L-ispekulaturi tal-art mgħejjuna mill-Gvern: ħa jaħtfu l-baħar ukoll

Qieshom mejtin bil-ġuh. Wara li ħarbtu l-art, issa ser iduru għall-baħar. Għalissa qed jillimitaw ruhom mir-Rikasli saż-Żonqor. Imma wara jibqgħu għaddejjin sa Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.

Hu ċar daqs il-kristall li l-ispekulaturi tal-art lokali dawwru għajnejhom lejn il-kosta tagħna biex jissodisfaw ir-regħba tagħhom bla qies.

L-informazzjoni li l-Awtorità għall-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA) identifikat il-kosta bejn ir-Rikażli u iż-Żonqor bħala l-iktar parti tal-kosta li hi addattata għar-riklamazzjoni hi ta’ tħassib kbir. L-ERA qed tgħid li għaliex iż-żona hija diġa’ iddegradata (jiġifieri prattikament mejta), allura ma jimpurtax li tkompli issirilha aktar u aktar ħsara, għax daqslikieku ma baqax tama għal din iż-żona. Hekk qed tgħid l-ERA b’ħafna logħob bil-kliem.

Għalkemm għadha ma ttieħdet l-ebda deċiżjoni definittiva, l-identifikazzjoni mill-ERA ta’ din iż-żona hija r-riżultat ta’ pressjoni biex jinstab sit adattat għar-rimi ta’ skart tal-kostruzzjoni li jirriżulta minn proġetti fuq skala kbira bħall-mina proposta bejn Malta u Għawdex, kif ukoll il-proġett dB fis-sit tal-ITS u l-proġett Corinthia fuq il-peniżola ta’ Pembroke. Dawn il-proġetti se jipproduċu madwar miljun u nofs metru kubu ta’ skart tal-kostruzzjoni.

Iż-żona matul il-kosta tax-Xgħajra diġà ntużat bħala sit għar-rimi tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni minn proġetti oħra kbar, bħall-proġett mostru tal-MIDI fuq il-peniżola ta’ Tigne. Hi żona li ġiet wkoll effetwat bħala riżultat tal-outfall tad-drenaġġ tul is-snin.

Il-Gvern irċieva madwar għoxrin espressjoni ta’ interess, liema sejħa ħarget mill-Gvern innifsu, għal proġetti li jinvolvu r-riklamazzjoni tal-art f’diversi partijiet tal-kosta. Deċiżjonijiet dwar dawn il-proġetti għadhom pendenti. Huwa magħruf ukoll li fost l-aktar proġetti msemmija huma dawk bejn Portomaso u Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq. Fosthom hemm it-talba riċenti relatata mal-proġett Corinthia fuq il-peniżola ta’ Pembroke kif ukoll iż-żona marbuta ma’ Portomaso li kienet tifforma parti mill-Masterplan ta’ Paceville li illum suppost li ġie skartat.

Sfortunatament il-Gvern huwa favur ir-riklamazzjoni tal-art u għalhekk id-dikjarazzjonijiet minn uffiċjali tal-gvern li jipprovaw jitfgħu l-ballun f’saqajn l-ERA mhux kredibbli.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi kontra l-estensjoni tal-kankru tal-ispekulazzjoni tal-art għal fuq il-baħar tagħna. Tħeġġeġ lill-Gvern biex jieħu miżuri effettivi biex jipproteġi l-kosta u l-aċċess għaliha. Għad hemm diversi talbiet pendenti minn NGOs ambjentali għall-protezzjoni tal-kosta u dan in konnessjoni mal-implimentazzjoni tal-ligi tad-dimanju pubbliku. Kemm se jdumu fuq l-ixkaffa dawn it-talbiet?

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A future for our past

Fort-Ricasoli

 

The proposal for the setting up of an American University at Marsaskala  as presented  by the government is not one that is sustainable.  DePaul University of Chicago has denied involvement in the selection of the site: it is a responsibility that has to be shouldered exclusively by the government and its advisors.  Whilst the proposal itself may be beneficial, the selected site should be discarded and replaced.

At the time of writing we are aware from media reports that the site at iż-Żonqor in Marsaskala, outside the development zone, was selected by MEPA on the basis of parameters identified by the government. We have been informed that  the government opted for an ODZ site in order to reduce the financial outlay for the project. In fact, 89% of the land is government-owned whilst the remaining 11% belongs to private individuals, a number of whom are well known for their activities in previous years.

This points to a serious shortfall in the reasoning of the government which  apparently considers that the costs that need to be taken into consideration are limited to those of a financial nature. Environmental costs do not seem to be factored in at this stage – except in the form of a nature park sweetener accompanying the proposed destruction of agricultural land. On the other hand, by identifying the site in the political south, the government thinks that it is addressing social considerations as it is trying to imply that this will lead to the generation of employment opportunities in the area.

Employment opportunities will definitely be created both directly by the academic activity of the University and through the presence on the islands of the foreign students who will be attracted here.  These employment opportunities will certainly be a long term benefit for the Maltese economy.

Hopefully, other impacts on the local population will be considered in detail at a later stage when the detailed plans of the project are analysed. However, even at this point it is obvious that the generation of increased traffic will be problematic and will create considerable difficulties for the localities of Ħaż-Żabbar and Marsaskala.

Earlier this week, Alternattiva  Demokratika-The Green Party proposed to the government that instead of considering the site at Żonqor Point in Marsaskala it should look at Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara. This proposal was also reflected in separate comments made by environmental NGOs as well as by Labour MP Marlene Pullicino, who emphasised the need to make use of forts, coastal towers and buildings of huge historical significance which, if adequately restored, could provide much more space than is needed for the campus of this American University.

In addition to Fort Ricasoli, Dr  Pullicino referred to Fort St Leonard,  Fort St Rocco, The Cottonera Lines  and Fort San Salvatore in Vittoriosa.

I understand that there is some reluctance regarding the Fort Ricasoli proposal – currently partly utilised by the film industry, which considers it as an essential backbone of its infrastructure. Whilst this may be the case, unfortunately this use of the Fort has not to date led to any visible improvement on the state of repair of this national treasure.  I am informed that currently  sections of the fort require immediate intervention as they are considered to be in a dangerous state. Information available also indicates that the film industry has been drawing the attention of the authorities for years on end to the state of Fort Ricasoli but unfortunately no action has been taken.

These proposals to utilise Malta’s historical heritage as an alternative to the planned destruction of 90,000 square metres of agricultural land is much more than a proposal to change the location of the American University in Malta. It aims to channel the available investment into regenerating our historical heritage by restoring it and identifying a use of relevance to the 21st century. Using restored buildings appropriately is the best way in which we can protect our historical heritage.

Other countries have been there before us with considerable success.  Many Universities in Europe are situated on a campus consisting of immaculately preserved buildings, combined with state-of-the-art facilities for research, learning and recreation.

All the above Maltese  historical buildings offer easy access to the infrastructural services which will be required on a university campus.

Why proceed with the destruction of agricultural land when the proposal for an American University in Malta can be achieved through creating  a future for our past? This is a unique opportunity which should not be discarded.

published in The Independent on Sunday, 10 May 2015