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.