A number of civil society groups have warned that recent decisions by the Planning Authority, ‘encourage developers to think that anything is possible.’
The conservation NGOs and academic bodies which include Din l-Art Ħelwa and Franciscan Friars. Malta, argue that the Planning Authority’s, ‘flawed policies,’ like the Fuel Stations Relocation Policy, is, ‘now finally universally acknowledged as wrong…but is still being used to justify the replacement of a solitary petrol pump, within urban areas.’
This also goes for the doubling in size of what are considered illegal fish farms and the building of hotels on heritage sites. They state that these decisions by the Planning Authority, ‘render environmental policies a dead letter.’
Ultimately, they argue that the public has, ‘lost faith in governmental strategies for our environment, and particularly in the Planning Authority.’
The NGOs and academic bodies state that they are concerned about the need for long term plans and policies for the natural, social and cultural heritage of Malta. They ultimately urge the government and political parties to find sustainable solutions.
Traffic not being tackled holistically
The collective voice also raises its concerns about the lack of action on addressing traffic congestion and finding alternative means.
They state that until now the focus has been simply on carrying out road-widening projects with dubious planning permissions and studies, without investigating how to tackle traffic congestion holistically.
They explain that, ‘alternative forms of transport are not being actively studied, and bicycle use is still not being taken seriously in road design.’
At the same time, with a lack of taking a modal shift on public transport, it makes, ‘reducing cars on the road will remain a gargantuan task, and buses will remain an inefficient mode of transport for commuters.’
Is land reclamation just a ruse for developers?
While cataloguing the number of problems that still need to be dealt by Malta’s environmental bodies, the collective voice also questions the value of land reclamation.
They argue that the idea of land reclamation is being presented as something positive for the environment while they believe it has the potential to devastate Malta’s marine habitats and biodiversity.
While calling for more studies into the processes of excavation, they state that they, ‘remain unconvinced that land reclamation is not a big real estate opportunity for some.’
‘At a time when everybody is worried about rising sea-levels, it would be foolhardy to increase land footprint which would be prone to flooding, particularly where exposed to the North East and North West winds,’ they add.
The 11 NGOs and bodies conclude by saying that they, ‘urge all political parties, and especially the Government, to sincerely valorise our natural and cultural heritage within truly sustainable and long-term plans and policies, to ensure that future generations can enjoy the little that will be left, unless we change direction.’
The NGOs and organisations; Nature Trust Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Moviment Graffiti, Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, Professional Diving Schools Association Islands of Malta, Grow 10 Trees, Malta Energy Efficient and Renewable Energies Association, Repubblika, Franciscan Friars. Malta, The Biological Conservation Research Foundation and The Faculty for the Built Environment.