St John’s Project a great disservice – FAA
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Mgr Calleja insists that the Foundation puts the interests of St. John’s Co-Cathedral first. Besides the fact that if allowed, the project will be putting the Cathedral and the underground passages at risk, should not a Foundation that is made up of Church and State also be considering the good of all of Valletta, its residents, tourists and business community?
Are these best served by a development that will create a hole the size of a quarry, ripping up the newly-laid paving, damaging the underground passages and inflicting noise, dust, and heavy vehicles shaking Valletta’s foundations for years?
Other than the developers, in whose interest is such a massive and costly excavation project when less damaging and much cheaper solutions are available?
There are several options for the museum expansion; once the tapestries will not be displayed where they should be – in the Cathedral itself – then it is immaterial where they are displayed. It is infinitely preferable to have them displayed in a world-renowned Knights’ building such as the Mediterranean Conference Centre where they can be viewed together as the Foundation wishes, rather than in a sterile underground bunker which would require round the clock air-conditioning backed up by massive generators – all clearly unsustainable.
If the Foundation then still needs more exhibition space it should act with the corporate social responsibility that the public has every right to expect from a Church/State establishment and convert one of the nearby old, dilapidated palaces into a museum for its other collections.
These alternatives would require only part of the 16 million Euros allocated to this project, leaving enough available to restore both St. Elmo and St. Angelo estimated at roughly 2.5m Euros each. Restoring the forts would regenerate depressed areas and create jobs in new attractions at a time when Malta needs to attract much-needed tourists to our shores.
The 2007 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations allow developers and MEPA to negotiate the guidelines or Terms of Reference (ToR) behind closed doors after the general public and NGOs make their recommendations. The latters’ suggestions may then be completely omitted from the ToRs however the public and NGOs will not be informed of these deletions until the EIA is complete and approved by MEPA.
It is therefore no wonder that developers are now clamouring for EIAs since these can be watered down and doctored to suit the developer. The EIA process is completely flawed and biased in favour of the developer since developers can eliminate any Terms of reference which they consider uncomfortable. Moreover the consultants are appointed and paid for by the developer and since the EIA could cost anything up to € 50,000 it is unlikely that consultants are going to be totally unbiased in the absence of any control such as a public register from which a consultant may be struck off if he is found to have presented an incomplete or biased EIA. MEPA was supposed to compile such a register of consultants but fourteen years later this register has not yet materialised.
In this time of financial crisis, when workers are facing a bleak future it is the height of insensitivity of Government and Church to press on with this project. The Environment Impact Assessment alone will cost anything up to €50,000 which together with the roughly 14,000 euros already spent on publicising the project, should have gone to projects with a more tangible heritage or social benefit.
Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar