Marsa residents and activists say plans to relocate an oil tank cleaning operation to the inner harbour town should be called off immediately, with no studies and or consultation preceding the delicate decision.
Last month, Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg announced the transfer from Fort Ricasoli to the Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering Company site in Marsa, after years of complaints by Kalkara residents over emissions from the facility.
Borg said that Ricasoli Port Facility Ltd would take over the operations and workers of the MOBC. The facility is used to clean the tanks of oil tankers before they enter shipyards for repairs.
The relocation decision came as a surprise to Marsa locals, who on Saturday gathered to express their anger and opposition to a project they said would put their health and lives in danger.
“What is not good for Kalkara is not good for us. The dangers of the project to our health are numerous and our residents have suffered enough from pollution. We have a high rate of asthma and cancer among the population,” said resident Maria Attard.
She said residents were equally shocked by the slapdash manner in which the decision to transfer such a delicate and dangerous operation had been taken.
“It is also inconceivable there wasn’t any consultation with residents and the local council,” Attard said.
The psychological impact on Marsa residents of such a project would also be profound, with residents feeling they were perceived as bottom of the barrel, she continued.
“People are constantly leaving this area, the population is constantly decreasing,” she continued.
“Marsa has a lot more to offer and we need regeneration, not the opposite. I am honoured to be a resident here and I feel proud. We need to unite to oppose this project,” she said.
She further argued that the topography of Marsa meant toxic fumes would remain enclosed within the town, close to residents, students and workers, and pointed out that the tanks would be close to the town and pose an explosion risk.
Apart from that, the project could pollute the water table and would increase acidic rain, which had a damaging effect on trees and plants as well as people’s health and property.
Aaron Fenech, member of Flimkien Għal Marsa Aħjar, said that local residents had become “the sacrificial lamb” over the years, having to reap the negative effects of projects such as the power station, the Wasteserv incinerator and the abattoir.
“This project is going to hurt us again and will leave Marsa residents as well as those from neighbouring towns no choice but to migrate,” he said.
He appealed to the authorities that had a family of their own, and wanted the best for them, to reconsider this decision which would put the health of Marsa’s children at peril.
“I don’t want my children to suffer because of the pollution in the area. I want my children to be proud of where they live,” he said.
NGO Moviment Graffiti expressed solidarity with the residents and said they were shocked by the “arbitrary manner” in which the decision to transfer the operation had been taken.
Along with the absence of studies, this led the NGO to believe that commercial interests could be at play.
Tank cleaning operators Falzon Group already has land and operations in Marsa and stand to benefit from the move, said member Andre Callus.
“We have to ask whether this relocation was driven by economic interests of the operator instead of social, health and environmental considerations,” Callus said.
Marsa Mayor Josef Azzopardi appealed to the residents of all political leanings to unite to resist this project, and said that he would continue to push regeneration projects similar to those which other harbour-surrounding localities have benefited from.
“Our position is clear: we are against this operation. I appeal for all of us to unite to fight against this and not to give up hope for the regeneration of Marsa,” he said.
NGOs that back residents' calls
Flimkien għal Marsa Aħjar
Għaqda Festi Esterni Santissima Trinita
Għaqda Storika Kulturali tal-Marsa
Klabb Marsa Regatta
Soċjetà Mużikali Banda Marija Regina
Soċjetà Mużikali Trinita Qaddisa
Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar
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