Although many Gozo Channel employees have loved to dispute it in the past because I apparently don’t look it (I have no idea what that means), I am one hundred per cent Gozitan. I don’t have a goat or know how to make ġbejniet, but I do have a very big opinion on the Gozo tunnel.
I wish I could say that I was shocked when I read about the tunnel proposal, but, alas, I wasn’t. I’ll start by saying that Gozitans have always seen themselves to be somewhat detached from their Maltese brothers, and with good reason too.
Apart from the all too common Gozo gags and the fact that Gozitans are still looked down upon by many a Maltese, for hundreds of years Gozo was largely ignored by the Maltese and our common colonisers, and despite being regularly and routinely ransacked by corsairs and pirates, little was done in terms of aid. Historically speaking, it was only when it suited them that they remembered that there was a sister island at all, and during the Second World War, when Malta was being heavily bombed, many flocked to Gozo to escape the dust and demolition of their homes. Isn’t it marvelous how history repeats itself?
A tunnel will clog up Gozo’s arteries
You see, just a mere 80 years later, thousands of Maltese seem to be seeking refuge and filling the little sister island to capacity. One of the solutions that have been proffered is to build a tunnel; however, in a somewhat bizarre turn of events, the authorities have claimed that the tunnel is going to be built primarily for the benefit of all those Gozitans who have been crossing over for work since the dawn of time (because, as we all know, the comfort of Gozitans has always been at the forefront of everyone’s minds). Sarcasm aside, and believe me there’s plenty more where that came from when it comes to this issue, what no one is considering is why so many Maltese people are choosing to come to Gozo week after week.
Sure, we’ve discussed the environmental impact and how our contractors’ greed seems to know no bounds, but no one has tackled just why it is that so many people choose to go and stay in overpriced, draughty farmhouses with horrid pine furniture to rest, rather than, well, stay at home. Could the reason be that Gozo is not yet so overbuilt, overcrowded and polluted that it allows for one to actually rest there? And if that’s the case, then why in the name of all that is holy would you promote a tunnel that will facilitate Gozo turning into a mini version of Malta, cranes and all?
I know that it’s hard for a lot of people, but it would really be great if we could try seeing further than the ends of our oftentimes selfish, self-serving noses. A tunnel will not only increase traffic and clog up Gozo’s arteries even more, but it will also facilitate the kind of rampant construction that has flayed Malta and emptied it of both beauty and character in equal measures. What’s more, it’s not likely that a tunnel is going to decrease your average travelling time, nor is it going to be free of charge. Additional ferry services, fast ferries, ferries to Sliema or Valletta, a metro system; the solutions to the problem of queues and waiting time are endless.
A metaphorical plague of locusts which have feasted on one field to its destruction is moving on to the next, greener field. This cannot be allowed to happen. It’s time for Gozitans everywhere to stand up and be counted and stop allowing themselves to be exploited for other people’s gain. Gozo is not for sale.
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