The church has an obligation towards the environment -
In the same week that Mepa approved the development of villas in Ramla l-Hamra, it has also approved the development of a big cemetery in Ramla l-Hamra on the Nadur side.

In a statement, Alternattiva Demokratika said it seems that there is a determination to get rid of this picturesque area once and for all. A proposal such as this one for the cemetery had not been properly planned and is not justified it said, since in the planning process none of the parties involved had ever managed to justify why this cemetery has to be built in the Ramla l-Hamra area, of all places.

AD chairman Harry Vassallo said: “The Church in Gozo was never asked to present a project description statement, as demanded by law, and not even an environment impact assessment was requested, contrary to what happened for the Addolorata cemetery. It is not enough that the Mepa board asks the church to commission a study when the outline permit was already issued. If the law states that an EIA has to be carried out, there should be no exception to this rule. One will wait and see how the Gozitan Curia and Mepa will reply when notified that they have infringed the European Habitat Directive 92/43/EEC. Apart from this, it is good that the Church and Mepa are reminded that EU membership means the implementation of the Directive on water.

“The farmers’ cooperative, who are close neighbours of this proposed cemetery, are worried about this proposal that caters for 2,000 graves which could contaminate the water in the vicinity,” Dr Vassallo continued. “We cannot understand how no one consulted with these farmers who cultivate 5,000 orange and lemon trees. The fact that the Gozitan Curia has to this date not set up an Environment Commission, like the one set up in Malta, puts doubt over the environmental

commitment that AD expects from the Gozitan Curia. The persistence by developers to destroy the trees, flora and fauna in this picturesque area and the building of a big church that will be seen from kilometres away, is proof of this.”

Dr Vassallo continued: “Even though Mepa has issued the permit, it is still possible that this proposal is called off, if the Gozitan Curia decides to do so, and in this way conflicts are avoided between the Church and the concerned parties who are willing to ask for a prohibitory injunction against an ecclesiastical body. This prohibitory injunction does not derive only from the fact that the concerned parties have their livelihood at stake, but also due to the fact that there are a lot of defects in the process that have validated the Curia’s proposal.

“A solution must be found so that the needs of the Nadur residents are met without losing any part of their town’s natural heritage. AD has repeatedly stated that a cemetery should not become a cause for conflict in Nadur, but on the contrary should be the result of cooperation and consensus,” he concluded.

AD secretary-general and Gozo spokesman Victor Galea said: “Not only has this Government failed to come up with a strategy for water, but it is also ignoring the benefits that agro-tourism can bring to this area. If Government really knew what agro-tourism meant, it would have definitely opposed such a proposal in this area, where tourists come to experience the work of the farmers by taking part in it.

“It seems that we are more interested in catering for the dead than for the living. No one is against Nadur having its own cemetery, but to build a bog cemetery in the vicinity of Ramla

l-Hamra is absurd,” Mr Galea concluded.
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17 Jun 2007 by