Government establishes tal-Inwadar national park
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.