Sunday Times of Malta, 30 November 2008 – Roamer’s Column

I intended to start this week’s piece with remarks about how I enjoyed a concert I attended at St John’s co-Cathedral last Monday. Unfortunately, I was unable to put the thing together for lack of some important details I needed, so it will have to wait until next Sunday. Meanwhile, no sooner do we get over one controversy than it seems to be time for another to break out; this time the Ghadira road project. This scheme, if adopted, will obliterate the road running alongside the bay and replace it with another that will snake round Danish Village and cut across a stretch of countryside that is host to a bird sanctuary and the site of Foresta 2000 – and garigue.

Austin Gatt’s argument in favour of this proposal is two-fold: The sand beach is dying of erosion. If we fail to construct this road, we risk losing EU funds allocated to the proposed EU Trans-European Transport Network project with the unlikely acronym TEN-T. He should banish this idea from his mind. Neither contention is worth the elimination of the beach road and the construction of a new route that will impact adversely on Foresta 2000 site and do little good for the Danish Village.

Gatt’s reaction to criticism of this re-designation has been that “a row of trees” may have to be removed (for “may” read “will”, and probably more than one row once the builders get their machinery’s teeth into the countryside) and if the owners of Danish Village decide to sell out, another buyer will take it over at the flick of a euro. This reaction is not good enough.

The point about the EU coughing up 80 per cent of the €15 million project and the loss of these funds if we do not employ them on TEN-T is too utilitarian an argument for words. That money can very well be used to enhance the existing trans-European network while we concentrate on making the bay sandier – as was so successfully done at St George’s two or three years ago. The 20 per cent government was going to put up can, instead, go towards this and upgrading the present road.

Gatt is fond of saying that doing nothing is not an option – and he is right to adopt this attitude. There have been enough occasions when we did nothing, and this to our detriment, rather than getting on with things. The discussion here, however, unlike in some other cases, does not pose a socio-political life-and-death issue.

We can do something and it does not have to be what Gatt has in mind. We can widen the beach seawards by building a ‘breakwater’ across the bay. We can reclaim five metres of sea. We can move the road four or five metres inland to create a more spacious beach. We can also have a car park built so that the cars that litter the road in summer no longer do so. We do not need the encircling road the minister appears to be keen on – in fairness he has asked people to help him arrive at a correct decision.

What we should not do, for the sake of doing something, is turn a relatively minor issue in the overall scheme of things into a silly over-my-dead-body thing.