Night vigil at Calypso's Cave -
A night vigil will be held today at the Calypso's Cave, in Xaghra, a short distance from the site of the controversial Ramla l-Hamra development, in anticipation of Monday's protest.

The event is meant to rally people for Monday's protest in Valletta which starts at 6.30 p.m.

The protest is expected to ride onto the outcry that developed immediately after the Malta Environment and Planning Authority approved earlier this month the replacement of the current Ulysses Lodge complex with 23 self-catering villa-style tourist units overlooking the picturesque Ramla Bay.

Since then letters of protest to the press have been incessant, and a petition against the project, launched on the purposely set-up website, has already raised about 6,700 signatures.

When contacted, Astrid Vella, from Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), adopted a cautious stand with regard to the expected attendance at Monday's protest, for fear that people might opt to stay at home if they are reassured that there will be a significant presence. "We'll just have to wait and see," she said.

At the vigil, starting at 9 p.m., the NGOs behind the event say they intend highlighting on the spot how the proposed development will negatively affect one of Malta's richest cultural and ecological heritage sites. The controversy has centred on the fact that despite calls for further studies, given the sensitivity of the area, Mepa chose to waive the need for an environment impact assessment on the basis that preliminary studies it was furnished with were sufficient to assess the potential impact of the development.

NGOs - and even archaeologists who supplied part of the information Mepa based its decision upon - contest this. Moreover, a report by Mepa's audit officer, drawn up in February 2006, has been critical of the procedure the authority adopted to waive the EIA. Among other things, the audit officer commented that the procedure used did not have the checks and balances required by law and that, despite legal requirement, Mepa failed to produce a detailed justification for its waiver.

Moreover, NGOs insist that the development will extend beyond the Ulysses Lodge's present footprint and incorporate land that has been excavated over the years. Mepa insists the development will only cover the "disturbed area".

The organisers will be providing transport for Gozitans, from Xaghra and Cirkewwa for Monday's protest. Transport leaves at 4 p.m. from Xaghra to catch the 4.30 ferry. For details call 7971 0751.
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23 Jun 2007 by