The environmental NGOs Nature Trust (Malta), Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Din L-Art Helwa, Ramblers Association BirdLife Malta and Friends of the Earth Malta are appalled by the way filming was being allowed in the Natura 2000 site at Dwejra in Gozo, with the depositing of tonnes of sand over the protected Dwejra rock-face.
This activity was allowed to happen on a site that is of geological, geomorphological, botanical, ornithological importance and on an area rich in Scutella fossil beds and fossilised burrows which forms part of the CORE ZONE, ie. the most important part of the whole protected area in the Qawra/Dwejra Heritage Park Action Plan, protected by both national and international legislation, and where no cars were allowed to enter or park as per Dwejra Heritage Park Action Plan.
Recent weather conditions also caused material to end up in the sea – into an area declared as a marine protected area and also a Natura 2000 site MPA
The environment authority - MEPA - is duty bound to protect this site and not allow such irresponsible activities to occur.
The NGOs demand to know why permits were issued for this activity and why MEPA did not immediately halt the damage and take legal action against the film producers. Since MEPA issued the permit why was a monitor not posted on site continuously. MEPA should be ashamed for granting such a permit in the first place and for putting up such a ridiculous Bank Guarantee of Eur 15,000 for a site of this ecological importance. Moreover Trucks and bulldozers were allowed to enter in the core area.
The NGOs cannot understand where is MEPA’s Environment Directorate that is duty-bound to protect this site, nor why the Ministry for Gozo promoting Eco Gozo, the Ministry for Tourism and the Office of the Prime Minister, responsible for the Environment, failed to even voice their concern.
The NGOs now demand that MEPA should ensure that the area is restored to its original state as soon as possible. What happened at this site is shocking and whoever was responsible for this activity or for a permit being issued, should now be held accountable for any damage.
Malta is today an EU member state and as such has to respect the EU habitats directive. The NGOs cannot understand why the action plan set up by EU funding was not followed by the same authority that approved it. MEPA is today also solely responsible in the management of Dwejra heritage and legally bound to manage this area as part of the Natura 2000 Network in the EU.
Nature Trust (malta)
Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar
Din L-Art Helwa
Friends of the Earth Malta
Ramblers Association Malta
The environment NGOs Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, NatureTrust Malta and Ramblers’ Association of Malta are pleased to note that MEPA reform is picking up momentum; the MEPA Reform Act has now become law and the Environment Protection Department is being strengthened by an additional 45 staff members. Moreover an Environment Policy for the Maltese Islands is being drawn up to address Malta’s environmental concerns by bringing the policies and actions of all Government ministries in line with the proposals of the environment document. If it actually comes about, this would be a welcome change from the present situation, where different ministries routinely violate environmental guidelines.
It is therefore dismaying to realise that MEPA’s supposed “Development Control Commissions” – there’s a misnomer if ever there was one - are still issuing decisions which contravene MEPA regulations.
The MEPA Auditor has published his report on the Mosta Wied il-Qleigha case, where a beautiful meadow has been divided into four plots against MEPA policy. Two owners gained permits to build reservoirs but abusively built two bungalows instead of reservoirs (see photos below). The ENGOs brought this case to the attention of the authorities thinking that action would be taken to return the site to its original state. Instead of which one of the bungalows was sanctioned as stables in PA 7283/07. The Auditor comments thus: “The site history is characterised by piecemeal illegitimate accretions to developments that have been approved. The inability to abide by the requirements of permit conditions is notable in the four cases, thus contributing to unjustified land take-up. This situation is of major concern to Environment Protection Directorate, and should not be rewarded through retroactive sanctioning.”
To which the Director of Environment added “Noting that applicants have demonstrated an inability to adhere to approved specifications, the proposals are strongly objectionable in principle, and it is recommended that the cases are referred to enforcement unit for direct action, with a view to securing removal of all illegalities and restoration of the site to its original state”
MEPA’s Heritage Advisory Committee also strongly recommended that application to convert one of the illegal bungalows into stables should be refused. On what grounds therefore did the DCC grant the permit when all MEPA’s departments urged refusal?
The Auditor further discovered a disparity in the height of the soil within the plot and concluded that the drawings submitted in connection with DN 447/06 are fraudulent and recommended that this permit should be withdrawn.
Furthermore, the demolition of the original rubble walls and replacement with walls of an illegal height as well as the splitting up of the land, required a full permit application and not just a Development Notification Order hence MEPA’s acceptance of the decision was ultra vires.
The Auditor concluded: “This is a classic example of how to reward a lawbreaker in his work to create environmental damage. Throughout the processing of the submitted applications the applicant was acting in bad faith” - This raises questions on the architect’s ethics in this case. Where does the Chamber of Architects stand on such cases? -“I recommend that the DCC Division A assumes its responsibilities for approving a permit contrary to policy and acts accordingly.”
The ENGOs state that the highest authorities were au courant of all the abuse in this case as were the members of the DCC Board when they approved this permit. If the MEPA reform is to have any credibility, Government must go beyond presenting Dr. Mario Demarco as the acceptable public face on this issue. The NGOs support the Auditor’s implication that DCC board should resign and the permit be rescinded however board resignations are no longer enough. The NGOs maintain that responsibility for the destruction of our countryside must be taken and disciplinary measures, preferably by the Courts, are called for. The public has looked on silently for too long while our heritage is destroyed by the very officials who are employed to protect it. Malta requires no less than legality NOW.
The Prime Minister was recently criticized for stating that government was not spending a penny in return for a state-of-the-art sports complex at White Rocks, Pembroke, for, as many pointed out, the public land being offered to the developers is worth millions of Euros.
In addition to monitoring this project due to its proximity to a special area of conservation, the environment groups Ramblers’ Association, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent A?jar and NatureTrust (Malta) voice their concern at the opaque processing so far and agree that the value of such land is in fact worth millions.
It is in this context that the Armier squatters’ situation should be judged. Their ferocity in bargaining, their electoral arm-twisting, and their instant initiative in organizing themselves is better understood when the millions of real estate value at stake on this public land is revealed.
The Armier tract of land is thought to be much larger in size than that of the White Rocks project, and is also seafront public real estate. Worth millions of Euros, it is about to be written off for a pittance due to political blackmail.
The affront to the law-abiding public should not be underestimated. No amount of government transparency and revolutionary planning at MEPA is going to impress the public if a whole seaside town built illegally on prime public land by cowboys, is “sanctioned”.
In addition to the illegal shacks, caravaners are now insolently demanding alternative sites in locations convenient to them in order to move off the land they illegally occupy. It beggars belief that the leaders of Malta’s main political parties should pander to land grabbers by offering them property that rightfully belongs to the nation. Such an agreement would legitimize these squatters’ claim to the value of the land they have squatted on. This property is already being speculated and will continue to be bartered for clean and legal real estate.
The squatters’ brigade claims to have paid €93,000 in expenses which works out to €4,650 per year for a minimum of 20 years of illegal possession. Divided between some 800 illegal households, this comes to less than €5.81 per year. If that is not theft, we don’t know what is. Not only have the squatters had it obscenely good enough for far too long but they have made outrageous claims also for the future.
The agreement signed with the Nationalist government on the eve of the 2003 election, would extend the existing 67,000 square metres to around 231,000 square metres or 230 tumuli of public land which amounts to no less than .08% of Malta’s land surface, against an annual rent of €350,000. The pledge was renewed by the leader of the Nationalist Party just before the 2008 elections, by committing himself to “consult with MEPA” on the pending applications.
Presented in 2004 the applications submitted by Armier Developments, the squatters’ company, proposes the development of 1,589 rooms, 5 playing fields and a bowls pitch, a minimarket, 3 restaurants, a two-storey garage, 3 community centres and a clinic in an area spanning Ramlet il-Qortin, Ta’ Macca u l-Armier, the Barriera tal-Ahrax quarry, Little Armier and the Torri l-Abjad zone.
MEPA Chairman Austin Walker has now claimed that part of the development proposed by Armier Developments is unacceptable because of environmental, agricultural and land ownership issues. However no refusal of the squatters’ basic claims has been forthcoming from either political party in Parliament nor MEPA.
The ENGOs’ position is crystal clear. Rampant abusive land seizures, such as that along the Valletta harbour, Gnejna, San Tumas, Ghadira, all of Armier and in Gozeo such as in Dwejra and ix-Xatt l-Ahmar, must be terminated. Turning over such a large expanse of countryside for building in addition to that lost in the Rationalisation Plans encourages further abuse, and makes a mockery of the government’s promise of “ODZ is ODZ!”
The abuse of partisan politics, the clear source of these illegalities, is corroding the public’s faith in Maltese politicians’ ability to embrace the 21st century and rise above vote-catching tactics to build a political career built on sound ideology and practice.
New plans could open Europe's fields to GM crops
New proposals due to be introduced in the coming days that are supposed to allow European countries more autonomy over the decision to ban genetically modified (GM) crops form an empty and potentially dangerous deal for member states, according to Friends of the Earth.
A new legal analysis of the proposals concluded that they were deeply flawed, legally and politically. Member states are being offered no additional powers to ban GM crops on health, environment and contamination impacts, despite these being the most serious and legally reliable grounds. Instead, only additional ethical grounds are offered, which are legally intangible, subjective and easily overturned in court.
In exchange for this empty offer to decide about the cultivation of GM crops on their territories the Commission is asking member states to relax opposition to future GMO applications for cultivation fast tracking GMO approvals.
FoE Malta believes that this is an empty deal that could open up Europe's fields to unwanted and risky GM crops. Any country wanting to ban GM crops under these proposals will open themselves up to legal challenges from the biotech corporations who want to force GM crops into Europe.
Additionally, while the Commission proposals address the banning of GM crops by national governments, there is nothing to protect conventional and organic farmers, and consumers, in countries that decide to allow GM crops to be grown. The Commission's own impact assessment concluded that the proposals would lead to a "negative impact for non-GM farmers".
Friends of the Earth Malta is calling on Malta's MEPs and government to reject the Commission proposals.
The European public, environment and food and farming sector will only be protected if the GM framework includes strong Europe-wide measures to prevent food and feed from being contaminated, and the member states' demands to improve the safety assessments for GM crops are fully implemented. It will be vital that these measures ensure that the biotech industry is liable for damages caused by any cross-contamination as a result of GM cultivation.
1 The proposed legislative changes to Directive 2001/18 are "riddled with legal uncertainty and lack of reasoning. Since the legislative act itself, if maintained in its current state, is vulnerable to challenge on these grounds, this potentially renders any national measure taken on the basis of it, pursuant to it, or in accordance with it, similarly vulnerable to challenge." http:\\www.foeeurope.org\GMOs\documents\GMO_legal_advice_2010.pdf
2 The Commission proposals can be found here: http:\\www.foeeurope.org\GMOs\documents\Proposal_Regulaltion_modification.pdf http:\\www.foeeurope.org\GMOs\documents\Explanatory_memorandum.pdf http:\\www.foeeurope.org\GMOs\documents\Communication_cultivation_GMOs.pdf http:\\www.foeeurope.org\GMOs\documents\Commission_recommendation_guidelines.pdf
3 The Commission impact assessment concludes that "where GMOs would be cultivated, GM seeds, whether produced in the EU or imported, would replace conventional seeds of the same type of crops."
The environment and heritage NGOs Archaeological Society Malta, Flimkien g?al Ambjent A?jar, Friends of the Earth Malta, GAIA Foundation, Moviment ?arsien ?ondoq and Ramblers Association maintain that the credibility of the Eco-Gozo campaign hangs in the balance as the Qala Creek project to build a hotel, approximately 250 residences and a yacht marina in the Hondoq hillside is assessed. The approved Gozo and Comino Local Plan proposes the Hondoq ir-Rummien area as a Site of Ecological Importance, a Site of Scientific importance for its geology, an Area of Ecological Importance and as a Category ‘A’ valley. It is moreover a proposed Area of High Landscape Value (AHLV) which imposes the tightest restrictions against residential, commercial or tourism development, including roads and public utility services.
In reviewing the project’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) MEPA’s Natural Heritage Advisory Committee (CHAC) states unequivocally “Excavation and construction will obliterate plants and sedentary or slow-moving fauna within the development footprint…This impact is irreversible and extends throughout the proposed footprint”
The project’s impacts on the marine environment are equally significant: “obliteration of habitats as the creation of permanent structures such as sea walls, moorings, anchoring blocks and jetties will permanently obliterate all present marine habitats in the area where these marine constructions will be located”.
The release of dust due to excavation and dredging works to create the marina is expected to have an adverse effect on the water, seabed, fauna and flora out to at least 1000m and to have a “major” impact on highly sensitive, protected Posidonia beds in the area.
Furthermore, the NHAC highlights the fact that the Local Plan indicates that within the boundaries of the Hondoq ir-Rummien zone development for tourism and marine related uses, should focus on sensitively designed, high quality and low density buildings that blend into the landscape. This certainly does not describe the proposed project, to be built up to seven storeys up the hillside.
The lack of solar energy use, combined with the NHAC’s serious reservations about the project’s reverse osmosis plant, drains and sewage treatment further question the environmental sustainability of the project.
In its report, the Archaeological Society of Malta identified a number of archaeological sites in the area, indicating that much more may be found underground.
The NGOs are seriously concerned about the impact of the project on the residents of Qala, 85% of whom had voted against the project. In 2002, a MEPA air pollution study found Qala to be twice as polluted as Sliema, mainly due to heavy vehicle traffic to the nearby hardstone quarry. Once operational, this project would generate approx 2,000 extra vehicles per day transporting tourists, employees and supplies through the narrow village streets. The NGOs condemn the fact that the EIA is being presented with no revision to the Transport Impact Statement which was found to be inadequate, since it studied points which were closer to other villages than to Qala.
The environment groups also object to the project due to the fact that past MEPA surveys on Gozo yacht marinas eliminated Qala as a potential site due to its pristine waters. Although the developers insist that the sandy beach will not be touched, their own scientific report clearly states that Hondoq Bay will definitely be affected also by the release of the anti-fouling compound tri-butyl tin.
While conscious of the need to create employment in the tourism sector, the NGOs question whether this project will in fact achieve this in significant numbers since other tourist establishments in Gozo are resorting to low-wage foreign labour. Much of the project is planned as multi-ownership units which would attract Maltese buyers but would generate fewer employment opportunities.
The present neglect of the area should not justify a speculative project. The NGOs highlight the fact that prior to 2002, the land was designated as a national park; in fact the dumping was approved by the Qala Council as infill to start implementing the park plans.
The proposed development of a port, hotel, yacht marina and tourist village would change the character and very nature of this area; the present peace and quiet which are the main attraction of Hondoq ir-Rummien will be totally destroyed with the coming and going of yachts and the heavy traffic to be generated.. With Marsalforn and Xlendi already ruined by speculative development, Gozo needs to protect its quiet, rural character which is what draws tourists to the island. It is not just Hondoq ir-Rummien that will suffer with approval of this project, but the whole of Gozo. Not only will the marina sacrifice circa 10,000m2 of precious limited land to the sea, but once approved, the project could trigger a string of developments which would devour the whole eastern coast of Gozo.
The NGOs maintain that the best use of this area would be its integration into a wider context of maritime, cultural and agricultural landscapes, combining a natural park planted with local trees, organic farming, a heritage trail to include bicycle tracks and pathways connecting to the fort at Ras il-Qala, rock climbing and an open air theatre. With the reinstatement of the watercourse, a managed beach offering barbeque stations, the provision of car-free transport and facilities integrated into the landscape, a holistic project would attract more tourists year-round than yet another speculative project.
Such a project as proposed by the University architecture students in the FAA/University/Qala Council award would result in a win-win situation for the residents of Qala who would continue to enjoy the area. It is also economically feasible - the MEPA Natural Heritage Committee remarked that the EIA “completely put aside the fact that both mineral extraction and infilling generate a substantial amount of revenue. The Panel feels that this latter alternative has only been superficially explored, definitely not exhaustively and deserves further consideration.”
The Panel goes on to highlight the fact that “the Co-ordinator of the EIS has shown a certain bias in his remarks” and quotes subjective favourable remarks which are inappropriate to an EIA. The concluding title of the Non-Technical Summary “Yes to the Hondoq ir-Rummien Yacht Marina” is most inappropriate, as is the consultant’s recommendation of “a good public relations exercise when it comes to the visual impact of this project”. The NGOs ask what measures MEPA intends to take in view of such an obvious bias, especially in the light of the provisions of the reform of EIA procedures.
The Natural Heritage Committee concludes that the negative impacts of the project on the natural environment outweigh the positive aspects, particularly in respect of terrestrial and marine ecology, waste generation and disposal and visual impact. The Panel is therefore of the opinion that the proposed development cannot be recommended for approval.
Refusal of this project would permit Government to purchase the site at non-development rates and to convert the quarry into a national park as previously planned, attracting more tourists to Gozo allowing present and future generations to enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of Hondoq ir-Rummien
The NGOs strongly support this recommendation - in a year dedicated to sustainability and biodiversity, approval of a project that obliterates habitats and proposes large-scale building in the countryside with very negative effects on Qala village, would make a mockery of Eco-Gozo. The six NGOs therefore urge MEPA to refuse this project, standing by its Chairman’s recent words: ‘The Board takes decisions based on today’s planning policies and on the principle of sustainable development while making sure that permits are granted in the public interest.’
The environment NGOs, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Nature Trust (Malta), Ramblers Association Malta, Gaia Foundation and Sahhambjent are greatly concerned by the major public health issues involved in the emissions of the proposed Delimara Power Station extension to be run on heavy fuel oil. This technology demands that there be strict monitoring of the operation of the pollution control equipment requiring the added complication and major expense of disposing of the hazardous waste. This prospect is even more alarming given the Auditor General's revelation that the decision to go ahead with this project was taken in the absence of a contract for the export of the hazardous waste to be produced by the Delimara Power Station extension.
The NGOs maintain that export of the waste to a third world country, exposing its inhabitants to toxic effects due to the lack of safety standards, is a far from satisfactory solution, given Malta's claims of support for developing countries.
Even if the system works perfectly, Enemalta itself admits that a logistics failure preventing regular export of the hazardous waste will mean an interruption in power generation, with consequent power cuts as recently experienced. The alternative would be to dump the waste in some local out-of-the way site. The risk of grave environmental damage, compounded by our very limited land area, is too high to be acceptable.
It cannot be assumed that local dumping would not be resorted to. This has just happened, albeit on a small scale, in the case of the fly ash from the Marsa precipitators. It would seem that MEPA was aware of the Enemalta/Polidano fly ash contract, which had been allowed to run for four years, even though the necessary permits were not in place. When MEPA woke up, the Infrastructure Minister reacted in typical fashion by switching off the precipitators, exposing the hapless inhabitants downwind of the Marsa power station to the deposition of black dust. MEPA further complicated the saga, pleading a chronic manpower shortage for collecting samples and a national incompetence in carrying out a piece of straightforward analysis.
When asked to consider the use of diesel/gasoil instead of heavy fuel oil for the Delimara Power Station extension, the Minister of Finance said that there was nothing to prevent government from doing so other than the higher electricity unit cost due to the price of gasoil. On the other hand, this higher price could be offset by the fact that expensive collection and export of hazardous waste, with its dangers of power cuts, would not be needed.
The environment NGOs therefore suggest Government forgets about the pollution removal equipment required for heavy fuel oil (HFO) and use gasoil. No contracts for hazardous waste disposal would be required, even if nitrogen oxides removal equipment had to be operated. The products in this case would be just water and nitrogen which do not carry the long-term threats to human health of HFO. The NGOs maintain that they cannot accept an option which carries a serious threat to public health. They therefore ask both sides of the House to agree on a motion requiring Enemalta to use gasoil and not HFO as fuel for the BWSC engines.
The Environment NGOs Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien g©¤al Ambjent A©¤jar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Nature Trust (Malta) and Ramblers Association Malta express their deep concern on the issues related to the opening of Spring Hunting in the Maltese Islands by the local authorities and the behaviour of some hunters in our countryside.
The NGOs have noted that well before the season was opened, some irresponsible hunters had already been noted shooting at birds. At the same time the NGOs also note that while condemning some incidents the Hunters Federation continues to defend the irresponsible few with excuses.
The NGOs would like to show their full support to the Volunteers of BirdLife Malta who were violently assaulted after witnessing illegal hunting. Footage of this incident was also shown in the local media showing this unacceptable behaviour.
The NGOs call upon the national authorities to ensure that Law enforcement in our countryside is beefed up. The Administrative Law Enforcement Unit within the Police force has long been understaffed. The NGOs have been calling year after year for this unit to be strengthened to combat the ever-growing illegalities in our country side. This lack of action by the national authorities is now being interpreted as the lack of environmental commitment by the Government.
Furthermore the NGOs demand that the Enforcement Unit within MEPA be also strengthened. MEPA as the responsible authority for the Birds Directive in Malta should pull up its socks and together with the Police take immediate action.
It is shocking to learn that MEPA actually recommended a longer spring season and voted within the ORNIS group for such a longer hunting spring season in Malta. One questions MEPA's priorities on Environmental issues as the responsible authority. Our Islands are becoming an international and an EU embarrassment on nature protection.
The NGOs call on the Government and the Opposition to unite on this issue and stop trying to make political mileage on the hunting issue in Malta. This calls into question the environmental credibility of the two major parties.
The call is also being extended to the Maltese MEPs who further embarrass our Islands as some of them try to convince the EU that Malta is a special case in Europe.
Finally the NGOs appeal to the Maltese public to show its concern on this issue. If Malta ends up being fined by the EU, it will not be paid by hunters or politicians but by all Maltese and Gozitan citizens through their tax contribution. Our country needs to act as a responsible EU country and not bring shame on us all in the international media.
The NGOs Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Nature Trust (Malta) and Ramblers’ Association Malta support BirdLife Malta in condemning the government's decision to open another spring hunting season despite the European Court of Justice ruling of last September which concluded that Malta did not observe the stringent conditions attendant on the derogation it had negotiated, therefore its season openings were illegal.
The NGOs criticised the government and the hunting lobby for trying to give the impression that the Ornis Committee's recommendation to the government for the opening of the spring hunting season was an independent one. In actual fact during the last Ornis Committee meeting the majority abstained or voted against the duration and bag quotas proposed by MEPA, but the decision was taken by the votes of government-appointed Chairman, MEPA representative and former assistant of a Minister. This was despite the fact that MEPA’s proposal was not based on a valid scientific assessment or legal review.
Moreover, the fact that Malta's environment protection agency had pushed for the opening of a spring hunting season at the Ornis clearly demonstrates that MEPA is simply acting in favour of interest groups and not in a way that protects the environment. MEPA is the Malta agency responsible to see that the Birds Directive is enforced – their recommendation therefore indicates a contradiction.
The NGOs also slammed the Labour Party for trying to gain political leverage by making statements clearly attempted to appease the hunting lobby. This contradicts with the previous statements of Joseph Muscat who publicly stated that his party would respect the EU law and the Court ruling. On such an important decision where the country risks being taken to the European Court of Justice and incurring fines, PL's irresponsible statements in support of hunting lobby's endless demands show that PL is more interested in cheap political stunts than safeguarding Malta's reputation in Europe and the protection our natural environment.
The environmental NGOs – BirdLife Malta, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Nature Trust (Malta)and Ramblers Association Malta welcome the decision by the MEPA Board not to sanction the illegally built boathouses at the Dwejra Inland Sea. The NGOs ' view this as an encouraging sign and hope that MEPA will now live up to the promised reform – that of a giving a higher priority to environmental concerns and issues as well as brining about a change in attitudes. This outcome confirms what the NGOs have been maintaining that MEPA's decisions should be based on regulations, and not on the presence or absence of objectors.
MEPA demands that environment NGOs that carry out management and conservation activities in the Natura 2000 sites consult all stakeholders. While the NGOs agree with this, they object to MEPA giving equal weighting to each stakeholder irrespective of whether they are interest groups that are illegally occupying land or carrying out illegal activities.
The NGOs also note with pleasure MEPA Chairman Mr Austin Walker's comment that he was not prepared to approve and sanction development that had been carried out illegally and would be guided by on the evidence shown on MEPA's old aerial survey maps. It is hoped that MEPA sees this through with actual and speedy enforcement to dismantle the abusive structures. This first step towards finally rehabilitating the area should be followed by measures to protect the unique flora and fauna of the area, to stamp out hunting and the encroachment of nearby quarries, and to ensure that the tourist boats convert to electric motors in order to eliminate the high levels of high-season pollution.
Finally the NGOs hope that this momentum will be maintained so that civil society can finally start to regain faith in this authority. This decision marks a great day and also reflects well on Government’s Eco Gozo project.
The environment NGOs BirdLife Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Gaia, NatureTrust and Ramblers Association of Malta express their concern that on Thursday April 8, Mepa will consider 16 applications for the sanctioning of works at the boathouse area of Dwejra, Gozo. A request for sanctioning means that structures, which have already been built, are in breach of Mepa regulations.
In February 2008, environment NGOs had strenuously opposed the approval of some twenty applications to sanction abusive structures and accretions at Dwejra. MEPA approved these on the pretext that it would allow implementation of the Dwejra Action Plan to stop hunting, dumping and impose uniformity and aesthetic improvements in the area with the introduction of wooden apertures, walls painted with palette colours, the removal of all second floors and roof top structures. In spite of this commitment to regulate the area, some of the ‘boathouses’ already resemble small hangars, and 16 new applications are now presented for sanctioning. It is unacceptable that MEPA had sanctioned boathouse abuse two years ago on the basis of drawing the line to prevent any more sanctioning, and is now considering more sanctioning when five years have passed since the Dwejra Heritage Park Action Plan was agreed to.
These abusive tactics and the generally spineless response from Mepa, which have already been strongly condemned by the MEPA auditor in the case of the Ta' Baldu site, are exactly the "illegalities" that eNGOs were recently protesting about. The NGOs will not be attending this MEPA hearing in protest at the current processing of applications by the MEPA Board. This hearing will be the test for MEPA to show its credentials. Approval of the Dwejra applications by MEPA will continue to reduce this supposedly protected area to a shanty-town, make a complete mockery of the MEPA reform, will tear to shreds the much-trumpeted New Policy for the Environment and will contribute to making a laughing-stock of Eco-Gozo.