Environment groups and citizens concerned that Government is not fulfilling its obligations to defend their right to a healthy environment are to raise their voices in protest against the introduction of new planning regulations that relax building restrictions and will bring further over-development of the country.
A protest march organised on Saturday 30 November in Valletta will demand that government refrains from launching a series of policies currently under formulation by Mepa as these will bring widespread destruction of the countryside and further reduce open spaces. High-rise buildings and new hotel heights will increase traffic, restricting residents’ light and air, reclamation schemes will obliterate more coastline and commercial activity will be introduced in residential areas thus endangering the quality of life and health of the citizen.
Twelve organisations, Birdlife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien għal-Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse Malta, Malta Organic Agricultural Movement, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers Association of Malta, Y4TE, Why Not?, together with several local residents’ associations and supported by Tribali will insist that Government fulfils its obligations to ”protect Malta’s landscape and its natural and cultural heritage” as laid down by the over riding principles of the Maltese Constitution.
The NGOs believe Malta has not yet recovered from the 2006 rationalisation of development zones and building has continued unabated under previous administrations over several decades resulting in some 70,000 empty or under-utilised properties while no strategic study has been carried out to justify the need to further increase capacity.
Labour’s 2013 Electoral Manifesto makes strong promises that
“Malta should be in the vanguard on environmental standards, not because there is an obligation placed upon us by European directives but because this is what best suits our children and generations to come’.
Despite this strong undertaking pledged by the new government, the NGOs maintain that within the last eight months the only commitment shown by the authorities has been to further the interests of the development lobby. Speculation of property is currently rampant in expectation of relaxed rules and large parcels of land in some of Malta’s most beautiful and ecological areas are changing hands rapidly.
Furthermore NGOs are also highly concerned that where building regulations exist they continue to be flouted, as happened recently in Mepa’s controversial approval of the 15 floor high-rise scheme at Mistra Ridge, a project that has aroused much public indignation and anger as it is to scar an area of national landscape value permanently. NGOs maintain the approval by Mepa was based entirely on irregularities and misleading information and should have been delayed until further improvements to the scheme could be effected.
Furthermore some 7000 building illegalities permitted during the previous administration are to be condoned or regularised and this, maintain the NGOs, engenders a culture for further law-breaking. The NGOs state that the situation of abuse in planning and misuse of land spans two governments where for financial gain and for political expediency, Malta’s beautiful Mediterranean landscapes and unique architectural qualities have been sacrificed to speculation.
Despite having a Ministry dedicated entirely to the Environment and Sustainable Development, the rights of citizens to enjoy open spaces, clean air and a healthy lifestyle continue to be threatened by an outdated fixation that construction will solve all Malta’s problems. With thousands of messages flooding in to the environment groups daily, it is clear that citizens feel the need to express their indignation openly to a government which, instead of protecting the environmental rights of the citizen, is exploiting them irresponsibly as a mere trading commodity.
The rally will start at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday 30 November outside City Gate, Valletta. All citizens are encouraged to attend.