NGOs to stage protest over Ramla permit -
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Environmental NGOs are urging people to take to the streets on Monday in protest against the Malta Environment and Planning Authority's approval of a tourist complex at Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo.

The protest march, which will start from Freedom Square in Valletta at 6.30 p.m., carries echoes of a similar march which took place just over a year ago in connection with the controversial government decision to extend development boundaries.

The protest was announced by Xaghra councillor Carmen Bajada during a press conference which also included representatives from environmental NGOs.

She pointed out that 5,200 signatures had been collected on the purposefully set-up website Mrs Bajada insisted that it was not too late to reverse the decision and called upon all those who believe in safeguarding natural and historical heritage to join in.

She said that even Environment Minister George Pullicino admitted he would have reduced the building density of the project.

The protest is open to everyone, including politicians, as long as they attend without any banners.

Recalling the area's history and its link to Homer's notorious Odyssey epic, Lino Bugeja, President of the Ramblers Association said that only a barbaric country would contemplate developing a tourist complex next to a site of such historic importance.

"Which country would do this to such a site?" he asked, rubbishing Mepa's argument that the area was already developed. "The authority has been set up to rectify past mistakes and not add to them."

Those present expressed solidarity with Astrid Vella from the environmental group Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, which has been subjected to a "boycott" by Mepa.

However, Ms Vella said that this was not a personal issue but a challenge to the rights of every Maltese citizen.

Moreover, she insisted, the FAA specifically set out to seek a non-confrontational approach to this issue through meetings with the Environment Ministry and Mepa, asking only that the decision be postponed until further studies are carried out.

"After all, decisions on other, less significant projects were postponed for far less," she said.

Later in the afternoon, Mepa issued a counter statement, again defending its decision.

The authority challenged the NGOs to initiate proceedings against Mepa if they thought the proceedings were irregular.

"Mepa reiterates that this full development application was granted following the approval of the outline permit for which no objections whatsoever were received.

If the action group deems it has the material necessary to prove that the outline permit ought to be withdrawn, it can initiate the process stipulated in article 39a of the Development Planning Act. This should be done immediately in the public interest."
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19 Jun 2007 by