In the face of an overwhelming outcry against the proposed Hondoq project to develop a large hotel and hundreds of real estate units around a yacht marina, the developers of Qala Creek have decided to drop the idea of the marina at Hondoq Bay, limiting themselves to a ‘swimming lagoon’.

Friends of the Earth Malta together with the NGOs Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Ramblers Association, Nature Trust, GUG, Din l-art Helwa and Wirt Ghawdex have studied the 2009 EIS Co-ordinated Report where the developers themselves state “the project would struggle if it had to be developed as a stand-alone hotel”. They say that the project is expected to double the 5-star room capacity in Gozo, despite the current demand for five-star hotel properties in Gozo being weak.

They make a point that increased room capacity (oversupply) is of major concern to the market, and to be successful the hotel needs to be part of an integrated project with features that differentiate it from other hotels, i.e. the marina, thus “the hotel will depend on demand generated by other parts of the project”.

Interestingly, when discussing revenue projections, the 2007 version of the report stated: “The hotel on its own is not commercially viable. It can only succeed and be sustainable if it forms part of a much larger complex which will attract interest by potential patrons to reside at the hotel. The marina development could act as such an attraction.”

In the 2009 version this was modified to: “The hotel will be successful and sustainable if it forms part of a much larger complex which will attract interest by potential patrons to reside at the hotel. The marina development could act as such an attraction.”
The wording has changed, but the meaning has not. In 2009 the developers themselves did not consider the hotel was viable without the marina, therefore the NGOs fail to understand how the developers can now eliminate the marina and claim that the complex would remain financially viable, as required by the Environment Impact Assessment. This eleventh-hour submission of new plans shows that the developers are intent on pushing through a commercial venture in complete disregard of the social impacts of the project, ignoring the fact that the local community and also general public opinion has expressed itself against the project.  

The environmental NGOs therefore urge MEPA to refuse such a project and to revert the land to its original designation as a nature park. The Qala Local Council has already looked into the various aspects of creating an environment and heritage park, a project that would draw much-needed tourists to Gozo, and support existing hotels and catering establishments.
Trees planted by Libyan refugees and representatives from UNHCR and Friends of the Earth Malta

As part of a programme of events to mark World Refugee Day 2011, Friends of the Earth Malta organised a tree planting event in conjunction with UNHCR Malta at the GAIA Foundation in Ghajn Tuffieha.

Refugees currently residing in Malta, joined volunteers and staff from FoE Malta and UNHCR on a visit to GAIA’s “Elysium” visitor Centre at Ghajn Tuffieha. They were given a tour of the Centre, the Nursery for indigenous plants, the organic Olive groves and the Special Area of Conservation at Ghajn Tuffieha. 
They also took part in a tree adoption and tree planting programme. Typical local food was then sampled, including GAIA’s delicious organic olive oil.

The number of environmental refugees around the world today is as high as 25 million, and is increasing exponentially. Environmental refugees are forced from their homes by phenomena including large dams, desertification, forest destruction, and most recently, climate change. To date there exist few mechanisms to accommodate these people, who lose their livelihoods, their cultures and their dignity when forced from their homelands. Friends of the Earth believes that the concept of human rights must be broadened in order for new and evolving issues to be recognized and protected, including the phenomenon of climate refugees.

Throughout its member groups in 77 different countries, Friends of the Earth have been at the forefront of the ongoing struggles of communities and indigenous peoples around the world. Other ‘new’ rights, including rights for climate refugees, have arisen over recent years due to the acceleration of economic globalization and the accompanying environmental destruction and social disruption. 

Environmental rights are human rights, as people’s livelihoods, their health, and sometimes their very existence depend upon the quality of and their access to the surrounding environment as well as the recognition of their rights to information, participation, security and redress.

In its reaction to the statement made recently by government informing us that the long-term goal of the government was to have our power station running on natural gas, Friends of the Earth Malta believes that besides being no news, contained statements which were inaccurate.

Reducing our dependence on oil and transferring it to natural gas does not do much to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. A more rapid and fuller development of our wind power potential would lead to a quicker improvement in that respect. A switch to a natural gas source in either of its current forms - liquid tanker or gas pipeline - requires an expensive infrastructure with a long construction timescale. Between the Scylla of the EU deadline on Marsa and the Charybdis of the government's muddle over its energy planning, there was not the slightest chance of us getting a timely gas supply. 

If government was really serious about producing less polluting emissions, Friends of the Earth recommends something concrete straight away: run the Delimara Extension on gasoil (diesel) rather than Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO). That will get round the need for the elaborate and costly process of removing sulphur from the chimney gases, and avoid producing those 30 tonnes daily of hazardous waste which have to be transported and exported. Government can also forget about the 1 tonne of toxic sludge per day, for which no plan for safe disposal has yet been devised. Friends of the Earth also questions the statement by the Ministry of Finance stating that use of gasoil "will lead to an immediate rise of 30% in electricity bills". This has not stood up to serious scrutiny.

Friends of the Earth understands that one possible way of making use of natural gas fairly quickly is by arranging for the Inter-Connector, which will connect Malta to the European electricity grid, to take all or most of its power from gas-fired stations in Sicily. This is a far more modest (and feasible) proposal than the past suggestions made by government that the Inter-Connector would unlock the gates of the French nuclear heaven for us.     

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