Gov­ern­ment es­tab­lishes tal-In­wadar na­tional park

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

A le­gal no­tice to es­tab­lish the long-awaited, and doubted-by­many, na­tional park around Zon­qor Point has been pub­lished, with 955,000 square me­tres hav­ing been de­clared a pro­tected area.

Ac­cord­ing to a le­gal no­tice pub­lished on Fri­day, “The Park shall be con­sid­ered as a model for sus­tain­able re­source man­age­ment where so­cio-eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage are care­fully bal­anced.”

The es­tab­lish­ment of the Park Naz­zjon­ali tal-In­wadar Reg­u­la­tions, un­der the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Act lies be­tween Zon­qor Point and an area known as Ta’ Barkat.

In com­ments to The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day, a gov­ern­ment spokesper­son ex­plained that, “By declar­ing a to­tal area of 955,000m2 as a pro­tected area for the promised na­tional na­ture park run­ning along the coastal and ru­ral zone bor­der­ing Xagħjra, Żab­bar and Marsas­cala, the gov­ern­ment is once again de­mon­strating that ac­tions speak louder than words”.

“The gov­ern­ment has also taken the de­ci­sion to ex­tend the park’s foot­print area by 44,000m2, of which 30,000m2 were within the devel­op­ment zone, but will now be turned into out­side devel­op­ment zones. This pro­ject is in line with gov­ern­ment pol­icy of pri­ori­tis­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards and mak­ing Malta a pleas­ant place to live in,” a spokesper­son from the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter said.

The devel­op­ment bound­aries for the area were drawn up in 2006 with the site be­ing ear­marked for a na­tional park and placed in the Out­side Devel­op­ment Zone. At the time how­ever it was un­clear when work on the park would ac­tu­ally com­mence.

A map out­lin­ing the bound­ary of the park in the Act to es­tab­lish the na­tional park, omits the 18,000 square me­tres that will be used for the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Malta. Orig­i­nally, the pro­ject was planned to award Sadeen Group, the devel­op­ers be­hind the pro­ject, a whop­ping 90,000 square me­tres of ODZ land.

Fol­low­ing pres­sure from the Op­po­si­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, stu­dent groups and even mem­bers of its own party, the gov­ern­ment then de­cided to split the cam­pus in two. One cam­pus would re­main at Zon­qor and take up a sig­nif­i­cantly smaller por­tion of ODZ land than in the orig­i­nal plans, and the sec­ond cam­pus would be at Cospicua’s Dock 1. The gov­ern­ment called this a “com­pro­mise” at the time.

The Act stip­u­lates that the rel­e­vant min­is­ter can ex­tend the bound­aries of the park through no­tices pub­lished in the Gov­ern­ment Gazette.

The parks man­age­ment struc­ture would be a man­age­ment board and, where ap­pli­ca­ble, an im­ple­men­ta­tion body. The board would be made up of five mem­bers: a chair­per­son and “four per­sons ap­pointed on the ba­sis of their knowl­edge and ex­per­tise in rel­e­vant sec­tors, one of whom shall be ap­pointed vice-chair­per­son”.

Asked how work will progress on a prac­ti­cal level, the OPM spokesper­son said:

“A Gov­er­nance Board will now be set up, sig­ni­fy­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion to see the tran­si­tion of this area from one of ne­glect and dere­lic­tion, as a re­sult of the lack of ef­fort from the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion to ad­dress thou­sands of tons of in­ert waste and ac­cu­mu­la­tion of rub­bish on site, to an at­trac­tive place of recre­ation.

“A num­ber of ac­tions are ex­pected to be im­ple­mented in the short term, in­clud­ing the prepa­ra­tion of a man­age­ment plan and start­ing work to clean up the area and grad­u­ally cre­ate an open space that will re­spect nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage and which will of­fer a bet­ter qual­ity of life for ci­ti­zens.”

While a con­certed ef­fort is be­ing made to clean up the area around Zon­qor, many still view the mat­ter as a sort of con­ces­sion for tak­ing up ODZ land. When the plans were an­nounced that, an Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Malta would be built on 90,000 square me­tres of prime ODZ land for an in­sti­tu­tion that didn’t even have a li­cence to op­er­ate, Malta saw one of its big­gest ever en­vi­ron­men­tal demon­stra­tions protest­ing against the pro­ject. Peo­ple from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, young and old made their voices heard in protest of the bla­tant dis­re­gard of ODZ land.

Since the Zon­qor ODZ land is­sue came up, this gov­ern­ment has been heav­ily crit­i­cised for the ram­pant devel­op­ment that has been tak­ing place over re­cent years.

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