The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Freeport dredging application suspended pending a holistic look

Noel Grima Thursday, 15 October 2015, 19:27 Last update: about 7 years ago

An application by the Freeport to continue dredging an area since it did not finish the dredging under a previous permit on time was suspended on the advice of the Mepa chairman pending an overview of the entire Freeport process.

The board meeting was characterized by loud remonstrations by a few Birzebbuga residents who claimed the noise and nuisance of the nearby Freeport was ruining their lifestyles.

One man, Edwin Ebejer, who was particularly outspoken and who made damaging innuendos about a former minister and Mepa's former chairman left the meeting just when he was about to be ejected by the chairman.

Walking out, Mr Ebejer said he had no trust in the chairman.  This caused a board member, Mr Camilleri, to walk out for a short time in protest.

All this was rather unfortunate because just before this incident, Carmel Cacopardo was telling the board that following the frequent meetings of the Environmental Monitoring Committee, relations between the Freeport and the Birzebbuga residents had substantially improved. This was confirmed by Freeport head Joseph Bugeja.

The dredging was rendered necessary following the enlargement of the quay nearest the residents from 180m to 300m. This lengthened the very first quay to be built at the Freeport in the early 1980s. The depth had to be deepened to 13m from 8m and so far a depth of 11 metres had been reached.

But the complaints by the residents have never ceased especially as regards the vibrations caused by the dredging which was said to be so bad as to cause a glass to fall at a distance of two streets.

Mr Cacopardo bitterly complained that an Urban Improvement contribution by the Freeport to the local council was later withdrawn. It was later claimed that this was done by the preceding Cabinet.

Other complaints regarded work being done till late at night, noise and the dredging affecting the bathing quality of the sea when dredging was supposed to have stopped in summer.

The Mepa chairman may have been led to suggest suspending the application pending an overall review when he was told there is another application in the works and he wanted to get a holistic view of the whole operation.

He also wanted to see how relations with the Birzebbuga community could be improved.

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