The Malta Independent 18 April 2024, Thursday
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Watch: ‘Do not take away our land, use the Jerma Hotel instead’ – Zonqor Point farmers

Neil Camilleri Thursday, 14 May 2015, 10:40 Last update: about 10 years ago

Farmers who own lands in Zonqor in Marsascala have appealed to the government not to take their livelihoods away and to develop the so-called ‘American University of Malta’ at the former Jerma hotel site instead of on pristine land on the opposite side of Marsascala bay.

The Malta Independent spoke to a number of farmers on Tuesday – all of whom fear that their lands could be taken away by the government to make way for the controversial project, which is expected to be built on ODZ land.

One of the farmers, who accepted to be interviewed anonymously, explained that the land, which is leased from the government, has been used by his family for generations.  “We have always farmed these lands, growing export potatoes and animal fodder (silla). Now we are fearing that these lands are going to be taken away from us.”

The farmers said none of them have so far been consulted on the project. “We have only read the newspaper reports, which indicate that an area of some 500 tumuli will be taken away for the university and natural park projects. This is good agricultural land. It should not be developed.”

He explained that illegal structures built some 30 years back were pulled down by the authorities. “They were taken down because you are not supposed to build anything here. Now it seems that things have changed. We are afraid that they will take all this land away from us.”

The farmer confirmed that some of the land belongs to private landowners. “There is speculation that these people are interested in seeing the planning permits change so that they would be able to develop their properties.” He said residents are passing gathering signatures, asking the government to develop the university elsewhere. “I think they could easily find somewhere else to build the campus. Why do they not use disused hotel sites, like the former Jerma Palace? They are saying that this project will benefit Marsascala shop owners, because the university will generate business for them, but is the business generated by farmers not also important? We produce crops and feed for animals, including milk cows. Is that not also considered as commerce? Agricultural land in Malta is already very scarce. Another 500 tumuli gone is a considerable percentage of land. There are many full-time farmers who make their living here. If restaurant owners need to earn their living so do we.” 

He appealed to the government to look after the last remaining agricultural land and to relocate the project to another area where crop fields would not be taken up. 

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