Times of Malta, 14 June 2010

Letter to the Editor – Environmental Saviour or Destroyer (2)

It is no surprise that the meeting on the Ħondoq ir-Rummien project ended in a row. On one side, we have the developers who are looking at the project as another opportunity to make money at a time when business is low; the strongest point in their favour is that without such projects the economy of the islands slows down as we depend too much on the construction industry. On the other hand, we have the residents who will definitely be affected by the project as this will generate more traffic, noise and pollution. They have much to lose.

We then have the NGOs who are unanimously opposing the project as a whole or mostly because the building of the marina will inevitably affect negatively the surrounding sea and coastline. As a member of the committee of Din l-Art Ħelwa for the past 18 years, I witnessed many projects which went through and altered once and for all the aesthetic beauty of our islands.

When commenting on the Ħondoq ir-Rummien project, Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco was reported as saying that one had to examine such projects with great caution as that is what sustainable development requires. I believed in the buzz words sustainable development where one tries to minimise the damage caused by such projects.

Today, I believe that development outside the development zone can never be sustainable, whatever and wherever it is. We can embellish places, modernise them and make them more environmental friendly. However, we cannot afford to increase the built footprint anymore. Our islands are too small and we are already too densely populated. Once we alter a place by passing a road through it or building it up, we are causing irreversible damage once and for all. This applies to Malta, Gozo as well as Comino as the latter island is also not spared of speculation. I cannot imagine our islands in 50 years’ time if we continue to build them up at the rate we did during the past 50 years!

If we have to keep our economy going we have to find alternative ways to do so. To dream of ODZ projects and accept them in order to keep our economy going is nonsense.