Nadur parish once again a no-show at cemetery appeal
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Following closely on the heels of yesterdays report on the Nadur Cemetery saga, we have now received this report by David Lindsay which indicates that this long running saga is set to continue for some considerable time yet:
“The Nadur parish was, once again, a no-show last week when the Malta Environment and Planning Authority appeals board met in Gozo to hear the case against the approval of what is becoming an increasingly disastrous cemetery development.
With the appeals board eager to question Nadur parish priest Saviour Muscat about the necessity and aspects of the new cemetery, Fr Muscat failed to show up for the seventh time in a row to answer for the parish’s stance, since he is away in Australia for four months.
Fr Muscat is due to return from Australia on the 4th of March, the same day the next hearing has been scheduled for, and if the parish is not represented at the next hearing, it could very well buy itself more months in which to put the finishing touches on works at the site.
The Gozo Curia and the Nadur parish appear extremely wary of making any public statement about the controversial development, and neither has even acknowledged protests and petitions from Nadur farmers who argue their water supply will become contaminated from run-off water from the cemetery’s graves.
And with work on the cemetery steaming ahead, the parish has effectively bought an additional three months in which to carry out work on the site, works that have already resulted in one of the Nadur valley’s major aquifers drying up, placed another at similar risk, and turning water from another important source milky white from construction run-off a year ago and is still that colour to this day.
Nadur farmers are asking the very valid question: what will happen if the cemetery is completed or nearly finished by the time the next hearing is held? Will Mepa order it dismantled?
The appeals board accepted evidence showing the state of affairs at Wednesday’s hearing, as well as evidence that long concrete slabs, laid to prevent water seeping into the graves and contaminated run-off water to the farmland below have, as predicted, already cracked.
The parish has also contended that the 600-grave cemetery was necessary because a lot of people from Malta wanted to be buried in Nadur. But, in actual fact, it transpired that such numbers amounted to between two and five people a year, mainly people from Nadur either residing in Malta or those from Nadur who had sought medical attention in Malta.
The appeals board has also requested an explanation over why the parish had not simply extended the existing cemetery to a field behind it, also owned by the parish, where it has constructed garages instead.
A little over a month ago, on the 28th of October, contractors were reported to have cut down three protected carob trees on the site under the cover of darkness, between 7pm and 4am.
Meanwhile, appeals against the project have fallen on deaf ears. A 450-strong petition delivered to Gozo Bishop Mario Grech back in February 2007 has to date remained unacknowledged, while an open letter to the Prime Minister appealing for work to be halted until the appeal is heard was acknowledged but not responded to.
Located at the top of the valley leading down to Ramla Bay, the cemetery development is undoubtedly of questionable environmental sensitivity, over and above the visual aspect it is expected to render. The agriculturally-rich farm and orchard land rising above Ramla Bay is fed by a natural spring, which will pass through the grounds of the planned cemetery before making its way to the farmers’ wells and reservoirs. The Nadur farmers are concerned that the water supply for their farmland, with citrus groves numbering thousands of trees, is being compromised by work on the site just above, as well as by future run-off water from the graveyard.
Farmers have also expressed incredulity at the fact that a previously proposed cemetery site in Nadur had been turned down by Mepa… because of concern over potential contamination of a nearby borehole and questioned why the farmland in the direct line of the cemetery would not be similarly contaminated.
The project has not been subjected to an Environmental Impact Assessment and was instead approved on the basis of reports drawn up by the Malta Resources Authority and the Department of Agriculture.
Although 25 per cent of the 600 graves would be allocated as common graves, which yield no revenue, the remaining graves for sale, with conservative estimates of €2325.58 (Lm1,000) per grave, would undoubtedly bring in a good deal of revenue. With its majestic views, the cemetery’s plots for sale could also be expected to fall subject to speculation and competitive bargaining.”