Today we received additional images from the destruction taking place in Comino (refer to gallary below).
We have also received shocking information that ERA will be endorsing these illegal works at Blue Lagoon on the basis that the damage is done already and there’s nothing much to do from their side. One has to remember that this is a permit was suspended by the Gozo Ministry itself once it realised that a permit will not be issued. Now the ERA Board has been pushed to accept this fait-accompli based on the “fact” that the damage has been done. This is scandalous to say the least.
We hear a lot about ERA making U-turns, yet these U-turns are always in the direction of where money, power and corruption lies. ERA – that’s the entity responsible for safeguarding nature in Malta – is basically acting as a rubber stamp to illegal works by the Ministry of Gozo in this specific case – and in so many other examples on an almost daily basis now.
Allowing these environmental crimes to happen at one of the most iconic places of the Maltese Islands is highly indicative of the onslaught being faced by Malta’s remaining open spaces, beyond the glossy images and the nice words we hear from politicians about functioning institutions.
- The Gozo Ministry recalled the PA permit once it realised that it will be refused and instead started the works on the premise that it was now an “emergency”.
- Fixing a hazardous path might constitute an “emergency” procedure, but creating a service culvert with manholes to pass utility services does not in a Natura 2000 island. Admitting that talks were being held with Enemalta about these plans shows clearly that this was a premeditated plan to please the mobile kiosks and the only emergency was to take the opportunity to work in deserted Comino and satisfy the personal needs of these abusive kiosks.
- Mobile kiosks do not have a licence to operate – until last year there were around 6 different kiosks selling food and other products. The utility services projected are paid for from our taxes, and basically to be used to supply electricity to illegal kiosks – heading to be legitimised. These are the ones who are creating the sound pollution via generators right now. The correct way to solve these problems is to accept operation of legal activity and introduce mitigation measures.
- Although we agree with the Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia when he stated that specific cases should be dealt with via the regulator – we believe that as the entity responsible for policy, the Environment Ministry should ensure that no gaping holes are allowed – in this case, the use of “emergency works” when one gets an indication that a PA permit is going to be refused.
- FoE Malta reiterates its claim that there is no such thing as an established vehicular road network on Comino.
Friends of the Earth Malta condemns the illegal roadworks at the iconic Blue Lagoon in Comino. This has become a worrying trend – from Dingli to the island of Comino and other places which have not been highlighted in the media.
Contrary to the impression being given by the Ministry for Gozo who in their statement stated that there was clearance from the “relevant authorities”, Friends of the Earth Malta can confirm that the outline application for these works is still pending and that the case officer’s report recommends a refusal based on the fact that the proposal lacks the necessary information to enable complete assessment in terms of environmental and landscape requirements. Since this was an outline application, work could not have been started even in the case of approval and would have required a full development application. Can the Ministry for Gozo present us with the permit and the bank guarantee imposed?
The ministry is also incorrect when stating that “The passageway forms part of a pre-established network for vehicular transit within Comino and is essential to allow access to the Blue Lagoon.” – There is no such thing as an established road network on the island of Comino, which is also a Natura 2000 site.
In its comments as part of the case officer’s report, ERA noted that the proposal is “still indicating a very broad area of intervention. It was also noted that the proposed drawings are not limited to resurfacing works, and still include interventions on which ERA had indicated specific reservations (e.g. artificial embankment wall in lieu of the existing natural rock face).”
Although FoE Malta acknowledges that the path in question was subjected to weathering and required some form of intervention, we believe that no Ministry or entity should be above the law as this is not only a form of environmental injustice but will also in the long term backfire thanks to those who in the short term are trying to bypass the laws and regulation in their quest to gain more political popularity and votes.
It is high time that the environment minister puts a stop to these abusive trends which are undermining all the environmental and planning regulations to the detriment of our environment and well being.