“Please Don’t Spoil Gozo” – Readers Letter
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This is a plea to all Gozitans, Maltese, expats and other residents of this beautiful island, to politicians, to all parties and in particular the Minister of Gozo and MEPA.
This island has been plundered for centuries, and is still being plundered in the 21st century. Are we going to sit back and allow a select few (laundry men?) to finally destroy Gozo? This island does not belong to you or me or them ? it belongs to all the people of Gozo and their future progeny. We only have it on loan and it is our duty to preserve it for future generations.
So much of Gozitan heritage has already been destroyed or lost, sometimes because people simply did not know better (using parts of old temples for building purposes) and on other occasions, ruthless destruction took place for financial gain (the Punic Temple/Sanctuary, the first excavations of the Xaghra Circle, and more recently, Fort Chambray).
I was shocked to read in all three of the English language papers reports instigated by AD with regard to the extensions proposed for the Ta? Cenc complex. Extensions that have nothing to do with the golf course. Ta? Cenc is one of the most environmentally fragile, diverse and spectacular, relatively unspoilt, natural regions found in Gozo. Do we really want to destroy it? I ask the following questions:
Does this island need another hotel and more villas at this stage? The Mgarr and the Andar Hotel have closed down. Maybe one day they will become apartment blocks. The Cornucopia and Calypso hotels have their own apartment complexes; the Kempinsky hotel is also building apartments as it obviously could not survive as a hotel alone. The proposed hotel at Fort Chambray is still under consideration.
Do we want the whole island to become a concrete jungle? Can we not utilise the buildings which already exist, before encroaching on more and more agricultural or wilderness areas? Before quarrying more stone of which there is not an endless supply?
There are thousands of unfinished/unsold shells of buildings and apartments strewn all over the island, come of which have been rotting for years. Fort Chambray is again an example, but one only needs to drive past Marsalforn or Xlendi. There are a few horrific examples in Zebbug as well; in fact, all villages appear to suffer from this ailment. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of ruins and derelict houses in the villages. I am aware that the ownership of many of these houses is subject to irresolvable family inheritance disputes and that the ridiculous inheritance taxation and outdated rent laws have often prevented such properties from being used. These buildings and shells obviously do nothing to enhance the villages.
Instead of building new villas, with the resulting environmental impact, such as having to quarry new stones, couldn?t some of these deserted buildings be leased or purchased and turned into town houses/villas for tourists. Most people who appreciate nature would also appreciate the opportunity of staying in a lovely historical residence as well.
Please let us utilise what we have before destroying it by changing it into something that we think we should have.
If Ta? Cenc obtains permission to extend, what is to stop MEPA giving permission for Ramla to be enclosed by luxury villas and blocks of flats? Dwejra would be next; there are already a couple of illegal villas there which nobody seems to notice.
There are so many resorts on the Mediterranean coast which have been over-developed ? if someone wants wall-to-wall apartments and hotels, there are enough on offer. Marsalforn and Xlendi are on their way to becoming such places, but at least there is still some open areas not far away.
The charm of Gozo lies in it natural resources, its compact size, its wealth of historical and archaeological sites and of course its people. The flat-topped hills are fascinating, the coastline is spectacular and Ramla is still remarkably unspoilt, and more than just a bathing resort with its underwater fortifications and buried Roman Villa. Ggantija is simply unique. The Xaghra Stone Circle, the remains of Santa Verna Temple, the cart ruts which appear all over the island, the dolmens and other archaeological sites are a specialised tour just waiting to be put together.
Let us try and preserve what is left of the natural beauty of the island so that future generations can climb Ta? Dbiegi when the wind is blowing and the narcissus are flowering. The older generations were unable to prevent many things from happening to the island. They were too busy trying to make ends meet, tending their fields, feeding their families ? surviving. Thank goodness the younger generation appear to be more aware, informed, mobile and well-travelled; perhaps they can make a difference. I hope so and it is for them that we should do our utmost to act as guardians of the island, to protect it from ruthless, money grabbing, insensitive speculators and other undesirables.