Nadur parish justifies planned cemetery -
Massimo Farrugia

The planned cemetery at Nadur is justified as Gozo's largest village has a grave shortage, the Nadur parish has claimed as it sought to dispel fears that buried human bodies could contaminate farming water sources nearby.

Replying to questions sent by The Times, architect Edward Scerri, on behalf of the archpriest of Nadur, denied accusations that have been made following the Malta Environment and Planning Authority recent granting of a permit for a cemetery in Triq Ghajn Qasab.

Alternattiva Demokratika has criticised the cemetery permit on a number of counts including the site chosen - on the hill overlooking Ramla l-Hamra - and the "imposing" size of the cemetery itself. AD also criticised the fact that no Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was called for by Mepa when such a study was requested for the extension of the Addolorata cemetery in Malta.

Among the claims doing the rounds was that the Church-owned graves would become the umpteenth property speculation tool.

According to Mr Scerri, however, the cemetery with 600 graves made up for the grave shortage of the past 20 years and was not an avoidable luxury but a public utility project.

"The Nadur parish does not intend to make lucrative profits out of this project, as has been implied. It would be happy simply to cover the mammoth cost of such a project," Mr Scerri said.

He added that of the 600 tombs, 150 must by law be reserved as common graves. With most of the remaining 450, the parish would have to cater for some 300 applications on a "burial plots" waiting list and any requests people may make over the next decade.

The parish claimed Nadur should have more than 800 graves going by the size of the village. With a population of 1,315, for example, Qala has 280 graves available. Sannat has a population of 1,489 and 260 graves while Xaghra, with 3,669 has 781 graves. Nadur, with 3,971, only has 147 graves available.

The architect said that contrary to claims made, alternative sites for the cemetery were considered. As it could not extend the present cemetery, the parish had considered a government-owned site at Triq ta' Xhajma which is currently used by motocross enthusiasts.

This site, however, could not be used because of objections, made by the Water Services Corporation, that it bordered a government borehole.

The parish said the choice of sites was also limited as it could only use land administered by the Lands Department or the Joint Office. The approved site was in fact under the Joint Office. Other constraints were health regulations specifying that cemeteries have to be at least 250 yards away from habitable areas.

Mr Scerri claimed that the way the cemetery will be constructed will ensure that graves are sealed exactly like a water reservoir thus "the possibility of contamination does not exist".

On the fact that no EIA was requested the architect insisted such a project does not need such a study according to law. Notwithstanding, Mepa did ask for a number of reports which covered the effects on hydrology, agriculture, visual effects and landscaping.

The water report, penned by geologist Saviour Scerri, concludes that the cemetery is unlikely to have any adverse effect on the resource, the Nadur parish pointed out, adding it was in no way ignoring the preoccupations of farmers in the vicinity.

Responding to the accusation of the chapel's imposing size, Mr Scerri said this had been reduced before the permit was approved, claiming its design would blend in with the surroundings.

He said that by avoiding the conventional grid layout of cemeteries, he had proposed an innovative design with trees, rubble walls and terraced sections.

Gozo Bishop Mario Grech told The Times that following the statements made, he had sought assurances from the Nadur parish that the water sources used by farmers in the vicinity would be safeguarded.

"I emphasised that the project should be carried out according to the law," Mgr Grech said.
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23 Jun 2007 by