22nd November 2014
The foreshore is a unique ecological resource which supports various activities that are intensely related to the well-being of a community.
Unfortunately, the Maltese islands do not have large coastal areas which are easily accessible to the public. Besides being small, much of the western coast is made up of cliffs.
Many mistakes have been made in the past when people interfered with the natural course of nature.
Look at our built-up valleys. Does it make sense to build in a valley and live in it and then expect the government to solve the problems of flooding using the money of all taxpayers?
Architects, planners and governments should have known better. Apart from ruining the natural beauty and biodiversity a valley has to offer, buildings try to change the natural course rain water takes, leading to obvious negative consequences.
Likewise, building on the foreshore is interfering with nature and will lead to problems. There is no such buzzword as foreshore sustainable development. Development close to the shores can never be sustainable.
A rising population together with the growth in economic development and increasing number of tourists (quantity and not necessarily quality) have caused an increase in activities on the foreshore and a demand for further development. But why do we have to build so close to the shores?
Developments so close to sandy beaches such as in Marsalforn Bay, Xlendi Bay and Buġibba Bay, have led to loss of sand dunes which were the natural source of sand. Sandy beaches are so popular to the Maltese and tourists alike and, yet, we have depleted so many beaches of their natural sand.
Even roads close to the seashore are development – the coast road widening for no obvious reason, while so many other roads are crying for an upgrade, led to more loss of coastal surface area. The foreshore is so rich in marine biodiversity, which includes molluscs, echinoderms, algae, bryozoa, tunicates and fish.
It is useless discussing bird hunting and the many regulations to control it when we do not even take into consideration the marine life that is destroyed in land reclamation and by changing the natural environment of the foreshores of our islands. Such foreshore is enjoyed for a few days every time a tourist visits our islands but can be enjoyed forever by us Maltese as long as it is not ruined by concrete blocks.
So how can we accept proposals to develop hotels in the south on virgin land which is in outside development zone?
Building very close to the seashore means that the place will be crowded with more development, which is most often high-rise. This will inevitably lead to more and more development destroying the natural beauty of the place forever.
Many have claimed that the Jerma Hotel could be rebuilt. No, Jerma should be razed to the ground and the place landscaped as much as possible.
After all, it is obliterating the view of Wignacourt’s 17th century St Thomas tower. This defended the coast and the inhabitants of the area so well in the past.
We need tourists of quality and not quantity. A larger number of tourists will only increase pressure on our infrastructure, water, electricity and drainage facilities, the police force and health services.
Laws and regulations protecting our shores exist, so why are they under constant threat from development?
Why do architects accept to submit projects for their clients knowing that such projects should be refused?
Why does Mepa accept to study such applications if they are outside development zone and not included in the structure plan?
Why do clients continue to appeal on decisions which have been taken?
Is it time that these illegalities be confronted in court by third parties, such as non-governmental organisations, and at what cost?
Then, why does it have to be only non-governmental organisations that speak up for the foreshore, the coast and all the natural life that lives within them.
An island with no natural foreshore is a sad prospect indeed.
Stanley Farrugia Randon is a council member of Din l-Art Ħelwa