SOS Hondoq News

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Il-Progett f'Hondoq ir-Rummien quddiem il-Kummissarju Ewropew tal-Ambjent

Pubblikata fuq it-Torca nhar it-22 ta' Lulju, 2007.

Ghal darba ohra, decizjonijiet tal-MEPA li joholqu kunflitt mar-residenti u ghaqdiet ambjentali, spiccaw biex b'mod indirett kienu mqajma f'laqgha mal-Kummisjoni Ewropeja. Fil-jiem li ghaddew il-Moviment ghall-Harsien ta' Hondoq ir-Rummien fil-Qala kellu laqgha ma' Patrick Wegerdt, ufficjal fi hdan il-Kummissarjat Ewropew ghall-Ambjent. F'din il-laqgha Wegerdt kien infurmat fid-diffikultajiet li r-residenti tar-rahal tal-Qala mistennija jkollhom bil-progetti li huma ippjanati ghal Hondoq ir-Rummien.

Fil-laqgha li damet aktar minn siegha, Wegerdt intwera ritratti ta' Hondoq ir-Rummien u l-mapep taz-zona kif ukoll x'qed ikun propost mill-izviluppaturi. Wahda mill-problemi li Wegerdt kien infurmat biha kien hemm li fil-prezent l-bajja ta' Hondoq ir-Rummien hija frekwentata sew mill-pubbliku, izda meta ser isir dan l-izviluppdin ser tkun zona privata b'access limitat. Bhala ezempju ssemma l-parkegg fiz-zona li ser ikun miftuh ghall-pubbliku se jkun ta' 90 karozza numru li mhux bizzejjed meta f'jiem partikolari dan l-ammont jinqabez kwazi bit-triplu.

Paul Buttigieg f'isem il-moviment ghamel referenza ukoll ghar-referendum li kien sar fost ic-cittadini ta' din il-lokalita', li fil-maggoranza taghhom opponew l-izvilupp, u ghall-fatt li t-triq alternattiva li kienet proposta biex minnha jghaddu t-trakkijiet fi triqthom lejn z-zona tal-progett mhix vijabbli minhabba d-djuq taghha.

Il-progett, maghruf bhala Qala Creek, ser jinkludi lukanda b'170 sodda, 200 residenza mifruxa bejn appartamenti u djar, kif ukoll yacht marina bi spazju ta' rmigg ta' 150 dghajsa.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Hondoq ir-Rummien Environment Impact Assessment

Published on The Malta Independent on Sunday on 15th July, 2007 by A. Xerri

The Hondoq ir-Rummien EIA is based on half-truths and mostly in favour of the developer. It gives one the feeling that some of these people who produced this assessment have never even been to, or know, where Hondoq Ir Rummien is located.

First of all, how can this beautiful pristine bay enjoyed by hundreds of people in winter, and thousands in summer, people from all over the world you might say, be called, and I quote from the EIA, “a dumping site”. There was never a report from anybody complaining that this bay was full of garbage, contrary to what the EIA states. Foreign residents and Maltese people invested in property in Qala and the rest of Gozo to enjoy this bay.

These are the people EIA should have checked with, not somebody out of the blue who does not know anything about this bay or care about it.

The EIA also states that the beach will not be affected by the construction of Qala Creek Project. This is not true. Who in his right mind is going to swim or enjoy the nature of this place when noise, dust mixed with diesel fumes, and explosions from rock blasting, only metres away will be the order of the day for the next five years?

If bathing is allowed during the five years of construction somebody might get killed. The reason is that the road is not wide enough to take a dump truck and a car travelling in opposite directions. The road between the Conception Sanctuary and the Rim Rock Chapel is too narrow. It is estimated that a dump truck will use this road every four minutes. MEPA take note that if the project gets the go ahead the beach and the road to the Rim Rock Chapel has to be closed from day one for the duration of this project.

Consider the size of these trucks that will be passing only two feet away from the wall of the Conception Sanctuary, which is hundreds of years old and enriched with graffiti from the day it was built. Is this the way we are trying to protect our heritage? Does anybody from the Gozo Diocese read the EIA or know about this? Does the person or persons in charge of these things care?

The EIA does not mention that some of the residents living in the Conception hamlet are going to be disturbed and even sickened by loud noise, diesel fumes and dust since these huge trucks will be driving only two or three feet away from their houses and going up a very steep narrow hill. The EIA did not mention, for the developer’s benefit, that we already have a huge problem here with dump trucks servicing the quarries. These trucks use all the major roads including Qala Square and have polluted this village making many people sick with some dying of cancer. These trucks together with the trucks from the Qala Creek Project means that a truck per minute or less will pass through this little hamlet. Already there are rumblings from foreign residents that they will pack up and leave Gozo. Some of them came from the Sliema and Mellieha areas to get away from construction. Just think how they will brand Gozo if they go.

It is also not true that this project will employ 600 workers during construction, and when completed in five years’ time, will offer another 600 permanent jobs. How could this be possible when all the hotels, including the yacht marinas in Gozo don’t have this many employees?

MEPA should never issue permits for the Qala Creek Project based on this EIA alone; another EIA must be done that protects the people of Qala and Gozo as a whole. This EIA is another attempt to steamroller the people of Qala, as this government tried to do with the referendum on this project. This government is doing nothing to protect the people of this village. There is nothing that is good for Qala where the environment is concerned; the Health and Safety Department is unheard of. Some of the streets in Qala are rated the most polluted in Gozo. Starting from the quarries and dump trucks circling the village 12 hours a day six days a week spewing diesel fumes dust and making unbearable noise that affects people’s health in the narrowest of roads. And now, they want to add the Qala Creek Project that will give pollution a boost and a higher count.

It will be humiliating for the residents of Qala village and Gozo in general and a threat to democracy if permits are issued to build the Qala Creek project at Hondoq Ir-Rummien, as 85 per cent of the residents have already voted against this project in a referendum held by the Qala council.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Teqirdux is-sbuhija ta’ Ghawdex

Pubblikata fuq l-Orizzont nhar l-5 ta' Lulju, 2007 minn Justyne Caruana.

Ghawdex ghandu sbuhija naturali li taghti lill-gziritna valur mizjud. Dan il-potenzjal ta’ min jirrikonoxxih u jippromwovih. Imma minkejja li hawn hafna li jghajtu li jhobbu lil Ghawdex u li ghandu jigi protett, meta mbaghad nigu ghall-fatti nsibu li l-verità hija mod iehor.

Wara li tlifna lil Marsalforn u x-Xlendi in konsegwenza ta’ zvilupp bl-addocc, mess imbaghad lill-wied ta’ Imgarr ix-Xini fix-Xewkija u lil Hondoq ir-Rummien u dan bil-barka tal-Gvern u ta’ l-Awtorità ta’ Malta Dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar. L-ahhar erezija mbaghad kienet l-approvazzjoni tal-permess ghall-izvilupp qawwi tar-Ramla l-Hamra.

Fejn il-MEPA turi id tal-hadid ma’ min jiftah xi tieqa ikbar milli suppost, fil-kaz ta’ dawn il-vilel kollha, Alla jbierek, il-‘policies’ kollha gew sodisfatti. Il-MEPA suppost qieghda hemm biex tissalvagwarda l-ambjent u mhux tkun il-bojja tas-sbuhija naturali ta’ Ghawdex taghna.

Will Mepa pull its head out of Ramla sand? (2)

Published on The Times of Malta on Thursday 5th July, 2007 by Anne Zammit.

Throughout the Ramla permit saga, Mepa has continued to insist (NGOs To Stage Protest Over Ramla Permit - June 19) that "no objections whatsoever were received" during the 15-day window when the outline permit was quietly placed on their website along with hundreds of other applications for comment.

A few pages later, in Mepa's own One World ("Let the facts speak!") slot the authority listed four legal objectors - Gaia, AD, Xaghra residents and Din l-Art Helwa when the Ramla site came up again in a full development application. If such wide-ranging objections are to count for nothing, why did Mepa submit that application for public comment at all?

The objection from Din l-Art Helwa, an organisation which relentlessly goes to great pains to check and re-check the facts, was "sent late". We hope this was not grounds for rejection of the well-researched submissions. At least someone inside Mepa has got their facts right. Why were these objections not given equal prominence in the press accounts? It is little wonder public trust of Mepa's double dealings has crumbled when the right (development) arm seems not to know or care what the left (environment) arm is trying to drive home.

The system is not working. The concerns of a united environment front of NGOs, vigilant enough to notice this sad fact, should be heard out calmly with respect and shown every due attention while strong restraint toward the rampant mega-project fast-tracking via dubious waiving of EIAs or the proper (not cosmetic) landscape impact studies is urgently put in place.

I look forward to a good public turnout for the rally being organised by NGOs at City Gate, Valletta on Monday at 6.30 p.m. to raise full awareness over the developments which are poised to strike at the heart of Gozo again - Ta' Cenc and Hondoq ir-Rummien coastline.

Infringement procedures welcomed

Published on The Times of Malta on Thursday 5th July, 2007.

Nature Trust (Malta) has expressed satisfaction at the European Commission's decisions to start infringement procedures against the Maltese government over a number of environmental issues.

The trust said Ramla l-Hamra, the Nadur cemetery, the Mellieha development, the approval of development in outside development zone areas and the lack of protection for sites such as Wied Moqbol and the Ta' Cenc plateau represented but a small fraction of the issues facing Malta's natural heritage.

Thanks to EU membership, civil society could today voice its concerns over the natural environment to the European Commission, the NGO said.

It noted that it had been lobbying with the EU to obtain protection status for the Ta' Cenc plateau area, as well as for Hondoq ir-Rummien and other ecological sites, all of which were facing the threat of unsustainable projects.

Nature Trust said the merger of the Planning Authority and the Environment Protection Department was a disaster, claiming more weight was now being given to development considerations.

Mepa board members, it insisted, should not be political appointees but be nominated from among planners and environmentalists equally. Only then would Mepa be considered as a guardian of the environment

Ramla: Naming of Mepa board members

Published on The Times of Malta on Thursday 5th July, 2007 by James A. Tyrrell.

I was shocked to read the letter by André Chetcuti of St Julians, entitled An Act Of Intimidation (June 30). Why should the names of people who voted for the disgraceful development at Ramla not be read out in public? What gives members of the Mepa board the right to anonymity? These people are in public office and as such they are answerable to the general public for the decisions they make.

He goes on to speak of this as a premeditated act of the organisers. Of course it was and rightly so. This was a protest rally; did Mr Chetcuti perhaps expect them to print the posters on the spot? He then speaks of attacking the person and his/her reputation, which is of course rubbish. No right-minded person could see this as an attack on an individual board member. The attack, if that is the right description for what took place, was directed fairly and squarely at the Mepa board.

Any shame pertaining to this situation rests with Mepa and the board members who voted in favour of the Ulysses Lodge application, the Nadur graveyard, the Hondoq ir-Rummien development, etc. As for such tactics damaging the environmental lobby, what utter rubbish. Mr Chetcuti ought to look at the number of people who attended this rally compared to the last. I make it at least a 50 per cent increase.

The people of Malta and Gozo have finally awakened to the fact that developers are being allowed to destroy their homeland. They have finally awakened to the fact that Mepa are fiddling while the islands are being raped for financial profit. Mr Chetcuti must not ostracise himself from his own people by trying to defend the indefensible.

Force of numbers

Published on The Times of Malta on Tuesday 3rd July, 2007 by James A. Tyrrell.

I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to all those who took part in the "National Save Gozo Protest", and made it such a success. A special thanks goes to Astrid Vella from FAA and to all the other NGOs, political parties and associations who were there to show their support for this worthy cause. My biggest congratulations however is reserved for the ordinary men, women and children of Malta and Gozo who gave of their time to make this protest march such a success in spite of the stifling heat. This has sent a clear message to the government in general and to Mepa in particular that the voting public will no longer tolerate their underhand tactics.

Hopefully it will show the ordinary person in the street that they can make a difference, that they can do something about the destruction of their historic country. To these ordinary men and women I say this: In the Amazon River there is a fish which everyone in the world has heard of, the piranha.

On their own they are nothing, just an annoying little fish which may give you a nip and at worst can be seen as an irritation. This is how most governments, including this one, think of individual citizens who complain about their policies - as an irritation. However, when the piranha gets together with a few thousand like-minded friends they can reduce a horse to bones in seconds. No longer just an irritation, but a force to be reckoned with. You, the people of Malta and Gozo are now exactly that, a force to be reckoned with. Keep it up.

This is just the beginning. Hopefully the next protest march will be even bigger and the one after that bigger again. The hardest thing to achieve in any fight for change is the initial movement. Once you have overcome that resistance to movement, which has now been done, keeping up and indeed accelerating that movement becomes easy.

Once again well done to everyone involved and to Mepa a warning - time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Do not destroy our legacies

Published on The Sunday Times of Malta on Sunday 1st July, 2007 by Mr Leo Cauchi.

The Ramla and Hondoq projects are opportunities to further enrich those who are already rich! This victimised area should be looked on as the legacy of the Maltese and Gozitans, to be enjoyed as places of relaxation and unspoilt natural beauty.

Since the Hondoq project is still a hot issue, the Ramla project is adding insult to injury! It is symbolically accurate to open up a cemetery on the Ramla road for this cemetery, with the proposed villas, will be the death of the bay as we know it.

And who will afford these houses at Hondoq? Not the average newlyweds who are trying to start out in life, but the super rich who, I am sure, already have a house to live in.

Why buy them? To satisfy their egocentric desire for a status symbol to set them above the common man! Next, I wouldn't be surprised if this segregation is taken a further step by having the beaches, or at least parts of them, privatised as has already happened in some places.

There was once a 'scramble for Africa' by the superpowers, ready to suck the colonies dry to enrich themselves. That scramble had left serious consequences on the colonies.

Now we are seeing something similar - a scramble for prime real estate for certain developers to further enrich themselves; this too will have serious consequences on the environment and on the people.

I was recently at Hondoq swimming with a tourist friend. It was heaven until two speedboats turned up showing off. The exhaust fumes and noise pollution destroyed that heaven. If two boats could do that, then what will a yacht marina do?

I agree that these places, especially Hondoq, could do with a 'facelift' but what is being proposed is an absolute, irreversible face transplant! Do not destroy our legacies.