Munxar Development – ADŻ questions sustainability of project

The latest anti-environment project has just been proposed a few days ago.  Munxar, located just off Marsaskala will be the next target.  This project is estimated to take up another 80,000 square metres of the Maltese countryside.  Although it is said to be an “agri-tourism” village, this project will have significant impact on the environment.

Why are we against this project?

First and foremost, we are against the destruction of the semi-natural environment for similar reasons we brought up in the Zonqor development.  Any sort of impact, as small as it might be, will lead to a negative impact on the ecosystem.  The area is already under pressure from trapping sites which have destroyed large tracts of naturally vegetated land by using herbicides.  Can we afford to lose even more?  Just imagine the impacts of using heavy machinery to construct buildings!

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Secondly, we must consider the projects’ impact in relation to its ancillary infrastructure, namely water and electricity, but also road infrastructure.  This area is not connected to the rest of the grid and thus a connection needs to be made.  What are the impacts of the laying down the plumbing and wiring necessary, not to mention the road?  Who will pay for these?

Another concern is that of light pollution. Recent research has found that several coastal bird species are being negatively affected by light pollution. Could this development contribute to light pollution which would degrade the habitat of these important species?

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Other social impacts which need consideration are whether there will be any impacts on traffic.  Will this lead to the development of a parking area somewhere near St. Thomas Bay, taking up even more land?  What about farmers, are they going to be affected through this development?

One peculiar aspect of the project is that of setting up a bird-watching facility Assuming that the developers are alienated from the true situation at Munxar and surrounding Delimara, this is pure non-sense.  The area is well known for hunting and trapping.  Are we really keen on inviting tourists to watch our birds being blasted out of the sky and song-birds being trapped in terribly small cages.  In Spring, the area turns into a mini-warzone, with hundreds of shots in a morning being commonplace.  Would tourists want to experience this? Could this have an impact on Malta’s reputation, and the very sustainability of this development?

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We are concerned that even more land will be taken up to development which will damage the landscape of the area.  Taking into account the development of the American University of Malta, it is clear that the natural areas of Marsaskala are the target of development.  Instead of being available to public for relaxation, more buildings will be setup wherever we go.  This project will also destroy the unique landscape of the area, which offers a great scenery to anyone who visits the area.

Therefore we from ADŻ strongly oppose this project.  We already lost too much land over the last 50 years.  Let us protect the remaining bit of countryside we still have left.

Pascal Aloisio – ADŻ Malta Green Youth Publications Officer

Urban Development in Malta

Naturally, all towns, villages, and settlements grow as the population grows in any developing society which is going through an economic boom or where societies traditionally have large families and thus create a population boom.

 

In Malta, during the past 10 years, we have experienced a sudden economic boom and withstanding all storms of the 2009 depression, the economy still grew.  The economy grows automatically and it is expected that towns grow.  The problem is limited land when it comes to Malta and the situation always comes back to how responsible our planning authorities are and that economic growth and urban development is balanced out.  The tricky question is: how can I guarantee jobs and the building of businesses without jeopardizing natural or green space?

Here are some practical solutions: First of all designate central areas like Hamrun, Birkirkara, Naxxar etc. with commercial permits replacing long abandoned buildings without compromising the urban heritage.  The Daniels Shopping Complex in Hamrun is a prime example of a modern shopping mall – and the jobs that come with it in an urban area that has helped revive Hamrun centre as well as not comprising the traditional Maltese town too much.  And this can be repeated in many central areas in Malta where SMEs and retail outlets can open within reach of a growing market of consumers.  Showrooms and larger commercial buildings should also be encouraged in central areas of the larger towns in Malta to revive the urban centres.  If one looks at traditional European towns; you will find modern shopping centres and shops with facades of Baroque and Gothic nature.  Such development should welcome also public and private initiatives for Multi Car Parks as well as better routes for buses to carry shoppers around.

 

Secondly, housing should meet all healthy and safety standards and skylines protected as not to obstruct views and protect the unique Maltese urban skyline.  Green parks, playgrounds and tree lined pavements or central strips should be obligatory in every neighbourhood with proper lighting such as LEDs and road infrastructure that meets international standards.  Social housing and subsidized homes should also be provided and redeveloped, replacing derelict areas.  New developments – public and private should ensure underground park AND green rooftop policies and where possible space for solar panels. Such initiatives can greatly improve residents’ well being in the long run.

 

Thirdly and where possible, create green belts – that can protect valleys, agricultural land between towns, basically allowing a breather between town and town.

‘Once again, we from ADŻ welcome sustainable, affordable development, the protection of ODZ areas as well as urban heritage while not comprising economic growth.

 

Nizar Hingary
ADŻ Malta Green Youth PRO

 

Transport in Malta

Traffic has always been a contentious issue in Malta, even more so in the last years where the perception of traffic (unlike some politicians who told us otherwise) has dramatically increased.  Longer waiting times, chaos coupled with good old honking and aggressiveness on the roads have made the traffic issue a hot topic.

 

This has been an issue that many governments have ignored or have not taken too seriously and traffic now is a dominant issue in political circles (end of 2015).  A number of reasons highlighted before is the design of the roads – many were unfortunately designed by the British in the 1960’s and have not been constructed to handle traffic 50 years later – though independent Malta has made leaps in opening ‘highways’, junctions, tunnels etc, many of Malta’s urban centres clog due to the retro design at present.  This of course can never be changed as it will cause hardship in widening or modernizing roads at the expense of taking peoples’ property; which is immoral and illegal.  So the viable solution: is a good public transport system that meets the needs of the Maltese islands and todays’ traffic and challenges on the road.  Increasing bus stops in areas of commerce, increasing more specific routes and creating more minibus terminal or venda tal-linja in busy areas.  As ADŻ, we welcome the investment in water transportation – connecting via ferry the Valletta, Cottonera and the Sliema, St Julians areas – and we hope this will be a success and that education & promotion of such a system will greatly improve the flow of people wanting to reach from A to B easier and quicker and reducing the current traffic load on the roads.  We also welcome the newly announced projects for a Marsa bypass/junction system and the newly proposed San Gwann flyover which will definitely help the flow of traffic and minimize collisions and problems.

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For future projects, we welcome plans for a monorail system, more MCPs (multicar park systems) in urban areas and even the possibility of an underground subway connecting the busy areas of our islands.  We also would like to see an improvement in the current infrastructure – smoother roads with less potholes, better signage, lighting and even spot on checks by traffic police to curb unruly drivers and unlicensed vehicles.  Though we welcome the ‘greenification of roundabouts’, we would like to see more planting of trees in urban roads and greener central strips.

 

So much can be done to improve the traffic system – but one thing we have to keep in mind is the car culture that dominated our population: the car, the rite of passage, manhood etc; everything associated with owning a car is prevalent and a reality.  However this reality can be changed if riding a bus, using monorails, subways etc is seen as ‘cooler’, this car culture can slowly change by education and offering a better alternative.  We ask the Government to start consultations with the public on how we can improve and invest into a modern transportation system.  We achieved so much in 51 years of independence, why stop here?

 

Nizar Hingary
ADŻ Malta Green Youth PRO