23 September 2014

PM Fails to specify whether Dwejra material was sand or coraline limestone

 - Wednesday, 12 January 2011, 00:00

by Annaliza Borg

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi failed to reply to a parliamentary question on whether the material deposited by a film company in Dwejra was actually sand or coraline limestone.

In a series of parliamentary questions on Monday and yesterday the shadow environment minister, Leo Brincat, asked the Prime Minister several questions, but there was no answer to seven of them, including a question as to whether the material deposited was marine sand, as several persons including Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco implied, or whether it was coraline limestone (ramel tal-qawwi).

Dr Gonzi however, made a commitment to publish three assessments that were being prepared on the site.

A review prepared by Prof. Kevin Aquilina and Dr Simone Borg had been completed. The government will be evaluating this report as well as the auditor’s report and another report drawn up by independent experts appointed to assess the damage to the site, before the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) can decide on any measures to be taken.

If any damage to the site results due to negligence on behalf of the film producer, Mepa will ensure the production company makes good for the damage.

While not giving a specific date by when the government’s evaluation of the reports will be concluded, Dr Gonzi said they will eventually be published.

In his replies, Dr Gonzi made reference to the €15,000 rolling guarantee that the producer had to deposit. This amount does not impinge on Mepa’s rights to sue the producer for damages if it results that permit conditions were breached.

“The amount that can be requested is in no way limited to the amount requested as guarantee,” Dr Gonzi said.

Meanwhile, he also pointed out that the site where filming had taken place was a buffer zone of the protected area. The site therefore had no important natural environment as per the EU Habitats Directive.

Mr Brincat asked the Prime Minister for a reaction from Mepa after foreign divers allegedly complained that after the damage to Dwejra, they saw plumes of particles in the sea while diving in the protected site. According to Layman’s Report, Dwejra was considered as the third most known diving site in the Mediterranean.

Dr Gonzi however, replied Mepa did not receive any reports from divers.

One could expect that unconsolidated material from the road, the valley and the parking area in Dwejra end up in the sea carried there by rain water, as happens after every storm. As soon as Mepa was informed that sand was deposited in the area, it ordered containment measures to ensure the material would not end up in the sea, he added.

A question on whether the appropriate assessment had taken place at Dwejra as a Natura 2000 site and if not, who was responsible for this failure, was not answered.

The reply to a question seeking a reason why a full copy of the permit for the film company was not uploaded on the Mepa website, is to be given in another sitting. Likewise, copies of the permit conditions and day by day reports drawn up by Mepa officials monitoring the site, should be tabled in another sitting.

Dr Gonzi also failed to reply to a question on whether Mepa’s Environment or Planning directorate was responsible for monitoring while filming was ongoing and whether the appointed person was qualified to do so.

Mr Brincat also asked the Prime Minister to stipulate when Mepa noticed the damage at Dwejra because two of its officials – the former director for environment, Martin Seychell and the planning director, Chris Borg – had given two dates, 28 October and 14 October respectively, but the matter was not clarified by Dr Gonzi.

He also did not confirm whether Mepa had taken action or not before reports on the matter appeared in the media.

Finally, Dr Gonzi said there is currently no management plan for Dwejra and Malta has up till 2014 to establish management priorities of protected areas.

The European Commission accepted Dwejra as a protected area in 2008. Mepa requested and was granted EU funds under the EAFRD programme in 2009 and the project to draw up management plans for protected areas is expected to be rolled out this year.

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