The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Challenges and pledges

Tuesday, 17 May 2022, 12:28 Last update: about 2 months ago

A PL local councillor is pushing ahead with an application to build a home for the elderly on ODZ land, in the green gap between Naxxar and Gharghur. He argues that because the land is committed, then this does not clash with his parties push to safeguard the environment.

The Environment and Resources Authority had the following to say about the proposed development: “ERA objects to such proposals for the change of use of rural buildings and rural land into non-farming uses as these encourage urban sprawl outside designated development zones at the expense of the countryside. The removal of an existing farm building on an ODZ site should not serve as a pretext for a replacement development of urban or industrial nature.”

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Meanwhile, on a separate issue, the public outcry against plans for a miniature airstrip on the outskirts of the picturesque Wied Żnuber has continued to persist, with Birżebbuġa residents and a number of NGOs calling for the withdrawal of the plans and the classification of the whole of the valley as an Outside Development Zone. They urged the Prime Minister to honour his word on this issue.

At the same time, Infrastructure Minister Aaron Farrugia has said that a handful of large “controversial” road projects are in the pipeline. A number of times in the past when controversial road projects were announced, it included the take-up of green land.

The Labour Party during the election focused on the environment and tried to paint itself as a party focused on the environment.

It is already facing many tests. Will the development proposed at Wied Znuber be cancelled?

Will the party disassociate itself from a local councillor who plans to build on ODZ land and remove him from their ranks? It should, afterall if your own party members do not understand the importance of the definition of ODZ, why should others care?

Will the party ensure that any road projects do minimum damage to the environment? Aaron Farrugia was the environment minister last election, one hopes that he will remember this moving forward.

These are all questions that the government will need to answer, and soon. The government will be held accountable for its plans, especially when it made such a major deal of putting the environment at the forefront prior to the election. Was it all talk, or will action follow?

Will certain planning laws that have been abused and resulted in the takeup of ODZ land over the years be amended and improved? They should be, and new policies should be introduced to improve the situation in general.

Putting the environment as a priority is not something you just say to win votes. It is a state of mind that must govern all policies. It is good that the government pledged to implement major environmental proposals in its manifesto, but that is not enough. Things need to change at all levels. We have too little green land left.

 

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