Five sites have been identified as potentially suitable for land reclamation projects, Environment Minister Jose Herrera has said. 

But the minister was reluctant on Thursday to say where the sites are located, saying he does not want to be misinterpreted before putting the document to the Cabinet. 

When asked when the public would be able to view documents and reports about the viability of the sites, Dr Herrera said that documents would be put to the Cabinet before Christmas and would then be issued for public consultation. Studies about the sites were conducted by the Environmental Resources Authority (ERA).

Last December, Times of Malta had reported how ERA had singled out the coast of Xgħajra as the only viable location for a “major” land reclamation project. Other sites could be considered for smaller projects. 

In 2013 the government launched an international call for expressions of interest in potential land reclamation projects, receiving 21 proposals that were reviewed by an internal selection committee. 

Government sources said the proposals had included projects all over the coast of Malta, some of which were described as “massive” while others were being viewed as “more realistic”. 

No policy currently exists to regulate land reclamation but the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development does include a glancing reference to the subject. Government sources had said in December that a new policy specifically on land reclamation was in the offing. 

Land reclamation is not an entirely new concept to Malta. The Marsa sports facilities sit on reclaimed land, the sea originally reaching inland as far as Qormi. Msida is another example of a major land reclamation project on a local scale, together with large parts of the Freeport in Birżebbuġa.

Sustainable development

Dr Herrera on Thursday gave the keynote at the first Malta Sustainability Forum at the Westin Hotel in St Julians on Thursday morning. 

He said that sustainable economic growth could not be judged solely through numbers and figures but by also taking into account the socio-economic context of that growth and the impact that was leaving. 

He said that the protection of natural resource management and transitioning to a low-carbon economy wasn’t counteractive to the needs of industry but created more opportunities through sustainable growth. 

The challenge of meeting all 17 of the international sustainable development goals was top on the government’s agenda, Dr Herrera said, and the cross-cutting nature of these goals required the government to strengthen mechanism, establish clear mandate and horizontally intergrate sustainable development across all ministries and government departments.

“Two way roads need to be negotiated between the government and industry, because the absence of stakeholders weakens the entire ecosystem,” he said. 

President George Vella also addressed the forum saying that Malta’s corporate world needed to do more and do better when it comes to sustainability. 

“When we take from nature, we are obligated to ensure that we do so in certainty that others also have the opportunity to take in the same manner and in the same quantities without negative impact,” Dr Vella said. 

“Can we hand on heart say we are leaving for our children enough and as good as we have taken from the planet?”

The president said that while it was primarily the duty of politicians to enact policies and safeguards to ensure sustainability, individuals should not eschew their responsibility to the natural world and that there was a need for more conscious consumption choices on an individual as well as a societal level. 

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