Ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra - Ta' Ċenċ

 
     
 

Ara wkoll / See also: EkoLogika - Għaqda għall-Ħarsien Rurali ta' Għajn Tuffieħa / Save Rural Life

 
     
 

Ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra     Ta' Ċenċ

 
     
  Il-proposti ta' hekk imsejjaħ "żvilupp" ta' għadd kbir ta' bini u korsi tal-golf fl-inħawi tax-Xagħra l-Ħamra f'Għajntuffieħa u Ta' Ċenċ f'Għawdex (fir-ritratt) jagħmlu ħsara  irreparabbli lill-wirt ekoloġiku, storiku, kulturali, u soċjali ta' dawn l-inħawi sbieħ u tal-Gżejjer Maltin b'mod ġenerali.

The proposed "development" at Ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra in Għajntuffieħa and Ta' Ċenċ in Gozo (in picture) would cause irreparable damage to the ecological, historical, cultural and social heritage of these rich areas and of the Maltese Islands in general.

 
     
 

Ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra

 
     
  Golf course too harmful and too risky  
 

The Times, 1.08.05

 

Mario Cardona, Manikata

 

I would like to comment about the editorial July 25 regarding the proposed golf course at Ghajn Tuffieha. The editorial asked for a careful study of all the points at issue. Here are some of them.

 

Much of the proposed golf course will be built over garigue land where there are not only wild plants of extreme beauty throughout the year, including plants that flourish under the scorching sun of July and August, but also cart ruts, giren, natural caves and catacombs. All this will disappear under tons of rubble that will be dumped over the garigue in order to plant turf.

 

A club house is proposed to be built over an old farmhouse where about half the population of Manikata used to live in the pre-war years and thus is of great cultural and historical value for the community.

The fertilizers and herbicides needed to grow the turf will seep into the water table and provoke irrevocable damage to the waters of Mixquqa Bay (Golden Sands) and also to the farmers' boreholes along the Ghajn Tuffieha-Xemxija irrigated farmland.

 

Worst of all, a stretch of farmland known as Il-Bajjad is earmarked for the construction of residential blocks. Farmers who have been planting vines and fruit trees and who have just started to reap the fruit after years of preparation and care of the trees will now be evicted from the land to make way not for the golf course but for land speculation. People who have been living on the same site in farms surrounded by farmland will see their farmland taken over by developers and their residences will now be surrounded by modern residences or turf, planted on land that once contained their crops or fruit trees.

 

Finally, the Xaghra l-Hamra is in no way suitable for golf. It is exposed to strong north-west winds throughout the winter. I am eager to see rich golfers choosing to brave the winds at ix-Xaghra l-Hamra rather than comfortably playing golf in Tunisia or Spain. Thus, even the suitability of the place for the playing of golf is seriously questioned.

 

What will happen if the golf course enterprise will not take off as a profitable venture? Will the dumped garigue then be given out for more construction? We will have lost too much. The venture is simply not worth the risk.

 
 
  Not just a bunch of tree-huggers  
 

 

Monday, September 5, 2005
Interview by Massimo Farrugia, The Times

Despite all the rhetoric on sustainable development, the Maltese environment is still second to economic considerations, the president of Nature Trust Malta, Vince Attard, insists. He spoke to Massimo Farrugia.

Environmental non-governmental organisations have come a long way from the time when they were called tree-huggers or environmentalist wackos. Both expressions know their origin in the 1970s - not in Malta, where new mentalities always take their time to infiltrate and arrive in diluted form when they do. But in America, where those who defended a natural environment that was fast being crushed by money earned a great deal of contempt. It was not uncommon for the establishment to purposely confuse environmentalists with the drunken mob dressed in colourful clothes.

Mr Attard certainly does not fit that description. His thin face, glasses and polite smile suggest he means business. Literally. "I come from a business management background, which is one of the reasons why I am president of this organisation," Mr Attard said as we sat down in his freshly whitewashed cubicle-cum-office at the NT headquarters, Car Park One, University of Malta.

"I studied sciences and became a member of this NGO in 1972. At the time, Edwin Lanfranco was my biology teacher and he too was an active environmentalist," Mr Attard said, adding he was never a person to sit passively on the sidelines. As a result he has spent more than 33 years as an active environmentalist. He is now reading for a Masters degree in environmental management.

"Our mission statement is based on three pillars - site management, environmental education and lobbying in favour of the environment and nature protection. Nature Trust today deals with a variety of issues, ranging from biodiversity to air and water quality, noise pollution and so on."

Nature Trust Malta, however, only started bearing its name since 1999, when a group of environment NGOs decided it was useless to duplicate work in a country where resources are limited. The organisation Mr Attard formed part of from a young age had been set up in 1962 as the Natural History Society of Malta. It came to be known as the Society for the Study and Conservation of Nature after the Labour government had in the 1970s banned the use of the word "Malta" and "national" in names of companies, organisations and newspapers.

Since then, environmentalists have gained more standing which they use to influence political decisions. But was this because governments and their voters had really converted or was it because NGOs had been tamed, turning formal and business-like?

According to Mr Attard, simply being an extremist pressure group will get you nowhere nowadays. "All environmental NGOs worldwide are moving towards a more structured approach. If you want to obtain funds to manage a conservation site or if you want to pursue an education campaign, you cannot but get organised. You need to be organised. Many pressure groups have been set up in Malta but few have survived. So a managerial and professional approach is necessary to survive as an organisation. It's not a question of being silenced," Mr Attard said.

But is it acceptable for NGOs to enter into negotiations with the government as if they were entrepreneurs? In the ongoing golf course controversy, for example, six NGOs forming the coalition against the golf course sat down with Environment Minister George Pullicino and Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech to discuss the controversial issue. The ministers asked the NGOs to propose an alternative site and even promised to involve them in the management of the areas that would be saved from development.

"If you go for a confrontational approach, as politics is usually done in Malta, you will head into a brick wall. Nature Trust Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Birdlife Malta, The Gaia Foundation, Din l-Art Helwa and the Ramblers' Association all agreed that a golf course at Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra would not be suitable. So we felt that the best approach was to sit round a table with the authorities to try and find a solution. If we refused to meet the ministers, we would have lost an opportunity to possibly influence the decision."

"There were rumours that NGOs were being bought out and that they were dealing with the government instead of opposing the proposed development. We did not bargain anything. But since the government seems determined to go ahead with the golf course at Ghajn Tuffieha, Nature Trust said it was ready to give its share in the management of the untouched site. However, we made it clear we were fundamentally against a golf course at Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra," Mr Attard said.

"The government asked us to come up with an alternative site for a golf course. We are not in a position to suggest where a golf course could be developed unless an environment impact assessment is first held. It is not our duty to come up with an alternative site," Mr Attard said.

Asked to justify his stand against the proposed development, Mr Attard said Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra formed part of one of the few open spaces of undeveloped land in Malta. Economically speaking, the area could be promoted as part of an eco-tourism strategy.

"Let me make it clear that garigue is not degraded land. It is a rich Mediterranean environment which includes very diversified habitats. The plants in the area grow in pockets of low soil and can resist heat and an arid climate. It is a specialised environment which is very rare elsewhere in the European Union. Once garigue is covered with soil, it will be altered forever. Wherever debris was dumped on garigue, the area turned into disturbed ground vegetation," Mr Attard said.

Turning to the choice of the site in question, Mr Attard expressed concern that even if the government promised that an official decision on a golf course at Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra would be made when the environment impact assessment is over, NGOs were being given the impression that the decision had already been made.

"We think an EIA had to be carried out before a site was chosen. You cannot just propose a site without having studied it before. Besides the fact that an EIA should be carried out both in the dry and wet season to check whether the area is ecologically important, one has to see whether the conditions of the permit will be adhered to. All too often developers flouted the conditions of the permit at the expense of the environment. Even if the EIA indicates that the development can go ahead, I will still have my doubts whether having a golf course there will be a good idea in the long term," Mr Attard said.

He said that if the golf project failed, the land would have no ecological value any longer and this could easily justify eventual land speculation.

"We are afraid that if golf does not become sustainable, we would have lost much more than other countries would lose in these circumstances, precisely because of limited space. Let us not fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with Spain or Tunisia just because these are investing in golf. They have land to spare. We don't. If the authorities want to improve the tourism product, let them restore the historical buildings that are falling to pieces and the heritage sites plagued by illegal dumping."

Mr Attard also questioned why politicians were now speaking of three golf courses and not one. "How can we speak of three when we cannot even find a suitable site for one?"

"I recall former EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom's words when she came to Malta. She had said that Malta still does not have an environment political agenda. We often place it all on the economic side and overlook the environmental aspects in the sustainability equation".

Mr Attard said the 30,000 golfers figure with which the government is justifying the need to develop a golf course has not been substantiated.

"We have been asking for the feasibility studies that indicate the positive effects a new golf course is supposed to bring about. We have not received anything yet. One of the questions raised in the meeting with the ministers was precisely this. We won't just take their word for it because the official numbers cited do not tally with those coming out of the studies carried out for the Verdala golf course. We do not know how the government worked out these figures," Mr Attard said.

On August 26, The Times reported that the EIA was being carried out by ADI Associates and a number of consultants appointed directly by the Malta Tourism Authority. Till today, the amount of money being forked out of public coffers to pay the consultants has not been revealed by the MTA. Nor has the Malta Environment and Planning Authority divulged the figure paid to Martin Hawtree to study the sites.

"When it comes to the free access of information, we have gone a step backwards. When Malta signed the Aarhus Convention, NGOs were promised they would be consulted and that all information on projects involving the government would be made available," Mr Attard said.

The convention deals with the access to information, the public participation in the decision-making process and the access to justice in environmental matters. It specifies that decisions in the domain of the environment must be taken with maximum transparency, entailing a policy of information, negotiation, consultation and monitoring.

"We only got to know of the government's intention to develop a golf course at Ghajn Tuffieha through the newspapers," Mr Attard said.

For Maltese NGOs establishing strong links with businesses is practically inevitable, especially because they are non-profit making organisations and rely on sponsorship. Does this create a conflict of interest for NGOs when they come to oppose development proposed by one of their sponsors?

"We are very careful who to accept a sponsorship from. We recently had a chance to secure a good sponsorship but refused it when we found out that one of the partners involved had an activity that was not environment friendly in Malta. We simply turned it down. Despite all the difficulties to look for funding, we are very careful who to approach and where the funds are coming from," Mr Attard said.

Part of Nature Trust Malta's funding comes from the government through projects; another part comes from the EU and a number of local and foreign businesses with specific projects.

One issue which is most at heart for Mr Attard is the law on NGOs. "I have been asking for this law for a number of years now. If you mention Vince Attard to the Prime Minister he will probably tell you 'Ah, the one who wants the NGOs law'. Unless this law is enacted, Maltese NGOs will not be able to reach their full professional standard," Mr Attard said.

He argued that being non-profit entities, NGOs collect money and their accounts should therefore be subject to regular audits.

"If one NGO mishandles funds, all NGOs will get a bad name unless we are regularised. The lack of legislation often creates unnecessary obstacles when it comes to applying for EU funds. For instance, when we applied for particular projects, Brussels could not understand how we were not legally registered."

"Two months ago, a draft law was presented and the first attempt is a step in the right direction. It seems that the law, will be introduced step by step rather than as a whole legislation which would mean it will take 20 years to be implemented," Mr Attard said.

The proposal is that there will be a registrar for NGOs on the same lines of the companies' registrar. The law had been in the pipeline for 10 years but it seems there are precise deadlines now. By November, the Ministry for Social Solidarity is expected to vet all submissions before the final draft is tabled in Parliament."
___________________________________________

This article may also be viewed at http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=198337

 
     
  New golf course - Minister 'suggests' NGOs manage protected areas  
 

 

The Times, Wednesday, August 31, 2005
by Massimo Farrugia

Environment Minister George Pullicino has suggested that environment NGOs opposing the golf course at Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra be involved in the management of the areas that remain untouched by the development.

At a meeting between Mr Pullicino, Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech and five environment NGOs, the Environment Minister said the government intended to impose a planning obligation on the developer to fund the management of the protected coastal area.

"It is hoped that NGOs will be involved in the management of the protected areas," Mr Pullicino said.

The NGOs, however, appear to be having none of it. They replied that Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra was the most objectionable of the Malta sites short-listed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority due to the high scenic value of the landscape as well as ecological reasons.

The meeting was held on August 17 at Auberge d'Italie, in Valletta, where the Tourism Ministry is housed. The NGOs and the government yesterday issued a joint statement giving an account of what was said at the meeting.

The presidents of Din l-Art Helwa, Nature Trust, BirdLife Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation and the Ramblers' Association were quoted as saying that they felt very strongly that this part of the island was the last frontier on the mainland for both environmental management and low-impact and eco-friendly tourism.

The proposed 18-hole golf course, a government project that seeks to attract 30,000 tourists a year, "would adversely affect an area of great scenic beauty" in the north west, where there was as yet little development, the NGOs said.

They reiterated their concern about the negative effect that a golf course would have on the garigue. The project, they said, would also alter what is essentially an area of countryside into a commercial development that would bring with it further tourist accommodation and ancillary buildings.

Under such heavy fire from the environmental lobby, the government is having to justify its choice of site. Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra had not been included in a list of five sites proposed by Mepa following a request by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi last September. The government had asked Mepa to consider Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra only at a later stage, when the Hal Ferh Complex was passed on to it.

The joint statement said: "Mr Pullicino explained that the site was selected following a site selection process carried out by Mepa. The process took into account environmental considerations and requirements related to golf course design.

"It is the government's view that, on the basis of the site selection process, Ix-Xaghra il-Hamra site is the one which is the most appropriate for the development of a golf course, with the least impact on the environment."

The statement also quoted Dr Zammit Dimech saying that the zone indicated was in excess of what is required by a golf course and that this allows for a design that would avoid the more sensitive parts of the site.

The ministers argued that the proper management of the designated area should be seen as an opportunity.

"Contrary to statements in the press, the NGOs did not propose any alternative sites for the golf course to the government," they said. Sources said this claim referred to a story that appeared in The Times on August 15, entitled No Golf Course at Ta' Cenc, in which it was reported that "environment NGOs would lobby the government to consider Pembroke as an alternative site".

In reality, the sources said, NGOs were shifting from their original stance of opposing the idea of having additional golf courses in Malta to trying to convince the government to opt for an alternative site to Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra.


This article may also be viewed at http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=197870
 

 
     
  Friends of the Earth against Għajn Tuffieħa golf course  
 

The Sunday Times, July 10, 2005
 

Friends of the Earth (Malta) yesterday said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had "neutralised" the public consultation process on the proposed golf course development by getting directly involved in the choice of the site.

Dr Gonzi's intervention had also "undermined the objectivity of the legitimate decision-making bodies and consultants", the environmental NGO said.

Pronouncing itself against the development of a golf course on Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra (limits of Ghajn Tuffieha), FoE (Malta) co-ordinator Martin Galea De Giovanni said it was a very dangerous precedent for the Prime Minister "to endorse a specific location for a specific project", since a Prime Minister should allow the channels within the government structures to be followed without pronouncing himself a priori on a project.

"If the Prime Minister commits himself to a particular development, what hope is there for a truly independent and objective Environment Impact Statement?" the FoE (Malta) co-ordinator asked.

FoE (Malta) said the Tourism Ministry should explain how it had come up with the figure that a golf course attracted 30,000 golfers.

The environmental organisation asked whether any data had been collected on the consumption of millions of cubic metres of water per annum needed for the golf course "on an island with precipitation levels hovering just above desert conditions, and where agriculture is in huge need of water and currently already over consuming existing resources".

Mr Galea de Giovanni also asked whether the authorities had considered a scenario where the water table reaches a critical level and where "the whole island could become a wasteland, and agriculture and all our habitats could be wiped out".

Bringing forward arguments against the golf course development at Ghajn Tuffieha, FoE (Malta) said eight times more herbicides are used for a golf course than in agriculture.

Such amounts would decimate the protected areas, including the marine area up for protection between Rdum Majjiesa and Ras ir-Raheb, an area that was listed as a candidate Natura 2000 site, Mr Galea de Giovanni said.

Large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides had to be used on exposed coastal golf courses. "Considering the geology of the site, these harmful pollutants would eventually end up in the sea. This could possibly make one of Malta's most popular sandy beaches unfit for bathing, to the detriment of our tourists and citizens alike," the organisation said.

Quoting the Structure Plan, Mr Galea de Giovanni said that any golf courses in Malta should be located where no adverse environmental impact or loss of good quality agricultural land would result.

The plan proposes the use of derelict land or "other land requiring major environmental improvements".

Garigue land was "neither derelict land nor bleak and deserted", he said. Instead it was one of the most bio-diverse habitats on our islands, which we have to protect, especially if we target to reach the EU goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

FoE (Malta) also pronounced itself against the proposal to reclaim land by dumping construction waste at sea. The proposal was launched by Government in conjunction with the golf course proposal.

The organisation said proposals for land reclamation indicated that both the government and the opposition were willing to succumb to pressures by the business community and land speculators at the expense of harm to the marine environment.

It said plans to build islands were a sign of admission that the authorities had failed to curtail unsustainable practices in resource use in the construction industry.

This article may also be viewed at http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=192817

 
     
  Protest staged against golf course proposed site  
 

 

By MaltaMedia News

Jul 18, 2005

 

Several stakeholders welcomed the government's proposals for the development of a new golf course at Ghajn Tuffieha. However, various Maltese NGOs joined forces in a peaceful protest against the proposed site [on 17 July 2005]. The protest included guided walks around the golf course proposed area - Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra.

 

Ceratonia Foundation, BirdLife, Graffiti Movement, the Ramblers Association, the Manikata Residents Association and Nature Trust participated in the protest aimed at protecting the natural environment.

 

Ceratonia Foundation is a non-governmental non-profit making organisation, which aims to focus public attention on the value of safeguarding the natural environment for present and future generations and the creation of a just and inclusive society.

 

The walk was aimed to save the precious piece of land - the garigue in Xaghra il-Hamra limits of Ghajn Tuffieha. In a press release, the Ceratonia Foundation stated, "if this 144 hectors of land is approved for development, we will lose another piece of our countryside."

 

Alternattiva Demokratika Chairman Harry Vassallo concluded the protest by saying that the attendance of the protest shows that people are becoming more conscience to safeguard Malta's heritage.

 

Additionally, while people were participating in the guided walks, a group of artist gathered around the garigue and created images in order to show a contrast between the beauty of the sunset and the garigue area and the man-made golf course and the eventual buildings of villas, bungalows and hotels around. The collective production of the artist is expected to be part of an eventual exhibition/display in order to help the public become aware of the beauty we are going to loose once and for all.

 
     
  More pictures at http://www.movimentgraffitti.org/gallery/album25  
     
  Eddie terminates agricultural leases equivalent to 22 full size football grounds  
 

 

James Debono, Malta Today, 31 July 2005

The President of the Republic has terminated agriculture leases affecting 178,608 square meters (0.18 square kilometres of land) for its new "public purpose project" in Ghajn Tuffieha - the golf course. The area in question is the equivalent of more than 22 full size football grounds, although this will not be the total area required for the siting of the golf course. Fourteen of the leases have been issued on land in Manikata, Mellieha. The termination of the leases in the area identified for the Ghajn Tuffieha golf course indicate that the golf course is set for a fast track approach by government, where unlike other golf course applications like the rejected Verdala course and the pending Habel Bellu application, the Xaghra l-Hamra site has already been endorsed by the government before an environment impact assessment
was carried out.


The notice of termination was signed by President Eddie Fenech Adami on request of the Malta Tourism Authority, now taking up the spadework for potential private developers for the golf course. The government is considering the development of a golf course in Ghajn Tuffieha as "a public purpose project." With the exception of a golf consultant's report issued in May, no studies have been yet published to justify the choice of Ghajn Tuffieha, although the government is determined to push through its golf course plans in the absence of these studies. Farmers are being deprived of their land despite statements by the Malta Environment and Planning saying that at this stage it considers a golf course in the area "worth exploring" but that any application should include the necessary studies, including a full Environmental Impact Assessment. The farmers in the area are up in arms against the termination of
the leases in the area earmarked for the Ghajn Tuffieha golf course. MaltaToday has also learned that the parish priest in Manikata is supporting the farmers who have organised an action group.


Mario Cardona, the spokesperson for the newly formed group said farmers from two particular areas in Manikata have received notice of the termination of agricultural leases. According to Cardona one
group of farmers who received the notice work the land in an area called tal-Bajjad. This area is being earmarked for possible building development, mentioned in the report prepared by golf consultants Hawtree. Cardona insists that the land in question is very fertile and a number of farmers rely on this land for their livelihood. "Some of the farmers in this area who have received the termination of lease have received funding from the government related to the development of vineyards and the restoration of rubble walls" The other group of farmers at ix-Xaghra l-Hamra itself are mainly part-time farmers who still consider agriculture as an important part of their life.
 

The action group has so far already organised a meeting in the parish hall in which the parish priest was also present. Mellieha mayor John Buttigieg also expressed his concern on the termination of leases in Manikata. "We have asked MEPA to give us more information but so far we have received no reply," the mayor told MaltaToday. Buttigieg also expressed his concern that in the light of the termination of these leases, a couple of farmers will lose their livelihood. But the Malta Tourism Authority considers golf as more important than agriculture. Replying on behalf of the Prime Minister, and the tourism and environment ministries, the Department of Information said that when a project is planned it is normal practice for the co-ordinating authority on the project to request the termination of all government leases on the area identified for the project. "The Malta Tourism Authority is in no doubt that a project coordinated by itself to enhance tourism, a major pillar of our economy, qualifies as a public purpose project." The DOI did not confirm whether the environment ministry had been consulted before the termination of the leases. No justification was given on why the termination was issued before the publication of an EIA.


Last week, referring to the concern on the future of the scout camp in Ghajn Tuffieha, a spokesperson for the environment ministry told MaltaToday that "at this point there is only a proposal for a golf course site. In view of this, there is no definite course of action and all decisions will be based on the outcome of studies andconsultation processes that will be conducted." It seems that the same caution is not being shown with regards to agricultural leases on this site.

jdebono@newsworksltd.com

 
     
 
 
 

Lost forever

 
 

Harry Vassallo

The Times, Friday 5 August, 2005

Imagine the garigue at night. You can. You are capable of cosmic consciousness. In your mind, you can travel in space and time and you deal with infinitely complex abstractions in your daily life. You do. You are human, that's all it takes. For many it may be just a matter of retrieving a memory; for others, the anticipation of an experience yet to come.

Imagine the moonlight. Beyond the rounded hillock, it shimmers over the water like hammered silver. With no artificial light to create any deeper darkness, the moon lights your path. You can actually make out the colours of rocks and plants.

The sounds are different and the aroma is carried in the evening dew. If you sit quietly you are likely to be convinced that the place has a busy nightlife you never imagined it had. To the uninitiated the rustle and scuttle may be a mite disconcerting. Sitting silent and immobile in the middle of nowhere, you can let it all be itself, a complete, self-sufficient wilderness at your feet.

It is there every day, every night. You never imagined that you had so many neighbours, these islands' first inhabitants, still around after thousands, maybe millions of years. It is quite fitting that you should sit there in the dark since you are in the dark anyway, night or day. This simply makes you more aware of the fact of your almost endless ignorance of the cycles of life running all around you. The more you know, the greater the awareness of your ignorance.

Upwind of you a series of noises tells of a larger creature. A rat? Not a snake. You know that it's bigger than that. You are not alone. You try not to breathe. It's a hedgehog, the first you have seen not squashed flat in the road. It has surprisingly long legs. You are so close that you can catch the glint of moonlight in its eye. Why does it feel like magic? Why do you feel blessed by the sight of a wild creature?

You have only just arrived, it must be a matter of minutes and yet something has happened to time. It is a complete irrelevance. This place has seen no change for a million years. It doesn't need a watch.

It has seen the first Maltese come ashore and it did not mind. It has belonged to every empire that has dominated the Mediterranean throughout history and did not worry one little bit about it. Its pace never changed. Only people changed and they too were a complete irrelevance.

The bats are out. Aerial warfare against the empire of flying insects. We call them night butterflies (friefet il-lejl) in Maltese and they flutter across the moon with the evanescence of their eponyms. Wherever do they rest during the day? No Maltese could ever place them in a vampire tale. They are no threat at all.

There is no dangerous creature out here. Even the snakes keep their venom for their prey and not for larger creatures they could not possibly eat such as yourself. They can only poison what they have already half-swallowed. In fact there is only one threat out here.

There is a very great danger that you could meet someone you have been trying to avoid for a long time: yourself. Malta offers no other wilderness. Everywhere else is noisy, full of distractions. At work or play we jostle one another endlessly. We seem to do everything in crowds, with an extraordinary expense of energy. Out here you are alone. Alone with yourself and an unusual peace. For a while you can enjoy the illusion that you are all alone on the island.

Not everybody can handle it. As the blanket of timelessness wraps itself around you, the skyline of your own life stands out in sharp silhouette. You could find yourself teetering between meaning and futility. You are shorn of all your defences, your distractions, the hysterical rush to nowhere. Here you are, breathing the metaphysical. Did I hear you say spiritual? Why does this place feel more sacred than any cathedral? Because it is poorer, richer, freer and uncontaminated by power? Because its Maker's mark is still there for all to see?

It can be crushing to realise how completely unimportant you are. There you are huddled on a rock in the middle of nowhere in particular, an irrelevance to this small place, let alone to the earth. You too are an insect, a bacterium and just one. In the fireworks display of humanity you are a speck, your life the briefest spark.

Before you vanish altogether, you recall that you are witnessing your own redimension. Speck or spark you know that you are unique, that you have a place in all this and that you have your time, flash or flicker as it may be. You know. You know and are ignorant. But you can learn. You may even let your intuition tell you of what you can never hope to learn. Your potential is immense. Have you made the most of it?

How long have you been here? Hours or just a moment? Your bottom tells you it has been quite a while. You decide that it is time to leave and as you straighten up, you realise that you have acquired an inner peace. None of your problems is solved but you can face up to them all much better than before. There is less anxiety in your bones even if your joints feel stiff. You are able to manage it all.

Your car awaits you at the end of the track. As you turn the key you are conscious of the toxic cloud you leave behind. You never thought of that before. Why does it feel like a desecration? Soon enough you are back in civilisation, another dimension. The chase is on again. Life goes on but you tell no one of your time in the wilderness. It cannot be shared. It is your link with nature across time. It is what gives you a sense of proportion in the chaos of daily life. Sometimes you feel that this is what keeps you sane. The best things in life are for free and very intimate.

Then you read that somebody is selling them all off, for golf. For golf? In a sacred desert? What the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Byzantines, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins, the Aragonese, the Spainish, the Knights, the French, nor even the British ever thought of doing will be done by one man. He will change the place forever. Today's Prime Minister feels he has the authority to turn the place into a golf course. Can he ever be made to understand his own epochal transgression? Will it happen in time? What will you do about it? Yes, you. Now, before it is all lost forever. Just tell someone, anyone of the power of the place. Decide to discover it. Take your children and grandchildren walking there. Do it, before it is all gone for good.

The dead are long gone and future generations are still unformed. Of all who breathe today, it falls to today's Maltese to save this place and of them all you bear a major burden. You know.

Dr Vassallo is chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party.
 

 
 
 
 

The Sunday Times, September 4, 2005

Wide Angle

Getting a horse for the cart

 

by Lino Spiteri

The government appears to be clashing gears in its drive to get a golf course project going in Malta. Media reports tell conflicting stories. These include claims that the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is commissioning studies by direct order, rather through the tendering process applicable to the public sector (Malta Today, August 28). On its part the MTA insists that it remains committed to drive the process in a professional manner, fully respecting procedural requirements (The Sunday Times, same date).

The MTA offers two-headed comments. It says that a final decision will be made on the outcome to 'scientific information', meaning an Environmental Impact Assessment. The MTA adds, however, that the outcome of the assessment will not be the sole consideration on which the final decision is made.

Which is which? What shall determine the final decision?

To arrive at the answer one has to bear two things in mind. First, the government brought the site at Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra out of its hat in a manner that makes the expression 'out of the blue' seem far too pale. One odd day towards the end of June the Prime Minister declared the site golfable after MEPA, at unknown cost that also covered specific expatriate services, had finalised the review it was directed to make to identify suitable sites, and had made its considered recommendation. Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra was nowhere in sight among them.

Secondly, when the media reported the Prime Minister two months ago they recorded him as making a very strange statement, which could only have been based on a final decision. The PM said that the government could have concluded the process at that point, and issued a call for expressions of interest immediately. However, he added as if he were conceding a favour, that the government preferred to have further studies in hand so that all the parameters would be clearly laid out when the tender for the development of a golf course was issued (The Times, June 29).

Invited to clarify what he meant by that, given that no call for tenders, regarding any project, no matter how small or big, can be made by the government without all the parameters being clearly laid out, and established procedure duly followed, the PM did not bother to elaborate.

Should the MTA really not be following established procedure to the full, that would be in keeping with the attitude indicated in the PM's presumption that the government was somehow entitled to conclude the process without the parameters being clearly laid out.

On the other hand, irrespective of what was going on in behind-the-scenes meetings, the authorities seem somewhat shaken by the reaction to the initiative it took regarding Ix-Xaghra l-Hamra.

While the determination to press ahead with developing one more golf course in Malta, and another in Gozo remains, there is a more cautious air about how that should be done. The partisan political aspect is covered by the fact that the Opposition too is in favour of golf courses, and has mysteriously reserved its position over the Xaghra l-Hamra location, and the odd way it was selected by the government. But that does not necessarily satisfy society at large.

For example, hoteliers who are in favour of developing two golf courses are coming out against the Xaghra l-Hamra choice.

What is required is not unnecessary controversy, fuelled further by manner in which the government first commissioned MEPA then ridiculed it through bypassing its conclusions. There should be detached and transparent assessment of the viability or otherwise of a golf course in Malta and another one in Gozo. The starting point is an economic question - why golf courses?

Stressing that Portugal and Tunisia have extensive golfing facilities, and that Cyprus is focusing on developing several new courses is not the correct attempt to start making the case for two further courses in the Maltese Islands. Malta is what is. If it is to be developed and marketed seriously, that should be for its uniqueness.

The pre-Budget consultation document stresses, among other things, the potential of our magnificent fortifications. Adding golfing to the attractions of the Maltese Islands should not be dismissed out of hand. Nor can it be blindly accepted as a net plus factor.

The government claims that two more golf courses would generate an additional annual flow of some 30,000 quality tourists. How has that conclusion been reached? How was feasibility calculated? What will be the capital expenditure and running cost of each new golf course? Would the estimated earnings by the golf course operators from the projected additional tourists from among international golfing enthusiasts cover a realistic capital repayment programme and the running costs, and offer an acceptable net return to the course operators?

Is it correct to assume that a golf course, on its own, might not be a viable proposition? Given that there might be indirect benefits to the rest of the economy, would the private operators of the golf courses expect to be subsidised? If so, how, and to what extent?

One should presume that the government has gone into such questions, and also to have carried out sensitive analysis. It has not deigned to tentative answers publicly. The I-know-best syndrome might give an impression of dynamism. It does not give convincing answers. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet were elected to govern, for as long as they are in office. It is their right and duty to decide.

That does not give automatic reassurance that their decisions are right. Governments have to justify their decisions. Not to do so would be worse than arrogance.

The government has not provided the public with a clearly and closely argued case for two more golf courses. Nor has the Opposition, as the government-in-waiting. The government, however, does seem to realise that a golf course on its own is not viable, as various hoteliers are publicly and privately saying.

Without speaking about it loudly to the public, though ministers are probably pointing it out to potential developers, the government has made sure that the Xaghra l-Hamra site includes a section to be allocated for residential development.

That is the bait to lure developers. But, how will the whole dish work out? Developing and selling residential units would be a totally different prospect to an hotelier developing a golf course on the basis of its feasibility as an ongoing operation, like running a hotel.

It is quite extraordinary that the Prime Minister has taken it upon himself to proclaim, Let there be golf courses! without taking the public into his confidence as to why he has committed himself so much, even to the extent of making MEPA pour money down the drain.

After he took his stand as soon as he assumed top office he may indeed have sought and received updated advice based on a proper thorough economic and financial assessment of the proposition, including a cost-benefit analysis to take into tangibles (financial cost and the assumed revenue stream) and intangibles (the negative impact on the environment, and the positive multiplier effects of identified benefits). If so, why not make such advice public?

There is no competitive consideration to hold the PM back. Our competitors in the tourist sphere will not be affected either way thereby. Public opinion would be affected, if it could view the basis of the government's decision. That basis should also be provided by the Opposition, to underpin its own commitment to two more golf courses. Advice from hoteliers is not equivalent to detailed cost-benefit evaluation from a national standpoint.

If there is a sound economic case for golf courses, let there also be full light thrown upon it to justify the decision. The public can then examine proposed locations, in the knowledge that negatives and positives of the project concept have been taken into account, and quantified through professionally recognised techniques made known to it.

Not to do that and to declare a belief in golf courses as an act of faith cannot be the correct procedure.

Do convincing studies that underpin the commitment to golf courses exist? Not only have they not been made public if they do, they have not been referred to at all in the pre-Budget consultation document aimed to yield "a better quality of life" through measures to be taken between 2006 and 2010.

The section in it on tourism refers briefly to "golf course and sports tourism" when describing niche tourism as one of the four key types of tourism that are or could be promoted in the Maltese Islands. The section on Gozo says, very aptly, that the island can be positioned as an agro-cultural destination of international stature.

Among other things the pre-Budget document adds that the government believes that Gozo's tourist infrastructure should be supported by the provision of a licence to open one casino, as well as an additional yacht marina. A golf course does not feature.

There will always be a lot of heat generated by a decision to build golf courses. That which is surging about at present, however, seems to be coming more from the cart, than the horse.

The government, unless it does so itself without further delay, should be pressed to state, in all possible detail, the net economic argument in favour of two golf courses, and to demonstrate what their financial feasibility is based upon.

The Opposition, as the alternative government also committed to more golf courses, should also make its detailed reasoning public. It could steal a march on the government if the latter continued to drag its feet, to assert rather than to prove or at least supply strong evidence.

If a reasonably convincing case is revealed, the locations put forward for the golf courses can be viewed in the round. That cannot be done as long as the people are taken for granted and expected to accept what the members of the political class say, full stop.

The reluctance to try to convince with well-backed arguments, rather than to impose paternalistically, is not healthy at all.
___________________________________________

This article may also be viewed at http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=198273

 
 
 
 

L-izvilupp propost ghall-korsa tal-golf fix-Xaghra l-Hamra:
Jghidu li l-proceduri mhux jigu osservati 

L-Orizzont, 3 ta' Settembru 2005

Il-koalizzjoni tas-socjetà civili EkoLogika esprimiet it-thassib taghha dwar il-fatt li l-proceduri m'humiex qeghdin jigu osservati f'dak li ghandu x'jaqsam ma' l-izvilupp propost ghall-korsa tal-golf fix-Xaghra l-Hamra.

Fi stqarrija, EkoLogika qalet li qeghdin isiru studji dwar korsa tal-golf minghajr ma hemm `application permit' u t-`terms of reference' li jsiru qabel il-`project description statement'. Konsulenti u specjalisti li qeghdin jahdmu fuq l-`Environment Impact Assessment' gew maghzulin minghajr ma kien hemm sejha ghall-offerti kif suppost.

Minbarra hekk, meta l-Awtorità Maltija tat-Turizmu (MTA) giet mistoqsija mill-gazzetta MaltaToday, din irrifjutat li tghid kemm hi l-ispiza mbassra dwar dawn l-istudji, minkejja li l-istess awtorità tifforma parti mis-settur pubbliku.

Intqal ukoll li "jidher bic-car li l-Gvern qed jipprova jhaffef il-process ta' zvilupp u mhux qed jimxi skond il-procedura kif inhi elenkata b'mod car fl-Avviz Legali 204 ta' 2001 - Development Planning Act (CAP. 356) - Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2001 u d-Direttivi ta' l-Unjoni Ewropea (85/337/EEC) u (97/11/EC).

Minbarra hekk, il-Pjan ta' Struttura qed jigi injorat mill-Gvern, minkejja li jghid li koros tal-golf ghandhom jigu zviluppati biss fuq art mitluqa – li zgur ma japplikax ghax-Xaghra l-Hamra. Il-MEPA hija obbli-gata li timxi mal-Pjan ta' Struttura.

"Fl-istess hin, l-awtoritajiet qeghdin jinjoraw dak li qieghda tistaqsi EkoLogika dwar il-fatt li Malta ghadha ma dahhlitx id-direttiva "SEA" ta' l-Unjoni Ewropea (Strategic Environment Assessment). Din id-direttiva tobbliga studji dwar l-impatt ambjentali (Environment Impact Assessment) fuq kull pjan li jeffettwa lill-ambjent. Huwa car li l-pjan biex ikun hawn aktar minn korsa tal-golf wahda jaqa' taht din id-direttiva – dan it-tip ta' zvilupp igib mieghu impatt negattiv fuq l-ambjent u uzu konsiderevoli ta' l-art. Ghal darb'ohra Eko-Logika tistaqsi jekk il-fatt li Malta ghadha ma dahhlitx din id-direttiva ghandux x'jaqsam ma' pjan biex l-izvilupp ta' koros tal-golf jigi mbottat biex isir b'pass mghaggel.

"Aktar ma jmur, din il-kwistjoni qieghda ssir wahda fejn hemm disrispett lejn il-ligijiet ta' Malta, lejn id-diret-tivi ta' l-
Unjoni Ewropea u fl-ahhar mill-ahhar lejn id-dritti-jiet tac-cittadini Maltin", ikkonkludiet EkoLogika, li tinkorpora numru ta' organizzazzjonijiet, fosthom l-Alternattiva Demokratika; AD-Kumitat Regjonali ta' Ghawdex; Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; il-Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed; Dripht; Zminijietna Lehen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; l-
Assocjazzjoni Residenti ta' Sannat; u l-AD Zghazagh.
 

www.l-orizzont.com - Is-Sibt 3 ta' Settembru 2005 - http://www.l-orizzont.com/news.asp?newsitemid=21594

 
 
 
 

ARTICLE PROMOTING MORE-OF-THE-SAME CONSTRUCTION?

 
     
  Making a decision. What is a decision?  
 

Frank Salt

Like many others, I am not a qualified academic, so I thought that I would first look into Nuttles Simplified Dictionary to find the answer.

A decision is a resolution of firmness of mind. A decision is to settle something by reaching a conclusion.
A decision is a decisive answer.


I then looked into the internet and found that a decision is the act of reaching a conclusion or making up one's mind. Firmness of character or action; determination.

Wow!...to be decisive is really something extraordinary...or is it?

Throughout our lives we have to make many decisions every day. If we didn't we wouldn't survive and we certainly would not advance and succeed.

Does each decision we make have to be a correct decision? Not necessarily but, if it is good, we advance and, if it is bad, then we learn from our mistake and we rectify it. But take decisions we must. It should be part of our lives.

Now what happens in Malta? Why are people, especially people in public employment, reluctant to make decisions? Or why does it take so long?

If our government makes a decision, the party in opposition immediately disagrees and then suggests something completely the opposite. A typical case of this was Malta's entry into the European Union. If the opposition hadn't gone in a completely different direction, Malta wouldn't have wasted so many years and energy fighting to get in.

Political decisions are often made not for reasons that can be attributed to the advancement and betterment of the country and the majority of people living in it but due to political reasons that ensure votes and therefore the survival of the political parties.

Good political decisions, decisions that are generally good for the advancement of the country, are often not made, or not made quickly, for fear of offending specific voters. This is not correct and not at all
productive.

Businessmen in this country are making decisions each and every minute of the working day. Some are good decisions and some are bad but Malta has succeeded mainly due to the courage of the businessmen to actually make these decisions and to the fact that, by using common sense, the majority of these decisions were correct.

Most of the decisions that affect our everyday life are normally made by public officials. People from clerks to senior civil servants.

These people are on a salary and mainly joined the public service for a secure job with periodical advancements depending on seniority, doing their job to the best of their ability and keeping their noses clean.

There needs to be a decision made and, after consultation with experienced colleagues, a civil servant makes it. Immediately hundreds of people with vested interests bombard his department, disagree with the decision and the civil servant gets jumped upon and, as this happens again and again, the civil servant finds that it is easier for him or her to delay decisions.

I am not saying that some decisions shouldn't be queried but not all and certainly not to the point of destroying the initiative and character of potential decision makers. We can see this situation all around us. A person who wants and is able to make decisions and see things carried out for the general good, even if it is politically sensitive, is a persona non grata, because rocking the boat is not the correct thing to do.

But Malta really needs people who can and will make decisions, even if some of them are wrong, because if we do not have these types of people and encourage them we will be dictated to by the masses of people whose only interest is to look after their own vested interests - and that must not
happen.

Malta goes from one extreme to another.

First we had a virtual dictatorship, where we practically got used to doing what we were told whether we liked it or not, to the present-day situation where every decision made by anybody is dialogued, debated and discussed by all and sundry, ad nauseum. The present-day situation is very much better in a democratic society but we must not allow progress to be halted or delayed by a reluctance or inability to decide.

There are many first-class people in Malta, who are in positions that require them to make important decisions. These people must be allowed to make these decisions without fear of retribution if they make a mistake. Mistakes allow people to learn. Apathy allows people and a country to stagnate.

 
     
 
 
 

Summary of the Myths

 
 
 
 

The Sunday Times, September 4, 2005

Golf course: choice of site

Joseph Philip Farrugia

 

I am glad to see that after wasting so many years arguing about the need or otherwise of at least a second and well-designed championship golf course in Malta, the government seems to be taking a stand: the Prime Minister is convinced.

 

A group of shareholders and myself proposed a golf course project in 1990 to the then Minister of Tourism. He told us we would be wasting our time, as the government would not be able to give us its support because such a project was bound to upset some farmers. We took his advice and dropped it! It certainly could not happen without strong government support.

 

Fifteen years have passed. The idea has had plenty of time to mature and there is no need of more experts to prove that good golf courses are essential if tourism is to prosper.

 

I have seen the same process happening in Italy, particularly in Tuscany: in the early Nineties people were demonstrating against the development of a golf course as if it were the construction of a multi-storey tower block. The administrations held back and blocked many initiatives. Gradually they recognised the difference and, in the last five years, every province is fighting to have golf courses because they want to improve the quality of their tourists, particularly in shoulder periods.

 

Even if it has taken us longer, thank God at last we're there! Now the decision is which of the sites proposed is the most suitable. Malta is small and, as the criterion for location is usually not more than a 30-minute drive from the hotel, the difference would not be huge, though obviously the centre of the island would be more appropriate. Alas, every hotel owner would prefer to have it in his backyard.

 

The second criterion would be availability of inexpensive water. In 1990, an expert we had brought over specially to advise us on our potential golf project pointed out that the sewage effluent of a town of around 15,000 people (about 2,250 cm per day), properly treated, would provide enough water for irrigating an 18-hole course in the peak summer season. This would mean that the natural water table was not tapped into, leaving this scarce resource for our citizens and, in fact, some of the treated water would percolate down to it.

 

The third and most controversial issue is environmental impact. It must be clearly understood that the creation of a golf course, unless associated with extensive buildings, is an alternative use of agricultural land.

 

In a worst-case scenario, if a golf course is unsuccessful the paths and the grass could easily be ripped up and the land restored to its original use in a few days.

 

The land remains the same: the product is different. Cabbages and potatoes or similar grown on the land would fetch 'x' amount. Instead, the grass and facilities provided for golfers would raise three or four times as much.

 

Also, apart from management, the number of agricultural workers and other staff required to maintain the course to international standards is high. The benefits to the national economy would be substantial.

 

I do not believe that the developer who will eventually create the golf course will make huge profits - unless, of course, he is allowed many buildings! But this would vindicate all those who have been campaigning against the whole idea and certainly should not happen in any of the locations which have been mentioned to date.

 

I believe the potential developer should be supported and encouraged all the way and, if necessary, subsidised by the tourism industry which stands most to gain, and regulated only in such a way that the land remains reversible.

 

For the minimum environmental impact it is obvious that the location chosen is already agricultural. In any other situation the nature of the land would have to be altered with enormous and irreversible ecological impact.

 

On the basis of these criteria, there is no doubt that the best location of those mentioned to now is the one below Tal-Virtù, Rabat - it is in the centre of the island, accessible from all hotels, already agricultural (hence no environmental changes) and with a population in Rabat and Dingli which is such that would be sufficient to provide enough water for irrigation.

 

I feel this project has taken the brunt of all the opposition to golf because it was the first to be proposed and every excuse and negative argument has been thrown at it on principle and not on its merits or otherwise.

 

I challenge all environmental and heritage organisations to objectively compare the various sites. Now that Government has been convinced of the need for the golf course and one will be created, they should ignore what has been said in the past and take a stand purely on the least environmental impact of the alternative sites.

 

The Rabat site was one of those we had considered in 1990 and we were advised that it should have 27 holes for more variety and to improve green fees. A golf academy would be very useful as it would bring the north European instructors with their classes and clinics to Malta during their long winter periods when they cannot work in Finland, Norway and Sweden, for example. This happens regularly in Portugal where they have groups visiting even from Canada.

 

I categorically state that I have no personal interest in any of the locations or in the project as a whole except as a citizen who loves our limited but magnificent countryside and who is convinced of the urgent need of a championship golf course in Malta.

 

Mr Farrugia is a civil engineer and international property developer

 

__________________________________

This article may also be viewed at http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=198275

 
     
 

Ta' Ċenċ

 
     
 

PRESS RELEASE 6/1/06

Ekologika objects to proposed development at Ta' Ċenċ

 

The Ekologika coalition has submitted letter below to MEPA (Copied to Sannat Local Council) with regard to Application No. 5277/96: To develop Ta' Ċenċ area into Malta's first heritage park and Multi-ownership tourist hotel development.

 

Michael Briguglio

f/ EkoLogika

 

------

 

Chairman

 

Director General

 

The Director of Planning,

 

Malta Environment and Planning Authority,

St. Francis Ravelin,

Floriana

 

2nd January 2006

 

Re: Application No. 5277/96: To develop Ta' Ċenċ area into Malta's first heritage park and Multi-ownership tourist hotel development.

 

Dear Sir,

 

We the undersigned are writing to voice our strong objection to the development described in No. 5277/96 which seeks to develop large tracts of virgin land at Ta' Ċenċ as a Heritage Site including approximately 49 bungalows and 67 villas.

 

This proposal which seeks to develop land which is of ecological importance should not be permitted for the following reasons:

 

1. The development will cause irreversible harm to the flora and fauna that inhabit the Ta' Ċenċ garigue including unique species that may only be found in this area.

 

2. It reduces the precious little natural landscape that we as Maltese citizens seek in times of recreation

 

3. It gives in to pressure from the mass tourism market that has already spoiled so much of the coastline in Malta, and increasingly so in Gozo.

 

4. It develops an area of ecological importance and a site of scientific importance as categorised by MEPA. It seeks to develop an area which is strictly Outside Development Zone and which should never be allowed any form of development as per Structure Plan policies. To allow such a development ridicules the very concept of ODZ areas.

 

This is not simply an ordinary letter of objection but a plea from a number of concerned citizens to protect our natural environment of which so little is left.

 

The Malta Tourism Authority website utilizes beautiful photographic shots of open countryside including Ta' Ċenċ, It is incomprehensible how this application seeks to spoil this very same scenic spot in the name of promoting tourism. Such developments simply create short term gains but result in long term loss of the very attractions that create a tourist destination in the first place.

 

In short, this development should never be permitted if MEPA truly serves as an independent authority that protects and safeguards the environment.

 

The coalition Eko-Logika, is made up of the following organisations:

Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party; AD-Gozo Regional Committee; Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; Kopin; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed; Dripht; Zminijietna Lehen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; University Chaplaincy; AD Zghazagh - Green Youth; and the Sannat Residents Association.

 

Regards,

John Axiak

f/Eko-Logika

 

 

 
 
 
  The Historical, Ecological and Cultural Importance of Ta' Ċenċ  
 

12 January 2005

 

Ta’ Ċenċ is a locality in the island region of Gozo which was originally included in the Natura 2000 as a special protected zone. However the Malta Ministry for Rural Affairs and Agriculture as well as the Malta Planning and Environmental Authority (MEPA) somehow decided to omit this particular site of special protection and instead a golf course is being suggested by MEPA on the request of the Prime Minister of  Malta.

 

Ta’ Ċenċ is of ecological, historical, geological, archaeological and geomorphologic importance:

  • Historical and Archaeological Importance

At Ta' Ċenċ, within the limits of  the village of Sannat in Gozo, there is L-Imramma Neolithic Temple, a primitive type prehistoric temple made up of a sort of an oval court with a series of more or less oval rooms to the north. Other interesting remains are three dolmens, a horizontal, roughly shaped, slab of limestone supported on three sides by blocks of stone standing on end. The age, province and function of the pre-historic cart ruts are virtually impossible to ascertain.

  • Ecological and the Importance of Natural home for bird habitat

The cliff area is an important bird area for various species such as the scarce Spectacled Warbler, the Corn Bunting, the Blue Rock Thrush and has one of the most impressive colonies of Cory`s Shearwater in the Maltese islands and a small colony of the otherwise elusive Storm Petrel. This particular and unique site hosts a unique cliff area which is an important bird habitat. 

  • Ecological, Geological and Geomorphologic importance

Ta’ Ċenċ is also word famous for its spectacular precipices or cliffs that are the natural home of several wildlife species both flora and fauna. The site offers a very interesting garigue habitat. The area includes a rich Mediterranean plant biodiversity in its garigue and rupestral habitats with several rare and/or endemic species such as the National Maltese Plant Rock Centaury. This high value makes the site a prime eco tourism area, a place to go for visitors looking for a unique experience of their travel to the region island of Gozo. (see attached photo)

  • Uniqueness for the Heritage of the Island Region of Gozo

Another aspect of remoteness of the place is a sense of timelessness, which is almost palpable. Here it seems that time is measured differently from elsewhere, be the changes of the wind, the motion of the sun and the lives of the plants that cling to the surface of the rock. Nor is there a straightforward way to identify its place in history. With the exception of the hotel, and the villas, all the anthropic signs - fields and terrace walls, ruins, hides and cart ruts - are relatively subtle and ambiguous. The age, provenance and function of these forms is virtually impossible to ascertain.

 

The people of the island region of Gozo together with other NGDOs such as the Nature Trust Malta (NTM), treasure this area and are very upset by the way the Government of Malta and the MEPA ‘surrendered’ to the pressure being put on this site through an application filed at MEPA for the development of various bungalows as other extension to the present hotel at Ta’ Ċenċ. (See press release issued by the Nature Trust Malta on the subject)

 

Moreover, the authority responsible to protect the natural environment (MEPA), has proposed this site to the Prime Minister as a possible candidate site for a golf course, as if a golf course at Ta’ Ċenċ is the only means of attracting higher spending tourism to the island at the detriment of the uniqueness of the locality!

 

The citizens never got a reply from the respective authorities as to why such an important ecological site suitable for a Natura 2000 site has been left out from being proposed as a candidate for protection, management and conservation under Natura 2000 scheme.

 

More documentation on the importance of this site is available on many websites, including the following:

 

Mr. Victor Galea B.A. HG Dip. (UK), PGCE

AD Gozo Spokesperson

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party

 


 

 
  "Ta' Ċenċ should be declared a Natura 2000 site"  
 


In a press release, the civil society coalition Eko-Logika said that the
entire Ta' Cenc area should be declared a Natura 2000 site and join the
list of European protected sites.

"Eko-Logika is encouraged by the communication between the Ta' Cenc land
owner and AD-Gozo following last Saturday’s disrupted nature walk organised
by the Ceratonia Foundation. Hotel owner Victor Borg is reported to have told
the AD Gozo spokesman that he does not have any intention to build a golf
course on the expanse of garigue and terraced fields next to the hotel. We
hope that Ta' Cenc will also be spared of other forms of unsustainable
development such as the construction of buildings on the garigue and terraced
fields."

"Eko-Logika also backs the call made by NGOs for the Ministry of Rural
Affairs and Environment to schedule the whole scenic site due to its rich
natural and cultural heritage. Official protection of the cliff face as an
important bird area, which was granted one day before the protest walk, is a
good start but is definitely not enough if the environment at Ta' Cenc is
to be protected."

"The next step would be to reinstate the Ta' Cenc area –overshadowed by
the threat of a golf course proposal– to Natura 2000 status so as to join the
network of European protected sites."

The Eko-Logika coalition, under the banner Insalvaw Din L-Art (Save
this Land), is made up of the following organisations: Alternattiva
Demokratika-The Green Party; AD-Gozo Regional Committee; Fondazzjoni
Ceratonia; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed; Dripht; Zminijietna
Lehen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; and the Sannat Residents
Association.

For further information, or to join the coalition, e-mails can be sent to
information@ekologikamalta.org. Website address: www.ekologikamalta.org.

15.8.05

 
     
  "Ta' Ċenċ għandu jiġi ddikjarat bħala sit Natura 2000"  
 

 

Il-koalizzjoni tas-soċjetà ċivili Eko-Loġika ħarġet stqarrija għall-istampa fejn saħqet li ż-żona kollha ta' Ta' Ċenċ għandha tiġi ddikjarata bħala sit Natura 2000, biex tingħaqad mal-lista ta' siti protetti Ewropej.

"Eko-Loġika tilqa' b'inkoraġġiment il-komunikazzjoni li saret bejn sid l-art ta' Ta' Ċenċ u AD-Għawdex wara l-isfrattar tal-mixja edukattiva li kellha titwettaq nhar is-Sibt li għadda, organizzata mill-Fondazzjoni Ceratonia. Victor Borg, sid il-lukanda, kien irrappurtat li fisser lir-rappreżentant ta' AD-Għawdex li ma għandu l-ebda intenzjoni li tinbena korsa tal-golf fuq il-medda ta' xagħri u l-għelieqi mtarrġa li jinsabu ħdejn il-lukanda. Sadanittant, nittamaw ukoll li Ta' Ċenċ ma jiġix sfruttat għall-iskop ta' forom oħrajn ta' żvilupp insostenibbli, bħala l-kostruzzjoni ta' bini fuq ix-xagħri u l-għelieqi mtarrġa."

 

"Eko-Loġika tappoġġja wkoll is-sejħa ta' Organizzazzjonijiet Mhux Governattivi biex il-Ministeru għall-Affarijiet Rurali u l-Ambjent jiddikjara l-inħawi kollha ta' Ta' Ċenċ bħala żona mħarsa minħabba l-wirt naturali u kulturali għani tiegħu. Il-ħarsien uffiċjali ta' l-irdumijiet bħala santwarju għall-għasafar, li ġie mħabbar il-ġurnata ta' qabel il-mixja paċifika, jirrappreżenta bidu tajjeb, imma mhuwiex biżżejjed sabiex jitħares l-ambjent ta' Ta' Ċenċ."


"Il-pass li jmiss hu li ż-żona ta' Ta' Ċenċ – li tinsab mhedda minn proposta ta' korsa tal-golf – tingħatalha mill-ġdid l-istatus ta' sit Natura 2000, u b'hekk tingħaqad max-xibka ta' siti protetti Ewropej".


Il-koalizzjoni Eko-Loġika - Insalvaw Din L-Art tħaddan fiha l-organizzazzjonijiet li ġejjin: Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party; AD - Kumitat Reġjonali ta' Għawdex; Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed; Dripht; Żminijietna Leħen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; u l-Assoċjazzjoni Residenti ta' Sannat.


Min jixtieq iktar tagħrif jew jixtieq jissieħeb fil-koalizzjoni Eko-Loġika jista' jibgħat e-mail lil:
information@ekologikamalta.org. L-indirizz tas-sit web huwa www.ekologikamalta.org.

 

     

 

Nature Trust (Malta) call for protection on Ta’ Cenc

 

 

 

By Ruth Davies, MaltaMedia
Dec 13, 2004

Nature Trust Malta (NTM) said it is very concerned that despite the Prime Minister's statement in the Budget speech about 36 sites in Malta and Gozo having been enlisted for protection, including sites as part of the European Union network of protected areas known as NATURA2000 and the first Marine Protected Area, the site at Ta’ Cenc remains off this list. In the same spirit of nature conservation the NGO urged Government and MEPA to include Ta’ Cenc in the shortlist of the designated NATURA 2000 sites to the EU.

Ta’ Cenc, said the NGO, is a site of ecological, historical, geological, archaeological and geomorphologic importance. “The cliff area is an important bird area for various species such as the scarce Spectacled Warbler, the Corn Bunting, the Blue Rock Thrush and has one of the most impressive colonies of Cory`s Shearwater in the Maltese islands and a small colony of the otherwise elusive Storm Petrel. The site offers a very interesting garigue habitat while the cliffs are the nesting grounds of the Cory Shearwater amoung others. The area includes a rich Mediterranean plant biodiversity in its garigue and rupestral habitats with several rare and/or endemic species such as the National Maltese Plant Rock Centaury. This high value makes the site a prime eco tourism area, a place to go for visitors looking for a unique experience of their travel to the Maltese Islands.


NTM notes the pressure being put on this site through an application filed at MEPA for the development of various bungalows and a hotel at Ta Cenc. Furthermore NTM also notes that MEPA, the authority responsible to protect the natural environment, has proposed this site to the PM as a possible candidate site for a golf course,” it continued.

“When one considers the value of the site and sees the proposed development in the area from private industry and the nature protection authority one cannot but not feel shocked at such instances. One asks if this is the way sustainable development should take place.


Nature Trust Malta has been asking and still awaits the reply from the respective authorities as to why such an important ecological site suitable for a NATURA 2000 site has been left out from being proposed as a candidate for protection, management and conservation under the NATURA 2000 scheme,” added the NGO.

NTM said it had placed Ta’ Cenc in the shadow list compiled by WWF for NATURA 2000 sites in the new member states. This site also featured in the document WWF published on new NATURA 2000 sites shadow lists distributed among the EU member states.

 

© Copyright 2005 - MaltaMedia Online Network
 

 

 

  Sannatin  
 

Harry Vassallo

 

L-Orizzont, Is-Sibt 7 ta' Jannar 2006

 

Nhar l-Erbgħa sibt ruħi Għawdex biex nattendi għal laqgħa ta’ residenti tas-Sannat dwar il-proposta ta’ Żvilupp ta’ Ta’ Ċenċ. Ir-residenti sejħu lill-ħbieb u lill-ġirien għal-laqgħa minħabba li bħalissa l-Kunsill Lokali ma jistax jaħdem. Is-Sindku u diversi kunsillieri ġew għal-laqgħa u rringrazzjaw lir-residenti għall-għajnuna tagħhom.

Dan hu żmien importanti għar-raħal tagħhom. Fil-kunsill hemm il-pjanti u d-dokumenti l-oħrajn ta’ l-applikazzjoni li saret lill-MEPA biex jinbnew għexieren ta’ vilel, bungalows u lukanda ta’ tliet sulari barra miż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp. Dan hu ż-żmien li ngħatalhom biex jagħmlu l-kummenti tagħhom fl-ewwel stadju ta’ kummenti fuq l-iżvilupp.

Hi responsabbiltà kbira. Min hu ħaj illum sejjer jiddeċiedi għas-Sannatin kollha li għad jiġu. Kif jaffettwalhom ħajjithom? L-għajxien tagħhom? Il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħhom? Il-grupp ta’ residenti li tħarrku biex iwasslu l-aħbar, għand il-ġirien tagħhom qdew dmir ’l hemm minn dak ta’ ċittadini komuni.

Ma tantx ħadu grazzi mill-awtoritajiet. Kienu irranġaw li l-laqgħa ssir fl-iskola tar-raħal. Ftit siegħat qabel il-laqgħa saru jafu li l-Ministeru għal Għawdex kien indaħal biex igħid li l-laqgħa ma setgħatx issir hemm. Intqal li kienet laqgħa politika.

Mhux tajba jew? Qalu li kienet laqgħa ta’ l-Alternattiva Demokratika. Kellu bżonn li kull min joġġezzjona għal xi żvilupp ikun ta’ l-Alternattiva Demokratika! Kull ma konna għamilna kien li ħajjarna li kull min jidhirlu li għandu bżonn jisma’ jew isemma’ leħnu li jiġi għal-laqgħa. Daħħlu f’rashom li kienet laqgħa tal-partit.

Ma kinitx, u biex jolqtu lilna ħaqru lir-residenti. Mhix tajba jew? F’pajjiż li mdorri jara lill-partiti politiċi jikkapparraw toroq u pjazez, titwaqqaf laqgħa ta’ residenti għax xi ħadd daħħal f’rasu li kienet laqgħa ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. Mela aħna għandna l-pesta?

Xi ħadd semmieli li l-iskola ngħalqet lir-residenti għax ma kienx hemm permess tal-pulizija. Din isbaħ! Minn meta ’l hawn trid permess tal-pulizija biex tiltaqa’ taħt saqaf? Il-partiti politiċi biss jew kull għaqda u kull kumitat? Minn meta ‘l hawn?

Min ħajjar lill-awtoritajiet f’Għawdex li jaqgħu daqshekk fil-baxx, ftit għamlilhom pjaċir. Għalija kienet farsa bla sens tkompli ma’ dik li kienu għamlu l-Pulizija u l-Qrati meta kienu mmultawna meta konna għamilna protesta u għalaqna daħla waħda tal-Lukanda Ta’ Ċenċ xi 10 snin ilu. Dak in-nhar ukoll riedu jibnu kull m’hemm. Ma ħallasniex il-multa u ħafna minna konna morna l-ħabs biex nisħqu fuq il-fatt li l-awtoritajiet b’saħħithom mad-dgħajjef u dgħajfa ma’ min hu b’saħħtu. Ma nbidlu xejn minn dak in-nhar.

Il-laqgħa saret xorta waħda iżda f’dar privata. Gew residenti barranin u Sannatin, oħrajn minn irħula Għawdxin oħrajn. Telgħu xi Maltin. Jien ma ftaħtx ħalqi. Qgħadt nisma’. U kien hemm x’tisma’. Is-Sannat sab leħnu. Għawdex sab leħnu.

Fissru t-tħassib tagħhom dwar żvilupp li jipproponi li jinbnew mas-60 villa, għexieren ta’ bungalows u lukanda bi tlett sulari max-xagħri li hu l-qalba tar-raħal tagħhom. Dan kollu barra miż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp. Kif il-MEPA tiġri wara dan u l-ieħor għax bnew kamra f’għalqa u mbagħad tonfoq l-eluf biex tikkonsidra applikazzjoni biex jinbena raħal ġdid fil-kampanja?

Fejn huma l-impjiegi mwegħda? Suf bħas-600 imwegħda għall-Cottonera Waterfront? Duħħan bħal dawk imwegħda lill-eks ħaddiema tal-Hilton li wara li ntużaw biex joħonqu lil min ried jipprotesta, tkeċċew u spiċċaw għamlu kawża kontra min kien wegħedhom l-ilma jiżfen?

Mnejn sejrin jgħaddu l-gafef u l-inġenji biex jinbena dan ir-raħal? Il-proġett maħsub li jdum għaddej 10 snin. Kemm se jiġbed traffiku lejn dan ir-raħal? Ir-residenti x’jieħdu mill-ħsejjes u t-tniġġis? L-aħjar li jkellmu lir-residenti ta’ nħawi oħrajn li għaddew mill-esperjenza.

Erbgħin sena ilu nbena l-Wied ta’ Santa Marija fil-Mellieħa, li sar Santa Marija Estates, wied ta’ vilel lussużi li llum il-MEPA qiegħda tħallihom jiġu żviluppati mill-ġdid. Is-sisien tal-Mellieħa ddewdu bil-bini. Hemm bżonn li nagħmlu l-istess illum?

Erbgħin sena ilu kien hemm l-iskuża ta’ l-injoranza. Ħadd ma kien jgħodd lil dawk li jiġu warajh. Lilna ma stmawniex. Kienu mingħalihom li Malta bla tarf. Illum għandna bini kullimkien, għexieren ta’ eluf ta’ djar vojta u kampanja li tisparixxi quddiem għajnejna. Tnejn fil-mija ta’ l-art li tinħadem tgħib kull sena. Illum kulħadd għandu karrozza iżda ftit baqa’ fejn tmur biha mal-familja. Malta ta’ 40 sena ilu kienet pajjiż ieħor. Min għadu jaħseb bil-mod ta’ dak in-nhar maqtugħ mid-dinja ta’ madwarna.

Li ħareġ ċar mill-laqgħa hu li l-golf kien bżar fl-għajnejn. Il-bini kollox. Il-Heritage Park tgħammixa oħra. Kif irid ikun il-privat li jagħmel ‘park’ tal-wirt nazzjonali fuq art li kienet tal-Gvern? Kif l-ebda Gvern Malti ma ħa ħsieb li jikseb għall-Maltin l-art tat-tempji. It-tempji inkisbu fi żmien ta’ Gvern kolonjali. Il-Maltin m’humiex kburin b’wirthom. F’Ta’ Ċenċ ġara bil-maqlub? Gvern Malti ta f’idejn il-privat art li fiha tempju ta’ żmien ir-ram, u firxa raded apparti wirt naturali uniku fil-gżejjer Maltin u għalhekk fid-dinja. Għall-ambaxxata fi Brussels sibniehom il-flus.

Fil-laqgħa ta’ nhar l-Erbgħa ngħata ftit tagħrif. Ma setgħux jingħataw tweġibiet għal bosta mistoqsijiet. L-iskop kien li s-Sannatin u min irid jgħinhom isiru jafu x’għandhom quddiemhom, li jitħajru jsiru jafu aktar u jagħmlu l-kummenti tagħhom. Baqa’ sa l-20 ta’ Jannar. Minkejja t-tfixkil kollu dan l-iskop intlaħaq. Issa naraw kemm ngħożżu dak li writna, kemm għandna ħila nieħdu ħsieb li ngħadduh lil ta’ warajna sħiħ u f’sikktu.

 

http://www.l-orizzont.com/news.asp?newsitemid=24195

 
     
  Ta' Cenc - the heat is on  
 

 

GIANNI, a farmer from Sannat, who has tilled the land at Ta' Cenc for over 30 years, has now been elbowed out of the way by the new owner of the land. He is seen with Victor Galea, AD's co-ordinator in Gozo.

The Green Whistleblower
Alan Deidun
 

The Sunday Times, January 8, 2006

 

"Within a relatively small area, one can see much of what the Maltese countryside has to offer and one can appreciate the integration of man and nature, which has shaped the Maltese landscape over the millennia" (EIS Baseline Ecology - Terrestrial - Study, point 1.165)

THE Gozitan version of omertà could explain the somewhat subdued response from Gozo to the Ta' Cenc proposals so far. I say 'so far' factor, since, late on Wednesday (at the time of writing), all omertà will be swept under the carpet as the Sannat Residents Association hold their much-awaited public consultation exercise.

Not that the association did not find any obstacles to hold the meeting - for example, shortly before the meeting (due to be held at Sannat primary school), the association was first informed that it had to apply formally (in writing) for permission to use the school premises; once the association wrote, it was informed by the Education Division that it was not possible to have such a meeting with political representatives in a public school - it was eventually held elsewhere.

Those striving to stop Sannat residents from making their views known regarding the issue eventually got cold feet. In what has become a well-rehearsed script, the developer entertained some Sannat residents to refreshments, on the eve of the meeting - another coincidence?

With the help of Ferdinand Demicoli and Victor Galea I have compiled the following information:

The area covered by the proposed Ta' Cenc development makes up 2.5% of the total surface area of Gozo and roughly 5% of its coastline. This should make it eligible for scrutiny by a Strategic Impact Assessment.

Environment Minister George Pullicino recently stated that the development of the proposed Aquaculture Zone off Marsascala did not warrant an SIA since it "is not part of a policy change". If Structure Policy TOU 10 is not implemented fully, then the Ta' Cenc issue will entail a policy change and a SIA will be inevitable, hopefully.

According to proposals, the existing hotel is set to increase from the current 0.89 ha to a massive 2.01 ha, with the addition of 66 units to the existing 63 (hence, a doubling of existing facilities). The hotel already takes up 8.99% of the total footprint of the area.

Two new hotels - Sannat Hotel and Palazzo Palina - are also being proposed, in addition to 49 new bungalows (Ta' Gruwa villas)

Zone 2, or the heritage park, will not be easily accessible to the public but only to those actively involved in scientific research, for example.

4.2% of Zone 3 (the interpretation stage) is taken up by the building itself, with no provision being made for the car park.

17.13% of Zone 4 (or 6.86% of the total Ta' Cenc area) will be taken up by 67 villas, each set on a tumulo of land. No details about the sewage system catering for these villas, been provided. Most probably, some trenching works will have to be conducted to link the villas to the new sewage treatment plant at Ras il-Hobz or to Xewkija, hence widening the impact outside the confines of Ta' Cenc.

The developer has asked for Zone 7 (the agrotourism/golf course area) not to be included in the remit of the current EIS study - this is objectionable in that one holistic study on site must be conducted to be able to gauge better the impact on the site. This might be just conjecture on my part, but the developer might be banking on a positive outcome for the first application, hence effectively paving the way for the golf course/agrotourism application. One study, including both aspects of the development, should be conducted - MEPA should be adamant about this.

Despite the developer's assurances that farmers have renounced their right to work the land within the site, at least one farmer - Ganni Tabone - has been evicted from the land in the most subtle of ways. In fact, although it was Real Finanz, the former Italian owners of the Ta' Cenc site, who effectively terminated his agricultural lease, they still tolerated his presence. Once the present developer came into the picture, Tabone was told to leave after having tilled the land for more than 30 years. No wonder the same farmer feels aggrieved.

The proposed project site is divided into eight zones: Zone 7 is designated as a golf course/agrotourism facilities. Zone 8 is merely considered by the developer as an extension/addendum of Zone 7. Zone 6 is a 'protected area'. Part of this, however, consists of a corridor sandwiched between two large chunks of Zone 7. Fully-fledged protected areas are normally surrounded by buffer zones - as proposed, part of Zone 6 would be shorn of any buffer from the disruptive activities ensuing in Zone 7, such as irrigation, use of fertilisers and pesticides, introduction of alien species, etc.

The proposed area includes floral species listed in the Red Data Book. Thirty-two, 65 and 19 such species were recorded from the ecological survey conducted at Mgarr ix-Xini, Ras in-Newwiela and Wied Sabbar respectively (either endemic species, endangered ones or species with a restricted distribution in the Mediterranean), while a total of 21 faunal species listed in the RDB were recorded from the entire area.

The Ecology Baseline Study states that a thorough faunal survey for the area is needed since none has been conducted to date - this should preclude the taking of any decision at the moment.

The same study states that "for the nature lover, the Ta' Cenc area has much to offer... since the area has great educational value". So why cordon it off for most of the public, as is being proposed? The study also states that "by local standards, the Ta' Cenc area is relatively remote from the urban centres of Gozo... and gives the visitor a sense of open space and wilderness". So why construct on such a massive scale?

According to CZM 3, the main bulwark against coastal squatting, "public access around the coastline immediately adjacent to the sea or at the top of cliffs (including in bays, harbours, and creeks) will be secured. This will include taking shorelands into public ownership, Government acquisition of illegal developments and encroachments, and suitable construction works. In the few cases where this is not practical (for example where security considerations are paramount), nearby detours will be established. All the coastline will be brought into public ownership within a specified period."

This policy appears to have been yet another unpalatable hurdle for the developer. In fact, the same EIS states that hunting, trapping, agriculture, picnics and barbeques, etc. would be incompatible with the proposed developments. While I may agree with the first two points, I beg to differ for the rest, since the Ta' Cenc area is an important recreational site for those visitors who enjoy walking in natural surroundings (as stated in the Ecology Baseline Study, point 1.172).

With the writing on the wall (i.e. taking shorelands into public ownership), why is Government not acting on recommendations in the Structure Plan and gradually purchase all the land at Ta' Cenc from the developer, Victor Borg?

Despite the prohibitive sum that might be asked for the land, the move would surely prove popular. One cannot fathom how the country lacks the funds to buy off such a sizable portion of the Gozitan coastline to hand it back to the public for its enjoyment.

In the non-technical summary of the EIS drawn up for the project, no traces of any international market survey to justify the development are available. There appears to have been no consultation of international tour operators, prospective holidaymakers/buyers/ investors in foreign countries, etc.

The EIA speaks of "81% of qualified Maltese respondents" but does not identify the qualification. (Volume 1, page 1-33). This 'project feasibility' appears to be a recurrent hurdle for local white elephants, which often fail miserably to justify the carte blanche they are clamouring for. This might lead one to think that the only true reason fuelling the proposals is speculation, rather than genuine concern for the Gozitan tourism sector.

This in spite of all the pandering by the developer to Gozitans that the project will benefit them economically, since their children will be gainfully employed as chambermaids, barmen, construction workers, etc., the only kind of work available to young people in Gozo. If, as can be easily surmised, the majority of these jobs are closely related to the hotel operations, why has the developer felt the need to build villas?

Quoting from the same summary, "The current state of the existing facilities is such that the quality of the product is not sufficient... the rooms, suites and public areas require upgrading". Why the hotel administration is seeking to expand its operations in view of yawning economic difficulties raises more than one eyebrow. In addition, the same summary speaks of the "announced loss of a substantial number of five-star beds in Gozo" - why then choose to delve deeper into the ailing tourism sector?

On the other hand, Structure Policy TOU 10 could be the trump card that the developer had been hoping for, since it identifies the Ta' Cenc area as "Malta's first national park covering the majority of the area from the east of Mgarr ix-Xini inlet to the village of Sannat".

However, the same policy states that any further tourist hotel development should take place near the existing Ta' Cenc Hotel, effectively sounding the death knell for the panoply of villas and bungalows being proposed for the area, since these are detached from the existing hotel.

The same policy also identifies the need to carefully mitigate the impacts of such development and that the national park should have a nature emphasis, including both the protection and enhancement of the natural environment and other heritage items, particularly archaeological remains; a limited amount of careful restocking with species of flora and fauna indigenous to the Maltese Islands; a visitor centre and interpretive facilities. It does not make any reference to villas, bungalows and the lot.

Hence, policy TOU 10 should be implemented as soon as possible, as recommended in the EIS Ecology Baseline Study, but implemented in its entirety, with all the strings and trappings attached - the developer should not cling to such a policy by denuding it of any of its clout. Needless to say, the proposed villas, hotel extensions and the lot will not undoubtedly mushroom in the future, as is the local practice, with a permit being used as a precedent for more to follow.

So, thumbs up to Malta's first heritage park, as long as it is free from the construction of further villas, bungalows and hotel extensions. These concrete paraphernalia are not essential components of a heritage park. On second thoughts, however, I doubt whether the developer will court the heritage park at Ta' Cenc idea any longer in the absence of the mouth-watering allure of these constructions.

Just have a glimpse at www.adgozo.com/TaCenc.pps or www.adgozo.com/tacenc or http://adgozo.com/TaCenc.swf to see what's in the offing, but do so on an empty stomach, if possible.

 

http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=210819

 
     
 

A Vision for Tourism on Gozo, Golf Courses and the Environment

 
 

 

Lately the Prime Minister urged MEPA to identify sites for a golf course developments, not only in Malta, but also in the little island of Gozo. When asked whether Gozitans need a Golf Course in Gozo in order to attract tourists, AD Gozo Regional Committee Spokesperson Mr. Victor Galea said, that “The answer depends on what kind of vision one has for tourism in Gozo. There seems to be different schools of thought and some are at odds with each other. It’s a pity that there is no agreed plan regarding tourism in Gozo that could accommodate Tourist operators and their needs and desires. Instead of having a national plan approved by all interested parties we have a situation where different people with different opinions and visions are working individually without any kind of coordination”.

 

Commenting on the general statement that a Golf Course can be an environmental disaster, Mr. Galea said that “Every project has to be valued and assessed individually, as there is a difference between having a golf course covering a whole area with turf and a golf course covering small pockets of land or whether one will be using an existing type of grass unless to consider whether one will be weed which can harm nearby agriculture.” Mr. Galea said that “In principle, we must always take into consideration the zero option and decide if changing nothing at all is better than the proposed development. The answer must not only be based on the vision for the particular site but must take into consideration the full context in which the development will take place. The Green Party recognises the need and importance of sustainable and environmentally sound social and economic development on Malta and Gozo. However, there is a great deal of evidence from countries where water resources and land are limited, (such as Spain, Portugal, small tropical and sub-tropical island communities and elsewhere), that golf courses have had major negative long term environmental and social impacts, which stongly suggest they are neither sustainable nor environmentally sound investments. In other words, not an appropriate answer in our case”

 

Victor  Galea continued that “The main advantage for the development of a Golf Course is the attraction of upmarket tourism and the construction and selling of properties on site overlooking the golf course. This in no way justifies the loss of agricultural land from what is left and land that is or could be fertile. Every speculator who invested in a golf course around the globe always made sure that there are further possibilities to buidt attendant club houses, residential properties, hotels and more building. Is this what we want on Gozo?”

 

AD Regional Committee Spokesperson Victor Galea elaborated further about the importance such a project has related to tourism. “A golf course in Gozo will always depend on the golf facilities provided in Malta. It is unrealistic to expect Gozo to attract golf tourism separately and independently from Malta. Golf enthusiasts will never plan a holiday to somewhere that has only one golf course thus one golf course in Gozo will not be enough. One cannot mention that the main excuse given for golf courses in Malta is that it will attract business tourism. There is no study that proves that this will lead to a significant increase in tourism and this is no good reason to sacrifice such a huge piece of land for a hobby that does not balance out the huge sacrifice required. The government mentioned a figure of 30,00 tourists per year – the government and speculators just can’t play with fictitious figures if they want to be credibl!”.  “One has to see whether this in itself would attract upmarket tourists and whether the advantages of a golf course outweigh the disadvantages. There are various other factors which need to be addressed to attract upmarket tourism such as roads, transport, the up keeping of our heritage and looking after and promoting  our history, the attitude of people towards tourists, the level of education of tourism personnel, develop footpaths for walking holidays, etc.”

 

The Gozo AD Spokesperson was also asked to comment on whether Gozo can afford to lose more agricultural land. Mr. Galea commented that, “Gozo’s rural character is not only vital for whoever earns a living from agriculture but also for whoever visits the island including Maltese who are a very important for Gozo’s economy. The loss of a piece of land as big as Sliema worries a lot of people in Malta and even more in Gozo. This sacrifice will undermine the possibilities Gozo has to participate in the EU’s rural development programmes”. The AD Gozo Regional spokesperson said that, “Although the law stipulates that the aquifer water is public property that should be regulated by Government for the common good it looks like the situation has got out of the authorities control as reported in the WSC Annual Report. The situation in Gozo is of greater concern because of the smaller aquifer and the greater number of illegal boreholes. Instead of increasing the burden through the development of a golf course a regulatory plan should be put in place to ensure that that this limited resource is not lost. In many areas the aquifer water has turned into second class water and it seems that there is no plan to reverse the process.

 

Asked for further comments on the issue of a development of a golf course on Gozo, Victor Galea said that, “The proposed Golf Course in Gozo is to be developed on agricultural land in Ta’ Cenc which the developer claims to have its own water supply. This classifies it as fertile land thus according to MEPA policies a golf course application should not be considered. The land in question is isolated and is an ideal area for an organic farming centre in Gozo. The facilities already available are ideal to turn the area into an eco and agro-tourism complex that would compete very well in this sector. It would be a mistake if the government and opposition look at the development of a golf course in Gozo as the only means of attracting quality tourism!” Victor Galea insisted that “It is possible to consider turning Gozo into an organic farming area and Gozo would obtain a particular branding and increase its income from the whole agricultural product. In this process an organic centre in Ta’ Cenc that can reach the required standards in a short time will be of great importance and requires great attention from Government. Tourism and agricultural can go hand in hand and one should explore possibilities of tapping on EU programmes. Such a plan should include public transport and the integration of the 33% of empty dwellings in Gozo. The plan should promote Gozo as tourist destination separately from Malta and not as an appendix of Malta’s tourist product. Golf does not enter in frame and could also damage the cause. Instead of going blindly for a golf course just to give pleasure to developers and speculators, state authorities should encourage public debate on alternative tourism for Gozo. If the Government and Opposition shows once again that they are not able to encourage an informed public debate on sustainable development in Gozo, then we are ready to do it. AD Gozo Regional Committee is already in contact with experts who are more than willing to help out”.

 

Mr Galea said that “The Alternattiva Demokratika acknowledges that fact that Gozo has a great deal to offer the tourist apart from the climate. Besides agricultural industry, AD gives full support to the heritage of Gozo. Older properties could be sympathetically restored to enhance the character of the community. Some money needs to be diverted to cope with the increasing amount of litter which seems to be dumped in the countryside. Job opportunities in alternative energies should be explored. If these and more of these points are addressed, Gozo will once again be valued for what it really is”

 

“The Green Party would like to see and encourage and informed public debate on sustainable economic development of the islands, including alternative tourism options, to create real all year round employment from the many attractions of Gozo (which must include the conservation and ‘wise use’ of its natural environment)” said Mr Galea.

 

“Finally AD Gozo Regional Committee strongly suggests and expects that any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of golf courses projects be carried out to the highest professional and international standards, be transparent in the process and include proper public consultations” concluded Mr Galea.

 
     
  Guided Walk - Art with a Purpose - Discussion on Alternative Tourism for Gozo  
 

 

The Ceratonia Foundation and the AD Gozo Regional Committee would like to invite you to come with us for 'a guided walk' and experience 'art with a purpose' on the garigue at Ta’ Cenc limits of Sannat. We hope that these events will raise awareness of the loss of a huge tract of our countryside (as big as Sliema) if the proposed golf course development is approved.

 

 

1) Guided Walk

Ta’ Cenc is important for many reasons. The guided walk will take us around the l-Imramma Neolithic Temple, the three dolmens, and the pre-historic cart ruts. Both the cliffs and the valley are important areas for various species of birds such as the scarce Spectacled Warbler, the Corn Bunting and the Blue Rock Thrush. There is also one of the most impressive colonies of Cory's Shearwater in the Maltese islands and a small colony of the elusive Storm Petrel. Ta’ Cenc is also world famous as the natural home of several species of flora and fauna.  The area includes a rich Mediterranean plant biodiversity in its garigue and rupestral habitats with several rare endemic species such as the National Maltese Plant Rock Centaury. The first walk is going to be held in the Summer (13th of August 2005).The second walk will be in Autumn so that people can see and compare the wonders of nature. Experts from various disciplines will give talks during the guided walks (ornithologist, botanist archaeologist and astrologist).

 

 

 2) Art with a Purpose

At the same time as the guided walks, a group of artists (poets, musicians, writers, photographers and painters) will be on the garigue. They will seek to contrast its present freedom and beauty with the future exclusive golf course, attendant club house and residential properties. The collective production of the artists will be part of an eventual exhibition to visually raise public awareness to the loss of our countryside heritage.

 

3) Discussion on Alternative Tourism for Gozo

               The public is invited to join in an informal discussion on Alternative Tourism for Gozo such as bird watching, walking holidays, heritage and cultural tours.

 

Date: Saturday 13th August 2005

Meeting place: in front of Sannat Parish Church

Time: 6.00pm

  •  Please inform Louisa Houlton on louisahoulton@yahoo.com  if you intend to come for the guided walk. Transport to and from Malta is being arranged so please do confirm. (This applies if you are travelling from Malta to Gozo specifically for this purpose).

·              Artists who are willing to contribute through their talents in this event may inform Victor Galea victorgalea@onvol.net

 

·              NGDOs who would like to co-organise and contribute in this educational event, may contact the Event Co-ordinator Mark Causon on causon@euroweb.net.mt or mobile 79232635.

 
     
 
 
 

Eko-Loġika - Insalvaw Din L-Art
Coalition for the Protection of Xagħra l-Ħamra and Ta’ Ċenċ

Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party; AD-Kumitat Reġjonali ta' Għawdex;
Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed;  Dripht;
Żminijietna Leħen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; Assoċjazzjoni Residenti ta' Sannat

Stqarrija Stampa 5/8/05
 

Koalizzjoni favur il-ħarsien ta' l-art mill-iżvilupp ta' koros tal-golf

 

Din il-ġimgħa twaqqfet koalizzjoni tas-soċjetà ċivili bil-għan li tipproteġi l-ambjent mill-iżvilupp insostenibbli ta' koros tal-golf. Żewġ proposti diversi ta' koros tal-golf qegħdin jheddu li jaħtfu u jxejnu l-pajsaġġi marittimi sbieħ tax-Xagħra l-Ħamra, fil-Majjistral ta' Malta, u Ta' Ċenċ, Għawdex. Ix-xagħri, kif ukoll artijiet agrikoli, jinsabu fil-periklu li jinqerdu minħabba l-iżvilupp fuq meddiet ta' art kbar daqs l-inħawi ta' Tas-Sliema.

 

Il-koalizzjoni Eko-Loġika - Insalvaw Din L-Art tħaddan fiha l-organizzazzjonijiet li ġejjin: Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party; AD-Kumitat Reġjonali ta' Għawdex; Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed; Dripht; Żminijietna Leħen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; u l-Assoċjazzjoni Residenti ta' Sannat.

Eko-Loġika stqarret:

 

"Il-koalizzjoni tesprimi d-dubji tagħha rigward l-affermazzjoni ta' l-Awtorità Maltija tat-Turiżmu, li skondha l-iżvilupp ta' kors tal-golf fl-inħawi ta' Għajn Tuffieħa m'hu se jkollu l-'ebda impatt negattiv' fuq l-ambjent (kif saħaq iċ-Ċermen Eżekuttiv Romwald Lungaro-Mifsud, ikkwotat fil-Malta Financial and Business Times tad-29 ta' Ġunju). Aħna nisfidaw din l-affermazzjoni."  

"Is-sostenibbiltà ta' dawn il-proġetti ta' golf tqajjem ħafna mistoqsijiet rigward l-użu ta' l-ilma, it-telf ta' diversi speċi ta' fjuri salvaġġi li jikbru biss fix-xagħri, kif ukoll it-telf ta' meddiet kbar ta' art li sal-lum huma aċċessibbli għall-pubbliku."

 

"Iċ-ċifri li qegħdin jissemmew rigward iż-żjieda fil-wasliet ta' turisti bis-saħħa ta' l-iżvilupp ta' koros tal-golf huma biss spekulattivi u mingħajr evidenza xjentifika. Min-naħa l-oħra, jibqa' l-fatt li ladarba l-koros tal-golf jiġu żviluppati, l-effett ikun irreversibbli, u jkun impossibbli li l-art terġa' ssir xagħri jew utli għall-agrikultura. Il-lum Malta ma tiflaħx titlef aktar art f'isem l-iżvilupp insostenibbli."

 

Dwar il-proposta ta' żvilupp fix-Xagħra l-Ħamra, Eko-Loġika stqarret:

 

"Il-ġimgħa li għaddiet, kemm l-opinjoni pubblika u kemm l-NGOs inħasdu bl-aħbar li l-President ta' Malta kien iffirma t-terminazzjoni bikrija tal-qbiela ta' dawk il-bdiewa li jaħdmu r-raba' ta' taħt il-Manikata, post li ġie ipproponut għal wieħed mill-koros tal-golf. Aħna nappoġġjaw il-lotta tal-bdiewa biex iħarsu l-art agrikola li issa tinsab f'periklu."

 

F'dak li għandu x'jaqsam ma' Ta' Ċenċ, il-koalizzjoni qalet:

"Ta' Ċenċ kien ikkwalifika għal-lista ta' siti protetti ta' Natura 2000, ta' l-Unjoni Ewropea, iżda ma giex inkluz mill-awtoritajiet. Il-mistoqsija ta' Eko-Loġika hija jekk din kinitx biss koinċidenza, jew jekk għandhiex x'taqsam ma' l-iżvilupp eventwali ta' korsa tal-golf insostenibbli."

 

Sadanittant, il-Fondazzjoni Ceratonia u AD Għawdex, li t-tnejn huma membri tal-koalizzjoni, qegħdin jorganizzaw mixja edukattiva oħra madwar Ta' Ċenċ, flimkien ma' attività ta' tpinġija u mużika. Il-mixja se ssir nhar is-Sibt 13 ta' Awwissu, u tibda fis-6 p.m. mill-faċċata tal-knisja ta' Sannat. Eko-Loġika qiegħda tappoġġja wkoll din l-attività.

Min jixtieq iktar tagħrif jew jixtieq jissieħeb fil-koalizzjoni Eko-Loġika għandu jibgħat e-mail lil:
information@ekologikamalta.org

 

Eko-Loġika

 
 
 
 
     
 

Eko-Loġika - Insalvaw Din L-Art
Coalition for the Protection of Xagħra l-Ħamra and Ta’ Ċenċ

Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party; AD-Gozo Regional Committee;
Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed;  Dripht;
Żminijietna Leħen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; Sannat Residents
Association

Press Release 5/8/05

Coalition to protect land from golf development

A civil society coalition has been formed to safeguard the environment from unsustainable golf course development. Two separate golf course proposals threaten to swallow up beautiful coastal landscapes at Xagħra l-Ħamra in
north-west Malta and at Ta’ Ċenċ, Gozo. Garigue and agricultural land risk being destroyed for development on tracts of land each as large as Sliema.

The coalition Eko-Loġika, under the banner Insalvaw Din L-Art (Save this Land) is made up of the following organisations: Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party; AD-Gozo Regional Committee; Fondazzjoni Ceratonia; Moviment Graffitti; Inizjamed; Dripht; Żminijietna Leħen ix-Xellug; Third World Group; and the Sannat Residents Association.

Eko-Loġika said:

“The Malta Tourism Authority’s claim that there will be 'no negative impact' from the Ghajn Tuffieħa golf development (according to executive chairman Romwald Lungaro-Mifsud, quoted in The Malta Financial and Business Times of 29th June) is being challenged by the coalition.”

“The sustainability of these golf projects is highly questionable in terms of water use, loss of wild flowering species unique to the garigue, and large open spaces which are currently accessible to the public.”

“The figures being quoted with regard to tourist arrivals as a result of golf course development are merely speculative and have no social-scientific backing. On the other hand, it is a fact that once golf courses are developed, land
cannot be reverted back to garigue or for agricultural purposes. Malta cannot afford to lose more land for such unsustainable development.”

Commenting on the proposed development at Xagħra l-Ħamra, Eko-Loġika said:

“Last week the public and NGOs were shocked to learn that the President of Malta had signed an early termination of the agricultural lease of farmers working the land near Manikata, where one of the golf courses is being proposed. We support the farmers’ plight to safeguard the agricultural land in question.”

As regards Ta’ Ċenċ, the coalition stated:

“Ta’ Ċenċ was a qualifier for the EU list of protected Natura 2000 sites, but was not included by the authorities. Eko-Loġika asks whether this is coincidental or whether it has to do with the development of an unsustainable golf course.”

In the meantime, another informative nature walk with painting and music is being organised by Ceratonia Foundation and AD Gozo, both members of the coalition, at 6 p.m. on Saturday 13th August, meeting in front of the church at Sannat. Eko-Loġika is backing this activity.

For further information, or to join the coalition, emails should be sent to information@ekologikamalta.org

f/ Eko-Logika