FAA & Ramblers’ deplore MEPA handling of Hondoq meeting
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Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and the Ramblers’ Association have said that they deplore MEPA’s handling of the public consultation regarding the Environment Impact Assessment of the proposed hotel, villas, apartments, and yacht marina at Hondoq ir-Rummien, Gozo.
They said that in view of the fact that a sizeable crowd was expected, the Qala school hall was chosen as a large enough venue. Why then, was part of the hall partitioned off, reducing the space available? By the time the public arrived, over half the seats were already occupied by the pro-development lobby, which meant that some members of the public were told they could not be accommodated. Why did it have to be Paul Buttigieg of Moviment Harsien Hondoq to demand that the partitions be removed, and not the Chairman of the MEPA session?
“Similarly, it is well known that at every Gozo hearing there is a strong presence of foreign residents who have Gozo’s environment and well-being at heart. Why did the Chairman of the MEPA uphold the development lobby’s demand that not a word was to be said in English, one of Malta’s official languages, not even the briefest of synopses? Why was no provision made for English translation? If this is the level of hospitality the developers are offering foreigners, why build a hotel?”
“Foreign residents are the best source of investment for Gozo, investing their savings with no intention of speculative profit, looking after their surroundings and contributing generously to Gozitan voluntary societies. Furthermore their presence creates the much sought-after multiplier effect in tourism, constantly attracting family and friends to Gozo. The deplorable conduct at Thursday’s session is guaranteed to put off the very source of investment that the constituted bodies were clamouring for.”
“Dangling the job-creation carrot in order to gain permits to build hotels in Out of Development Zone (ODZ) areas is a common device. The reality is that many of these hotels are using foreign, low-wage staff, rather than employing Gozitans. While many other hotels eventually converted their ODZ sites into real estate, this project proposes a strong speculative element from the outset, therefore the only guaranteed Gozitan employment is in short-term construction jobs, and even this is in doubt, given the number of foreign workers employed in the construction industry.”
The NGOs went on to say that they echo MEPA’s Natural Heritage Advisory Committee in condemning the EIA for its obvious bias in favour of the project. The studies make no reference to some of Malta’s most recent studies on water quality and EU Directives that Malta is legally bound to observe, if fines are to be avoided. Hondoq’s pristine waters make it an unsuitable location for a yacht marina. The NGOs maintain that since the expansion of a cruise liner quay at Mgarr was not allowed due to the presence of the protected posidonia, the same holds good for Hondoq Bay
“A dangerous precedent is also being set by the building of a ‘temporary’ road for developers’ trucks to motor through green fields and potential archaeology sites, a state of affairs never permitted before. Similarly dangerous is the extremely high probability of anti-fouling and other hazardous chemicals leaching into a yacht marina adjacent to a popular swimming beach. Nor does the Traffic Impact Statement reflect the reality of Qala’s narrow village roads, already overwhelmed by heavy vehicles.”
The environment NGOs concluded by saying that they maintain that a National Park at Hondoq, along with heritage trails, an amphitheatre, organic farming, nature study facilities and improved beach facilities, would not only create local jobs but would do far more to attract tourists to Gozo than further over-development. A project which MEPA has asserted will cause the obliteration of protected marine life, has no place on Eco-Gozo, especially in the International Year of Biodiversity. The NGOS maintain that this project is designed to serve the private interests of a few people. The EIA tries to give the impression that the general public is being catered for, while in reality this project will ride roughshod over the wishes and well-being of the Qala residents and the vast majority of the residents of Malta and Gozo