Will Mepa pull its head out of Ramla sand? (letters) - http://www.timesofmalta.com/
Marco Cremona, Mosta.

On the one hand I feel pity for Sylvana Debono, PRO of Mepa, for having to churn out clarifications (at the rate of one a day) to justify what is clearly a very irresponsible decision by the Mepa board on the Ramla l-Hamra villa development.

On the other hand, I cannot but reproach her for the manner in which she words the clarifications, which, to my mind, adds more confusion to an already complex situation. In her array of articles in the press, she has yet failed to provide an answer to a simple and critical question: Will the proposed development go beyond the footprint of the existing built-up area? This requires a simple yes or no answer with none of the technical jargon used by Mepa to derail the readers from the issues at stake. No more, no less. It is what the Maltese citizen wants to know but as yet this very critical piece of information is not forthcoming.

If the answer is "no" then I hold the NGOs and the Xaghra local council to fault for making a mountain out of a molehill. If the answer is "yes" then I expect the Prime Minister to commission an inquiry as to how the development permit has been granted.

On the same subject, Minister George Pullicino attempts to justify the Mepa board decision by stating that the development will in any case replace "disturbed land". I recollect that "disturbed land" was the term used by the minister and the Prime Minister two years ago to describe Xaghra l-Hamra when they were promoting its development as a golf course. The Prime Minister had gone as far as saying that the land at Xaghra l-Hamra is so degraded that it is used for off-roading and for the dumping of waste. Two years on, the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister have been ecologically illuminated and now have a completely different view of the "degraded land" at Xaghra l-Hamra. It is now no longer disturbed land; it is now land that merits a nature park.

Shouldn't Mepa temporarily suspend the development permit until our leaders are similarly illuminated on the ecological, archaeological and scenic assets of Ramla l-Hamra?

Anne Zammit, St Julians.

Throughout the Ramla permit saga, Mepa has continued to insist (NGOs To Stage Protest Over Ramla Permit - June 19) that "no objections whatsoever were received" during the 15-day window when the outline permit was quietly placed on their website along with hundreds of other applications for comment.

A few pages later, in Mepa's own One World ("Let the facts speak!") slot the authority listed four legal objectors - Gaia, AD, Xaghra residents and Din l-Art Helwa when the Ramla site came up again in a full development application. If such wide-ranging objections are to count for nothing, why did Mepa submit that application for public comment at all?

The objection from Din l-Art Helwa, an organisation which relentlessly goes to great pains to check and re-check the facts, was "sent late". We hope this was not grounds for rejection of the well-researched submissions. At least someone inside Mepa has got their facts right. Why were these objections not given equal prominence in the press accounts? It is little wonder public trust of Mepa's double dealings has crumbled when the right (development) arm seems not to know or care what the left (environment) arm is trying to drive home.

The system is not working. The concerns of a united environment front of NGOs, vigilant enough to notice this sad fact, should be heard out calmly with respect and shown every due attention while strong restraint toward the rampant mega-project fast-tracking via dubious waiving of EIAs or the proper (not cosmetic) landscape impact studies is urgently put in place.

I look forward to a good public turnout for the rally being organised by NGOs at City Gate, Valletta on Monday at 6.30 p.m. to raise full awareness over the developments which are poised to strike at the heart of Gozo again - Ta' Cenc and Hondoq ir-Rummien coastline.

Martin Abela, Paola.

I would like to reply to the chain-letters of Mepa's Sylvana Debono assuring us that Ramla Bay, the remains in the bay or the ecological zoning won't be affected by the recently permitted development.

Can anyone in his right mind believe this when the development includes no fewer than 23 villas a few metres away from the water? To clean up the present uninviting appearance of the old Ulysses Lodge we are all expected to be happy and grateful that Mepa is allowing it to be replaced by 23 villas, pools, underground parking space etc.

Mepa can rest assured that no one will be taken in by seeing their computer-generated pictures of the finished project inundated with trees and camouflaged by well mastered mouse-clicking skills. Mepa should kindly note that the Maltese are fed up of seeing these photomontages of would-be projects and then facing the ugly concrete afterwards.

At this point I suggest that the Mepa board goes to Ramla Bay this summer. Early in the morning or late in the evening would be ideal. I invite them to watch the little children enjoying the serenity and peace of this enchanting place. Then perhaps they will understand why voters are trying to save our countryside for both their children and our own. This being one of the main values of the Green Party, for whom I will be voting, for the first time, in the coming general election.

And by the way, if you plan to take over your barbecue set, please remember not to use it on the sand. Keep the sand clean as it takes ages to remove the coal and ashes from the sand. Just in case Mepa's experts have no clue.

Ronald Cauchi, Qawra.

How credulous, gullible and na´ve does Sylvana Debono of Mepa think The Times' readers are (Ramla Development Less Intrusive, June 18)? So she would have us believe that every tree in her pretty photomontage, including the ones that are presumably sprouting out of the roofs of the villas and the water in the pools, will be staying there in perpetuity or would ever be planted at all.

So presumably, according to her, people are about to buy property on the side of a hill overlooking a fantastic view and have nothing to look at from the windows of their property but thick tree trunks rising high enough to hide their villa from public view!

And, if these trees do not materialise or even suddenly, or slowly disappear, Ms Debono and her chairman would be tripping over to Ramla l-Hamra at the head of a phalanx of bulldozers ready, willing and able to knock the offending buildings down.

Come! Come! Try pulling the other leg!

Peter Borg Olivier, St Julians.

The current Ramla l-Hamra (justified) controversy takes me back to the early 1970s when a hotel group in its early phases of expansion during the post independence tourism boom, had applied to develop a hotel at Ramla l-Hamra. Fortunately for us all, this idea was rejected in no uncertain terms by the Nationalist government of the day, notwithstanding this meant that the disappointed developers would possibly shift their support to the opposition party in the upcoming 1971 elections.

Thanks to that wise and logical decision, the Maltese, Gozitans and tourists from all over the world could continue to enjoy this magnificent beauty spot for the past 37 odd years. Let us hope that once again common sense prevails under the present government, and Ramla l-Hamra is protected from any development for us, and many future generations to enjoy it in its natural state.

Dave Beach, Chandlers Ford, England.

I am a fairly frequent visitor to Malta and have been to Gozo on many occasions. Some eight to nine years ago I was taken to Ramla Bay. My lasting memories of it are of a large expanse of unspoilt beach with red hot (it was late June) pink sand and absolute peace and solitude. The view was totally natural.

Please, please don't let the developers spoil this beautiful spot. I don't think I'm alone as I have read many letters from locals, Maltese now living abroad and other visitors like myself condemning the proposal to build a complex nearby. Though I must admit I would love to be able to look out of my window and be greeted with a view over the bay. Gozo is similar in appearance to Malta. The people are just as friendly and helpful to us tourists but there the similarity ends. Unlike Malta, it is peaceful and relatively unspoilt or commercialised. Long may it stay so.

Robert Caruana, Valletta.

In her bid to try to convince us that the Ramla development is not going to harm our countryside (Monday, June 18), Mepa PRO Sylvana Debono wrote that "the development will only take up the part of the site which has been disturbed by human intervention with the exception of some swimming pools". She also concluded: "In brief: no more of our precious countryside will be destroyed."

Two simple questions

1) Can I take it that Mepa is now issuing permits for the construction of swimming pools on undisturbed sites in ODZs, just a few metres away from protected sites of considerable ecological and historical importance?

2) How can the construction of swimming pools on undisturbed sites be reconciled with her final assurance that "no more of our precious countryside will be destroyed"?

George Camilleri, Salina.

The latest show of arrogance and greed was the shocking granting of permits for villas overlooking Ramla Bay in Gozo, especially coming immediately after George Pullicino's Towards A Better Environment article in The Times on May 5.

This was really the last straw. Who do they think they are kidding?

Raymond Bencini, Zebbug.

The sole aim of the incompetent Mepa seems to be to spoil any remaining natural beauty in the Maltese islands.

There have been never-ending letters in the newspapers, apart from objections from organisations, political parties, etc. about the folly of such a project.

Surely, in the light of such a public outcry, the Ramla l-Hamra plan should be scrapped and the committee of Mepa forced to resign.

One of Chekov's saying springs to my mind: "Love, friendship and respect do not unite a people as much as a common hatred for something".

Salvu Borg, Victoria, Australia.

Regarding Ramla l-Hamra, I had always believed Mepa was the people's protector, the guardian of the Maltese heritage, environment and history.

My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Malta during July-September last year, after an absence of 28 years. Unfortunately what we witnessed is nowhere near what I thought Mepa stood for. Perhaps they have too much construction dust in their eyes.

The national anthem needs to be re-phrased; Malta is not helwa anymore. The Pacific Islands are closer and prettier.

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21 Jun 2007 by Saveramla.com