When a bad storm hits Marsalforn, as it did a few days ago, high waves pounding the low retaining wall spill over the promenade flooding restaurants and shop floors along the shoreline. This has been happening regularly since one big storm seven years ago destroyed a breakwater that had been built there in the 1960s. In very bad weather, the bay is now fully exposed to the fury of the waves as they surge inland and turn the promenade into a river.
For a number of days after the latest storm, the seafront also ended up in pitch darkness as the waves damaged the street lighting system too. Studies of how to deal with the flooding problem were done in 2011 but, despite official declarations that plans were being worked out for the building of a new breakwater, there does not seem to have been enough willingness to get on with the project.
Since both Nationalist and Labour administrations have failed to honour their pledges, the people of Marsalforn can hardly be blamed for being sceptical when new promises are made.
The Finance Minister made the latest of such promises when he said in the Budget speech that this year would see “the conclusion of plans to finally rebuild the Marsalforn breakwater”.
Six years earlier, the Gozo Ministry had gone on record saying the project was being given the priority it deserved and that an environment impact assessment was in its final stages.
However, the government kept dragging its feet, leaving the Marsalforn people wondering for how long must they continue to suffer before the government stops taking them for a ride.
This is one big shame for, summer or winter, Marsalforn remains a top tourist attraction, one that, like so many other tourist places, deserves to be constantly looked after. When the first breakwater was destroyed by a storm, the marine section and storm water control unit of the then Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs had submitted a report to the then Malta Environment and Planning Authority setting out proposals on how to improve the coastal defences against rough weather.
Its plan incorporated the construction of a submerged breakwater, beach nourishment and the building of a seawall. If the beach were to be enlarged, it would also help to absorb the impact of the huge waves. The project looked fine on paper but it was shelved.
Then, in November last year, the Gozo Ministry suddenly appeared to be interested in reviving the project and, lo and behold, the ministersaid that the plans for the reconstruction of the breakwater were proceeding well.
Following an outcry over the impact of the recent storm, the ministry has now announced that the latest plans envisage two breakwater arms, an upgrade of the promenade, an extension of the sandy beach and the rebuilding of the road from Victoria to Marsalforn. The design has yet to be sent to the Planning Authority for evaluation. Hopefully, the new plans are workable.
As the political pledges for the much-needed works pile up, the people of Marsalforn keep their fingers crossed that work could start as soon as physically possibly so they may see the end of their problems within a reasonable time. Or are they expecting too much?
This is a Times of Malta print editorial
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