EC to open formal complaint on Ramla developments -
Saturday, June 30, 2007
by David Lindsay

The European Commission is to open a formal complaint against Malta and will seek clarifications from the Maltese authorities with respect to two developments overlooking either side Gozo’s Ramla l-Hamra Bay – the Ulysses Lodge and Nadur cemetery projects.

A letter from the Directorate-General Environment’s Infringement Unit seen by The Malta Independent confirms the DG has requested the EC’s secretariat general to proceed with the registration of a formal complaint against Malta for breaching both the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Habitats Directives.

The DG Environment has carried out a first preliminary assessment of the developments and finds that “on the basis of this assessment we have decided to open a new complaint against Malta and will seek clarification from the Maltese authorities with regards to the issues raised”.

The registration of a formal complaint would be followed by an infringement process in which Malta would be requested to justify the developments and argue the directives in question have not been breached.

It should be noted the DG Environment’s action does not result from controversies and protests against developments in Gozo in recent weeks.

The DG’s intentions, in fact, result from a complaint filed in March by a Gozo resident, freelance journalist and environmentalist Barbara Bode, since which time the DG has had the developments under analysis.

The complaint had stressed the environmental sensitivity of the bay, adding that it is listed as a protected area by a UNESCO project and that it is a candidate for Natura 2000 designation. The complaint also mentioned the archaeological remains found in the area.

The Ulysses Lodge and Nadur cemetery projects were approved without the requirement of an essential Environmental Impact Assessment exercise.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) on 6 June approved a full development application for the construction of 23 villas, underground parking and pools overlooking Ramla Bay in Xaghra, Gozo.

The other development concerns the 600-grave cemetery to be built by the Nadur parish just above a large swathe of fertile farmland.

The site in question commands majestic, sweeping valley views leading down to Ramla Bay. Farmers in the area are concerned their farmland, with citrus groves counting some 5,000 trees with an estimated annual yield of 150 tonnes, is at risk of contamination by the parish’s plans and Mepa’s approval for an ultra-modern cemetery come to fruition.

The agriculturally-rich farm and orchard land rising above Ramla Bay is fed by a natural spring, which will now pass through the ground of the planned cemetery before making its way to the farmers’ wells and reservoirs.

It is argued the health risks of run-off water from a cemetery holding 600 graves are numerous, not least of which is the fact that such water will eventually end up in the waters of Ramla Bay.
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30 Jun 2007 by