Gozo, Paradise lost – Readers Letter
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What has happened to my adored and much cherished island? After 30 years of living on Gozo, I can see that my paradise is rapidly becoming a paradise lost. Greed has made development of every available square inch of land the number one priority. Never in all my years here have I seen Gozo in such a state – an island held to ransom by property developers.
Let me speak of my own circumstances. Just five years ago I left the now bustling town of Nadur (after 25 years) for a smaller house in the peaceful hill village of Munxar. What a joke! It seemed that the ink was hardly dry on the contract before every Tom, Dick and Harry in the little piazzetta where I live, decided to build. Currently there are five building projects within a stone’s throw of my little house. I am besieged by builders’ trucks from early morning to evening. The once charming square is constantly covered with dust and builders’ rubble and has been downgraded so much that I feel I am living in a slum. How do I begin to explain to my family visitors, who have spent all of their holidays on the island since their childhood, that they will have to suffer early morning wake-up calls from builders and days filled with dust and noise? How can I blame them if they finally say, “Sorry Mum – we can’t take our holidays with you any more”.
The beautiful Xlendi valley was once easily accessible from the square by a foot path which is clearly shown on the survey map of Gozo. Where is the path now? It is buried under piles of building material, household junk and general debris. The area has become a convenient dumping ground for some of the local residents. And all this damage has been achieved in four short years, because when I came here to live, the path to the valley was still pristine. Why? Gozo has the best refuse collection service I have ever encountered, even heavy domestic items are collected free of charge and yet still people litter. Have they so little love and respect for their island that they treat it as a dump? The answer is obvious – there is no respect for this island of such great beauty and antiquity.
Once, not so long ago, Gozo was regarded as the greener and cleaner island. So now where is the green? Trees are being destroyed at a greater rate than ever before. I have never seen such appalling damage to so many trees as I have witnessed in these past few months. The tamarisks on the Marsalforn promenade are a sick parody of the trees they once were. Everywhere one looks around the island there are trees with branches amputated, leaving them shapeless and shade-less. Why? One wonders whether, with the cost of fossil fuels, the market in firewood is proliferating and the trees are suffering accordingly. The Hondoq ir-Rummien beach tamarisks are the latest victims of the massacre – with branches removed for no good reason whatsoever.
Why is there never any planning for gardens in the new developments springing up all over the island? Gozo is rapidly becoming just as big a concrete and stone jungle as Malta. Doesn’t anybody in planning, with a grain of sensitivity, realise that tourists and residents need quiet green areas, particularly in the middle of towns and villages? I fervently hope that the few remaining areas of unspoilt countryside will remain that way. One thing is for sure – if and when those precious tracts of untouched land are developed they will be lost for ever – there is no turning back the clock!
Oh my beloved Gozo – my heart breaks – what will become of you?
I am deeply saddened