The Malta Independent 17 October 2018, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Rampant development - Concrete jungle

Thursday, 17 May 2018, 10:56 Last update: about 6 months ago

Demonstrators gathered in Pembroke yesterday evening to demand that they are not buried alive by a behemoth project being proposed in right in their backyards. 

But, in reality, the prospective fate the residents of Pembroke are protesting against is very much the same fate that most of the country is facing. 

That because it is only a matter of time at this rate before all of us stand to be buried alive unless real, workable solutions are found to sate both the country’s thirst for development and its hunger to save the last remaining open spaces that we have.

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For a country of the small size of Malta, we require innovative, even ingenious, ideas of how to make the most out of the small space we are confined within.  What works for other countries does not work for Malta.

Of course, we all know that as that much is obvious.  But despite that, there is no grand plan for the country’s future development – short, medium or long term.  The once-vaunted Paceville master plan remains on some dusty shelf and in the meantime developers at ploughing ahead with the lofty, very lofty indeed, piecemeal plans for the area.

We are a small nation and as such we should be flexible. We should be thinking outside the box. We cannot compete with other countries when it comes to the amount of land that can be allocated for development, our strengths lie elsewhere and it is those strengths that must be exploited.

It is a dangerous game that is being played in Europe’s smallest, most densely-populated and most-overbuilt country. A country with such unique merits requires unique solutions, which have been sorely lacking. 

And it was only a matter of time before a critical mass of the population, including the previously disinterested and disaffected, had its eyes opened to the wholesale surrender and destruction of the country’s last remaining open spaces.

People will need to realise that for far too long, successive governments have treated this country’s few remaining natural areas as mere electoral spoils. Those spoils have been distributed during each administration’s five-year term – sometimes to buy loyalty before elections and to reward that loyalty after elections, and sometimes for an individual’s personal gain.

Without going into the specific merits of one particular case or another, the general rule of thumb here is that land is given out, development permits are granted, and illegal developments are sanctioned almost as a matter of course – by those chosen to run the country for the benefit of their own chosen few.

But the politically-motivated environmental rot does not stop there, by any means. During those five-year stretches, more and more land is unscrupulously sacrificed on the altar of economic progress: short-sighted decisions based on short-term economic gain. 

The American University of Zonqor had given birth to the country’s more recent environmental movements and the government would be well-advised to pay heed to this new-found strength of the environmental movement.

Both parties are guilty of having not only aided and abetted in the wholesale of Malta, but both are also guilty of using the environment as a tool manipulated according to political exigencies. This has been amply evidenced by the handling by political parties and successive governments of the spring hunting season over the years.

It is the legislators’ duty to administer the country in the name of the people; governing parties are not handed the country on a silver plate every five years to do with as it pleases. 

What remains of the country’s natural environment does not belong to the government of the day – it belongs to the people of today, of tomorrow and of the decades and centuries to come.

This issue transcends politics: it is about the people and their most precious resource, the last vestiges of its open spaces.

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