The Malta Independent 15 August 2018, Wednesday

Slime and grime, ‘Oh my Malta’ indeed

Alice Taylor Sunday, 5 August 2018, 10:17 Last update: about 10 days ago

I do not live in Malta; I left officially around eight months ago. After spending over a decade calling the island home, the place I once knew and loved had become unrecognisable to me so I upped sticks and embarked on an adventure - travelling, working, writing, and enjoying the wonders that such things can bring.

I visited Malta a few weeks ago, excited to see a familiar place full of familiar faces, but after just four days on the island, I left with no plan to return any time soon. "Good riddance" I hear you say, but actually no, it is not good riddance because my reasons for this decision are not mine alone and it should be something of concern.

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The Malta I fell in love with as a child has long gone. It has been stripped of its flora and replaced with skeletal steel structures and monolith-esque monstrosities. Its once picturesque skyline has been permeated and punctured by the obnoxious obtuseness of cranes and grotesque apartment blocks that no one will ever live in. On the short journey from St Julian's to Valletta, the previously delightful seafront has been demolished in a cloud of white dust that lingers thick in the air, long after the builders have gone home. The charming townhouses, brightly painted doors and balconies, and the tranquillity that once had a home here has been replaced by the incessant drilling and banging that seems to filter inside your brain, enduring like the dust that sticks to every inch of your skin.

Then there is the issue of the sea slime. My mother is in her early 70s and loves nothing more than drinking tea with her friends before taking a dip in the sea each day. She loves to float about, chewing the fat and soaking up the sun, while enjoying the health benefits that such activities bring. But each summer there comes a time that fills her with dread. Not only does it fill her with dread, but sometimes it also covers her skin with a thick, sticky, slimy, smelly mess that is immune to almost all cleaning products, and takes around five showers to remove.

After finally admitting that yes, this slime is coming from the fish farms that stretch along the coast, the government has promised (asit did each year before) that the problem will be solved. Forgive me for being somewhat cynical, but to me it seems like their response is more to do with damage limitation for tourism, than an actual concern for the environment.

I get a lot of criticism about my criticism of Malta, but what most of you fail to understand is where my need to criticise comes from. It is not, as many of you believe, from a place of condescension or hatred, nor is it because I have some unquenchable vendetta against the Maltese. It comes from the fact that Malta was my home for most of my adult life - it shaped me, took care of me, tested me, and challenged me, and I wouldn't be who I am now, if it wasn't for my time there. For this reason, there is nothing more heartbreaking than returning to a place that you once held so dear, and seeing it becoming a shell of its former self. My criticism is designed to rile you, to encourage you, and to make you see that you, and Malta, deserve something better.

Right now, a handful of citizens and residents are doing more for the environmental good than all previous and current administrations combined. These people take to the streets, the beaches, and social media to fight for the rights to enjoy the country. They are campaigning for trees, for reductions in pollution, for MEPA to pull their fingers out of their behinds, and for politicians to stand up and actually fulfil their green promises, but why should it be just them that are doing something?

I am not the only one who has decided not to come back, and I am not the only one who left. Malta has lost so much of its charm and allure and is fast becoming some kind of concrete hell that no one is going to want to visit. Yes, you may have iGaming and crypto, but once the tourists go, they will not be coming back. You all have a responsibility to take care of your country, so do something now before the damage and disregard becomes irreparable.


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