SOS Hondoq News

Monday, May 31, 2010

Stormy meeting over Hondoq Creek Mega-Project Proposal

Published on on Thursday 27th May, 2010.

Todays public consultation meeting about the proposed mega-development at Hondoq Creek started on an angry note this afternoon, after arriving protestors discovered that over half the seating had already been taken by members of the Gozo construction industry and their supporters.

The protestors reacted angrily when the lack of seating prevented them from entering the hall and Qala Local Councillor, Paul Buttigieg, called for the partitions at the back of the hall to be removed to make room for all of the protestors. However, some of the protestors took matters into their own hands and quickly moved all the partitioned seating to the front of the hall.

The meeting then opened with both those protesting against the development and those in favour presenting their opposing views to the gathered meeting, inevitably accompanied by some angry outbursts from both sides..

The Hondoq Creek mega-project proposes a development rising seven storeys high along the Qala hillside, including a hotel, 250 residences, shops, restaurants and a yacht marina. As an alternative, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), along with Qala Local Council, organised a competition for University architecture students to design a national park plan for the Hondoq Creek, as the area was originally designated.

While the developers have always inisisted that the project is going to be kept in the quarry area from their plans one can see that the yacht marina is going to spill over onto the area enjoyed by those who use Hondoq bay every summer, the developers own Environment Impact Assessment actually admitted that having a yacht marina only a few meters away will negatively impact the pristine waters of the bay.

Opponents of the proposal pointed out that here will also be an impact on the health of the residents of Qala, which has the second highest rate of air pollution in Gozo due to the passage of heavy vehicles to the nearby quarries. The project will further choke the narrow village streets with the the exhaust of thousands of daily car trips transporting tourists, staff and supplies to the hotel, restaurants, shops and housing units.

Those opposed to the development also said that Gozo’s tourism does not need a huge project destroying its characteristic bays and valleys, rising seven storeys up the hillside, and eventually employing foreigners at low wages, not Gozitans and such a project will only serve to kill off other establishments and ruin Gozo’s image, just like the over-development at Marsalforn and Xlendi.

They stressed that Gozo needs the promised national park with heritage trails to the Qala tower, organic farming and nature walks, a small amphitheatre and better beach facilities, saying that these are the things that attract more tourists to Gozo all the year round, not mega-projects.

The Gozo Business Chamber has said that the Chamber is in favour of the project, as long as MEPA can ensure that there is a balance between protecting the environment and creating jobs in Gozo. GRTU Director General, Vince Farrugia, has also expressed his support for the proposed development.

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Anger in Qala

Published on the Malta Independent on Friday 28th May, 2010 by Noel Grima.

The last time a public consultation had been held in Qala regarding the Hondoq ir-Rummien project was September 2002. A superficial comparison would show that yesterday once again, despite the project having been meanwhile slashed and adapted, the meeting developed into a rowdy, noisy meeting with a lot of shouting and with hot tempers flaring.

But since from the media present I was the only one who had been there in long-ago 2002, I could note certain important changes.

In 2002, the meeting was dominated by the clergy of the place. Yesterday only one priest was present and he spoke last. In 2002 no one from the village dared show he was in favour of the project under pain of being ostracised by the community. Yesterday, some pro-project voices were heard and there was a clear presence in the crowded hall of supporters of the project.

Again, while some pro-project speakers, notably Vince Farrugia whose intervention was punctuated by roars and protests, (leaving the hall, Mr Farrugia was attacked by a person from the crowd and suffered a small cut to the chin) clearly raised hackles, other pro-project speakers were heard out in silence and respect. Such was the case, for instance of Dr Gordon Cordina.

There was a bedrock of opposition to the project by the Qala residents but the focus of the opposition now centres on the yacht marina project, rather than the project as a whole. While some old-timers would want to retain everything as is, others are prepared to see the quarry in the bay cleaned up and something done about it, although the most that some could bring themselves to say was to suggest turning it into a park, just as the government is doing with Maghtab in Malta.

Many times, especially in the first hour or so, the meeting came dangerously close to developing into a fully-blown riot. First, far too many people turned up than the hall could hold, and people banged angrily at a panel of explanatory posters which stood in their way until this was removed to the back of the hall.

Then something quite serious happened: the meeting refused to allow anybody to speak in English, which is a pity because 10% of the Qala residents are foreign and many of these residents were actually in the hall to support the residents against the project. There was an almost corresponding xenophobic sentiment against the people from Malta, although on the boat coming back one could notice some of the most vociferous opponents coming back to Malta.

Visually, the television and maybe newspaper photo coverage would probably focus on an elderly white-haired woman who could not be kept down. She kept jumping up and shouting and not even a quiet word from the police inspector could calm her down. People said she used to be the locality’s headmistress. Then, in the midst of the mayhem, a burly policewoman strode into the room intent on grabbing the lady and pushing her out. Wiser counsels prevailed and suddenly the lady was told to sit next to me (I swear I had nothing to do with it) and she calmed down. Later she made a speech which was quite well-structured and she was heard in silence and applauded later.

At the beginning of proceedings, Qala councillor Paul Buttigieg showed an amateur video showing Hondoq as people know it. But without his realising it, some people who saw it commented later that this was precisely the no laws Hondoq that many people seem to want to preserve.

Astrid Vella from Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar focused on the Mepa process: when Mepa itself did an exercise to see if any yacht marina site could be found in Gozo, it studied 11 places but Hondoq was not among them. Mepa’s Natural Heritage Committee also did a report which was not included in the EIS. And as for Mepa monitoring, Ms Vella showed photos of what happened in Sliema (Portomaso) under Mepa monitoring.

Time and again the Portomaso history was resurrected since an ecological disaster happened when the sea was let into the dug-out bay and all careful preparations were swept aside and the local fauna, Posidonia Meadows just as there are outside Hondoq, became clouded. Edward Bencini, the Hondoq project architect, who had also been the Hilton architect, said that after some time the Posidonia Meadows had healed themselves and today the sea quality inside the Hilton artificial bay is so clean that big fish come and swim in and people swim just outside the entrance. The part regarding the Posidonia Meadows was vociferously contested by Alan Deidun.

The sea quality of Hondoq was time and again praised by many speakers and it was clear they were worried that allowing the bay to be dug up, just like the Hilton, could introduce alien pollution into the bay. One speaker even said the pollution from Hondoq might even pollute nearby Blue Lagoon in Comino.

Towards the end, a returned migrant, Joseph Galea from Ghajnsielem, who said he works in yachts, spoke of the danger of anti-fouling paint polluting the whole bay.

People also pooh-poohed the claim by Architect Mariello Spiteri for the applicant that the bay will be washed every three days and that in case of pollution, the bay will be sealed off from the sea by a curtain and the pollution collected by means of a special boom. While such tools undoubtedly exist, the people at the hearing were not ready to believe this could be done. What they know is the pristine quality of the sea at Hondoq.

Vince Farrugia’s attempt at speaking was many times drowned by roars of anger. First some objected to his speaking at that phase since that time was reserved for NGOs, as GRTU, for them, is not an NGO. Mr Farrugia interpreted this as someone attempting to shut him up. It is difficult to get investment to Malta and especially to Gozo, he said. People want jobs for their children. The opposition against this project means that the people of Gozo do not want even investment from Gozo.

Michael Grech, from the Gozo Business Chamber, made much the same points but since he spoke quietly, his words did not raise the walls of anger that had met Mr Farrugia.

Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg spoke at length and was heard out quietly. He claimed, amid other

things, that the social report in the EIS did not do what the local council did when it held a referendum in 2002 and 85 per cent of the 75 per cent who were interviewed said they were against the project. Instead the compiler of the social report, who later turned out to be Professor Mario Vassallo, asked people not just from Qala but also from Nadur and Ghajnsielem and then lumped them together. Prof. Vassallo did not ask people in Nadur whether they would want such a project at the two bays of Nadur. (Prof. Vassallo rose to state that the terms of reference were set out by Mepa. And after all, Hondoq is peopled in summer not just by people from Qala but from both Malta and Gozo.)

Mr Buttigieg also claimed that the Traffic Impact Assessment was done wrongly as measurements were taken in junctions outside the village and not in the village core.

This was reinforced later by many people especially elderly who spoke of the daily battle they wage against trucks who despite all rules and monitoring claims, pass through the narrow roads of the village and leave very little space for pedestrians.

As time went by, and the meeting ran over its projected time by about two hours, although many of the crowd left the hall, the situation tended to degenerate at times.

Some intra-village feuds came to the fore, as when Deputy Mayor Dr Ray Xerri spoke, causing some to exhibit extreme anger against him, possibly because he broke ranks and supported the project.

Alan Deidun asked why the EIS did not refer to an MMA study on the yacht marina project in Gozo. He also claimed that many EU directives were not referred to.

Mr Bencini showed photos of St George’s Bay, the only Blue Flag bay so far in Malta, which has yachts tied up some distance from the beach but no pollution reaches the bathers and the sunbathers. This will be the only Yacht Marina Village in Malta. There will be 8750 square metres of space open to the public.

Dr Gordon Cordina showed a presentation which showed that Gozo has a lower GDP output than Malta, 8000 to 11,000, less jobs. For Gozo to reach Malta’s levels 2,000 new jobs must be created. This project will create 600 jobs at construction time, with a multiplier effect of 1000 jobs and while in operation will employ between 200 and 400 jobs.

Doing nothing may be an option, but is it the best one? Maybe parts of the project need to be fine-tuned and enough controls and monitoring introduced to ensure nothing goes bad. Maybe the developer could also finance the studies of some people from the village or also introduce clean energy not just to the site but why not, give out PV panels to the village?

The concept of the project creating jobs did not enthuse many. One pointed out to the San Lawrenz hotel where mostly foreigners are employed. Others said only cheap jobs would be created while others still pointed out that hotels like the Mgarr and L-Andar have closed down.

Right at the end, Dun Lawrenz Theuma claimed that the quarry had been turned into a rubbish dump by the local council. “Not true”, the mayor jumped to protest: the rubbish was brought there from other places in Gozo because there was no other space to offload rubbish in Gozo. Go figure that out...

On the boat going to Gozo and also coming back, one could not but be struck by the numbers of Gozitans crossing in either direction. Most were clearly either coming from university or similar education or from work. Dr Cordina’s words continued to haunt me.

Updated: Police calm angry residents at Hondoq development consultation meeting

Published on the Times on Thursday 27th May, 2010.

The police had to intervene to calm angry residents of Qala during a rowdy meeting in the village school this afternoon about the proposed development of a yacht marina, hotel and other facilities in Hondoq Bay.

The shouting, which had characterised the Mepa-organised public consultation meeting, reached a crescendo during remarks by the deputy mayor of Qala, but the situation quickly calmed down without the officers having to eject anyone.

The meeting is part of the Environmental Impact Assessment into the proposed project, by Gozo Prestige Holidays, which includes a yacht marina, a 170-room five star hotel, tourist village and restaurants. Development is to be contained within the site of an old quarry alongside the bay.

Residents voiced their concern about the impact that traffic would have. Whenever a Mepa representative mentioned traffic arrangements – for example that traffic would not pass through the village centre and that trucks will be monitored – the room exploded into a booing chorus.

PL councillor in Qala, Paul Buttigieg, who represented the Harsien Hondoq Group, said another EIS ought to be issued that gave a clearer picture of the impact of traffic to residents quality of life. As he spoke, footage of people at Hondoq Ir-Rummien, taken last summer went on behind him on the insistence of the public. He pointed out that the footage showed the popularity of the area as a place where Gozitan families with low or medium income could relax without spending much money. If the project went ahead, he said, these people would not have an affordable place to socialise.

The meeting turned rowdy even before it started.

Qala residents who arrived just before the advised 3 p.m. time for the meeting found over half the hall already filled with men involved in the Gozo construction industry.

The residents who did not find seats were heard protesting loudly at being prevented from entering the hall. Paul Buttigieg of the Harsien Hondoq (Save Hondoq) group insisted that partitions at the back be removed to make more space.

Before this could be done, some people took matters into their own hands and moved all the seats towards the podium so that all could be accommodated.

Mariello Spiteri, the EIA Coordinator, opened the meeting with a 10-minute outline of the project which, within the first few minutes has been subjected to rowdy contestation, especially upon his stating that construction trucks would not pass through the village.

The chairman of Harsien Hondoq also gave a presentation, amidst constant shouting from the public on the developer's side of the hall.

Astrid Vella of Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar echoed the concerns of MEPA's Natural Heritage Advisory Committee about the planned project and argued that the environment impact assessment was not impartial.

She cast doubts on promises of monitoring of such a project, saying that other projects had seen caves destroyed and dust thrown into the sea in great quantities.

The developers later replied that precautions are planned to ensure that this would not happen.

Mrs Vella also quoted a report prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the Maritime Authority and MEPA, which did not even include Hondoq in its list of 12 potential sites for a new yacht marina in Gozo, due to its pristine waters.

The developers rebutted, saying that the report found Hondoq suitable for a yacht hard standing which would inflict greater anti-fouling pollution in the area.

Objectors in the crowd pointed to the fact that yachts in the marina would still pollute the sea with anti-fouling.

Mrs Vella asked how the project could even be considered in the Eco Gozo context when there were no proposals for alternative energy. She then asked to say a few words in English for the benefit of foreigners present. She was greeted with boos from the the public.

Gozitans insisted that only Maltese is used and start shouting and booing whenever an English word was used – much to the frustration of English-speaking foreign residents - some who have lived in Malta for over 10 years – who stood up to signal their presence in the room.

Following Mrs Vella, other NGOs were due to speak, but Vince Farrugia Director-General of the GRTU took the floor amidst loud contestation from NGOs, the Local Council and the public.

Some shouted that the GRTU was not an NGO to which Mr Farrugia asked why they feared his opinion.

He argued that it was very difficult to attract foreign investors to Malta as the competition in tourism was cutthroat. “We don’t need them,” one person yelled while another shouted:”they don’t come because of the bureaucracy".

To this Mr Farrugia said: “They don’t come because of people like you.”

Gozitans, he said, were not even letting Gozitans invest in their own country, Mr Farrugia said to much shouting which made much of his speech incomprehensible to most.

“Whenever an investor comes to try and invest in Gozo, you are telling him to leave,” he said.

When matters calmed slightly he made an impassioned plea to allow investment to go ahead and said the authorities should not heed objections which would limit job creation in Gozo. At this members of the public jeered, pointing out that many tourism employees in Gozo were foreign. Mr Farrugia pointed to the investor's heavy expenditure in studies to ensure the best project for the area, which he claimed presently resembled a rubbish dump.

The representative of the Gozo Business Chamber stated that the Chamber was in favour of the project as long as MEPA ensured that there was a balance between protecting the environment and creating jobs in Gozo. (boos)

“Did you forget about Eco Gozo,” one person yelled.

Alex Vella, Chairman of Ramblers Association, said it was true that investment was needed in Gozo. He asked, however, why such investments were always at the cost of land in Outside Development Zones. Why should private profit take precedence over public interest?

Paul Buttigieg (PN) the Mayor of Qala,said that the local council was not in favour of the way this project was being presented, mainly due to the effect on the residents. The Mayor found several instances where the EIA did not reflect the reality of the situation at Qala and Hondoq. He made a strong call for the project to be assessed according to MEPA reform parameters.

He claimed that the Social Impact Consultant did not stick to ethical guidelines since results of residents residing outside Qala were included with those of Qala residents. Similarly, the Traffic Impact Statement included three traffic counts, one near the Qala Local Council and the other two, outside Qala, one of them as far away as Mgarr. He insisted that the traffic impact statement was dishonest, not mentioning that the main artery to be used is only 4.2m, and not 7m wide as claimed, and seemingly totally unaware of Qala's system of one-way traffic.

Dr Mario Vassallo, the Social Impact Survey consultant, took umbrage at the allegation that the social impact survey was dishonest, saying that after all Hondoq Bay was not reserved for the residents of Qala only.

Several other residents spoke. Most insisted that while they were not against some sort of development, they wanted the actual bay to remain free of development and they needed constant monitoring to ensure that the sea remained clean and access to the bay was not stopped. They also insisted that trucks should not be driven through the village.

The developers argued that the trucks would be diverted away from the village.

People can write in as part of the consultation process to until June 3.

To view the video and comments, go to

Qala residents will resist tourist project if marina remains - mayor

Published on the Times of Malta on Friday 28th May, 2010 by Claudia Calleja.

The majority of Qala residents would continue to oppose the proposed tourist development at Gozo's Ħondoq Ir-Rummien so long as the project included a yacht marina, mayor Paul Buttigieg said yesterday at a rowdy hearing on the development.

"So long as the yacht marina remains, the local council will campaign against the permit," he said, adding that Qala's seas were known to be among Malta's cleanest waters.

He was speaking during a public consultation meeting in connection with the environmental impact assessment for the proposed project that includes a hotel, villas, apartments, shops and the contested yacht marina.

The heated meeting that lasted about four hours at the Qala primary school, was characterised by interruptions from the public, which constantly booed and shouted in disapproval of the project.

Most agreed that the abandoned quarry in the area, where the tourist complex would be built, should be developed. But there were strong objections to having a tourist complex and a marina which, residents argued, would threaten the integrity of their treasured bay.

They were also concerned about the impact of the traffic, generated by trucks during construction and by residents and visitors later.

Policemen present at the meeting were kept busy as they were occasionally called in to stop people from disturbing the discussion.

The mayor said that, according to a 2002 draft Gozo local plan, most of Ħondoq bay was listed for afforestation. However, when the plan was published in 2006, it was labelled as an area for tourism and marine-related use.

He criticised the study dealing with the transport aspect, saying it was misleading because it did not give a clear picture of the situation.

"The transport problems the project will create will affect the quality of life of Qala residents. Yet, the study gives a false reality of this," Mr Buttigieg said as he went on to explain that traffic-counts carried out ignored parts of the village such as the square.

A traffic impact statement representative insisted the study was carried out according to terms of reference decided in consultation with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, adding that traffic in the square was not studied because trucks would not pass through there.

Mr Buttigieg pointed out that, in 2002, 85 per cent of Qala residents had voted against the project in a referendum and the situation had not changed because the project remained the same in principle.

Deputy mayor Raymond Scerri agreed with the project, saying it could provide employment for the younger generation. On hearing this, a group of Qala residents started booing and one person shouted: "You betrayed us... What about eco Gozo?"

Environmentalist Alan Deidun said it was dangerous to turn an ecologically-sensitive area that had documented pristine waters into a yacht marina. "No matter how careful you are, the quality of the water will worsen," he said, referring to studies.

Astrid Vella, from Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, pointed out that, according to a previous Mepa report, Ħondoq was not included as a potential site for a marina. What had changed, she asked. She also questioned why the proposed project did not include alternative energy sources.

The director of the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises - GRTU, Vince Farrugia said Gozo had to accept investment.

"We don't need them," one person yelled as another insisted: "They don't come because of bureaucracy."

To this, Mr Farrugia replied: "They don't come because of people like you... Gozitans are not even letting Gozitans invest in their own country... Whenever an investor attempts to invest in Gozo, we are telling him to leave," he said, adding the Gozitans would pay the price for this.

Gozo Business Chamber representative Michael Grech said the chamber was in favour of the development. "So long as the planning authority ensures all goes according to permit we are in favour," he told the booing crowd.

Those interested can send in written feedback on the project until June 3 to

To view comments, go to

Residents, environmental NGOs object to Hondoq ir- Rummien development

Published on on Thursday 27th May, 2010.

A number of residents and environmental NGOs objected to the Hondoq ir-Rummien development project, which will see the construction of villas, apartments, hotels and a yacht marina.

The public hearing was held in Qala, Gozo this afternoon with Mario Spiteri, consultant of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, and Vince Farrugia, director general of the GRTU, defending the project.

Mr Spiteri said that the project will not affect the environment while Mr Farrugia attacked the objectors, saying that investment in the country does not come with “people like these.”

Astrid Vella, coordinator of Flimkien Ghall Ambjent Ahjar , asked how could MEPA approve such a project when the Government speaks of eco-Gozo.

Paul Buttigieg, spokesperson for Moviment Harsien Hondoq, reminded MEPA that the Qala residents had voted against the project in a referendum held in 2002.

Alex Vella, spokesperson for the Ramblers Association, said that the project should not come to the detriment of the surrounding area.

This project is also opposed by Nationalist Mayor Paul Buttigieg, who expressed his hope that the will of the majority will prevail.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Manuvri biex ifittex jinhareg il-permess ghall-izvilupp fil-bajja ta’ Hondoq

Pubblikata fuq l-Kulhadd nhar s-Sibt 22 ta' Mejju, 2010.

F’Ghawdex jinsabu ghaddejjin movimenti qawwija biex kemm jista’ jkun jithaffu l-affarijiet halli jfittex jinhareg il-permess ghall-izvilupp tal-inhawi tal-bajja ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien, fil-limiti tal-Qala. Bhalissa qieghda ssir pressjoni kbira minn sorsi nfluwenti hafna f’Ghawdex biex tfittex isir il-konsultazzjoni pubblika li hija prerekwizit biex tkun tista’ tigi pprocessata l-applikazzjoni ghall-izvilupp tal-progett ta’ Hondoq u fil-fatt din sejra ssir nhar il-Hamis li gej.

Fis-snin u fix-xhur li ghaddew l-ipprocessar ta’ din l-applikazzjoni kien qed jiehu l-hin tieghu u kien qed isir bir-ritmu normali. Imma fil-gimghat li ghaddew f’daqqa wahda bdiet tinghafas il-pedala tal-gass, huwa bhal donnu tezisti premura kbira biex l-affarijiet jithaffew kemm jista’ jkun malajr. Dakollu bl-iskuza li x-xoghol u l-kummerc f’Ghawdex jinsab stagnat u l-progett ta’ Hondoq li fih elementi qawwija ta’ spekulazzjoni, qed jinbiegh minn dawk li ghandhom subghajhom imbill f’dan il-progett, li dan se johloq hafna opportunitajiet ta’ xoghol huwa u jinbena u anki meta jitlesta.

Sorsi ta’ min jorbot fuqhom qalu lil din il-gazzetta li kemm l-Arcipriet u l-Kap tal-Iskola tar-rahal tal-Qala, ma accettawx li s-smigh pubbliku ssir fis-sala taghhom. Imma d-Direttur tal-Edukazzjoni ta ordni lill-Kap tal-Iskola biex il-konsultazzjoni pubblika ssir fis-sala tal-iskola. L-ikbar inkwiet ghar-residenti tal-Qala mhuwiex biss il-qirda ambjentali tal-bajja ta’ Hondoq li huma jiffrekwentaw ghall-ghum specjalment, imma kif il-volum tat-traffiku li se johloq dan il-progett kemm fil-fazi tal-kostruzzjoni tieghu u anki meta jkun lest u miftuh se jgib herba mill-qalba tar-rahal bil-volum ta’ traffiku li se jkun ghaddej minnha.
Ghalkemm l-istudju tal-impatt tat-traffiku (it-TIS) ta’ dan il-progett ghadu ma tlestix, minn kif jidher is-smigh pubbliku se jsir propju fis-27 ta’ dan ix-xahar. Bil-manuvri li qeghdin isiru dwar dan il-progett, jidher li se jiccaqilqu l-affarijiet propju f’daz-zminijiet fejn il-pubbliku in generali se jkun aljenat sew bit-Tazza tad-Dinja u l-attenzjoni ta’ dawk in-nies li jsegwu dawn l-affarijiet ghadha kkoncentrata fuq l-iskandlu tal-kuntratt tal-estensjoni tal-power station ta’ Delimara.
Huma bosta dawk li qed jistaqsu kif jista’ jsir is-smigh pubbliku dwar il-progett ta’ Hondoq jekk ghadu mhux lest it-TIS u wahda mill-problemi ewlenin li se johloq dan il-progett hija propju kif se jigi mmanigjat il-volum ferm akbar ta’ traffiku li se johloq dan il-progett.

Ghalkemm l-izviluppaturi ntrabtu li juzaw toroq alternattivi minn fejn jghaddu l-ingenji taghhom minflok it-triq principali li tghaddi minn go nofs il-pjazza tal-Qala, jezistu dubji kbar kemm jista’ jinzamm impenn bhala dan. Fil-prattika dat-tip ta’ obbligi u kundizzjonijiet minkejja li jitnizzlu fil-permess, qajla jigu osservati. Hekk perezempju l-kumpannija Road Construction skont il-permess li ghandha ghall-barriera f’Ras il-Qala, l-ingenji taghha suppost li jghaddu minn triq sekondarja imma t-trukkijiet taghhom xorta wahda jghaddu min-nofs il-pjazza tar-rahal. L-ikbar inkwiet dawk li ghandhom ghal qalbhom l-harsien ta’ Hondoq u tal-village core tal-Qala huwa li jistghu jitnizzlu l-kundizzjonijiet kollha immaginabbli fil-permess tal-izvilupp, imma fl-ahhar tal-gurnata l-volum kbir tat-traffiku xorta se jispicca jghaddi minn gol-qalba tar-rahal u f’partijiet mit-triq din bil-kemm hija wiesa’ kull 4.2 metri.

Ta’ min jghid ukoll li r-raba bejn Hondoq u l-Imgarr hu hafna minnu proprjetà ta spekulaturi kbar li qeghdin jistennew li johrog il-permess tal-progett ta’ Hondoq biex imbaghad ikunu jistghu jizviluppaw l-art taghhom.

Sadattant fi zvilupp iehor konness mal-hrug tal-permess ghal dan il-progett, il-Vici-Sindku Nazzjonalista tal-Qala Ray Xerri spicca dawwar fehmtu dwar il-progett ta’ Hondoq. Sa ftit tal-gimghat ilu Ray Xerri dejjem iddikjara li kien kontra l-progett ta’ Hondoq. Tant hu hekk f’settembru 2009 meta kienet qed tigi diskussa mozzjoni mressqa fil-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qala kien iddikjara li huwa kontra l-progett. Imma waqt il-laqgha tal-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qala li saret nhar l-Erbgha 12 ta’ Mejju, Ray Xerri ghamel kuntrumbajsa li ma bhala meta issa ddikjara ruhu li hu favur l-progett ta’ Hondoq ghax skont hu ser johloq ix-xoghol u se jnehhi l-kruha tal-barriera li hemm fil-vicinanzi. Ray Xerri huwa wiehed mis-sidien li kisbu l-permess kontroversjali biex jizviluppaw il-proprjetà li ghandhom fuq il-Belveder tal-Qala.

Save Ħondoq before Gozo is destroyed (1)

Published on the Times of Malta on Wednesday 26th May, 2010 by Lesley Kreupl, Gharb.

It seems that there is a certain bunch of Gozitans who are intent on destroying this wonderful island and will stop at nothing to gain their Judas euros in the process. They have already destroyed Fort Chambray and the harbour and they are in the process of trying to ruin Dwejra. Ta' Dbiegi - the highest point on Gozo - was almost turned into a mushroom farm by one of them and Marsalforn will soon have its own high rise buildings to add hundreds of new apartments to the already thousands of derelict ones.

The list is endless.

What is happening to the Gozo so many of us love and cherish and care for? Who is trying to destroy it? Who is backing them? How do they get permits to build the unimaginable? I leave the answers to these questions to readers' own imagination.

The argument that the marina project in Ħondoq ir-Rummien will create numerous jobs for Gozitans is totally unrealistic and untrue. Several construction jobs may be created for a couple of years. However, we all know that the construction industry now uses foreigners whenever possible, so the number of new jobs created for Gozitans will be minimal. On completion, the complex will also employ foreigners, as is the case in the Kempinski hotel in San Lawrenz for example, and the upmarket hotels in Malta. This is unfortunate, but true.

Among other things, what this project will do is destroy one of the last unspoilt sandy bays on the island - forever. The resulting pollution from the yachts/boats, hotel and apartments will cause irreparable damage to the marine ecology of the area, including the channel and the Island of Comino.

The construction phase will cause air and noise pollution, not only in Qala but across the whole island as construction waste and quarry stone is transported to and from the area. The need for additional stone will most likely result in permission being given for yet another stretch of arable or virgin land to be quarried.

Yes, there are many improvements that need to be implemented to make Ħondoq more welcoming, however, remember that if the application for this unrealistic development project is approved, Ramla will be next, followed by Dwejra, and maybe San Blas, Daħlet Qorrot and Mġarr ix-Xini as well.

It is time that all Gozitans realise their island is very special and that they must do their utmost to save what little is left of it. The tourist industry is still the main source of income for the island but hundreds of new tourist destinations have opened up all over the Mediterranean in the last few years creating fierce competition. Tourists no longer need to visit a polluted, noisy, concrete jungle filled with derelict buildings and surrounded by polluted water, to enjoy a bit of sun.

Wake up and stop the destruction, before this description really fits Gozo and there is nobody left to perform its Last Rites!

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Save Ħondoq before Gozo is destroyed (2)

Published on the Times of Malta on Wednesday 26th May, 2010 by David Pisani, PRO, Żminijietna - Voice of the Left, Valletta

The residents of Qala should unite with Qala's Labourite mayor, Paul Buttigieg, the Green Party and various environmental, social and political organisations to convey a united opposition, against the proposed project that will ruin one of the most beautiful natural places of public use in Gozo.

The proposed area is one outside the development zone, mainly frequented by the public both for swimming and hiking purposes.

A referendum conducted amongst the people of Qala showed clearly that 85 per cent of the people disagree with the proposed project.

The government should implement a clear policy for an "Eco-Gozo" that will lead to the rehabilitation of Ħondoq ir-Rummien, through public investment, with special attention to the natural environment of the area and the regeneration of the old quarry with the planting of trees.

It is in developers' interest to portray the project as environmentally sound, but this is very far from reality. The construction of a yacht marina at Portomaso resulted in the destruction of a historical wall trench and the area is no longer accessible to the public for swimming and other recreation purposes. The interests of the few is leading to the ruin of the natural beauty of the Maltese Islands. The same will happen in Qala if a permit is granted.

Tomorrow, Żminijietna will attend Mepa's public hearing to give its full support against the destruction of Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hondoq ir-Rummien in peril

Published on the Malta Independent on 26th May, 2010 by A. Jones.

The copious volumes of data in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Hondoq development proposals, produced by the development applicants and their consultants, for MEPA, make it almost impossible for the average citizen to make any reasoned assessment of the reports, but this of course is what the developers were hoping. Why hasn’t the government appointed independent and unbiased specialists to carry out an environmental assessment for the nation?

No one disagrees that Hondoq is in need of regeneration and refurbishment from its current dilapidated state. In the pre-2006 Local Plan, GZ-Qala-4, the Hondoq ir-Rummien area was scheduled for “exploitation of the existing mineral reserves followed by rehabilitation of the area with the condition that at least 75 per cent of the site should be afforested with preference given to public open-air recreational facilities”. How was it that these requirements were changed later in 2006 to read: “Development, within the boundaries of the Hondoq ir-Rummien, as indicated on map 14.8-E, for tourism and marine related uses”? I wonder who authorised the change.

The extraction of thousands of cubic metres of ‘hard rock’ (at great profit to the owners, or the eventual owners of the site) to a depth well below sea level and inland to produce a new coastal contour to Gozo and to allow the removal of soil and garigue, the destruction of habitats, flora and fauna, the changes of water courses and coastal topography cannot be justified or considered compliant with even the revised, ‘questionable’ local plan. Not to mention the major impact such a development would have on the environment in the short and long term and the adverse social impact on the Gozitans’ and Qala village life in particular. Where does this proposal fit into Eco-Gozo?

The developer’s argument is that the construction of the extensive hotel, chalets, apartments, shops and the marina for upper-class foreign and local rich tourists will improve Hondoq, the Gozo economy and employment prospects. This has not been the case with other such schemes, look at the Fort Chambray fiasco as one example. Do the authorities think they can do any better at Hondoq? The social and economic balance will most likely be upset to the long-term detriment of most of the indigenous population and in particular the village of Qala. In addition there is a major danger that the short- and longer-term visitors arriving by sea to the proposed high class marina will encourage smuggling, and drug trafficking and all the other modern day sicknesses borne of greed, power and corruption as evident in many other developed Mediterranean coastal marine settlements. Does Malta / Gozo wish to eclipse the Costa del Sol?

The developer’s architects say “buildings will be designed in a truly Mediterranean context and that the architectural style and character will be traditionally Gozitan”. This is a pure play on words and a contradiction of the developer’s intent to produce a high class five-star complex. What five-star yuppie holiday maker would be willing to stay in the average Gozitan village dwelling? In other words, the development will be more like a modern concrete jungle, a scar on the tranquil Gozo landscape.

Gozo has no further natural bays in which to develop new marinas. Hondoq does not readily provide such a site, without the proposed major quarry excavations and scarring of the island’s natural beauty. If the Maltese Islands need to increase their yacht marina capacity, then use the existing bay sites in Malta, e.g. turn the whole of St Paul’s Bay into a marina, if they like, not re-model the Gozo natural land/seascape to satisfy some megalomaniac scheme set on destroying the island’s charm. The developer’s consultants argue that “Marsalforn Bay is geared to the mass tourism market and that only a small marina could be accommodated and that such a marina would only generate a limited economical spin-off for Gozo”. This is biased and no more proven, nor is an enlarged marina at Mgarr which was once a pleasant swimming bay for the locals. Enlarging an already disfigured area makes more sense than the destruction of Hondoq. The suggestion that the Maltese Islands and, in this case, Gozo should become, I quote, “an international hub for yachting and maritime activities” is ludicrous; as suggested earlier, if such a plan is in the mind of the government then develop the marinas on Malta, not Gozo.

Government has designated Gozo as an ‘eco-island’. If this is its true intent, refurbish and re-establish the Hondoq quarry into a heritage park for the nation but do not allow it to be developed as a massive upmarket private hotel and marina village after they first turn the village of Qala into a quarry site for five years or so while the developers get rich and the local population suffers for generations to come. If this massive development is ever given the green light by Government and the planning authorities, how long will it be before the greedy, power-hungry barons of modern day Gozo take it upon themselves to develop the whole coastline between Hondoq and Mgarr to turn it into a concrete eyesore destroying this island paradise for ever?

Three final points of great concern: first, does MEPA honestly have the skills or resources to control and manage a development of the size envisaged and safeguard the nation and population from exploitation and corruption? Secondly, does Malta have the power generating capacity to service the proposed development requirements, the EIS mentions 6000 Mw. hrs per annum. Thirdly, as a Gozo resident and member of Wirt Ghawdex committed to the protection and preservation of Gozo’s fragile heritage, it is clear that the island does not have the infrastructure, roads, services, or desire to accommodate the proposed development at Hondoq, so why has the application been allowed to get this far? Maybe it would have been wiser to reject the application in 2002 before all the money had been invested in the abortive and extremely lengthy Environmental Impact Statement.

Gozitans, stand up and defend your island, this is supposed to be a modern day democracy not a Medieval feudal state, say NO to the development project at Hondoq ir-Rummien at the forthcoming public meeting in Qala and save your country.

Proġett bla bżonn

Pubblikata fuq Illum nhar t-23 ta' Mejju, 2010 minn Alessio Mizzi.

Ma nafx għaliex f’dan il-pajjiż ma nitgħallmu qatt. Jekk immorru ftit ta’ snin lura nsibu li kienu jinbnew il-lukandi żgħar u kbar u kienu jiftaħru kemm se jġibu turisti u kemm kienu se jħaddmu nies magħhom. Imma ġara li l-lukandi bdew jaqgħu qishom karti tal-logħob u flokhom jinbnew appartamenti u addio x-xogħol li jkunu wiegħdu.
F’Għawdex djar u appartamenti vojta għandna daqs dawk abitabbli, jekk mhux aktar, u se nkomplu nibnu u nibnu aktar. Li jkollok dar qadima u twaqqagħha fiha u ma fihiex, imma li tibni appartamenti fuq art verġni u barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp bħal ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien hija storja oħra.
Possibbli li hawn nies li ħalfu li fil-ftit snin li se jqattgħu f’din id-dinja jridu jeqirdu dak kollu li hu naturali?
Qed nirreferi għall-proġett ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien, għaliex meta tagħmel proġett igawdi minnu kulħadd u mhux ftit nies biss.
Barra l-ħsara li se ssir fuq l-ambjent pittoresk u naturali ta’ ħondoq, se ssir ħafna ħsara wkoll lis-saħħa tal-poplu. Sakemm jitlesta l-proġett u anke wara t-traffiku jrid jgħaddi minn triq waħda li partijiet minnha wiesgħa biss erbgħa metri u ftit.
Meta jkunu għaddejjin it-trakkijiet minn din it-triq, kull min ikun għaddej bil-mixi, bilfors ikollu jidħol f’xi bieb ta’ xi dar biex ma jitgħaffiġx bit-trakk. Ta’ min jgħid ukoll li fil-preżent diġà qed jgħaddu trakkijiet għal żewġ barrieri kbar u impjant tar-ready mix. Diġà qed ngħixu f’inkonvenjent esaġerat.
Dan it-traffiku kollu jrid jgħaddi minn quddiem żewġ skejjel, mill-pjazza tar-raħal u mal-ġenb tas-Santwarju tal-Kunċizzjoni li għandu mijiet ta’ snin. Mela t-tfal se jibilgħu l-exhaust tat-traffiku u l-ħsara strutturali fid-djar tagħhom.
Għaliex ma jsirx Traffic Impact Assessment suriet in-nies u jsir fi Triq l-Imġarr, fi Triq 28 ta’ April 1688 u fi Triq il-Kunċizzjoni u mhux bħal dak li sar, fażull għaliex sar barra r-raħal tal-Qala?
Possibbli li l-awtoritajiet jagħlqu għajnejhom u jsoddu widnejhom għall-karba tan-nies biex Ħondoq ir-Rummien jibqa’ fl-istat naturali tiegħu u ma jsirx Xlendi ieħor.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Approval of Hondoq ir-Rummien project would be a mockery of Eco-Gozo

Published on on Wednesday 19th May, 2010.

Environmental NGOs said that the credibility of Eco-Gozo campaigns hangs in the balance as the Qala Creek project for a hotel, approximately 250 residences and a yacht marina in the Hondoq hillside is assessed.

The environment and heritage NGOs Archaeological Society Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, GAIA Foundation, said: “The approved Gozo and Comino Local Plan proposes the Hondoq ir-Rummien
area as a Site of Ecological Importance, a Site of Scientific importance for its geology, an Area of Ecological Importance and as a Category ‘A’ valley.”

Moreover a proposed Area of High Landscape Value (AHLV) which imposes the tightest restrictions against residential, commercial or tourism development, including roads and public utility services.

The NGOs strongly support these recommendations - in a year dedicated to sustainability and biodiversity. Approval of a project that destroys habitats and proposes large-scale building in the countryside with very negative effects on Qala village, would make a mockery of Eco-Gozo.

The seven NGOs therefore urge MEPA to refuse this project, and to stand by its Chairman’s recent words: ‘The Board takes decisions based on today’s planning policies and on the principle of sustainable development while making sure that permits are granted in the public interest.’

Eco-Gozo campaign credibility in the balance - NGOs

Published on the Times of Malta on Wednesday 19th May, 2010.

Seven environment and heritage NGOs maintain that the credibility of the Eco-Gozo campaign hangs in the balance as the Qala Creek project to build a hotel, 250 residences and a yacht marina in the Hondoq hillside is assessed.

Archaeological Society Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, GAIA Foundation, Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq, Ramblers Association and the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement said that the approved Gozo and Comino localplan proposed the Hondoq ir-Rummien area as a site of ecological importance, a site of scientific importance for its geology, an area of ecological importance and as a category ‘A’ valley. It is also a proposed area of high landscape value (which imposes the tightest restrictions against residential, commercial or tourism development, including roads and public utility services.

The organisations said they were seriously concerned about the impact of the project on the residents of Qala, 85 per cent of whom had voted against the project.

In 2002, a Mepa air pollution study found Qala to be twice as polluted as Sliema, mainly due to heavy vehicle traffic to the nearby hardstone quarry.

Mepa surveys on Gozo yacht marinas eliminated Qala as a potential site due to its pristine waters. Although the developers insist that the sandy beach would not be touched, their own scientific report clearly stated that Hondoq Bay would definitely be affected by the release of the anti-fouling compound.

While conscious of the need to create employment in the tourism sector, the NGOs questioned whether this project would achieve this in significant numbers since other tourist establishments in Gozo were resorting to low-wage foreign labour.

Much of the project, they said, was s planned as multi-ownership units which would attract Maltese buyers but would generate fewer employment opportunities.

The NGOs said that the present neglect of the area should not justify a speculative project. Prior to 2002, the land was designated as a national park; in fact the dumping was approved by the Qala Council as infill to start implementing the park plans.

“The proposed development of a port, hotel, yacht marina and tourist village would change the character and very nature of this area; the present peace and quiet which are the main attraction of Hondoq ir-Rummien will be totally destroyed with the coming and going of yachts and the heavy traffic to be generated.

“With Marsalforn and Xlendi already ruined by speculative development, Gozo needs to protect its quiet, rural character which is what draws tourists to the island.

“It is not just Hondoq ir-Rummien that will suffer with approval of this project, but the whole of Gozo.

“Not only will the marina sacrifice circa 10,000m2 of precious limited land to the sea, but once approved, the project could trigger a string of developments which would devour the whole eastern coast of Gozo,” they said.

The NGOs maintained that the best use of this area would be its integration into a wider context of maritime, cultural and agricultural landscapes, combining a natural park planted with local trees, organic farming, a heritage trail to include bicycle tracks and pathways connecting to the fort at Ras il-Qala, rock climbing and an open air theatre.

With the reinstatement of the watercourse, a managed beach offering barbeque stations, the provision of car-free transport and facilities integrated into the landscape, a holistic project would attract more tourists year-round than yet another speculative project.

Such a project as proposed by the University architecture students in the FAA/University/Qala Council award would result in a win-win situation for the residents of Qala who would continue to enjoy the area.

It was also economically feasible - the MEPA Natural Heritage Committee remarked that the EIA “completely put aside the fact that both mineral extraction and infilling generate a substantial amount of revenue. The Panel feels that this latter alternative has only been superficially explored, definitely not exhaustively and deserves further consideration.”

The NGOs said that refusal of this project would permit the government to purchase the site at non-development rates and to convert the quarry into a national park as previously planned, attracting more tourists to Gozo allowing present and future generations to enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of Hondoq ir-Rummien.

The NGOs said they strongly supported this recommendation and urged Mepa to refuse this project.

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