The Malta Independent 19 April 2021, Monday

TMID Editorial: NGOs - The power of protests

Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 09:53 Last update: about 19 days ago

An alley in the heart of Dingli was the latest battleground for NGO Graffitti, which has been at the forefront of all major confrontations in favour of the environment and against development.

But, this time, it was not a multi-storey high-rise building or the construction of a huge flyover that was the target of protests.

It is the building of a street, barely 100 metres long, which links an alleyway to a road that runs parallel to it.

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Still, the activists protested, blocking the project for several days and forcing Infrastructure Malta to revise its plans. The reason for this is that the area between these two roads is home to 300-year-old carob trees and agricultural fields that Graffitti wants to defend.

The NGO, backed by the residents in the area who are afraid they will be losing more than just trees, is using its position on the Dingli project as a symbol of all that is going wrong with regard to the environment in Malta.

NGO leader Andre Callus told The Malta Independent on Sunday that the symbolism is strong because what is happening in Dingli can be transposed to other projects taking place. It is an example of the "attitude we are seeing across the country, especially by Infrastructure Malta, where roads are not being built for the good of the people, but only to satisfy certain interests".

What Graffitti did shows that it should not take mega projects for NGOs to take action. Every little space in our little country is important and deserves to be treated with respect. And the authorities concerned should always consider the impact that any project will have on the residents in the area before embarking on their plans.

A few days later, similar anger was expressed, this time by Friends of the Earth, who condemned what the NGO described as illegal roadwork at the iconic Blue Lagoon, on Comino. "This has become a worrying trend," the NGO said in its statement.

Let us remember that many of these projects are taking up the little that has been left of our agricultural land. We just cannot continue to eat up our countryside and fertile areas. Infrastructure Malta boasts that thousands of trees are being planted in replacement of others that are being pulled down. But the point remains that other, older trees are being uprooted.

Even President George Vella has felt the need to intervene to speak out in favour of the protection of the environment. He has used his position to decry over-development, and his words should be taken into consideration by the powers-that-be.

So much has been said and written about climate change and how rising temperatures and sea levels could cause so much distress, displacement of people and negative economic effects. Malta can do little in this regard, but the little it can do can contribute to a better world.

What seems to be growing is public sentiment against abuse. We all want faster and wider roads to take us from point A to point B in as short a time as possible. But NGOs like Graffitti and Friends of the Earth (and others) have all made us stop and think that this should not come at the expense of the environment.

 


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