SOS Hondoq News

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bad days for the environment… yet again

Published on the Malta Independent on Tuesday 27th July, 2010 by Leo Brincat.

“It might sound reassuring for Mario de Marco to declare that our environment is too small to afford to suffer any more mistakes than we have already committed in the past. I could not but agree more.

But how will the PN act in practice on this issue, now and in future?”

One would have hoped that with the recent legislation on Mepa in place there would have been a different approach to environmental issues and matters.

Although admittedly some time will be needed until the Bill itself becomes fully operational, this has more to do with the prevalent spirit rather than the actual wording of the law.

As I had argued many times, there was hardly anything to fault in the original Mepa mission statement. It was almost impeccable.

But then one can also say the same about the constitution of the former Soviet Union.

In the latter case problems arose when the dictators that ran the show from Moscow came to put it into practice.

The recent statement by the Church Environment Commission on Hondoq ir-Rummien which some local newspapers even tried to gag or relegate to small print, exposes the mockery sustainable development is being subjected to right now.

It also goes to prove that preferential renewable energy rates or not for Gozitan citizens, this government does not care a fig about eco Gozo. The way the charade-like public hearing was conducted on Hondoq a few weeks ago with a former Nationalist MEP candidate behaving like a precocious child who wants it all, while lobbying for the project to be seen through, cannot be erased from memory that easily.

The message was as deafening as Giovanna Debono’s reluctance to pronounce herself on the issue – two strategic moves that showed that when push comes to shove, the Nationalists have no qualms about failing their litmus test for eco Gozo dismally.

It might sound reassuring for Mario de Marco to declare that our environment is too small to afford to suffer any more mistakes than we have already committed in the past.

I could not but agree more.

But how will the PN act in practice on this issue, now and in future.

We as a Labour Party have our statutory obligations to bind us as far as the environment and sustainable development are concerned while the PN does not. Giving it the opportunity to speak different languages to different audiences, regardless of principles and basic beliefs, so long as their opportunism and political deviousness are allowed to prevail.

The Hondoq saga should also serve as an eye opener for any future Labour Party administration; the same way that the Wied il-Qliegha saga in Mosta should and must.

The very valid reason why in the case of the Mosta scandal the environmental NGOs went one further beyond demanding resignations by also calling for court action over atrocious countryside building permits is that in this particular instance where a meadow was divided into four plots against Mepa policy while two owners gained permits to build reservoirs but built two bungalows instead, is simple for all to see and calls for remedial action rather than for further probing before one takes a clear cut position.

Not only has the auditor objected to this project, but so did the Environment Protection Directorate and Mepa’s own Heritage Advisory Committee.

How the DCC could grant the relevant permit when all Mepa’s departments urged refusal is mind boggling to say the least.

In future the PL must show strong resolve to avoid ever tilting this way by even considering yielding to certain pressures which no doubt will be brought to bear on any political party in government. If it fails to do so, then there will be little if at all to distinguish the PL and the Nationalist Party from one another, regardless of all that we may believe and uphold about the environment and sustainable development.

On such issues we need to be one in calling for people to personally shoulder responsibility for the destruction of our countryside.

On government’s part it will be pointless for the authorities to blame Mepa because as the NGOs pointed out, the highest authorities are au courant about this dismal saga and they have been so for years on end.

As your readers may have noticed I have never opted for the easy way out of embracing a tree hugging approach by rubbishing all forms of development.

I say so not only because the construction industry cannot be simply written off the map but also because I am aware that so long as a development is mapped out in a sustainable manner, there is still room for it, although the island has long become crowded out.

But to refuse to take a stand on such issues is tantamount to turning a blind eye or else looking the other way in the face of a flagrant act of environmental rape.

Whatever the future may hold, I will not look on silently while our heritage is destroyed by the very same people who are elected and employed to protect it.

It all boils down to legality. Period.

Sadder still is the fact that the dismal state of affairs at present goes far beyond Hondoq and the Mosta sagas.

It also applies to the air quality issue and how government tried to reassure one and all that it has its house in order simply because it claims to have convinced the EU that half or almost half of the occasions when it exceeded EU limits of particulate matter in our air were due to natural causes like dust from the Sahara Desert and sea spray.

In behaving in this manner and resorting to such an apologetic approach of self justification, government is trying miserably to brainwash us into believing that it is not true that we are constantly living surrounded by and facing the consequences of our emissions laden air.

All the PM’s talk about his government’s commitment to implement the air quality plan flies in the face of the constantly polluting buses, heavy vehicles and construction machinery that one comes across daily together with numerous diesel-fuelled vehicles, particularly in the heavily congested areas like Msida, Kappara Road, St Julian’s and Sliema – the ultimate permanent building site.

If these diesel-fuelled vehicles that continue to emit thick, dark fumes with no steps being taken to correct the situation can be excused under the pretext that their emissions all hail from the Sahara Desert then boy, indeed, aren’t we all living in a Third World country or even an environmentally failed state!

I hate to sound alarmist but one does not need to be a doctor of medicine – which I am not – to realise that such pollution was responsible for increased cancer rates, premature deaths from lung and heart disease, as well as for increased rates of asthma attacks.

One also has reason to feel concerned about the disparity between the evident pollution in the streets and Mepa’s allegedly favourable air quality monitoring results, mainly due to the fact that the air monitoring stations are reported to have often been placed incorrectly and were not providing data on the real situation. Even were one to exclude instances where they were not even functioning properly.

In an excellent article entitled ‘Monitoring not detecting pollution’, environmentalist Dr George Debono made it clear that irrespective of what our air monitoring stations indicate, there is no question that a large proportion of Malta’s population is regularly exposed to a serious degree of pollution, adding that such pollution is both illegal and preventable, yet nothing happens.

As Dr Debono concluded – as long as nothing is done, it can only be concluded, that, regardless of the serious health impact of the visible pollution in our streets, the government is satisfied with the situation so long as the air monitoring stations continue to provide results that paint a rosy picture and please the EU. That people’s health gets undermined is of no consequence.

In the same breadth we recently came to learn that while most other EU member states have been switching to cleaner technology for their energy generation, we have been the only country that switched over to the polluting heavy fuel oil, while claims by the Birzebbuga Environmental Action Group that despite Mepa conditions, Freeport dredging during the bathing season continues unabated have remained totally ignored.

But I am missing something.

The Parliamentary Secretary has promised a new environmental policy within the next 18 months!

Meanwhile we can all afford the luxury of dreaming on in this heavily polluted island without even risking to speculate as to how such a policy once agreed upon will be enforced and implemented.

Il-Kummissjoni Ambjent tal-Knisja dwar il-progett ta’ Hondoq

Pubblikat fuq l-Kulhadd nhar l-Hadd 25 ta' Lulju, 2010

Il-Kummissjoni Ambjent tal-Knisja ma tridx li naghmlu ‘presepju’ minn Ghawdex, izda li nizguraw li kull zvilupp li jsehh f’din il-gzira jkun wiehed li jtejjeb verament il-kwalità tal-hajja tac-cittadini u jhares lejn gwa dann ekonomiku fit-tul u ghall-gid komuni.
Wahda mill-problemi (jew diffikultajiet) identifikati mill-progett huwa l-fatt li bhalissa l-industrija tat-turizmu f’Ghawdex ghaddejja minn diffikultajiet. Il-progett ta’ Hondoq qed jipproponi li jirdoppja n-numru ta’ sodod fil-kategorija ta’ lukandi b’hames stilel, fi zmien meta lukandi ta’ dan it-tip ghandhom diffikultajiet.

Ghalhekk il-lukanda wahidha gewwa Hondoq ma tkunx eko no mikament vijabbli sakemm ma jkunx hemm il-villagg turistiku u l-marina marbutin mieghu. Fl-istess hin jinghad mill-promoturi tal-progett li l-lukanda hija parti integrali mis-servizzi bzonnjuzi ghas-success tal-marina. Fi ftit kliem: jew kollox, jew xejn!

Fl-istess waqt, dan il-progett fuq skala kbira huwa pprezentat bhala sforz sabiex jirrijabilita l-inhawi ta’ Hondoq, inkluz il-barriera mitluqa u mimlija hmieg u skart u l-art tal-madwar. L-argument baziku tal-proposta hu li jekk irridu nnaddfu lil Hondoq ghandna bzonn il-flus, u dawn il-flus ikunu ggenerati biss mill-progett fih innifsu.

L-istudju li sar fuq inkarigu tal-promoturi stess (l-EIS) isostni li l-kwalità tal-bahar ta’ dan il-post hija wahda tajba hafna u li l-ambjent tal-post hu wiehed trankwill u bla mittiefes (minkejja li matul is-Sajf mijiet ta’ nies jinvadu l-post). Dan l-istudju jidentifika numru ta’ impatti li dan il-progett jista’ jkollu fuq il-kwalità tal-ambjent tal-inhawi, izda jkun pront jispjega kif dawn l-impatti jistghu jkunu mitigati permezz ta’ numru ta’ konsiderazzjonijiet waqt il-fazi ta’ kostruzzjoni kif ukoll meta il-progett jibda jopera. Fi kliem dan l-istudju:

“The promoters and designers of the project spared no expense and left no stone unturned in order to ensure that all possible mitigating measures were taken and implemented.”

Sfortunatament, dan l-istess kliem juri t-tendenza rikorrenti ta’ dan l-istudju li jqis il-mizuri ta’ mitigazzjoni bhala mizuri li zgur ser jahdmu. Fil-verità wiehed qatt ma jista’ jaccerta ruhu li dawn il-mizuri ser ikun implementati u implementati b’success, qabel mal-istess progett jibda jopera.

L-EIS jaghmel diversi attentati sabiex juri li, minkejja l-iskala kbira tal-progett, l-izvilupp ser jeffettwa ftit li xejn il-pajsagg tal-post minhabba li hafna mill-binjiet ser ikunu ‘mohbija’ fil-hofra tal-barriera. Fl-istess waqt l-EIS jaghmel diversi paraguni mal-izvilupp tal-marina f’Portomaso, San Giljan. L-EIS jikkonferma li l-marina ser tipprovdi progett fuq skala internazzjonali li jigbed lejn Ghawdex l-istess opportunitajiet (successi) li holoq il-progett ta’ Por to maso.

Filwaqt li dan ir-ragunar jaghmel sens, l-istess ragunar iwassalna sabiex naghmlu din l-osservazzjoni: Portomaso huwa progett li mela nicca li qabel kienet okkupata mill-Hotel Hilton l-antika. Din in-nicca kienet parti integrali minn zvilupp urban kbir u mifrux li jinkludi Paceville, San Giljan u Tas-Sliema.

Fil-kas tal-izvilupp propost f’Hondoq, l-iz vi lup paturi qed isostnu li l-progett jibqa’ principalment limitat (ghallinqas il-parti il-kbira tieghu) ghall-footprint tal-barriera u l-inhawi fil-vicin. L-istess tpingijiet tal-progett jaghtu indikazzjoni ta’ zvilupp intens ta’ binjiet im daw rin mal-marina, speci ta’ Portomaso ie hor, tranpjantat f’izolament stupend f’Hondoq ir-Rummien.

Madankollu, dan hu propost minghajr konsiderazzjoni tal-impatt li dan il-progett ser ikollu fuq l-izvilupp urban u l-firxa ta’ binjiet ohra (urban sprawling) li jinbtu minnu li jibqghu jinfirxu max-xtut u ’l gewwa lejn il-Qala. Anke minn ghandu idea bazika ta’ ippjanar jistaqsi jekk hux possibbli tinjora dan l-impatt ta’ progett ta’ din id-dimensjoni?

Hemm zewg xenarji quddiemna. Jista’ jkun li, mal-medda taz-zmien, il-marina u l-kumpless ta’ Hondoq, kif proposti llum, jibqghu izolati fil-kampanja meraviljuza tipikament Ghawdxija. Inkella jista’ jkun li, maz-zmien, dan it-tieni Portomaso gewwa Hondoq, iservi ta’ centru li minnu nfirxu binjiet ohra ferm ’lil hinn minn dawk li jkunu gew approvati. Meta tqis il-mod kif isehh l-iz vilupp u r-regoli tal-ippjanar, il-Kum miss joni Ambjent tal-Knisja hija tal-fehma li t-tieni xenarju hu aktar probabbli u ghalhekk issostni li kull zvilupp ta’ marinas ghandu jithalla jsehh f’inhawi fejn digà jezisti certu livell ta’ zvilupp urban.

L-impatt socjali tal-progett

Minbarra dawn l-argumenti li jikkoncernaw l-ippjanar u l-uzu ghaqli tal-art, il-Kummissjoni thoss li din il-proposta ghall-izvilupp ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien turi insensittività socjali kbira. Il-Kummissjoni ma tistax tifhem kif l-izviluppatur ghazel li jinjora l-fatt li l-maggoranza tar-residenti tal-Qala, li sa jkunu milquta direttament mill-progett, huma kontra dan l-izvilupp kif propost.

Minbarra dan hemm ukoll aspetti ta’ mitigazzjoni fl-EIS, perezempju l-ghoti ta’ twieqi double glazed biex jitnaqqas l-inkonvenjent tal-istorbju u l-emissjonijiet fl-arja, li juru l-mod superficjali kif problemi reali ghall-popolazzjoni lokali qed jin ghataw importanza sekondarja. At teg ga menti simili jqajmu suspetti serji dwar ir-responsabbiltà socjali ta’ dan il-progett.


Il-Kummissjoni hija tal-fehma li l-izvilupp kif propost f’Hondoq ir-Rummien m’huwiex wie hed sostenibbli u difficli tiggustifika li dan jirrapprezenta gid akbar u kwalità ta’ hajja ah jar ghall-Ghawdxin ghal zmien twil. Dan ghax il-progett mhux ser iservi sabiex jikkonserva l-identità tal-pajsagg u s-sbuhija tal-inhawi li ghandhom ikunu l-attrazzjoni principali li biha tigbed l-aqwa turist lejn Ghawdex.

Bl-iskuza tal-bzonn li titnaddaf il-barriera ezistenti u li jigi rrangat il-post, hemm il-periklu li ssir spe kulazzjoni fuq l-art minghajr ma jinghata qies ta’ x’ser jonqsilna mill-prodott turistiku li irridu noffru. Kienet hasra li l-izviluppatur thalla jixtri din l-art minghajr ma min beghhielu ma nduna jew ma impurtahx mill-hsara li tista’ issir minn dan il-bejgh.

Fl-ahharnett il-Kummissjoni ghamlet appell lil kulhadd, specjalment lil dawk kollha li semmew lehinhom kontra dan l-izvilupp f’Hondoq ir-Rummien. Li jitwaqqaf dan il-progett mhux bizzejjed. Dan ikun biss l-ewwel pass.

Hemm bzonn urgenti li nkunu ferm aktar proattivi fil-mod kif nindukraw il-wirt Ghawdxi. Hemm bzonn li naraw kif it-telqa ta’ barriera u l-isfregju ambjentali ta’ mad-dawra taghha ghandhom ikunu indirizzati b’mod prattiku u konkret fil-programm Eko-Ghawdex. Ir-rigenerazzjoni tal-post ser ikollha bzonn il-flus.

Aktar milli jinghata l-lok ghal aktar spekulazzjoni tal-art, dawn il-fondi ghandhom jigu minn programmi nazzjonali ppjanati b’mod holistiku li verament ikollhom l-iskop li jissarfu fi kwalità ta’ hajja ahjar ghall-Ghawdxin kollha u prodott turistiku ahjar.

Il-Kummissjoni Ambjent tal-Knisja ghandha bhala Chairperson lill-Professur Victor Axiak u bhala membri lil Fr Eric Overend, Dr Paul Pace, Pauline Borg, Dr. Vincent Buhagiar, Mario Camenzuli, Dr Mario Fsadni, Audrey Gauci, Pauline Grech, Emanuel Scicluna, u Patri Dionisius Mintoff.

L-izvilupp kif propost mill-izviluppaturi

L-izvilupp propost jinkludi il-bini ta’ marina (ghal madwar 150 jott), hotel ta’ hames stilel li tinkludi 150 unit, u villagg turistiku. L-izviluppaturi ipprezentaw dan l-izvilupp bhala mezz ta’ kif il-barriera mitluqa li tinsab f’din il-bajja, titnaddaf u tibda tintuza sabiex tiggenera l-flus permezz ta’ binjiet turistici u residenzjali u lukanda. Sabiex dan isehh, skont l-izviluppaturi jenhtieg li tinbena marina li tkun il-qofol ta’ dan il-progett.

L-izvilupp sostenibbli skont il-Knisja

Il-Kummissjoni Ambjent tal-Knisja ssostni li “… ma jistax ikun hemm zvilupp jekk dan ma jkunx sostenibbli.

Bi zvilupp nifhmu bidla ghall-ahjar li tissarraf fi stabbiltà akbar tas-sistema, u f’zieda fil-gid komuni li jkun jista’ jitgawda minn kulhadd. Dan ma jfissirx protezzjoni tal-ambjent akkost ta’ kollox jew li l-izvilupp ma jgibx mieghu xi piz socjali. Ragunar bhal dan hu fqir u perikoluz.

Imma bl-istess mod, argumenti favur zvilupp ekonomiku li ma jirrispettax il-bzonnijiet socjali u ambjentali tal-pajjiz huma foqra u pe ri koluzi wkoll. Ragunar bhal dan jista’ jwassal ghall-progetti li filwaqt li jkollhom il-mira li jzidu x-xoghol, il-kom pet titività u l-gwadann eko no miku, jis piccaw sabiex ftit nies igawdu ghad-dannu tal-kwalità ta’ hajja (f’sens socjali, ambjentali u anke f’sens eko no mi ku) tal-bqija tas-socjetà.

It-turist tal-lum sar hafna aktar sensittiv ghall-esperjenza kompluta tal-post li jigbor fil-jiem li jaghmel fostna. L-indikazzjonijiet huma diga’ hemm ghal min irid jarahom.

L-industrija tat-turizmu lahqet il-livell ta’ saturazzjoni taghha u minhabba f’hekk digà qed jinhassu sew l-effetti fuq il-kwalità tal-ambjent ... b’mod li l-istess prodott turistiku Malti sar inferjuri. Ta’ xejn jizdiedu l-isforzi biex jinbiegh prodott fjakk. Kull inizjattiva gdida fil-qasam tat-turizmu tkun konto-produttiva jekk ma twassalx sabiex:

• jizdied il-qligh izda mhux in-numru ta’ turisti li jigu jzuruna;

• l-ammont ta’ turisti li jzuruna jkun mifrux mas-sena kollha u mhux ikkoncentrat fis-Sajf;

• ma nkomplux innaqqru aktar mir-rizorsi ambjentali taghna, bhall-pajsagg tipikament Malti, il-bijodiversità u l-istess identità kulturali taghna;

• jitnaqqas il-monopolju li ghandhom l-operaturi tal-ivvjaggar fuq dan is-settur, specjalment fil-kwalità ta’ turisti li jzuruna, u

• tonqos id-dipendenza kbira li l-ekonomija tal-pajjiz ghandha mid-dhul ta’ din l-industrija.”

Jidher li minn naha tal-awtoritajiet, l-affarijiet tbiddlu xi ftit mill-2006 (meta nkitbu l-hsibijiet ta’ hawn fuq). Jidher li llum hemm hafna aktar sensittività ghall-bzonn li l-industrija tat-turizmu tirrispetta l-bzonnijiet socjali u ambjentali sabiex hija stess tkun tista’ tilqa’ l-isfidi ekonomici li jitfaccaw minn zmien ghal zmien. Huwa f’dan l-isfond li l-Kummissjoni offriet il-fehma taghha dwar il-progett ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Il-proġett ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien: Diversi diskrepanzi fiċ-ċifri msemmijin fl-EIA

Pubblikata fuq l-Orizzont nhar t-Tlieta 27 ta' Lulju, 2010 minn Charmaine Craus.

Jeżistu diskrepanzi kbar fiċ-ċifri msemmijin fl-istudju rigward l-impatt ambjentali (EIA) li mistenni jkollu l-proġett ta’ bini ta’ vilel, appartamenti lus sużi, lukanda u ‘yacht marina’ fil-bajja ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

Dan il-proġett għandu l-appoġġ tal-Gvern, minkejja li par ti minnu se jinbena fuq żona li hija barra mill-iżvilupp (ODZ) u minkejja li r-residenti Qalin u l-għaqdiet ambjentali kollha huma kontra li dan il-proġett isir, minħabba li se jfisser il-qerda tal-bajja ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien darba għal dejjem. Fil-fatt, f’referendum li kien sar, 85% tar-residenti vvotaw kontra l-ħsara irriversibbli li mistennija ssir fuq din il-bajja.

Skont dokumenti li għandu f’idejh l-orizzont, jirriżulta li f’sezzjoni A3, (li tfisser it-tielet volum ta’ Appendiċi A) tal-istudju dwar l-impatt ambjentali, li tanalizza l-impatt viżiv, l-emissjonijiet fl-arja, l-impatt ekonomiku u aspetti soċjali, jingħad li l-lukanda se jkollha 170 kamra. Iżda jekk wieħed ikompli jaqra, f’parti oħra jin għad ukoll li l-lukanda se jkollha 160 kamra waqt li f’parti oħra, jingħad ukoll li l-lukanda se jkollha 170 ‘double bedroom’.

Mhux hekk biss, iżda fis-sezz joni CR (coordinated and tech nical report), li huwa sommarju tal-aspetti kollha tal-proġett, jingħad li l-lukanda se jkollha 110 ‘double bedroom’.

L-akbar diskrepanzi f’dan l-istudju jissemmew fin-numru ta’ spazji li l-proġett se jkollu għall-parkeġġ. Sezzjoni A3 titkellem fuq tliet ċifri differenti. F’parti minnhom jingħad li se jkun hemm total ta’ 731 spazju għal parkeġġ taħt l-art, waqt li f’parti oħra jingħad li se jkun hemm 660 spazju taħt l-art, li 80 minnhom se jkunu allokati għall-pubbliku u f’parti oħra jingħad li se jkun hemm 90 spazju allokat għall-pubbliku. Iżda mhux hekk biss. Fis-sommarju jingħad li se jkun hemm 1,290 spazju u f’parti oħra jin għad li se jkun hemm 1,249 spazju għall-parkeġġ!

Diskrepanzi oħrajn jisemmew ukoll fin-numru ta’ vilel li se jinbnew f’dan il-proġett. Filwaqt li f’sezzjoni A3 tal-is tudju dwar l-impatt ambjentali jingħad li se jkun hemm 25 villa, parti mis-sommarju titkellem dwar 35 villa u parti oħra titkellem fuq 20 villa.

Anke dwar in-numru ta’ ħwie net li se jkun hemm fil-proġett, jeżistu żewġ diskre panzi għax f’parti minn sezzjoni A3 jingħad li se jkun hemm 60 ‘self-catering unit’ u f’parti oħra, jingħad li se jkun hemm bejn 50 u 60 wieħed. Dwar kemm se jkun hemm stabbilimenti tal-ikel, parti fis-sezzjoni A3 tgħid li se jkun hemm ħames stabbilimenti waqt li parti oħra tgħid li se jkun hemm għaxar stabbilimenti.

Hemm diversi mistoqsijiet oħ rajn li jduru ma’ dan il-proġett, fosthom il-fatt li l-Pjan Lokali għal Għawdex u Kemmuna (14.8.4) jiddeskrivi ż-żona ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien bħala żona li għandha densità baxxa meta l-proġett se jinkludi lukanda, vilel, appartamenti, stabbilimenti tal-ikel u ħwienet oħrajn, kif ukoll parkeġġ kbir taħt l-art u ‘yacht marina’.

Hemm mistoqsijiet oħrajn dwar kif is-sommarju tal-istudju jsemmi li mhuwiex il-każ li l-bajja se tkun iffollata bin-nies, meta huwa ovvju li bil-proġett, se jkun hemm ħafna iżjed nies li se jagħmlu użu mill-bajja u għalhekk ma tantx huwa possibbli li l-bajja ma tkunx iffrekwentata minn mijiet ta’ nies.

Skont l-istudju dwar l-im patt ambjentali, jidher li matul il-perjodu ta’ tħaffir u kostruzz joni, in-numru ta’ trakkijiet li jidħlu u joħorġu minn fuq is-sit se jkun ta’ trakk kull erba’ minuti iżda mhux se jkun hemm żieda ta’ traffiku li se jgħaddi mill-Qala u minn Tal-Kunċizzjoni. Madankollu, jissemma kif meta l-proġett jibda jopera, se jkun hemm żieda ta’ madwar 456 vettura żgħira li jidħlu u joħorġu mill-Qala ma tul l-aqwa ħinijiet tal-ġurnata.

Il-Kummissjoni tal-Ambjent tal-Knisja

Fil-jiem li għaddew, il-Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq esprima s-sodisfazzjon tiegħu b’reazzjo ni għall-pożizzjoni li ħadet il-Kummissjoni tal-Ambjent tal-Knisja kontra l-proġett.

Filwaqt li l-Kummissjoni rri ko noxxiet il-ħtieġa għal żvi lupp sostenibbli f’Għawdex, id dikjarat uffiċjalment il-fehma tagħha li dan il-proġett se jkun ħsara ambjentali, fiżika, soċjali, turistika, ekoloġika mhux biss għar-residenti tar-ra ħal tal-Qala iżda wkoll għal dawk kollha li jżuru l-bajja.

Fi stqarrija maħruġa minn Paul Buttigieg, li huwa wkoll kunsillier fil-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qala b’maġġoranza Nazzjonalis ta li qiegħed joġġezzjona għal dan il-proġett, il-Moviment faħ ħar lill-Kummissjoni għal ta li inizjattiva u rringrazzjaha għall-impenn tagħha favur il-Qalin u dawk li jiffrekwentaw din il-bajja.

Il-Moviment awgura li tali stqarrija tiġi kkonsidrata b’im ħuħ miftuħin li japprezzaw ir-rapporti tal-Professuri Jeremy Bossivain / Steven Vella, Alan Deidun u Lino Bian co.

B’hekk, għandhom jittieħdu deċiżjoni jiet li jħallu lil Ħondoq ir-Rummien fl-istat naturali tiegħu.

Church commission criticises ‘seller’ of Hondoq land

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday 25th July, 2010 by Francesca Vella.

The Church’s interdiocesan commission on the environment has criticised the ‘seller’ of the land earmarked for a mega tourist development in Hondoq ir-Rummien, but it is unclear whether or not the commission was aware that that ‘seller’ was the Augustinian religious order that forms part of the Maltese Church itself.

In an opinion published last Wednesday, the Church commission said it was a pity that the developer was allowed to buy the land without the seller not realising, or not caring about, the damage the sale could cause.

Neither the Archbishop’s Curia, nor the interdiocesan commission on the environment could be contacted for comment at the time of going to print.

The developers are proposing the construction of a massive project comprising a hotel, yacht marina and tourist village on the 68-tumoli site, which used to be owned by the Augustinians.

The Order sold the land on promise of sale (kunvenju) to Victor Bajada of Gozo (Prestige Holiday) in 1988 for Lm10,200 (€23,760) – on condition that full development permits were awarded.

The promise of sale states that if development permission for the land is granted, the order will receive the full sale price of Lm10,000 (€23,294) per tumulo and at 68 tumuli, the total sale price amounts to Lm680,000 (€1,583,974).

Despite the fact that 85 per cent of Qala residents had voted against the project in 2002, the 2006 Local Plan earmarked the Hondoq Bay area for a mega-tourism development, which resurfaced in 2007, four years after it had been shelved following vociferous protests from local residents.

On Wednesday, the Church’s interdiocesan commission on the environment said in a statement that it had concluded that the proposed Hondoq ir-Rummien development in Gozo is not sustainable.

The commission said it is difficult to justify the claim that it represents more wealth and a better quality of life in Gozo over a long period.

The project, the commission said, will not protect the identity of the countryside and its beauty, which should be the principal assets for attracting tourists to Gozo.

It added that the proposed Hondoq development shows a crass social insensitivity, with the developer choosing to ignore the fact that the majority of Qala residents, who will be directly affected by the project, are against the development.

Similarly, social anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain had criticised the social considerations forming part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed development at Hondoq ir-Rummien, saying in particular that the concluding “euphoric note” is misleading.

Prof. Boissevain’s comments on Qala Creek EIA: Social Aspects – drawn up by Mario Vassallo – were presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) last month.

The Dutch professor quoted the Maltese lecturer’s report: “The overall social impact of the project is definitely positive, despite the residue of opposition to it. It will transform what is currently a dumping site into a vibrant centre of activity.”

However, he said, judging by the systematically recorded negative opinion of Qala respondents, Prof. Vassallo’s comment that: “The project is bound to be a win-win project for all Gozitans who benefit from the project as it develops”, is misleading.

A majority of Gozitans may regard it as a “win-win” development, but the majority of Qala residents do not, said Prof. Boissevain.

He also mentioned “the very serious consideration” that, despite the scaling down of the project, its present scale, in the words of Prof. Vassallo, “is still considered to be too huge for the area”.

This, said Prof. Boissevain, was the only fundamental criticism of the project in the Vassallo report. “Prof. Vassallo’s comments are sensible and should be implemented. His observation should be highlighted.”

Jobs for Gozitans or not at Hondoq?

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday 25th July, 2010 by Jane Carr.

Mepa has already gone through the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Hondoq project, and has made many valid comments, such as the one below:

“Furthermore, this section of the EIS does not make any reference to vehicular routes during the operational period of the project, though it may be dealt with in another section. This is a major impact on Qala residents who already have to cope with the second highest rate of air pollution on the island. Once construction is over, the project is estimated to generate the passage of approximately 2,000 tourist, employee and supplier vehicles per day passing through the quiet and narrow streets of the village. The EIS has consistently treated the Hondoq project as being the only touristic beneficiary in the area. This is fallacious, as the other existing touristic investments in the area stand to suffer due to the over-development of the bay and the increased traffic through the village which will destroy the peace for which it is so well known and sought after as a holiday destination.”

(Comments on the Environmental Impact Statement made by Mepa – Comment #160 (P251) referring to the Coordinated/Technical Report (CR) (P102) )

Part of the response given by the developers, referring specifically to employee-generated traffic was:

“During the operational period of the project the hotel operators will be obliged to employ minibus transport to collect and return staff from Qala and other villages in Gozo.”

This fits in with the proposed economic objective:

CR: (P23) – “to secure long-term gainful employment for Gozitan indigenous labour in all aspects of the hospitality and catering trades relevant to the Project’s array of proposed activities.”

However, Table 10.1 (P130) in the Traffic Impact Assessment raises a couple of questions.

In the table, a shop employee is allocated 0.33 of a parking space (as per the low standard given by the Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands P140). One would think that hotel and restaurant staff would be allocated the same?

Here it seems a bit more complicated in that employees are divided into “resident staff” and “non-resident staff”. Yes, the non-resident staff are allocated 0.33 of a parking space – but, the resident staff are allocated one parking space (reduced to 0.75 because these resident staff are also able to use transport provided by the management of the marina complex).

Why the term “resident” staff? Surely locally employed staff would use the transport provided to return home after their shift?

The table refers to 10 non-resident staff for the hotel, and 70 resident staff. For the restaurants/bars/clubs it talks of 20 non-resident staff and 80 resident staff. (For the shops it simply talks of 20 employees.)

What questions are raised?

Are they really considering such high numbers of residential staff – in which case what happened to the promise of jobs for local Gozitans? Resident staff implies people who cannot readily go home after finishing their day’s work.

Why consider parking space figures for “local” staff for whom it is envisaged that transport to and from the complex will be provided? Maybe to make parking requirements seem higher than they actually need be for the size of the development for which permits are presently being applied?

Finally, as mentioned by Mepa (Comment #101, P 220/1):-

“Employment in the Gozitan tourist industry is preponderantly seasonal and hoteliers are increasingly employing low-wage Eastern European staff.

“Given this situation, is the net gain for Gozo worth the sacrifice of yet more Gozitan landscape?”

Hondoq ir-Rummien is for all the people of these islands

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday 25th July, 2010 by Angelo Xerri.

Hondoq must be protected in its natural state without any development, at all costs. The government and Mepa must not act like thieves in the night and issue permits to developers to take it away from the residents of Qala, the people of Gozo and the many in Malta, and destroy the only pristine bay left on these islands forever.

The message to the authorities could not be any clearer, starting with the referendum held by Qala council eight years ago, which was approved by this government, where the result was 85 per cent against development. The latest was the hearing held by Mepa on 29 May, during which the Qala residents were more defiantly against the Qala Creek project at Hondoq ir-Rummien than they were eight years ago. The local NGOs are 99 per cent against it, and have warned the authorities that this project will cause environmental damage to the area, including the Blue Lagoon in Comino.

The EIA presented to Mepa by the developers is flawed and 99.9 per cent in favour of the developers, infringing and taking land in ODZ – one discrepancy after another. If the government ignores this referendum, then all future referendums held by this government will be in jeopardy and cannot be trusted. Thousands of objections in all the newspapers and on the Internet are proof that this project is not wanted.

It is not true that this project will create jobs. There may be a few construction jobs for a handful of people while it is being built but in other major projects in Gozo, there were more foreign workers employed than locals. When finished, it may create some housekeeping jobs, but Qala residents want real jobs. The Qala Creek project will double the amount of traffic going through the centre of Qala, which Mepa is ignoring. The village is already choking from the truck traffic that services the quarries, using the narrowest of roads with no health and safety control. By the way, are the Qala quarries the new Maghtab now? Are the authorities checking?

Activities at Hondoq Bay begin in early morning and continue until past midnight, with BBQs. It is a centre of activity for local families, and for people from Gozo and Malta there is nothing else like it. This project must be rejected outright by the government and Mepa must transfer this land to Qala Local Council to be developed as a national park, similar to eco-Gozo, of which all the people of this country will be proud.

Il-paroli rhis, l-impenn konkret ghali

Pubblikata fuq l-Kulhadd nhar l-Hadd 25 ta' Lulju, 2010.

Il-kliem irhis u ma jiswix flus anki jekk illum hawn magni tal-kliem li jekk taghlifhom sew jaghtuk dak li trid. L-azzjoni konkreta li taraha u tmissha b’idejk hi ferma aktar ghalja. Bejn kliem hu fatti mhux biss il-bahar hemm jikkumbatti imma fin-nofs hemm ukoll li minn dakollu li tisma’, taghzel int x’temmen jew ma temminx.

Fuq livell ta’ principji, fl-astratt u mhux fil-konkret, id-dokumenti ppubblikati mill-Gvern bhal dak ta’ Eco-Ghawdex, ifawwru bis-slogans, bil-buzz, u bil-kliem poetiku. Il-vera sfida li tirrikjedi l-guts u l-kuragg lilhinn mill-platitudnijiet u l-buzz words, hija kif tittraduci dak il-kliem sabih f’termini konkreti.

Fost il-litanija ta’ platitudnijiet li jirrakkonta d-dokument ippubblikat mill-Gvern ‘Eco-Gozo – A better Gozo’, jghid fost l-ohrajn li Ghawdex ghandu jsir eko-gzira sal-2010, mghejjun minn komunità sostenibbli herqana u kommessa.’

Dan id-dokument jghid ukoll li “rridu naraw li titjib aktar il-kwalità tal-hajja f’Ghawdex permezz tal-edukazzjoni, l-izvilupp ekonomiku u l-progess socjali…Irridu nipprotegu l-istil ta’ hajja f’Ghawdex, l-ambjent, ir-rizorsi, il-kultura u l-identità tal-gzira Ghawdxija… Eco-Ghawdex hija vizjoni ta’ gzira biex issir aktar sabiha, li tispirak u tilqak, li sseddaq, li tkun inklussiva u ta’ succcess. Dan hu essenzjalment dak li eko-gzira sa thabbrek biex tikseb… Eko-Ghawdex mhuwiex semplicement li tahseb b’mod ekologiku, imma vizjoni biex jinkiseb ambjent stabbli u b’sahhtu ghal kwalità ta’ hajja ahjar.”

U l-awtur ta’ dan id-dokument tal-Gvern jkompli jorqom u jdomm il-kliem qiesu xi bicca proza mtaqqla bl-idjoma fjurita: “Ghaldaqstant din mhijiex tfittxija li twassal ghal titjib ambjentali f’izolament, imma li f’dakollu li naghmlu nqisu l-ambjent b’mod kostanti bhala element fundamentali li jiddeterminalna sahhitna, il-gid taghna u dak li jaghmel din il-gzira daqshekk specjali.”
Imma lilhinn mill-poezija u mill-immaginazzjoni fertili tal-awtur, jekk tofroq il-qamh tal-azzjoni konkreta mis-sikrana tal-paroli li ma jridx wisq sforz biex inebbet, xi ssib sewwa sew.

Ir-risposta jaghtihilna l-Prim Ministru Lawrence Gonzi li meta ntalab fil-Parlament ftit tal-jiem ilu biex jiehu pozizzjoni vi jew va dwar l-izvilupp propost ghal Hondoq ir-Rummien gewwa l-Qala Ghawdex, Dr. Gonzi ghazel it-triq tal-gifa Pilatu, hasel idejh u ma riedx jikkommetti ruhu dwar kif dak il-paroli kollu dwar eko-Ghawdex effettivament jittraduci ruhu gewwa Hondoq.

Fil-kaz ta’ Hondoq, dak li hemm fil-keffa tal-mizien mhux xi blokka mdaqqsa ta’ xi nofs tuzzana appartamenti, imma prattikament villagg iehor li mhux biss se johnoq il-bajja ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien, imma bil-volumi ta’ traffiku li se johloq se jiznatura l-qalba tar-rahal tal-Qala u jtellef hafna min-natural tieghu ta’ villagg rurali.

Quddiem skussjatura bhal din fir-ruh tal-ambjent Ghawdxi, l-Prim Ministru Gonzi ma ndenjax ruhu jghid x’jahseb hu dwar dan il-progett u halla f’idejn il-MEPA. Dan minkejja li fil-Bord tal-MEPA hemm membri li huma mahturin mill-Prim Ministru nnifsu u meta dehrlu li ghandu jigbed l-ispaga dwar progetti partikulari bhall-estensjoni tal-Freeport u tal-power station ta’ Delimara, fejn ried johrog ghonqu Dr. Gonzi hargu. Imma kwantu ghal Qala u Hondoq, ghar-ragunijiet li jafu hu, ghazel li jzomm fommu sieket u addio eko-Ghawdex.

Sadanittant il-Magistrat Paul Coppini, li kien il-President tal-ghaqda ambjentali Wirt Ghawdex u t-tifla tieghu l-avukat Stephanie Coppini, rrezenjaw minn din l-ghaqda minhabba nuqqas ta’ qbil mal-bqija tal-kumitat dwar il-progett ta’ Hondoq.

Filfatt hekk kif il-Magistrat Coppini rrezenja minn President ta’ Wirt Ghawdex, din l-ghaqda harget stqarrija fejn esprimiet ir-rizervi serji taghha dwar il-progett ta’ Hondoq ir-Rummien, u fejn intqal ukoll li kienet ipprezentat l-oggezzjonijiet taghha lill-MEPA.

Wirt Artna filwaqt li taqbel li l-barriera li hemm fl-inhawi ghandha tigi rijabilitata, hija preokkupata li l-jott marina li hemm ippjanata, se thassar din iz-zona kostali unika.
Wirt Artna esprimiet ukoll id-dubji taghha dwar il-htiega ta’ jott marina ohra tefgha ta’ gebla ‘l boghod minn dik tal-Imgarr, li ghadha kif giet ipprivatizzata. Wirt Artna hija tal-fehma li Ghawdex ghandu bizzejjed bini vojt u l-kostruzzjoni ta’ kumpless iehor massiv ta’ appartamenti u vilel m’hu tal-beda beneficcju ghal-livell tal-ghixien gewwa Ghawdex.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hondoq turns eco-Gozo into a sick joke!

Published on on 23rd July, 2010 by Leo Brincat.

The Church's Environment Commission used the strongest of words to slam Government's proposed development of a hotel, apartments and a yacht marina at Hondoq ir-Rummien.

It made it clear that it was difficult to justify claims that this project would be for the long term benefit of the Gozitans. As well as that the proposed development reflected social insensitivity.

And yet the Commission's in depth report was met with stony silence in the visual, sound and printed media of the Nationalist party.

So much for all their talk of sustainable development. A new lease of life for the environment. As well as Mario de Marco's promise to launch a new environmental policy in the coming eighteen months. Conveniently when we will be almost literally on election eve.

On his part Joseph Muscat did not mince words when commenting on this project a few weeks ago. He dismissed it as totally unsustainable.

On my part I had claimed that it made a mockery of the Eco Gozo concept.

What I found most intriguing was the ambivalent manner in which the Nationalist Party and its eminent spokespersons addressed the issue...or rather failed to address it at all.

The Prime Minister resorted, as is by now complete silence.

The Minister for Gozo chose to react at a later stage while people close to her are known to have sent reassuring signals to the developers and speculators.

Overtly lobbying for the project, former MEP candidate Vince Farrugia almost literally hi jacked the public hearing held in Gozo, which in the words of another Nationalist MEP candidate was characterised by the dubious techniques that were utilised by the developer to gain ascendency at the hearing.

Nationalist MEP candidate A Deidun lamented that sacrificing Hondoq would be clearly communicating the message that no place is too sacred for development.

While some Nationalist local councillors chose to keep mum on the project - the same way the Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said did too - others had no alternative but to oppose it.

But at day's end what position will the Nationalist Party take?

If the Prime Minister considered it opportune to brief his party delegates about the White Rocks project inspite of having only recently declared in the House that the first people to be briefed about it would be us parliamentarians, why did the PM not hold a similar consultation meeting for the PN's rank and file on the Hondoq saga?

The Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment had been quoted as saying that our environment is too small to afford to suffer any more mistakes than we have already committed in the past.

But when decision time comes whose views will prevail?

Which line will the government nominated political appointees on MEPA's board follow?

On the ODZ saga a close confidant of the PM who works in his private secretariat is allegedly reported to have played a pivotal role in swinging things the cabinet's way at MEPA level.

Will he do the same this time round?

Ultimately what will the Cabinet decide as the best way forward when the Hondoq saga finds itself up against the moment of truth?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Church commission slams Hondoq project

Published on the Malta Independent on Thursday 22nd July, 2010.

The Church’s interdiocesan commission on the environment has concluded that the proposed Hondoq ir-Rummien development in Gozo is not sustainable and that it is difficult to justify the claim that it represents more wealth and a better quality of life in Gozo for a long period.

The project, the commission said, will not protect the identity of the countryside and its beauty, which should be the principal assets to draw tourists to Gozo. On the pretext of needing to clean up the existing quarry and upgrade it, there is the danger of land speculation without regard to how the tourist product will be negatively affected

It was a pity, the commission said, that the developer was allowed to buy the land without the seller not realising, or not caring about, the damage the sale could cause.

The development includes the building of a marina for about 150 yachts, a five-star hotel which includes 150 units, and a tourist village. The development is being offered as a way of cleaning up the quarry to be found in the bay, and utilising it for tourism purposes. The marina would be the key to the project.

As the environmental impact statement itself admits, one of the difficulties for the project are the difficulties of the tourism industry in Gozo. The Hondoq project proposes to double the number of five-star hotel beds, when those sort of hotels are in difficulty. So the hotel needs the tourist village and marina. At the same time the EIS makes the argument that the hotel is an integral part of the necessary services for the success of the marina. Which means: there was either to be everything, or nothing.

The EIS market assessment itself concludes that “the major concern is the potential oversupply in the market, particularly for the hotel and tourist village”.

The EIS considers the sea quality in the area as excellent and identifies various impacts the project could have on the area’s environment, but quickly argues that these impacts can be mitigated. But unfortunately, the EIS tends to consider the mitigation measures as bound to be successful, while no one can ascertain this.

The EIS attempts in various instances to prove that there will be minimal impact on the area as the proposed buildings would be “hidden” in the quarry. It also compares the marina development with the Portomaso development in St Julian’s. It also gives estimates and market prices for the Portomaso project. This makes sense but the same reasoning leads to the observation that Portomaso filled a niche occupied until then by the old Hilton. The niche was an integral part of a huge urban development that took place in Paceville, St Julian’s and Sliema, the interdiocesan commission said.

The commission argued there are two possibilities to consider: that the marina and the Hondoq complex as proposed would remain isolated, or that, in time, this second Portomaso would serve as a centre from where other buildings would develop, further from what had been approved.

Considering how development occurs, and planning regulations, the commission said its opinion is that the second possibility is the more probable, which makes it believe that all marina developments should be allowed only in areas where there is already a certain level of urban development.

The proposed Hondoq development shows a crass social insensitivity. The developer chose to ignore the fact that the majority of Qala residents, who will be affected directly by the project, are against the development. The proposal of supplying double glazed windows to minimise the noise and emissions inconveniences shows the superficiality with which the real problems of the local population are being treated.

The commission went on to express preoccupation with the lack of investment and work opportunities in Gozo, which was leading to the island’s main resource, its people, having to find work elsewhere, exacerbating the island’s double insularity.

Contacting this newspaper, Paul Buttigieg, on behalf of the Moviment Harsien Hondoq, expressed satisfaction at the commission’s report, noting that it was on the same wavelength as the Jeremy Boissevain report because it focused on the social aspect. Mr Buttigieg said the Church was a neutral authority and therefore had an important value.

L-iżvilupp f’Ħondoq ir-Rummien: Proġett “insensittiv u mhux sostenibbli”

Pubblikat fuq l-Orizzont nhar l-Hamis 22 ta' Lulju, 2010.

Il-Kummissjoni Interdjoċesana Ambjent esprimiet il-fehma li l-iżvilupp kif propost f’Ħondoq ir-Rummien, fil-limiti tal-Qala, Għawdex, mhuwiex wieħed sostenibbli u diffiċli tiġġustifika li dan jirrappreżenta ġid akbar u kwalità ta’ ħajja aħjar għall-Għawdxin għal żmien twil. Dan għax il-proġett mhuwiex se jservi biex jikkonserva l-identità tal-pajsaġġ u s-sbuħija tal-inħawi li għandhom ikunu l-attrazzjoni prinċipali li biha tiġbed l-aqwa turist lejn Għawdex.

Waqt li qalet li “l-proposta ta’ dan l-iżvilupp turi insensittività kbira”, il-Kummissjoni kompliet tgħid li bl-iskuża tal-bżonn li titnaddaf il-barriera eżistenti u li jitranġa l-post, “hemm il-periklu li nispekulaw fuq l-art mingħajr rigward għal x’se jonqsilna mill-prodott turistiku li rridu noffru. Kienet ħasra li l-iżvi luppatur tħalla jixtri din l-art mingħajr ma l-bejjiegħ induna jew ma ta kas mill-ħsara li tista’ ssir minn dan il-bejgħ.”

Fi stqarrija li ħarġet, il-Kummissjoni esprimiet il-preokkupazzjoni tagħha dwar in-nuqqas ta’ investiment, u minħabba f’hekk, in-nuqqas ta’ xogħol, f’Għawdex. Dan qed iwassal biex l-akbar riżors ta’ din il-gżira, jiġifieri n-nies bieżla u intelliġenti tagħha, spiss ikunu sfurzati jfittxu ġej jieni aħjar barra minn xtutna. Dan qiegħed ikabbar dejjem iżjed l-insularità doppja tagħha barra li jxejjaħ kważi b’mod allarmanti l-popolazzjoni ta’ din il-gżira. Jidher ċar li hemm bżonn ta’ żvilupp ġdid u sostenibbli f’din il-gżira, speċjalment fejn għandu x’jaqsam mat-turiżmu.

Il-Kummissjoni tenniet il-fehma tagħha li ma jistax ikun hemm żvilupp jekk dan ma jkunx sostenibbli. “Bi żvilupp nifhmu bidla għall-aħjar li tissarraf fi stabbiltà akbar tas-sistema, u f’żieda fil-ġid komuni li jkun jista’ jitgawda minn kulħadd. Dan ma jfissirx protezzjoni tal-ambjent akkost ta’ kollox jew li l-iżvilupp ma jġibx miegħu xi piż soċjali. Raġunar bħal dan hu fqir u perikoluż. Imma bl-istess mod, argumenti favur żvilupp ekonomiku li ma jirrispettax il-bżonnijiet soċjali u ambjentali tal-pajjiż huma foqra u perikolużi wkoll. Raġunar bħal dan jista’ jwassal għall-proġetti li filwaqt li jkollhom il-mira li jżidu x-xogħol, il-kompetittività u l-gwadann ekonomiku, jispiċ ċaw biex ftit nies igawdu għad-dannu tal-kwalità ta’ ħajja (f’sens soċjali, ambjentali u anke f’sens ekonomiku) tal-bqija tas-soċjetà.”

It-turist tal-lum sar ħafna aktar sensittiv għall-esperjenza kompluta tal-post li jiġbor fil-jiem li jagħmel fostna. L-indikaz zjonijiet huma diġà hemm għal min irid jarahom. L-industrija tat-turiżmu laħqet il-livell ta’ saturazzjoni tagħha u minħabba f’hekk diġà qed jinħassu sew l-effetti fuq il-kwalità tal-ambjent... b’mod li l-istess prodott turistiku Malti sar inferjuri.

Il-Kummissjoni saħqet li jkun ta’ xejn jiżdiedu l-isforżi biex jinbiegħ prodott fjakk. Kull inizjattiva ġdida fil-qasam tat-turiżmu tkun konto-produttiva jekk ma twassalx sabiex, jiżdied il-qligħ iżda mhux in-numru ta’ turisti li jiġu jżuruna, l-ammont ta’ turisti li jżuruna jkun mifrux mas-sena kollha u mhux ikkonċentrat fis-sajf ma nkomplux innaqqru aktar mir-risorsi ambjentali tagħna, bħall-pajsaġġ tipikament Malti, il-bijodiversità u l-istess identità kulturali tagħna, jitnaqqas il-monopolju li għandhom l-operaturi tal-ivvjaġġar fuq dan is-settur, speċjalment fil-kwalità ta’ turisti li jżuruna, u tonqos id-dipendenza kbira li l-ekonomija tal-pajjiż għandha mid-dħul ta’ din l-industrija.”

Kompliet tgħid li jidher li min-naħa tal-awtoritajiet, l-affarijiet tbiddlu xi ftit mill-2006 ’il hawn. Jidher li llum hemm ħafna aktar sensittività għal bżonn li l-industrija tat-turiżmu tirrispetta l-bżonnijiet soċjali u ambjentali biex hi stess tkun tista’ tilqa’ l-isfidi ekonomiċi li jitfaċċaw minn żmien għall-żmien. Il-pożizzjoni tal-Kum miss joni mhix li nagħmlu “presepju” minn Għawdex, iżda li niżguraw li kull żvilupp li jseħħ f’din il-gżira jkun wieħed li jtej jeb verament il-kwalità tal-ħajja taċ-ċittadini u jħares lejn gwadann ekonomiku fit-tul u għall-ġid komuni.

L-iżvilupp propost kif spjegat fl-EIS jinkludi l-bini ta’ marina (għal madwar 150 jott), lukanda ta’ ħames stilel li tinkludi 150 unit, u villaġġ turistiku. L-EIS qiegħed joffri dan l-iżvilupp bħala mezz ta’ kif il-barriera mitluqa li tinsab f’din il-bajja, titnaddaf u tibda tintuża biex tiġġenera l-flus permezz ta’ binjiet turistiċi u residenzjali u lukanda.

Kif jargumenta l-istess EIS, waħda mill-problemi (jew diffikultajiet) identifikati mill-pro ġett huwa l-fatt li bħalissa l-industrija tat-turiżmu f’Għaw dex għaddejja minn diffikultajiet. Il-proġett tal-Ħondoq qed jipproponi li jirdoppja n-numru ta’ sodod fil-kategorija ta’ lukandi b’ħames stilel, fi żmien meta lukandi ta’ dan it-tip għandhom diffikultajiet. Għalhekk il-lukanda weħidha f’Ħon doq ma tkunx ekonomikament vijabbli sakemm ma jkunx hemm il-villaġġ turistiku u l-marina marbutin miegħu.

Fl-istess waqt jitressaq l-argument li l-lukanda hija parti integ rali mis-servizzi bżonnjużi għas-suċċess tal-marina. Fi ftit kliem: jew kollox, jew xejn! Dan iwassal biex l-iżvilupp propost jilħaq skala kbira. L-istess EIS huwa konxju ħafna mill-iskala kbira tal-proġett, fil-fatt il-Market Assessment tal-EIS jikkonkludi li, “the major concern is the potential oversupply in the market, particularly for the hotel and tourist village”. Għalhekk l-EIS, joffri diversi ġustifikazzjonijiet għal dan il-kobor.

Kien irrimarkat li fl-istess waqt, dan il-proġett fuq skala kbira huwa ppreżentat bħala sforz biex isebbaħ l-inħawi tal-Ħondoq, inkluż il-barriera mitluqa u mimlija ħmieġ u skart u l-art tal-madwar. L-argument bażiku tal-proposta hu li jekk irridu nnaddfu Ħondoq għandna bżonn il-flus, u dawn il-flus ikunu ġġenerati biss mill-proġett fih innifsu.

L-EIS stess isostni li l-kwalità tal-baħar ta’ dan il-post hija waħda tajba ħafna u li l-ambjent tal-post hu wieħed tran kwill u bla mittiefes (minkejja li matul is-sajf mijiet ta’ nies jinvadu l-post). L-EIS jidentifika numru ta’ impatti li dan il-proġett jista’ jkollu fuq il-kwalità tal-ambjent tal-inħawi, iżda jkun pront jispjega kif dawn l-impatti jistgħu jkunu solvuti permezz ta’ numru ta’ konsiderazzjonijiet waqt il-fażi ta’ kostruz zjoni kif ukoll meta l-proġett jibda jopera. Sfortunatament, dan l-istess kliem juri t-tendenza rikorrenti ta’ dan l-EIS li jqis il-miżuri ta’ mitigazzjoni bħala miżuri li żgur se jaħdmu. Fil-verità wieħed qatt ma jista’ jaċċerta ruħu li dawn il-miżuri se jkunu implimentati u implementati b’sucċċess, qabel mal-istess proġett jibda jopera.

L-EIS jagħmel diversi attentati biex juri li, minkejja l-iskala kbira tal-proġett, l-iżvilupp se jeffettwa ftit li xejn il-pajsaġġ tal-post minħabba li ħafna mill-binjiet se jkunu “moħbija” fil-ħofra tal-barriera. Fl-istess waqt l-EIS jagħmel diversi paraguni mal-iżvilupp tal-marina f’Por tomaso, San Ġiljan. Per eżempju, l-EIS jikkonferma li l-marina se tipprovdi proġett fuq skala internazzjonali li jiġbed lejn Għawdex l-istess opportunitajiet (suċċessi) li ħoloq il-proġett ta’ Portomaso. Anke meta jiġi biex ikejjel il-qliegħ tal-proġett, juża estimi u prezzijiet tas-suq li bihom inbigħu l-proprjetajiet f’Portomaso.

Il-Kummissjoni qalet li filwaqt li dan ir-raġunar jagħmel sens, l-istess raġunar iwassalha biex tosserva li Portomaso huwa proġett li mela niċċa li qabel kienet okkupata mil-Lukanda Hilton l-antika. Din in-niċċa kienet parti integrali minn żvilupp urban kbir u mifrux li jinkludi Paceville, San Ġiljan u tas-Sliema.

Fil-każ tal-iżvilupp tal-Ħondoq, l-iżviluppaturi qegħdin isostnu li l-proġett jibqa’ prinċipalment limitat (għall-inqas il-parti l-kbira tiegħu) għall-footprint tal-barriera u l-inħawi fil-viċin. L-istess tpinġijiet tal-proġett jagħtu indikazzjoni ta’ żvilupp intens ta’ binjiet imdawrin mal-marina, speċi ta’ Portomaso ieħor, transpjantat f’iżolament stupend f’Ħondoq ir-Rummien. Madankollu, dan hu propost mingħajr konsiderazzjoni tal-impatt li dan il-proġett se jkollu fuq l-iżvilupp urban u l-firxa ta’ binjiet oħra li jinbtu minnu li jibqgħu jinfirxu max-xtut u ’l ġewwa lejn il-Qala. Anke min għandu idea bażika ta’ ppjanar jistaqsi jekk hux possibbli tinjora dan l-impatt ta’ proġett ta’ din id-dimensjoni?”

Hemm żewġ xenarji quddiem na. Jista’ jkun li, mal-medda taż-żmien, il-marina u l-kumpless tal-Ħondoq, kif proposti llum, jibqgħu iżolati fil-kampanja meraviljuża tipikament Għawdxija.

Inkella jis ta’ jkun li, maż-żmien, dan it-tieni Portomaso ġewwa l-Ħondoq, iservi ta’ ċentru li minnu nfirxu binjiet oħra ferm ’lil hinn minn dawk li konna approvajna. Meta tqis il-mod kif iseħħ l-iżvilupp u r-regoli tal-ippjanar, il-Kummissjoni tħoss li t-tieni xenarju hu aktar probabbli u għalhekk issostni li kull żvilupp ta’ marinas għandu jitħalla jseħħ f’inħawi fejn diġà jeżisti ċertu livell ta’ żvilupp urban.

Minbarra dawn l-argumenti li jikkonċernaw l-ippjanar u l-użu għaqli tal-art, il-Kummissjoni ħasset li din il-proposta għall-iżvilupp ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien turi insensittività soċjali kbira. Il-Kummissjoni qalet li ma tistax tifhem kif l-iżviluppatur għażel li jinjora l-fatt li l-maġġoranza tar-residenti tal-Qala, li se jkunu milqutin direttament mill-proġett, huma kontra dan l-iżvilupp kif propost. Minbarra dan hemm ukoll aspetti ta’ mitigazzjoni fl-EIS, per eżempju l-għoti ta’ twieqi double glazed biex jitnaqqas l-inkonvenjent tal-istorbju u l-emissjonijiet fl-arja, li juru l-mod superfiċjali kif problemi reali għall-popolazzjoni lokali qed jingħataw importanza sekondarja. Atteġġjamenti simili jqajmu suspetti serji fir-responsabbiltà soċjali ta’ dan il-proġett.

Għaldaqstant waqt li qalet li l-iżvilupp kif propost f’Ħondoq ir-Rummien mhux wieħed sostenibbli, il-Kummissjoni appellat lil kulħadd, speċjalment lil dawk kollha li semmew leħinhom kontra dan l-iżvilupp f’Ħondoq ir-Rummien: “Li jitwaqqaf dan il-proġett mhux biżżejjed. Dan ikun biss l-ewwel pass. Hemm bżonn urġenti li nkunu ferm aktar proattivi fil-mod kif nindukraw il-wirt Għawdxi. Hemm bżonn li naraw kif it-telqa ta’ barriera u l-isfreġju ambjentali ta’ mad-dawra tagħha għandhom ikunu indirizzati b’mod prattiku u konkret fil-programm Eko-Għawdex. Ir-riġenerazzjoni tal-post se jkollha bżonn il-flus. Aktar milli jingħata l-lok għal aktar spekulazzjoni tal-art, dawn il-fondi għandhom jiġu minn programmi nazzjonali ppjanati b’mod ħolistiku li verament ikollhom l-iskop li jissarfu fi kwalità ta’ ħajja aħjar għall-Għawdxin kollha u prodott turistiku aħjar.”

Ta’ min ifakkar li min-naħa tiegħu l-Partit Laburista ilu ġimgħat sħaħ li wera r-riservi tiegħu dwar dan il-proġett ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

Filwaqt li l-Mexxej Laburista Joseph Muscat kien għamilha ċara fuq il-mezzi tax-xandir li l-PL iqis dan il-proġett bħala wieħed għal kollox mhux sostenibbli, il-Kelliem għall-Ambjent Leo Brincat kien kiteb li dan il-proġett jirriduċi l-kunċett ta’ Għawdex bħala gżira ekoloġika bħala farsa kif ukoll li l-PL kien se jħares l-interessi ambjentali u tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli ta’ Għawdex meta jiġu biex jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet dwar dan il-proġett fil-ġej jieni.

Intant kummentaturi politiċi ilhom li nnotaw li filwaqt li l-Ministru għal Għawdex konvenjentement għażlet li ma tikkummentax dwar il-proġett, hemm ċerti Kunsillieri Nazzjonalisti li qegħdin jopponu l-proġett u oħrajn li qegħdin jibqgħu siekta, filwaqt li wieħed isib kandidati tal-PN għall-aħħar elezzjonijiet Ewropej li fl-istess nifs hemm min minn hom qed jappoġġja l-proġett bis-sħiħ filwaqt li oħrajn qegħdin jopponuh pubblikament.

Ħafna jqisu li t-taħwid fil-kamp Nazzjonalista flimkien mad-deċiżjonijiet futuri dwar dan il-proġett se jservu ta’ prova biex wieħed jistabbilixxi kemm dik hekk msejħa riforma tal-MEPA hija effettiva jew le.

Church commission slams Ħondoq project

Published on the Times of Malta on Thursday 22nd July, 2010.

The Church’s Environment Commission has joined in the debate on the controversial tourist complex and a marina proposed for the picturesque bay at Ħondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo, saying the project was unsustainable.

In a report published yesterday, the commission said it was difficult to justify the developers’ claims that the project was for the long-term benefit of Gozitans because it would not conserve the natural beauty of the island, which should be the main asset to draw tourism to the sister island.

The commission rallied people openly against the project, saying that stopping the project was only the first step.

“Stopping this project will not be enough. It should actually only be the first step. There is an urgent need to be proactive in the way we care for the natural heritage. Ways have to be found to address the neglected state of the disused quarries and the resultant environmental scars in the context of an eco-island,” it said.

The state of abandon of the area, which includes a disused quarry, has been a key argument of those promoting the project. But Qala residents, who rejected the project overwhelmingly in a referendum, have insisted that the project was not the way to go about rehabilitating the area.

“Under the pretext of the need to clean up the disused quarry and rehabilitate the site, there is a danger of land speculation without regard to what the tourism product will actually lose,” the commission said.

It called for the setting up of holistic national programmes for areas such as Ħondoq ir-Rummien, which enhanced the residents’ standard of living and improved the tourist product.

The commission said it decided to voice its opinion because it felt that the debate on the project addressed fundamental principles and important decisions.

The proposal incorporates a five-star hotel, residential units and villas, shops, restaurants and a marina. It has been dogged by controversy since Gozo Prestige Holidays filed an application for the development eight years ago.

The multi-million euro development was inspired by the hanging garden effect of villages dotting the Amalfi Coast, Italy but environmental groups and residents have not been impressed.

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Church commission opposes Hondoq, but stops short of naming and shaming Augustinian Order who sold land

Published on the Malta Today on Wednesday 21st July, 2010 by Matthew Vella.

The Church’s environment commission has declared that the proposal for a marina and hotel complex in Gozo’s Hondoq ir-Rummien is unsustainable.

In a study it carried out on the project, the commission said it was hard to justify how this project will bring greater wealth and quality of life to Gozitan residents in the long-run.

“The project will not be conserving the area’s identity and beauty, which must be the principal assets to attract tourists towards Gozo. Using the pretext of clearing the existing quarry and rehabilitate it, there is a risk of speculating on the land without any consideration for the tourism product being offerred,” the commission said.

The Church commission added that it was a pity that the developer was allowed to buy this land “without the seller realising or caring of the damage this deal would result in.”

The seller is in fact the Augustinian order, which sold the land to Gozo Prestige Holidays for just Lm150 (€350) per tumolo. If the Gozitan company, headed by lawyer turned entrepreneur Victor Bajada, is issued a permit to develop its project, the Augustinians get €23,000 for each tumolo – a total of €1.58 million.

The commission called for a regeneration of the area in the form of a national programme that holistically addresses the rehabilitation of Hondoq ir-Rummien.

The commission said the project had plans to double the number of beds available in the five-star category, “in a time when such hotels are experiencing great difficulty.” Therefore, the hotel alone is not economically viable unless the tourist village and marina are also in the picture. However, the commission said, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) argued that the hotel is paramount for the marina to enjoy success, “so it's all or nothing.”

In a previous document published by the Commission in 2006, it was recalled that “arguments in favour of economic development that don’t respect the country’s social and environmental needs are poor and dangerous; as poor and dangerous as all out protection for the environment and development without social repercussions.”

The commission said its position "was not to make a so-called crib out of Gozo, but to ensure development on these islands is intended to improve the quality of life of citizens.” It hoped that the the unused quarry in the area will be cleaned and turned into a tourist attraction to generate money.

The church body added that Gozo was experiencing a lack of investment which in turn is cutting down on Gozo’s workforce. “The island’s most valuable resource, that of hardworking and intelligent citizens, are often forced to pursue a better future away from our shores... This is bringing about an alarmingly ageing population, showing us that there’s a need for sustainable development, especially where tourism is concerned.”

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Church commission slams proposed Hondoq project

Published on the Times of Malta on Wednesday 21st July, 2010.

The Church's Environment Commission has come out strongly against the proposed development of a hotel, apartments and a yacht marina at Hondoq it-Rummien Bay, arguing that that the project is not sustainable.

The Commission said that it was difficult to justify claims that this project was for the long term benefit of the Gozitans since it would not conserve the natural beauty of the island, which should be the principal asset to draw tourism to Gozo.

"Under the pretext of the need to clean up the disused quarry and rehabilitate the site, there is a danger of land speculation without regard to what the tourism product will actually lose," the commission said.

It also said that it was a pity that the developer had been allowed to sell the land without the vendors having realised, or cared, about the damage which such a sale could cause."

(The site was once owned by a religious Order.)

The Commission in its report said that it was not enough for those who opposed the project to actually manage to stop it.

"Stopping this project will not be enough. It should actually only be the first step. There is an urgent need to be proactive in the way we care for the natural heritage in Gozo. Ways have to be found to address the neglected state of the disused quarries and the resultant environmental scars in the context of eco-Gozo," the commission said.

The regeneration of the site would not be cheap, it said, but rather than from land speculation, the funds should come from holistically planned national programmes which truly aimed at improving the quality of life of the people while also improving the tourism product.

In its report, the commission, which represents the dioceses of Malta and Gozo, said investment and development needed to be sustainable and a proper balance had to be struck with environmental protection.

The commission went over the project and said that the likely scenario was that this proposed 'Portomaso in Gozo' would spark off ribbon development, rather than remain isolated.

It also felt that the proposed development reflected social insensitivity, with the developer having ignored the fact that the majority of the people of Qala did not want the project.

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Church against Hondoq project, ‘not enough investment in Gozo-employment sector’

Published on on Wednesday 21st July, 2010.

The Church’s environmental commission has stated that the Church is against the Hondoq ir-Rummien project as it is not sustainable.

The committee issued a very harsh reaction to the development last night, stating that after extensively studying the project and the development, the Commission concluded that to state that the project would offer Gozo’s people a better quality of life, would be a lie.

According to the Church commission, the project will not safeguard Gozo’s natural beauty, as much of the land surrounding the project may lead to the ruin of the surrounding land. They also stated that the project is socially insensitive.

“ To stop the project is not enough” stated the Church Commission, “This should only be the first step on an island that needs to incorporate more proactive ideas when it comes to Gozo’s land”.

The committee also spoke about the employment situation in Gozo, stating that it was preoccupied by the fact that there is a lack of investment in Gozo and a lack of work opportunities.

The environmental committee concluded that Gozo is not using its greatest resource, it’s hardworking and intelligent people; who are having to look for a better future elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

X’jitilfu biss għandhom tal-Qala

Pubblikata fuq t-Torca nhar l-Hadd 18 ta' Lulju, 2010.

Sewwa qal Jeremy Biosse-vain: il-Qalin bil-proġett ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien se jitilfu l-identità tagħhom. Lanqas kunsill lokali tagħhom ma jkunu jistgħu jeleġġu għax l-1,500 residenti baranin li se jkunu jokkupaw Ħondoq, jiżboq in-numru ta’ Qalin li jistgħu jivvutaw għall-istess kunsill.

U la jkollhom il-kunsill tagħhom (ir-residenti barranin) jagħmlu dak li jridu. U l-Qalin ikollhom, iridu u ma jridux, ibaxxu rashom għal dak li jridu l-baranin. Jien se nsemmi biss xi ftit affarijiet żgħar li jistgħu jitilfu mhux biss il-Qalin, imma Għawdex kollu.

Nibdew mill-bajja nfisha. Bajja pittoreska li għall-Qalin hija ġawhra imprezzabbli, l-aktar fis-sajf. Din il-ġawhra titgawda mhux biss mill-Qalin u Għawdxin oħra, iżda wkoll minn ħafna Maltin li fix-xhur tas-sajf iżuru lil Għawdex. U min se jbati jekk mhux il-Qalin u naħiet oħra ta’ Għawdex jekk il-Maltin jibdew jonqsu milli jiffrekwentaw lil Għawdex?

Lanqas murtal fil-festa ma jkunu jistgħu jisparaw u l-qniepen melodjużi tal-Qala jkollhom jisktu biex ma jiddisturbawx il-kwiet li jridu jgawdu r-residenti barranin. Jiena nasal biex ngħid li lanqas purċissjoni ma tkun tista’ titgawda kif titgawda llum.

Huwa fatt magħruf li ħafna mill-emigranti Qalin li jiġu jżuru lill-familji tagħhom, dawn jiġu fil-jiem tal-festa appuntu biex igawdu l-festa li tant jimmissjaw fl-art li addottathom. Tgħid dawn se jibqgħu jiġu bħalma qegħdin jiġu llum? U min se jitlef jekk jonqsu li jkomplu jiġu?

Min-naħa morali u reliġjuż ma nħossx li hu kompitu tie-għi li ngħid x’jistgħu jkunu r-riperkussjonijiet fi proġett bħal dan. Hemm min hu kompetenti jekk irid jitkellem. U nieqaf hemm.

Dawk l-ispekulaturi u oħrajn li se jmeximxu minn fuq dan il-proġett qegħdin jippruvaw ibellgħu l-lixka li b’dan il-proġett se jinħolqu ħafna mpjiegi għall-Qalin u għall-Għawdxin. Ħafna hemm? U ħalluna! Il-ftit impjiegi li jistgħu jinħolqu żgur li se jibilgħuhom l-emigranti klandestini li lesti jagħtu xogħolhom għal ftit ewro, u l-Qalin u l-Għawdxin jispiċċaw skjavi f’pajjiżhom jekk iridu jaħdmu bl-istess kundizzjonijiet li lesti jaċċettaw il-klandestini.

Jekk tassew irridu li jinħolqu l-impjiegi għal Għawdex hemm bżonn li l-ministru u s-segretarju parlamentari ma jibqgħux jaħdmu biex jisirqu l-voti lil xulxin biss. Hemm bżonn li jagħmlu ras ma’ ras u jaraw kif jagħmlu biex jimlew il-fabbriki tax-Xewkija u jiftħu oħrajn ġodda li jkunu produttivi u jtejbu l-ekonomija ta’ Għawdex. B’hekk biss jis-tgħu jinħolqu l-impjiegi.

Dawn li ktibt jiena huma xi ftit intietef ħdejn dak li kiteb Jeremy Boissevain fit-TORĊA ta’ nhar il-Ħadd 6 ta’ Ġunju. L-istudju tal-impatt li jista’ jkollu proġett bħal dan spjegah bla kantunieri mhux bħalma għamel ħaddieħor, li ma weriex lill-Qalin li jistgħu jitilfu l-identità tagħhom.

L-aħħar kelma: allura dawk l-iskepulaturi li xtraw dik l-art mingħand l-Agostinjani x’se jagħmlu biha? Jiena parir wieħed nista’ nagħtihom. Bħalma fis-skiet ftehmtu mal-Agostinjani biex akkwistajtu dik l-art, erġgħu iltaqgħu mal-Agostinjani fis-skiet biex iroddulkom fluskom lura u jieħdu dik l-art lura. Im-bagħad? Imbagħad għall-imħabba tal-Qalin u tal-prox-xmu għandhom iħallu dik il-bajja biex titgawda mill-Qalin, l-Għawdxin u l-Maltin. X’hawn isbaħ milli wieħed jagħmel il-ġid lill-proxxmu?