Ħondoq project and the Eco-Gozo plan
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“I definitely respect their recommendations,” Gozo MinisterGiovanna Debono tells GozoToday, referring to the dismissal of the Hondoq EIA by MEPA’s Environment Protection Directorate.
Debono was speaking during an interview that appeared on GozoToday – MaltaToday’s special Gozo-themed issue, which is out today.
During the interview, Debono was asked about how before the 2008 election, she went on record describing the Hondoq Ir-Rummien Project as a positive thing for Gozo.
Only days ago however, MEPA’s Environment Protection Directorate dismissed an Environmental Impact Assessment as “unduly biased”, and recommended the project for refusal.
How did she react to this?
“I have always declared that I respect the decisions taken by those entities that have been specifically set up to guide Government with respect to specific areas such as sustainable development, transparency and environmental issues,” Debono said..
“These entities were appropriately set up to avoid decisions being taken on personal perceptions, and I definitely respect their recommendations,” she added.
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Żminijietna – Voice of the Left, as an organisation that promotes environmental rights and social justice, welcomes the recommendation of the Directorate of Environmental Protection to Mepa to refuse the proposed project at Ħondoq ir-Rummien. Mepa should reject this unsustainable development.
People have every right to continue to enjoy public spaces. These are important for everyday democracy.
The proposed area is outside the development zone, mostly frequented by the public both for swimming, hiking and rambling purposes. A referendum conducted among the people of Qala showed clearly that 85% of the people disagreed with the proposed project.
The government should have 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 for the regeneration of the old quarry with the planting of trees. Żminijietna supports the work done so far by Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq and other environmental and social NGOs in campaigning against this absurd and harmful development.
■ Andre Damato
Żminijietna – Leħen ix-Xellug
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Il-MEPA għandha applikazzjoni quddiemha biex f’Qala Creek tinbena ‘yacht marina’ li tkun tesa bejn 100 u 150 jott (jiddependi mid-daqs tagħhom), lukanda ta’ ħames stilel b’170 sodda, 283 post ta’ abitazzjoni li jvarjaw minn villas, appartamenti u ‘bungalows’, għaxar ħwienet u parkeġġ taħt l-art li jkun jesa 731 vettura.
Fir-rapport li ħejja d-DPA huwa jiddeskrivi l-proġett bħala “żvilupp kbir urban f’żona barra mill-iżvilupp” u jgħid li fis-sit lanqas żvilupp żgħir m’għandu jsir. Huwa jsostni wkoll li l-proġett se jħalli impatt negattiv fuq l-inħawi li jvarja minn storbju, dħaħen u kwalità agħar tal-baħar.
Ir-rapport jgħid ukoll li t-trabijiet li jinħolqu waqt it-tħaffir u l-bini tal-proġett mistenni jaffetwa lir-residenti tal-Qala kif ukoll lill-għelieqi tal-madwar għax ir-riħ jista’ jtajjar it-trab sa nofs kilometru bogħod.
Dawn l-istqarrijiet min-naħa tad-DPA mill-ewwel ġabu reazzjonijiet minn diversi naħat fosthom il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qala fejn is-Sindku Paul Buttigieg qal li r-rapport jikkonferma kemm kien fih ineżattezzi l-istudju dwar l-impatt ambjentali (EIA) li sar qabel.
“L-EIA kien wieħed totalment ‘biased’ kontra l-lokalità tagħna u dan biex jaġevola l-proġett u l-iżviluppaturi,” huwa sostna.
Buttigieg madankollu huwa konxju li d-deċiżjoni finali għadha ma tteħditx u sostna li jridu joqogħdu attenti għal kull mossa li tista’ ssir sakemm il-proġett jitla’ quddiem il-Bord tal-MEPA.
“Konvint li matul dawn il-ġimgħat li ġejjin se tisimgħu ħafna dwar dan il-proġett u f’isem il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qawra fid-dmir u fl-obbligu li nżommukom infurmati dwar dak kollu li jkun qiegħed jiġri b’mod partikolari lir-resident Qalin,” żied Buttigieg.
Tliet għaqdiet ambjentali – Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar u r-Ramblers – ukoll urew is-sodisfazzjon tagħhom għall-konklużjoni fir-rapport tad-DPA.
F’reazzjoni konġunta, huma qalu li jekk jgħaddi l-proġett ir-raħal tal-Qala se jirdoppja fid-daqs u dan iħalli impatt fuq it-tniġġiż mill-vetturi.
Dan barra t-trabijiet li jinħolqu mix-xogħol tal-kostruzzjoni fejn l-għaqdiet isemmu li fuq perjodu ta’ 18-il xahar jispiċċaw joħorġu mis-sit trakk mimli ġebel kull erba’ minuti. Meta jkun mibni l-proġett ikun ifisser li se jgħaddu madwar 2,000 karozza kuljum li jfissir tniġġiż mill-istorbju u tniġġiż fl-arja.
It-tliet għaqdiet ħassewhom imħassbin b’ċerti frażijiet użati fl-EIA bħal “the site cries out to be developed” (is-sit għandu bżonn kbir li jiġi żviluppat) u “developing a marina at this location offers a win-win situation” (l-iżvilupp tal-‘yacht marina jgawdi minnu kulħadd).
“Waqt li r-rapport dwar l-iżvilupp tal-‘yacht marinas’ fil-pajjiż is-sit ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien kien eskluż, l-EIA qiegħed jgħid li huwa l-iktar sit addattat bl-iskuża li l-ftit dgħajjes li jidħlu fil-post jiġġustikaw marina għal 150 jott,” sostnew flimkien l-imsemmijin għaqdiet. Huma jemmnu li s-sit jista’ jiġi mtejjeb billi jitneħħa t-terrapien tal-ġebel u skart ieħor li hemm fl-inħawi u jitħawlu iktar siġar, jissebbaħ il-wied u jiġu mtejbin il-faċilitajiet tar-rikreazzjoni fil-bajja.
“Aħna naqblu mal-konklużjoni tar-rapport tad-DPA li qal dak li ilna ngħidu mindu l-applikazzjoni ġiet sottomessa disa’ snin ilu jiġifieri li ż-żona għandha tinbidel f’‘park’ nazzjonali ħalli minnu jgawdu l-pubbliku u t-turiżmu Għawdxi”.
Għaqda oħra li laqgħet il-parir tad-DPA kienet Żminijietna – Leħen ix-Xellug fejn anke appellat lill-Bord tal-MEPA biex jivvota kontra dan l-iżvilupp għax in-nies għandhom dritt igawdu spazji pubbliċi.
“Iż-żona proposta hija waħda Barra miż-Żona tal-Iżvilupp (ODZ) u l-akkwata hija waħda ffrekwentata mill-pubbliku għall-għawm u l-mixjiet fil-kampanja. Referendum li kien sar mal-poplu tal-Qala ħareġ biċ-ċar li 85 fil-mija tal-Qalin ma jaqblux mal-proġett propost,” sostna l-kelliem tal-għaqda David Pisani.
Waqt li apppellat lill-Gvern għal politika ċara favur dak li huwa stess qiegħed isejjaħ “Għawdex Ekoloġiku” li għandu jwassal għar-rijabilitazzjoni ta’ Ħondoq ir-Rummien, l-għaqda ħeġġet għal investiment pubbliku li jinkludi t-tħawwil tas-siġar.
MEPA’s Environment Protection Directorate dismisses an Environmental Impact Assessment for the Hondoq ir-Rummienmega-project as “unduly biased”, and recommends the project's refusal.
14:00 Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and Ramblers Association of Malta welcome the MEPA Environment Protection Directorate (EPD) recommendation of a refusal of the Hondoq project application.
The NGOs noted that the EPD report states that there is no overriding justification in terms of net environmental improvement or similar public benefit for the Qala creek project of a yacht marina, hotel, 283 villas, flats and bungalows.
It said that this major urban-type development in an ODZ area will create negative impacts related to sea pollution, traffic, noise, sewage and other damaging emissions.
Such adverse impacts are inevitable both during the contraction phase, and following the completion of the project, the NGOs said.
Qala is already encumbered with heavy traffic from the existing quarries and cannot possibly take more load without damage to the social fabric.
The NGOs expressed concerned at the EIA “which the EPD judged impartial and heavily biased.”
“Impacts were not assessed in enough depth, presenting ‘excuses’ rather than mitigation measures to lower the impact,” they said, adding that the EIA claimed Hondoq was the most suitable site for a marina, while the report on Development of Yachting Facilities in Malta had not even considered Hondoq.
The NGOs agreed with MEPA’s conclusion that Hondoq can be improved without the need of any mega development:
“Clearing the accumulated quarry and coastal debris, dismantling the distillation plant, improving beach facilities and afforestation of the valley are exactly the measures needed, as proposed by the Architecture Award projects organised by the Qala Local Council, Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and the University of Malta Architecture Department.”
The NGOs also expressed agreement with the report’s conclusion that the area should be turned into a national park for the enjoyment of the general public and to the benefit of the Gozitan tourism in line with the ECO-Gozo concept.
“It is now hoped that this application will be refused by the MEPA Board,” they said
10:20 MEPA's Environment Protection Directorate is calling on MEPA to turn down the controversial Hondoq ir-Rummien Project.
The proposed project includes a deluxe 5 star 110 bedroom hotel, 20 self catering villas, 60 apartments serviced by the hotel, 203 apartments, 1249 underground parking spaces, a village centre which includes a church and shops and a yacht marina for approximately 100 to 150 berths.
An Environment Impact Statement on the impact of the project has already been presented last year. But its results have been questioned by MEPA’s experts. According to the EPD the assessment is “unduly biased” towards the development and includes comments like “the site cries out to be developed” and “developing a marina in this location offers a win-win situation.” It also describes the claim that “the development will rehabilitate the existing eyesore by creating a marina environment which will blend with the surrounding landscape as “unsubstantiated.”
The EPD’s report shoots down the idea of creating a temporary route for trucks carrying material during the construction phase of the project noting that it would be very difficult to reverse the impact on existing trees, rubble walls and traditional rural features. It also notes that this would affect Natura 2000 sites. According to the EPD this will pose a “dangerous precedent which will result in further similar undesirable development” on natural areas.
According to the EPD all options proposed for the transport of heavy trucks would have “unacceptable impacts.” In this context the EPD notes that the best option would be not to carry out the development at all.
In its conclusions the Directorate calls on MEPA to refuse the development. One of the major objections is that the project cannot be accommodated within the confines of the quarry and existing road network. The EPD also notes that proposal is for a major urban-type development which is proposed in an area which should be kept free from even small-scale urban development. The Directorate also notes that any claimed benefits of the project can be addressed without any new development through simple measures like the removal of accumulated quarry debris and afforestation.
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