Countryside & conservation areas still under threat – FAA

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Countryside & conservation areas still under threat - FAAFlimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) said that it “welcomes recent positive results at MEPA but asks how much longer MEPA and NGO resources are to be wasted processing abusive applications.”

“MEPA’s EPC board has recently refused a permit to build a house at the mouth of the tal-Marga valley in Qala, Gozo. This development which was opposed by FAA and Qala Local Council would have obstructed the flow of water into the valley, drastically reducing the water available to farmers in this lush area,” FAA said.

FAA continued, “an application to build a Lidl supermarket on a Xewkija valley has now been announced. Since 2007 FAA has been opposing a similar application just four fields further down in this same valley. This is now the site of an ECO-Gozo valley project to clean the valley and create a water catchment area as a spring surfaces there and supports local indigenous flora. When FAA objected to the first project on the grounds of water catchment the DCC board had dismissed this argument.” The NGO went on to say “recently an illegal road has been laid across this valley to give better access to the supermarket project. What steps are being taken to remove this road, return the land to its original state and levy heavy penalties on the abuser?” FAA said it “has no objection to Lidl setting up in Gozo, but on no account can this be on virgin land, when other areas are already ruined and existing commercial premises lie vacant.”

FAA said that “in the Wied il-Ghasel case, on the insistence of the NGOs Harsien Patrimonju Mosti, FAA and Ramblers Association, MEPA has stepped in and stopped the destruction in the Out of the Development Zone (ODZ). This field is to be rehabilitated and MEPA is to look into the part of the development of 26 flats and 24 garages that is to be built right along the valley ridge.” While this is a positive move, FAA said it “asks why this permit was approved in an ODZ Site of Scientific Importance in the first place.”

Furthermore, FAA said it “asks why MEPA approved a massive industrial chicken broiler unit producing 14,400 chickens annually that was built abusively in the Wardija Natura 2,000 site, without serious investigation. The proviso that landscaping is to be provided is risible when this huge eyesore can be seen from all the surrounding hills – see photos at http://www.faa.org.mt/odz_still_under_threat What is the point of giving a Natura 2000 designation, the highest degree of ODZ protection, to this area of great natural beauty and ecological importance if it is not accompanied by the equivalent protection? Why is the Natural Heritage Advisory Committee not being consulted on any of these applications?”

FAA concluded that, “for many years the Authorities have pledged that applications that are clearly in violation of MEPA regulations will be immediately rejected to prevent the waste of MEPA’s precious time and resources. For some reason this has not been implemented and our countryside and urban conservation areas are still under threat from unsuitable development. FAA urges the Authorities to enact this regulation with urgency, so that all resources can be employed to process without delay bona-fide applications like the conversion of old properties which enhance Malta’s characteristic towns and villages.”

Photo by FAA shows the road built across the Xewkija valley.

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