heavy yacht traffic and a disproportionate number of day trippers who, instead of touring Gozo, will more likely swim or stay on board their vessels and party.

The project's overarching goal is: "The enhancement of the Maltese Islands' objective to act as an international hub for yachting and marine activities in the Mediterranean Sea. The development of the location as a destination port where yachts and boats can anchor in order to enjoy day/short-stay trips."

Gozo will suffer the ripple effect. There's no stated intention to promote the spirit, heritage or culture of Gozo. Not surprisingly, people from other parts of the island are adding their support to the Phase II group of community activists in Qala. See their Website www.soshondoq.

"Hondoq Needs You" reads their flyer in Maltese. Distributed by SOS Movement leader Paul Buttigieg at the Heritage Malta conference, he thrust one into the hand of Minister Zammit Dimech as the minister was rushing out.

The aim of the movement is to rehabilitate the disused quarry into a national park where everyone can enjoy the beauty of nature as was previously listed in the Gozo Local Plan.

In August, the Gozo and Comino Local Plan was approved and announcement flyers recently were distributed to local homes. Under normal circumstances, that pubic action would ensure that the Qala Creek project would be tossed out, denied. But this project calls for eternal vigilence.

A few weeks ago, a luxury passenger yacht carrying 110 people on her maiden trip stopped for half a day near Dwerja. Passengers were entertained by folklore displays - offered with the compliments of the Ministry for Gozo in collaboration with the Gozo Culture Department and the MTA and served traditional food, an initiative organised by the Gozo Ministry Secretariat ...not a good sign for the SOS Hondoq Movement.

Moreover, The Times reported that these yacht owners believe Gozo has potential as a marina day stop for the smaller cruise ships. If an investment is made in Gozo's cruise infrastructure, they say, it will not be too long before Gozo will start attracting numerous ships just as the Greek island of Santorini does. With that comes traffic, pollution and difficult swimming conditions.

To be concluded

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Jewel in the Crown

Published on Malta Today on 19th November, 2006 by Evarist Bartolo.

Trying to offer everything to everyone is a bad strategy for the Gozo tourist product. The international travel press has been focusing far more on the potential of Gozo as a desirable tourist destination. Gozo’s unique natural attractions seem to hit the eye of travel journalists who rarely find any major weaknesses when recommending this island to their readers.

But are our plans for tourism in Gozo going to help us exploit this island’s potential? To answer this question truthfully we need to understand what is so attractive about Gozo – the laid back atmosphere which surrounds life in Gozo, the unique beauty of the countryside, the quaint villages with their characteristic small shops which have long disappeared elsewhere including in Malta, and the general tranquillity of life, are perhaps the main attractions of this island.

These characteristics are quite distinct from those of Malta, and therefore it will be a mistake to market Gozo as just an extension of the Maltese islands. But the problem of selling Gozo does not stop with the marketing of the island. The stakeholders of this industry seem to be adopting conflicting strategies which will affect irreversibly the potential of this island to be a boutique tourist destination.

Like in every other business development plan, we need to make choices of where we want to position Gozo in the tourism market. Do we believe that Gozo’s tourism should be based on having thousands of daily visitors, either of tourists based in Malta or cruise liner passengers who are offered a day tour to the island?Or should the aim be to attract affluent tourists working in hectic European cities who are finding a short, away-from-it-all holiday through low-cost airline travel to be an increasingly desirable objective in their stressed lives? Trying to offer everything to everyone is a bad strategy for the Gozo tourist product, as it is for most other products.

Tourism can be a much stronger contributor to the economy of Gozo if the strategic plan for this industry exploits the competitive advantage of this island. We have to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term steady and sustainable growth.

At present we are trying to cater for everyone’s needs from the tourist day tripper who is rushed across the island in a few hours, to the more sophisticated affluent tourist who wants that special atmosphere that one finds in Gozo, and to the Maltese families who own property in Gozo and travel there on weekends on a regular basis.

One understands the desire of Gozitan property developers to ride on the property boom bandwagon and make some substantial profit in a relatively short time. But is this really securing the future for tourism in Gozo? Is MEPA really sensitive to the need of preserving the unique characteristics of Gozo which are, among other things, valuable economic asset, or do they have a one-size-fit-all policy when it come to issuing development permits?

I am not among those who have already become very pessimistic about the prospects of Gozo retaining its charm as a result of over-development in the last few years. But we have certainly reached a point where any further wrong decisions can write the death sentence of good quality tourism for this island.

However desperate government may be to boost some life in the languishing tourism industry in Malta and Gozo, we cannot afford the consequences of short sighted decisions aimed at producing immediate results, especially in the context of a fast approaching general election. And this is not just political speculation on my part.

During the past several months a number of potentially damaging plans have been openly discussed, and in some cases backed by an official stand taken by the government. The development of a golf course at Ta’ Cenc, the extension of development schemes on arable land, the prospect of a major property development project in Hondoq ir-Rummien, and the possibility of building an airstrip on agricultural land, could all be very serious threats to the future prospects of tourism in Gozo.

Of course, if we opt to make Gozo look more like Malta then one could live with these developments even if time will undoubtedly show us how short sighted we would all have been in adopting this strategy.

But I argue that Gozo is, and should remain, the jewel in the crown of tourism in the Maltese islands. And if most of us believe in this, we should militate against any decisions which will relegate Gozo to being just another over-commercialised island in the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Published by Moviment Harsien Hondoq and distributed in Qala and various places.

IL-permess ghadu ma harigx!!

Int li qed taqra dan il-fuljett taf li il-permess ghall-progett ta' Hondoq ghadu ma harigx? TIBLAX KULL MA TISMA!

X'se niggwadanjaw bil-progett ta' Hondoq

Bajja sabiha b'ilma car daqs il-kristall ghandna. NItilfuha!
Fejn naghmlu l-barbeques ghandna. Nitilfuh!
Parking kbir hemm. Nitilfuh!
Facilitajiet bzonnjuzi jezistu diga.

X'inhuma l-konsegwenzi li progett bhall-dan igib mieghu.

1. Aktar tniggis fl-arja permezz ta' trabijiet u exhaust tal-karozzi u trakkijiet li jridu jghaddu mit-toroq taghna u li
illum diga huma ikkontaminati u meqjusa it-tieni l-aktar toroq imniggsa f'Ghawdex.
2. Minn rahal kwiet jinbidel ghal-rahal storbjuz u ta' hsejjes insapportabbli.
3. Aktar mard ghalina u ghal uliedna.
4. Qalu li ser jibnu lukanda meta f'ghawdex il-lukandi qieghdin jinghalqu u jigu mibdula f'appartamenti lussuzi.
5. Il-qerda ta'l-isbah bajja f'Malta u f'Ghawdex, ghaliex jekk il-progett isir il-bajja titnigges darba ghall-dejjem u hadd aktar ma jinzel jghum fiha.

6. Ahna l-Qalin ma rridux li jkollna Xlendi iehor gewwa l-Qala ghaliex nafu li barra dan il-progett hemm progetti ohra mahsuba ghan-naha l-ohra tal-bajja.
7. Il-familji Qalin se jitilfu ll-uniku post ta' rikreazzjoni u ta' mistrieh li ghandhom.
8. Ma jsirux aktar barbeques ghax id-duhhan idejjaq is-sinjuri.


Qum ja poplu qum, u semma lehnek, thalli lil Hadd jghaddi minn fuqek bla ma ssemma lehnek. Il-poplu tal-qala mhu ser igawdi kwazi xejn minn dan il-progett u il-ftit li forsi igawdu iridu ipattu bil-kbir ghalih.

Zur il-website ghall-aktar informazzjoni u ffirma l-petizzjoni biex turi li ma taqbilx mal-progett. Ismek jibqa' sigriet. Grazzi tal-ghajnuna

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ma nhallux il-froga ssir

Pubblikata fuq l-Orizzont nhar 2 ta' Novembru, 2006 minn Korrispondent Ghawdxi

Ma tridx tkun bravu jew professur biex tkun taf il-qawl Malti li jghidlek li fuq tlieta toqghod il-borma! U dan rajnih jigri dan l-ahhar f’Ghawdex.

Rega’ tqajjem mill-gdid il-progett ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien. Kien miet, hasbu hafna, imma ghal min irid jispekula dan ma kien mejjet xejn imma kien raqad fil-fond, sakemm jinbidlu c-cirkustanzi!

Hekk qed naraw jigri u kollox jindika li min snin ilu ma ghaddiex mill-bieb issa se jghaddi mit-tieqa. Dwar dan il-progett l-ewwel kellna lill-Prim Ministru fuq il-Fosos matul il-gimgha tal-Indipendenza jghidilna li huwa favur il-progett. Imbaghad harget il-Ministru ta’ Ghawdex tghidilna li dak li jkun ta’ gid ghal Ghawdex ghandna naqblu mieghu.

Issa hareg is-sindku tal-Qala, Pawlu Buttigieg, Nazzjonalist ukoll, li qalilna jrid li jaghmel kuntratt notarili jekk il-permessi biex isir dan il-progett jigu approvati. Din ma hix hlief dahka fil-wicc. La darba l-permessi jigu approvati u moghtija ma jista’ jsir xejn aktar. Il-pozizzjoni tal-Kunsill imissha kienet cara u tonda. Hawn m’hawnx lok ghal immular.

In-nies tal-Qala vvutaw f’referendum kontra dan il-progett. U la semmew kuntratti u lanqas kundizzjonijiet. Kienu kontra ghax ghar-rahal ma kienx jaqbel. Daqshekk imissu ta’ kaz is-sindku. Il-pozizzjoni ma nbidlitx. Inbidel il-komportament tal-amministraturi bhal Prim Ministru u l-Ministru ta’ Ghawdex. S’intendi ghalhehkk is-sindku ma kellux il-kuragg jghid li huma kontra l-progett, u daqshekk.

X’jippretendi li l-ewwel issir il-froga imbaghad nirrangaw? Jekk il-froga ssir ma jkun baqghalhom xejn tal-Qala hlief jiekluha! X’inbidel sostanzjalment fil-progett? Il-bdil mhux ghax jaqbel lill-izviluppaturi sar? Allura x’gara biex bdilna fehemtna? Ghaliex minkejja li n-nies ma jaqblux mal-progett se inwikkuhulhom? Ghaliex erba’ snin ilu hafna argumenti u issa donnu jridu jmewtu l-affarijiet u nistennew jekk il-permessi hux se johorgu jew le? Dan min se jaghmillek il-kundizzjonijiet bin-nutar Sur Sindku la jkollu l-permess f’idejh!

U x’garanzija se jkun hemm ghal min ma jimxix mal-kuntratt? Kemm se jkunu l-penali u x’inhuma? Iwaqqa’ dak li jkun tella’, li mhux skond il-permessi, jew jehel il-multi ta’ l-eluf ta’ l-liri, li ghall-ispekulaturi qishom zerriegha tal-harrub!

In-nies tal-Qala huma kontra l-progett. Urewh meta ntalbu l-veduti taghhom. L-ebda Kunsill u l-ebda sindku m’ghandu d-dritt li jmur kontra dak li dde-cidew ic-cittadini tar-rahal. Taht l-ebda skuza m’ghandu jsir dan. Irid izomm mal-qawl li jghid li fuq tlieta toqghod il-borma.

Din il-bajja bl-izvilupp li qed jigi propost fiha se tirvina ruhha. Kulhadd kontra. Ambjentalisti u min ihobb il-wirt rurali Ghawdxi tkellem kontra. Imma issa jidher li z-zmien biddel l-affarijiet. Inbidlu r-ragunamenti, ghax ghamilna xi modifikazzjoni. Imma kemm ahna tfal tajba!

Tal-Kunsill tal-Qala, minkejja li huma jghidu li huma kontra, ghadhom itellghu u jnizzlu u ma jichdux dan il-progett, imma qalulna li la johorgu l-permessi imbaghad iridu jaghmlu kuntratt notarili. Tad-dahk, imma veru!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Re: Hondoq project will change area forever

Published on on 6th November, 2006.

In my opinion the problem of developers and speculators turning National Treasures that belong to every citizen into get rich projects for themselves will not be solved unless the Law of the Land is changed dramatically. The Municipality should always have the final say in what goes on in the territory that falls under its jurisdiction. In other words a village like Qala should set up zoning codes and Qala alone should determine and have final say on what goes on there and not a body like MEPA that is an outsider and could easily be swayed and manipulated one way or another by outside pressure. And areas like Hondoq and Ramla and Ta Cenc and Dwejra should be designated as Landmarks and that would end all sorts of speculation..

I think it is a real shame that someone could buy property in a place like Hondoq and then get approved for putting a marina and other buildings when that area should be off limits to private speculators. Hopefully enough citizens open their eyes soon and sound off and protest before it is too late. Hondoq is perfect the way it is and to have it taken away from all of us so that a few can reap profits is sacrilegious.

Charles Sammut

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hondoq - clean bathing water

Part of an article published on The Sunday Times of Malta on 5th November, 2006 by Alan Deidun.

The Sebbah Pajjizek campaign, which has been held for quite a few years now, provided some more ammunition against the Hondoq ir-Rummien project.

A press release by the Ministry of the Interior, dated July 25, 2003, described Hondoq ir-Rummien as the best location for "rocky, accessible coastline for bathing purposes". In view of this, any proposals for a yacht marina cannot improve on this achievement and should thus be rejected.

Il-qerda tal-paci u l-kwiet tal' Hondoq

Pubblikata fuqit-Torca nhar l-5 ta' Novembru, 2006 minn Jenny Carter, Qala.

L-APPLIKAZZJONI monstru ghall-izvilupp f’Hondoq regghet refghet ir-ras kerha taghha. Dan il-golf kien intrebah mill-poplu tal-Qala b’vot qawwi ta’ 85% kontra, izda issa rega’ tfacca bi tpattija harxa.

Jekk dan il-progett jithalla jsehh, il-paci u l-kwiet tal-Qala jigu rvinati darba ghal dejjem. It-toroq antiki u dojoq tar-rahal u l-misrah jigu fgati bid-dhahen mit-trakkijiet ta’ l-izviluppaturi li f’idejhom, dawk li jimxu fit-triq, fil-hajja taghhom ta’ kuljum, ipoggu hajjithom. Insa li toqghod bil-qieghda barra xi wiehed mir-restoranti jew bars jew li tattendi xi attività esterna tal-knisja fil-pjazza: id-dhahen u l-periklu mit-traffiku ma jdumux ma jgaghluk tillarga.

Biex tiskansa dan kollu ghandek tinzel fil-bajja Ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien fejn darba l-ilma blu u nadif kien jahsel ix-xtajta zghira u bla periklu ghall-ghawm u fejn kien hemm wisa’ kbir ghall-parkegg, ghalkemm xi ftit imhatteb u goff, madanakollu post popolari mat-turisti u n-nies tal-post fejn imorru ghall-ghawma u jixxemxu u anke jiehdu xarba friska u pizza.

Jekk l-izvilupp tal-marina jithalla jsir, hemm ma jibqax izjed nadif, b’ilma car, sewwa sew imdardar, mahmug biz-zejt kif jista’ jidher f’kull gurnata l-Imgarr. Tixtieq thalli lit-tfal jghumu fil-port? Ma nahsibx hekk. Hu totalment bla sens li wiehed isostni zero impatt fil-bajja tal-ghawm meta s-sens komun juri l-maqlub.

Fi zmien meta t-turizmu qieghed ghan-nizla, bla ebda dehra tal-qawmien, meta l-lukandi qieghdin jaghlqu u n-negozji jfallu, jaghmel sens li thalli l-bini ta’ lukanda, hwienet, restoranti u appartamenti b’hafna sidien (f’kelma ohra li jaqsmu l-hin) u fil-waqt li jaghmlu dan jeqirdu Qala, bicca ohra mill-kosta ta’ Ghawdex?

Dan il-progett ghadu ma nghatax il-permess biex isir. Minkejja x-xnighat kuntrarji ghadu jista’ jigi opponut. Mhux xi ostaklu li ma jistax jintrebah jekk ir-residenti jaghtu sehemhom b’vuci wahda.

Poplu tal-Qala, warrab fil-genb id-differenzi politici, religjuzi u personali tieghek u qum kontra minacca ikbar ghar-rahal u l-madwar; ghall-istil tal-hajja tieghek u wirtek. Darba Hondoq jintilef qatt ma jista’ jigi reklamat u Ghawdex hu zghir wisq ghal-lussu ta’ zbalji ta’ zvilupp. L-ippjanar u l-izvilupp ma ghandhomx jintrabtu ma’ politika, il-hsara lill-ambjent u lill-wirt naturali jaffettwaw lilna lkoll u ma jirrispettawx il-partit.

Thallix li issa jigri dan! Aghti sehemek u ghin fit-twaqqif tal-qerda proposta!

(Migjub ghall-Malti mill-Moviment Harsien Hondoq bil-permess taghha.
Idhol fuq il-web site: u tara l-ahhar ahbarijiet)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

Published on The Times of Malta on 30th October, 2006.
Let Paradise be!