KA calls for studies and research on Gozo accessibility to be published
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Interdiocesan Environment Commission (KA), recalling its proposal of two years ago, is urging the Government to publish all the studies and research carried out in relation to, “all the alternative options for better accessibility between Malta and Gozo.
The KA reiterated what it has also said previously that “before reaching a final decision on the project, the charge one would be obliged to pay for the service has to be carefully studied and made public.”
The publishing of the studies and research should “clearly indicate which option or options offer the most sustainable means of accessibility from the environmental, social, economic and operational perspective,” the KA said.
As well as “the opportunities for new jobs and investment that may be created thanks to the choice of such option/s,” it added.
And finally, it said, “the factors that still deter investors from investing in Gozo when such options, or at least one of them, would be implemented.”
The KA also stated that “the relative studies and research should be published and should include the methodologies used and the questionnaires carried out (where this has been the case).”
The KA said that it believes that there exists “no sound and reliable information in the public domain which could help one make an informed analysis of the possible alternatives which would truly improve accessibility between the two islands.”
It argued that “the public is currently being fed information and assertions that are not backed by readily available evidence. Past promises of a fast ferry service and that of a fourth ship in the Gozo Channel fleet are as yet, unfulfilled.”
Moreover, it said, “the helicopter emergency service operating between the Gozo General Hospital and Mater Dei Hospital has deteriorated.”
The KA continued that “in the absence of an improvement in the existing service and/or the introduction of new services which do not require a hefty capital expenditure when compared to a tunnel, arguments in favour of the latter become stronger, as the other options are not considered, let alone evaluated.”
It said that “the economic aspect has to be studied in detail, and will have to go beyond the concept that better accessibility (whatever the means adopted) may solve all the economic and investment challenges of Gozo.”
There are various factors which determine whether investors decide to invest in Gozo or not, and “none of these factors may be solved by a tunnel,” it argued.
The KA said that it looks forward to the publication in full of a Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of the various alternative options to the tunnel for vehicular use.
The KA stated that “strongly believes” that, “the project for better accessibility between the two islands is of national strategic importance, and should be decided in a context ensuring better quality of life, sustainability and national economic development.”
It also pointed out that “the principle that the people of our islands should have an equitable adequate access to administrative, educational, health and transport services, is absolute and should not be conditioned by the presence of any one means of connectivity,”
The KA said that it also “strongly believes that the Local Plan for Gozo and all the other Local Plans for the whole country, which have been prepared long ago, should be published, so that the boundaries of the development zones will be secured.”
Moreover, it said, “the government should revise the Rural Policy and Design Guidance, and the Fuel Stations Policy to ensure that the countryside will no longer be subjected to the abuse it is currently undergoing under the existing policies”
It stated that “any project chosen should be governed by high standards of transparency, value for money, trustworthy competition between all interested parties, and should be sustainable in the environmental, social and economic aspects, without creating more problems than it would be expected to solve.”
The KA urged the Planning Authority, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), the Strategic Environment Assessment Focal Point (SEA Focal Point) and Transport Malta “to ensure that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Directives be strictly adhered to without any legalistic stratagems similar to those used in the case of the changes made to the Smart City masterplan.”
The KA also appealed to the Department of Contracts and to the Auditor General to ensure that “the procedure for the choice of any option/s for better accessibility between the two islands be truly above board, and that it gives good value for money for the development of Gozo.”
Above all, the KA said, “the selected option should not create negative impacts which would then have to be endured by Gozo and the Gozitans.”
In conclusion, the KA reiterated its appeal for the publication of any studies and research related to the issue “so that the arguments put forward will be truly credible and would provide a valid contribution to the current public discussion in the interest of the common good and the future of our country.”
Photograph by Alain Salvary