SOS Hondoq News

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Preserving Gozo

Published on The Times of Malta on Tuesday 29th April, 2008 by Peter Huntley.

I may not count except that I have been a regular visitor to Gozo for over 40 years, owned Ħondoq ir-Rummien to protect it, and always owned a house on the island. My large family joins me.

The value; demand from outside; the exclusivity; the unspoilt natural semi-rural charm, beaches and restaurants are what make Gozo unique in the whole Mediterranean.

It would be vandalism on a grand scale, as well as an economic disaster to relegate Gozo and its approaches to the plain uniformity of a marina, just for an apparent short-term profit for a few. Once Gozo loses its special appeal it could never be restored.

The wrath of the impending recession and European financial downturn may preserve the island where the Green Belt (ODZ) has failed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No permits Outside Development Zone

Published on The Times of Malta on Sunday 20th April, 2008 by Angelo Xuereb.

Can the Authorities or somebody please explain how this law works, or is this an environment joke? You always read in newspapers that both developers and builders apply for building permits in Outside Development Zones.

If this is a law to prevent buildings of any kind in these areas, why are permits even considered, let alone approved. Some include huge projects, like hotels, apartments, supermarkets, villas, houses, and so on. Is this a law that can be bent in any shape or form because of conflicts of interests?

It must be, because developers and contractors continue applying for permits in these areas. Places like Ta’ Cenc, Ramla Bay. Hondoq ir-Rummien and many others in mainland Malta.

If it is, it means that this law is not worth the paper it is written on. Do the Authorities realise what this is doing to communities, creating divisions among residents in these areas, and so on? Environment Impact Assessments are written mostly in favour of the applicants.

It is laughable to expect a developer or a contractor to commit to anything other than pay lip service to green policy without government regulation. Why do the authorities not inform residents that there are copies of an EIA at the local councils to be studied about a major project in these areas?

The local councils should also hold a number of meetings and explain the EIA to the residents and what is going on in their area, with a vote at the final meeting. They must also make sure these meetings are advertised and that residents know about them and how important they are. The residents of these areas are at the mercy of developers and politicians.

The problem is not the developers but this flawed and flexible ODZ law because they know that there is always a very good chance for a permit in these areas. Take for example the Qala Creek Project at Hondoq ir- Rummien. This area is not only outside the ODZ, 85 per cent of Qala residents voted against this project in a referendum held by the Qala Council that was approved by the government of the day.

This has been going on for over five years now.

Doesn’t the government know that there are more people against this project than in favour, and not only in Qala, but also in the rest of Gozo and Malta? Who is to be held accountable for this project? Was the Qala Referendum just an exercise? Does it mean anything to the authorities? Surely after five or so years a decision should have been made to scrap it.

The residents of Qala have a right to know, as are the Maltese people, as well on this island. Other than that, nothing will change except the environment getting smaller and smaller until there is nothing left.

The Save Hondoq Ir-Rummien Movement expects the new Environment Minister to do just that; save this pristine, beautiful and most popular bay for the residents of Qala and Gozo, and the Maltese and tourists. The environment is a different ball game to that of finance, which can be fixed in many ways. Money comes and goes.

There can be no more mistakes made with the environment because like Fort Chambray, they are irreversible. Isn’t that what Gozo is all about; to remain a tranquil and beautiful place for all the people of these islands to enjoy? Don’t we have enough hotel beaches already in Gozo? What will our children think of us when they will have no place to go to for a picnic, a clean beach on hot summer days, or an evening BBQ, fishing, water sport, diving, camping, Church and Qala Council picnics, also enjoyed by disabled persons, summer discos and many other functions.

Hell-bent on the destruction of Gozo

Published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 20th April, 2008 by Lesley Kreupl.

I refer to David Lindsay’s article “Ulysses Lodge, Ta’ Cenc appeals slated for 27 June” (TMIS, 13 April).

I find it unbelievable that after all the wonderful election promises and the fact that the Prime Minister himself will become the “big boss” at Mepa, that there is still talk of developing the Ta’ Cenc area, Ulysses Lodge at Ramla and the marina at Hondoq! And this is in addition to what has recently happened at Dwejra...

I do realise that there is a problem of illiteracy on the islands, and I realise as well that one of the elected ministers has a problem interpreting certain things, but surely the Prime Minister, most developers and architects, lawyers and Mepa officials do not fall into this category.

So I would like to ask the following questions:

Why is it still so difficult for these folk to understand the phrase ‘outside development zone’? These three words are really not hard to understand and I assume that there is a Maltese expression for them as well. Given that the learned gentlemen and women involved should, and I am sure they do, understand these words, why then is permission given to develop such areas?

Why is it necessary for NGOs such as FAA to waste their precious resources and time in tracking down and trying to halt permits that should never have been issued in the first place?

Why is the law being blatantly ignored, and in a lot of cases outrageously flaunted (e.g. the Lidl premises in Safi) and nothing done to punish the perpetuators?

Why are illegal buildings in ODZ areas sanctioned?

In fact, why are ODZs established in the first place if they are continuously ignored or overruled?

In Gozo, one only has to look up, on arrival at the ferry terminal, to see the ghost town of Fort Chambray. This was a project that was going to create hundreds of jobs for the people of Gozo. Ten years down the line, the majority of the units are empty and there is no sign of the hundreds of employees bustling around, just a few construction workers moving destroyed lumps of garigue and crushed wild flowers from one dump to another. The fort as such, has of course been irrevocably destroyed. The few remaining original buildings and bridges are in such a sorry state of repair that I am sure the developers are just waiting for them to fall down on their own so that new high-rise units can be built in their stead.

One moves on to the Kempinski Hotel in San Lawrence – a giant building that now looks like an inverted quarry – in the middle of once pristine agricultural land. Another project promising hundreds of jobs in the tourist industry to the Gozitans. Most of the staff I encountered on my last visit appeared to be unskilled foreign labourers and included a Bulgarian barman and a Ukrainian waitress. The amount of quarry stone alone that must have been used to build this monstrosity is a tragic waste of raw material and the quarry needed to supply such stone, a scar on the landscape.

One should also not forget what has happened to the Mgarr and Andar hotels; the former must give a wonderful first impression to incoming visitors! What an absolute, unforgivable waste of natural resources, land and manpower.

The damage to the environment on this little island is already severe. Just look at all the thousands of derelict buildings and unfinished shells that have been left to deteriorate for years. It hardly bears thinking about what will happen to it, if the marina is built in Hondoq, the villas in Ramla and Ta’ Cenc and the numerous other so-called “sustainable developments” that are on the books.

A final few questions: Can Gozo be saved? Will it in fact be worth saving if all this additional construction takes place? Should we fight for it or should we just let it sink into oblivion?

The choice is yours dear readers....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ulysses Lodge, Ta’ Cenc appeals slated for 27 June

Part of an article published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 13th April, 2008 by David Lindsay.

The Qala Creek project, meanwhile, is still at the environmental impact assessment stage. The developers are proposing the “construction of a destination port comprising hotel, yacht marina and tourist village” at the 68 square kilometre site.

Six years after the controversial Qala Creek development was shelved in 2002 following vociferous protests from the nearby village of Qala, and a referendum among residents that saw 85 per cent voting against it, the project is still on the drawing board.

The project proposal was submitted once again in December 2005 and presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) in January 2006.

The proposed developers intend spending some €90 million on the project if approved.

The beach is perhaps one of the most popular in Gozo, boasting some of the cleanest waters around the whole of the islands, while it additionally provides one of the few, if only, safe place to swim when Gozo experiences the prevailing majjistral (northwest) winds.

Opponents insist the pristine waters will become polluted as a result of heavy yacht traffic passing just metres away from the beach and, although the sandy beach has not been included in the development as such, it and the entire surrounding area will suffer and be visually marred as a result of the development.

The development, if approved, is to be wrapped up by 2010 and would comprise a five-star 170-room hotel, 25 villas, 60 self-catering units, 200 multi-ownership residences, a ‘village centre’ with a small church, administration offices, small-scale shops and restaurants and the 100-150 vessel marina.

To view the whole article go to

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Id-Dwejra, Hondoq ir-Rummien u Chambray

Pubblikata fuq it-Torca nhar l-Hadd 13 ta' April, 2008.

Ma nistax nifhem kif il-poplu tar-rahal tieghi qatt ma hu ser jitghallem. Qed nirreferi ghall-froga li saret fid-Dwejra. Ir-restaurant/information centre.

Hawn nistaqsi lil-Kunsill jekk ghamilx xi oggezzjoni ghall dan il-monstru. Iva jew le? Nixtieq li jaghtuna ftit informazzjoni . Din x`kienet r-raguni li l-ewwel thalliet titwaqqaf l-istruttura imbaghad l-MEPA waqqfitom. Mela dan ix-xoghol sar kollu matul xi lejl wiehed u l-ghada sibnieh hemm? Ghax nahseb damet ftit biex inbniet din l-istruttura. Jien wisq nibza li din l-istruttura ser tkun l-bidu ghat-tmiem tal-ambjent tad-Dwejra ghax madwar din l-area hemm zviluppaturi mustaccuni li zgur ser jippruvaw jbillu subghajom ukoll.

Possibbli l-memorja taghna hi daqshekk qasira? Insejna ta’ meta kienet qed tinbena l-lukanda f'San Lawrenz, kemm weghduna li ahna kien ser jkollna xoghol hemmekk? Mur illum u ara kemm nies minn San Lawrenz jahdmu hemm. Jien li sikwit mmur hemm qatt ma ltqajt hlief ma barranin. Possibbli forsi ghax ma ghandniex in-nemex jew ghax ma ghandniex xagharna isfar, jew ghax l-Ghawdxin ghandhom il-wicc tost li jippretendu paga dicenti?

Issa tfacca dan l-information centre/restaurant li ser jirrovina l-ambjent tad-Dwejra. Dan ghax is-sindku stqarr li jrid lil San Lawrenz jikber? Mur gibu minflok is-sindku tal-Qala kemm kieku kien jilqahhom b`idejh miftuhin ghall-progett ta' Hondoq ir-Rummien.

Ahna l-ghawdxin kemm ser ndumu ma nitghallmu - CHAMBRAY insejnih? Kemm kienu weghdu lin-nies ta' Ghajnsielem li kien ser jkollom xoghol hemm? Il-lukandi li twaqqew u gew ikkonvertiti fi flats insejnihom wkoll? Ma din taqa wkoll parti mill-lukanda ta San Lawrenz fejn nbniet flats. Possibbli l-ghamad ghar-reghba ghal-flus taghmina tant li ma naghtu kas ta xejn hlief kemm ser jibqa fis SASSLA.

Ghad jigi zmien li min ghad jigi warajna ghad jishet lil dawk l-individwi li kienu hadu dawk ic-certi decizjonijiet ghax Ghawdex gej gungla tal-konkrit. Possibli dawn in-nies qatt ma raw xi ritratt qadim u messitom l-kuxjenza ?

Hawn ndur fuq il poplu tal-Qala li kellu l-guts li jqum u jsemma lehnu biex ma tinqeridx l-bajja ta' Hondoq ir Rummien (fejn jien u l-familja ta' sikwit mmorru fis sajf) ghall meta kien organizza referendum fejn l-polpu b`maggoranza kbira oggezzjona kontrih. Possibli l-Kunsill ta' San Lawrenz ma setax jaghmel xi haga simili?

Hawn nitlob lis-sindku tal-Qala u lil dik l-ghaqda li qed jithabtu halli Hondoq ir-Rummien jibqa jitgawda minn kulhadd biex ikomplu jirsistu u jaghtu ezempju lill-kunsill taghna u lill-poplu.

Qabel naghlaq minn qalbi nitlob lill-kunsill jara x`jista jaghmel halli dan l-monstru jitlaq. Ma din l-karba ma nistax ninsa lil politici li jistghu jaghtu daqqa t'id wkoll jekk veru jipprattikaw dak li jippriedkaw.

Qalb Mugugha

Refuse all ODZ applications, Nature Trust insists

Published on The Times of Malta on Saturday 12th April, 2008.

Nature Trust (Malta) is recommending that no outside development zone permits should be issued except in the case of existing dwellings (extensions or repairs) and agricultural facilities -all other ODZ applications should be dismissed at source.

The recommendation is included in the NGO's proposals for Mepa reform which it presented to the Office of the Prime Minister. The document covers three main areas: the overall structure of Mepa, the boards and the reporting structure.

Nature Trust said it believes Mepa is unbalanced both in its operations and in terms of staff numbers, resulting in it being too biased towards development rather than environmental protection. "This is reflected in the number of officials with over 310 assigned to development and only about 90 to nature protection," it said.

It urged the Prime Minister to start the process of reform as soon as possible and suggested that until the reform is completed no decisions should be made by Mepa boards on mega projects and others that will have a negative impact on the environment such as the Mistra Ridge development, Ta' Ċenċ and Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

ODZ permits

Published on The Times of Malta on Sunday 6th April, 2008 by Angelo Xerri.

We often read that developers and individuals have applied for permits to build outside development zones (ODZ). If, by definition, ODZs were created to prevent buildings of any kind in them, why are applications for permits even considered, let alone approved?

These include large-scale projects like hotels, apartments, supermarkets, villas and luxury homes. Is the law there to be twisted this way by people with a conflict of interest? It must be, because developers and contractors continue to apply for permits in areas like Ta' Cenc, Ramla Bay, Ħondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo and many others in Malta.

Do the authorities realise what this is doing to communities, creating divisions among residents in adjacent areas? Environmental Impact Assess-ments (EIA) are written mostly in favour of the applicants. It is laughable to expect a developer or a contractor to pay anything other than lip service to a green policy without government regulation. Why are residents not informed, at least, that copies of an EIA are available at the local council offices?

Local councils should also hold meetings and explain EIAs to residents and take a vote at the final meeting.

Residents of these areas are at the mercy of developers and politicians. The problem is not the developers but the ODZ law which is flawed and flexible because they know that there is always a very good chance of a building permit being granted in these areas. Take for example the Qala Creek project at Ħondoq ir- Rummien, an ODZ area. By an overwhelming majority of 85 per cent, Qala residents had voted against this project in a referendum held by Qala council that was approved by the government of the day. This has been going on for over five years now.

Who is accountable for this project? Was the referendum just a futile exercise? Surely after five years a decision should have been taken to scrap the project. The people of Qala have a right to know. At this rate, our natural environment is doomed to disappear.

The Save Ħondoq ir-Rummien movement expects the Environment Minister to stop the project and save this pristine, beautiful and most popular bay not only for the residents of Qala but also for all Maltese and tourists.

There can be no mistakes when it comes to the environment; as in the case of Fort Chambray, they are irreversible. Isn't that what Gozo is all about - to enjoy its natural beauty, peace and quiet? Don't we have enough hotel beaches already in Gozo? What will our children think of us when they will have no place to go to for a picnic, a clean beach on hot summer days, or an evening barbecue, fishing, water sports, diving or camping?

Spring in Gozo

Published on on Saturday 5th April, 2008 by Dr. Justyne Caruana.

At this time of the year, Gozo is really at its best with springtime wafting in the air. I really feel flattered when I hear positive comments about my beloved island but then I hit the ground when the comments are negative. When you think about it however, the negative comments are well deserved because we Gozitans tend to be masochistic sometimes.

Our island is enriched with unique characteristics and places however there is a tendency to spoil. Just think about Hondoq ir-Rummien, Ramla l-Hamra, Imgarr ix-Xini and now Dwejra. All these places have all been subjected to ‘attacks’ in the name of development and progress. However, just look and consider at what happened in each and every case. All proposed developments are of mammoth stature and frankly the way seemed paved all along for the developments to go through. This contrasts greatly with minor developments which the man in the street regularly files for approval.

Now that MEPA falls under the responsibility of the Prim Minister, I really hope that we do see some changes. Prior to election we heard a lot of sweet talk regarding environmental issues in Gozo so we will have to wait and see. However, considering that we already waited during the previous legislature for something to happen or for someone from Government side to lift a finger in favour of Gozo’s environment, the prospects are very slim. Probably we will be waiting for years again in vain with Gozo’s environmental problems remaining status quo.