The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Environmental destruction - Onslaught against Wied Ghomor continues

Thursday, 6 September 2018, 11:47 Last update: about 3 months ago

Wied Ghomor is far from safe, it seems, with planning applications that threaten its destruction streaming in.

The latest in a long list of applications is a proposal for three office blocks, smack in the middle of the protected valley. Yes, office blocks, in a valley. You could not make this up.

The applicants are proposing to develop an area currently occupied by a disused cow farm, in a project that would entail construction, excavation and paving works. 

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The application has already been met by a wave of objections, including from the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), which warned that the development would result in “inevitable visual impacts and scarring of the natural surrounding areas”.

It also argued that the old cow farm should not be used as a pretext for the construction of industrial buildings and further interventions in this site.

If the permit were to be issued, it could risk setting an undesirable precedent for similar industrial proposals in the area, adding that such projects can easily be housed in existing industrial or urban zones, it said.

Environmental groups, members of the public and the Swieqi local council have also come out against the project. They have told the Planning Authority that existing policy says that development on ODZ should only be related to rural activities, mostly related to agriculture.

Developers know that no industrial development should take place in the middle of a protected valley. They also know that Wied Ghomor is one of our last remaining green lungs, and that it had been nominated for public domain status.

A number of planning applications at Wied Ghomor have been turned down but some developers just keep trying their luck, in hopes that the PA will one day rule in their favour.

Presumably, these developers breathe air like the rest of us, and some of them have children too. Yet they seem to be more interested in ‘making hay while the sun shines’ than in the wellbeing of our environment, and our future generations.

The Malta Developers Association yesterday said it wanted a register of building contractors, because some of them lack experience, with the result that poor quality work is produced. That is a good argument and such a register should be introduced.

But perhaps the MDA should also look towards its own members, and try to instill in them a sense of responsibility towards the environment, the country and their fellow countrymen. Perhaps it should explain to them that a protected valley is not fair game for them, that they should concentrate on the ample urban areas we have, and leave our green spaces alone.

Because that is not likely to happen, the responsibility falls on the government. Laws must be changed and stronger safeguards put in place so ensure that places such as Wied Ghomor are given permanent protection.

Environmental NGO Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar yesterday took the government to task, pointing out that the Environment Minister himself had last year nominated the valley as public domain. The valley has not yet been given the status that would afford it greater protection.

It also pointed to the health survey, launched this week by the Health Ministry, which is aimed at finding out how our lifestyles affect our health. The answer is clear for everyone to see, FAA said – our citizens are forced to lead unhealthy lives because the policies implemented by our governments actually militate against nature and open spaces, rather than in favour.

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