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Maltese Environment

Did the Prime Minister lie in Parliament about the yacht marina in Qala?

The cruise liner terminal/yacht marina in Gozo is gonna happen! In what can only be explained as a disastrous month for the environment and democracy in Malta, the Maltese public has been informed of yet another secretive deal with a considerable amount of environmental impact. The government has been tight lipped on the development of a yacht marina in Gozo, and the Prime Minister appears to have lied in Parliament when asked about applications for the development of such facilities.

Photo credit: ArchitectsJournal

The Milan studio of Chapman Taylor issued a press release stating it had been selected to design the 220,000-square-metre coastline construction development in Qala. This studio was selected through an open call that closed at the end of September 2013. The government subsequently announced on 22 November, 2013 that 14 submissions in total were received, in order to appease the gullible part of the Maltese electorate.

Following a couple of headlines, there was no more mention about the applicants for the development of this marina, and which site in Gozo had been selected. I had covered this story in extensive detail back in October 2013, where I pondered at the location of a yacht marina in Gozo. In most cases, the government refused to divulge anything given the sensitive nature of the information involved (qisna s-CIA).

After consulting environmental data readily available on MEPA’s website, I had come to the conclusion that a yacht marina in Gozo can happen in one of four locations:

gozo contour

  • B – Wied il-Mielah
  • C – Wied Ghasri
  • I – Mgarr Harbour
  • J – Xatt l-Ahmar
All protected areas in Gozo as obtained from the Malta Environment Planning Authority's website

All protected areas in Gozo as obtained from the Malta Environment Planning Authority’s website

The area earmarked for this project in Qala is not suited as it sits in a Marine Protected Area (area 1 above) due to the presence of Posidonia oceanica meadows. The construction of a yacht marina requires extensive excavation works, which would impact these seagrass meadows around the area. But who the f*** cares about a couple of plants right? I will also not go into the merits of an environmental impact assessment, public consultation and stakeholder consultation, as we do no want to ‘scare off the Italian investor’ with our primitive bureaucratic ways.

The only other time the public was made aware of any plans for a yacht marina in Gozo following this “transparent” competition was through a parliamentary question by PN MP Censu Galea on the 6th of May. Upon being asked about the number of applications for yacht marinas, the Prime Minister replied:

“the applications were for marinas in Għajnsielem (two applications), Cospicua, Sliema, Marsascala, Floriana, and “national territory” Marsamxett Harbour/Lazzaretto Creek/Manoel Island”.

Unless I missed it, Qala did not magically integrate itself into Ghajnsielem. The PM’s answer was intentionally placed to mislead the public into believing that the cruise terminal and new yacht marina would happen close to Mgarr Harbour, which I had also covered in a separate blog post (click here). This is a completely false and untrue.

But now, through some form of divine intervention, Chapman Taylor blew the lid on the Maltese government’s secretive deal and mistakenly divulged internal information since “the project is officially still being adjudicated by the government”.

This bit of information is crucial, as it appears that the Prime Minister does not want the public to be aware of big projects with potentially high environmental impact such as this one and AUM. Instead, he prefers to sign deals behind closed doors and then spring the project upon the public through a quick press conference.

This is why he lied squarely in Censu Galea’s face when asked about yacht marina applications. There was never, ever, any mention of Qala, because the residents of Qala had already opposed the construction of a yacht marina in a quarry back in 2002. Even though those same supporters of the AUM project will herald this achievement as being great for the ‘economy of Gozo’, and for ‘national interest’, because it will ‘create jobs’, regenerate an ‘impoverished area’ and transform Gozo into a ‘hub’ and the ‘Montecarlo’ of the Mediterranean, the rational people can see this for what it really is – another environmental cock-up.

NB – the idea of rehabilitating the quarry is excellent, but instead of building more flats, apartments and maritime facilities to accommodate the rich foreign investors, how about converting it into an open space which families can enjoy? A family park or sports area is desperately needed in Gozo, but that won’t rake in the millions now will it.

Furthermore, when are we expecting the government to hold an AUM style press conference on this marina? Also, can we expect the Italian ambassador to attend this press conference?

Join the discussion

  1. Silvana Fishlock

    Having friends in Malta and visited twice, I follow your blog on Maltese affairs with interest. This particular post reminded me of the Profumo scandal in the United Kingdom during my childhood. That particular minister was forced to resign because he had ‘lied to the House’ (i.e. parliament, regarding his relations with a woman).
    Recently a Scottish MP was caught in a pre-election lie about the leader of the Scottish Nationalists, but has declared he has no intention of resigning. A colleague has now come to his aid, revealing indignantly that ‘if every MP who told a lie had to resign, Parliament would soon be emptied’. There you have it. Tutto il mondo è paese now, as the Italians say.

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