The Maltese are ominously imbued with unbearable lethargy. Unless our political party instructs us to take to the streets, we remain reluctant to protest against any kinds of injustices… especially if it doesn’t impact our pockets. Or else we resort to Facebook where we discuss our objections with like-minded people.
On Saturday, society has a chance to buck the trend. We have an opportunity to send a strong message to the government, the planning authority and the fat cats that we’ve had enough of unsustainable development, egoism and greed.
Like the spring hunting referendum last April, Saturday’s protest transcends the controversy surrounding the proposed university in Żonqor. It is about protesting against the fact that every corner of Malta is being cemented over. If you’re thinking there’s no way you will skip your Saturday morning treat on The Strand or reluctant to withstand the June heat, just remember the dramatic difference it would have made to the spring hunting referendum outcome if a few more thousand people bothered to get out of their comfort zone to vote No. So here are 10 reasons to show up at Valletta on Saturday.
The event is apolitical. Society needs to send a message that by joining forces it can flex more muscle than the two political parties alone. Forget the scheming whispers – this is not an anti-Labour/Joseph Muscat protest. It is organised by a group of citizens like you and me with different political beliefs and one commendable mission.
The environment belongs to us all. In a country smaller than a Sicilian town, it’s absurd to keep distinguishing between north and south. Żonqor belongs to Mellieħa residents as much as it belongs to Marsascala residents. It is bad enough that we live in one of the most densely populated and built countries in the world; the least we could do is reoccupy/embellish/rebuild some of the 70,000 vacant properties.
Open spaces should not be a cash cow. For decades, the environment has served as nothing more than a platform for speculation, something to milk, obliterating the traditional Maltese skyline to make way for a cacophony of concrete blocks while the rest of us choke in a cloud of dust.
Our health matters. Malta has one of the highest asthma and allergy rates in Europe. Need we say more?
Tourism is more important. Tourism contributes more than a fourth to Malta’s GDP (EU average is 8.7 per cent). It is only a matter of time before tourists will stop bothering visiting an island whose rich history has been encroached by concrete blocks more akin to Dubai.
The strain on the infrastructure. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that new structures built in open spaces will necessitate new roads, traffic, infrastructural services, and more noise.
Mepa cannot be trusted. The draft Strategic Plan for the Environment is rife with ambiguous policies seemingly intended to accommodate questionable projects (see: cruise liner terminal in Gozo). The proposed plans have loopholes in the law which would effectively sanction more construction. In places it even invokes national interest to justify more building.
One terrible mistake was enough. The 2006 ‘rationalisation’ exercise was a tragedy which paved the way to a process of cementification we have to endure today and for years to come. Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon is on record saying development zones could be tweaked to redress past “injustices”. Just imagine that!
Save Żonqor. The way the Żonqor site was earmarked for development had all the hallmarks of a pre-conceived backroom deal to occupy one of the few remaining open spaces in Malta simply because the land there is cheap. The overwhelming protests might have postponed the project. But it hasn’t been reversed.
Stop feeding the fat cats. If the government decides to bulldoze through Żonqor and proceed with other upcoming questionable projects (see: land reclamation), then expect our many fat cats to become hungrier. And yes they will come back for more. Society has a duty to tell this government and future ones that the profits of the few should not be above the welfare of the Maltese. In an island which has more tower cranes than birds, the least us law-abiding citizens should ask for is some respect.
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