3,000 signatures against the "rape" of Ramla - http://www.maltastar.com/
david vella 13 June 2007

Over 2,800 Maltese and foreigners have already signed the petition calling for the annulment of the Mepa permit for the building of 23 villas at the picturesque Ramla l-Hamra Bay.

The ‘Save Ramla’ website was launched on Sunday by Xaghra residents. “We are so surprised by the enormous response to the petition” a spokesperson said, “going through the list of signatures you find names of persons from all over the world, all protesting against the destruction of Ramla l-Hamra”. The petition calls for the annulment of the development permit that has shocked environmentalists around Malta and Gozo, and raised doubts on the environmental credentials of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa).

Click here to visit the Save Ramla website and sign the petition.

In what many of the protesters’ comments, on the website describe as the “environmental rape” of Ramla l-Hamra, last week Mepa gave its green light to a Gozitan developer for the building of 23 villas in a green area a few metres away from two sensitive sites – the Natura 2000 site listed as a Special Area of Conservation of International Importance (SAC), and the buffer zone of “unique remains of a Roman villa in unspoilt settings”, scheduled for maximum protection.

National protest not excluded

The permit has enraged environmentalists, who are expected to announce their next move in the coming days. Sources hinted that green NGOs are not excluding the organisation of a national protest similar to those held less than a year ago against the Cabinet’s scheme to expand Malta’s building zones.

Yet, despite the increased opposition to the development, government continued to express support towards the project. On Tuesday, Giovanna Debono, the Gozo minister, told ONE News journalists that she agrees with the decision taken by Mepa. Incidentally, this is not the first time that Debono supported large construction projects in pristine Gozitan bays. She had also voiced her support on the proposed building of a mega residential complex and yacht marina at Hondoq ir-Rummien Bay, deemed to possess some of the cleanest waters in the Maltese islands.

EU receives numerous reports

The European Commission is currently investigating Mepa’s decision to boycott ‘Flimkien ghal Ambjet Ahjar’ [Together for a better environment]. The boycott was announced on Monday, days after this Maltese environmental NGO claimed that the Ramla l-Hamra permit was issued irregularly, even because of the fact that no Environment Impact Assessment was carried out to adequately study the effects of the development on this sensitive site.

“The Commission is currently determining whether Mepa breached an EU directive” EU sources told maltastar.com, “but it has already been determined that the Mepa boycott goes against the spirit of the Aarhus Convention, of which all EU members, including Malta, are signatories”. This convention, established in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1999, grants public rights, and imposes on parties and authorities, obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice, on environmental matters. “By stopping the NGO from holding meetings with the authority, Mepa is surely not in line with the Convention” the sources said.

The sources also confirmed that the European Environment Commission received numerous reports against the Maltese government’s decision to allow the building development at Ramla l-Hamra. The commission is looking into these reports, which were sent by “different groups and individuals”.

Further criticism

In the meantime, more organisations voiced their opposition against the building project proposed for Ramla l-Hamra, and against Mepa’s decision to boycott a green NGO. The Church’s Environment Commission said that Mepa’s actions against FAA are not acceptable. And the results of a poll on the website of local newspaper The Times indicates that by far the majority of readers are against Mepa’s decision to boycott the organisation.

Josef Bugeja, the President of the Hospitality Sector of the General Workers’ Union, said that Mepa was showing no future vision when approving the building up of Ramla l-Hamra. “Today we have this development, and tomorrow we may have more. Then they start building apartments, and in a few years Ramla l-Hamra will be no more”.

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13 Jun 2007 by Saveramla.com