Published on The Times of Malta on Wednesday, 14th September, 2011 by Leo Brincat.
There are two very strong indicators that confirm why many have every reason to consider the otherwise praiseworthy Eco-Gozo concept as mere hype.
We need to have a detailed action plan…
- Leo Brincat
How can one really believe that the Minister for Gozo has been and is strongly committed to the project when she and her minions have openly supported the Ħondoq ir-Rummien project as originally proposed? In doing so they were supporting something tantamount to environmental rape.
On the other hand, a quick look at some of the “projects” listed under the Eco Gozo project – ICT, tourism, financial services, culture etc. – will show that, in order to minimise any potentially strong effect on the environmental sector, there was deliberate recourse to side issues.
Equally baffling is the insistence and persistence of the Minister for Gozo to hold back from publishing the full 300-page plus document that is in the hands of its permanent secretary, reportedly with specific instructions to keep it under wraps.
Could it be that, if published, the full and detailed report would send shivers down the spine of some of the key government-leaning contracting firms that thrived under this Administration in Gozo in a near monopolistic manner?
What was the true reason why a former Nationalist MEP candidate stuck his neck out so much in full support of the original Ħondoq project? Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono recently stated that she will respect any board decision by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority on Ħondoq. But in order to feel reassured we must first figure out how the Mepa board will ultimately decide on the project. Every single Mepa board member should be held personally responsible for the way s/he shall exercise his/her vote on the Ħondoq project.
The minister continues to refer us to an Eco-Gozo action plan “online”. This is nothing but a mere “proposed” action plan meant to take us from 2010 to 2012. Merely stating that “Gozo will become an eco-island by 2020, supported by a keen and committed sustainable community” is far from enough.
We need to have a detailed action plan, possibly based on the recommendations and conclusions of the as yet unpublished full report on Eco-Gozo that, from what I have been told by environmental experts, drew on the expertise of many specialists in the field when being compiled.
While committing itself to turn Gozo into an eco-island by 2020, the government also stated that this was one of the declared objectives for the island, one of the seven strategic targets set for the country in the “ambitious” (sic) Vision 2015 For The Maltese Islands.
A mere look at how basic environmental considerations have been flagrantly ignored and abused in Gozo, with certain high officials’ apparently tacit and not so tacit consent, makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s declaration that the government “will transform Gozo into an ecological island, a model of sustainable development”.
Interestingly, although the full Eco-Gozo technical report continues to gather dust, reportedly in the Gozo Ministry’s own confines, the ministry had committed itself in November 2009 to the “pledge” that the Eco-Gozo vision document would be published shortly (a commitment made almost two years ago!). This it had done in a proposed action plan that runs out next year and which is only 29 pages long!
It would be interesting to know what the ministry really has in mind regarding renewable energy in a holistic and comprehensive manner rather than via piecemeal one-off proposals.
Does the ministry have any position on the proposal that Edward A. Mallia has been long floating of a wind farm rather close to Gozo?
Does Gozo really and truly have an ecological master plan to become entirely energy sustainable? If in the affirmative, can this be published with immediate effect?
The government’s feeble excuse that it is already implementing most of the recommendations without having chosen to publish the full report in question is mind-boggling, to say the least. While I am not one of those who tend to adopt a fundamentalist approach towards development so long as it is truly sustainable – way beyond mere lip service – I think that, particularly in the case of Gozo, full transparency regarding any projects underway and under consideration is imperative.
What really angers me is the fact that at the same time that government spin doctors are constantly trying to ram the Eco-Gozo concept down our throats, some of the worst environmental crimes have been and are still being perpetrated in the so called eco-island.
When I recently tried to track in Parliament how and on what projects were the Eco-Gozo allocated funds being spent, I was given this curt and bland reply by Mrs Debono: “I have been informed that about €6 million have been allocated by the government for the financial year 2011 for Eco-Gozo projects. This ‘fund’ is being used to ‘continue’ work on projects and initiatives started earlier on and to carry out various initiatives, work on which commenced this year.”
The reply was given last July 12, just a few days before Parliament rose for the summer recess.
I will no doubt keep on digging further until truth will prevail.