A resurgence of environmental protection advocacy groups

Lately, a number of environmental “pressure” groups have been sprouting up across our lovely islands. These follow the lead of other recent, successful environmental groups such as Front Harsien ODZ and Kamp Emergenza Ambjent. In no particular order, we have heard from:

Inħobbu l-Gżira – This group is advocating for a sustainable plan for Manoel Island that benefits the whole population. This is an impression of what is at stake:

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Xgħajra Seafront Interest Group – The group was re-kindled recently, after original comments about land reclamation in the past were dismissed, only to surface again now. Multiple articles published on the Times of Malta can be read here and here. James Debono also published an excellent piece on MaltaToday about why land reclamation is a bad idea. Renders of this abomination have not surfaced yet; however, here is something interesting to read on the subject from a country which unfortunately has opted to implement extensive land reclamation. The more sensible Dutch counterpart stopped reclaiming land (the Markermeer) in the Ijsselmeer because of the effect on the eels.

Save the North – The group focuses on large-scale development in the North of Malta and how these are detrimental to our life. The proposed Mistra project is one example.

This is what it would look like:

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Marsaskala Community & Friends – Our own group advocates active citizenship, with the environment being one of 3 pillars that are the back-bone of the community. As the dust has temporarily settled on the Żonqor university given the troubles faced by the AuM, it is time for the Jerma relic to be in the news (again), as documented in this MaltaToday article.

This is a 3D render of what 13 to 15 storeys would look like, taken from the applicant’s Proposal for Development:

A render of the proposed development

It is positive that these groups are not only working for their cause. Fund-raising organized by the Save the North group in order to appeal the Mistra project was a success, with documented donations coming from some of the above groups, hundreds of Maltese and even international contributions. Save the North is encouraging followers of their FaceBook page to attend a MEPA meeting on 7th March regarding the Manoel Island Project. Members of our own group attended the Xghajra meet-up last January 2019, where the group was objecting to possible land reclamation in the vicinity. The latter 2 groups also formally discussed possible ways to collaborate in March 2019 .

This type of collaboration is possibly one of the best ways to not only make our voices heard, but also to trigger discussion and change. When you treat behemoth development projects individually, localities and pressure groups feel stranded and many times the sensation that a decision has already been taken regarding a proposed development reigns supreme. This is well known by developers, who count on this feeling of helplessness to help them roll over any individual resistance and exploit the common good for personal gain.

It is easy to see how the general discontent of the common citizen is increasing to unprecedented levels. The people behind these groups are rarely politically affiliated. The environment belongs to us and to our children. It is sad to see how few politicians take a definite stance against any of these projects. Politicians dwell in grey, blurred lines. A favorite quote of theirs that seems to have become a motto is: “Wieħed irid jara sew l-impatt…” (One needs to closely examine the situation“). How about ‘NO’? How about plucking enough courage to tell it how it is? As much as we would like to steer away from the clichés crying foul at the pocket lining of the few at the detriment of the majority, it is the harsh reality.

A sure way to implement these projects seems to be that of proposing outrageous plans, that have no way to be approved in their original format, and then scale them down to pacify the rest of us. Well, nobody is an idiot.

Economic drive is fine, but not at this price. This is not the legacy we choose to leave to our future generations. It is the legacy that those in power are choosing to shove down our throats; cementing our mouths and the little land we have left. These groups, be they successful or not in their battles, will not be erased. “Front Kontra l-Golf Kors” (2000-2004) and “Front Kontra l-Hilton” (1994-1997), both spearheaded by Moviment Graffitti, are two examples of a won and lost battle, respectively.

Someone, somewhere in time, tried to stop this madness. We hope that, looking back, we will also be able to proudly say that we tried – and succeeded – in making Marsaskala, and other localities, a better place to live in.