The Minister for Gozo, Clint Camilleri, uploaded a post gloating about the works carried out illegally in Comino. He takes a dig at all the people who commented about the works, claiming that the accompanying photos provide a different picture to the scenario conjured up by his critics. The photos actually show a hideous expanse of coloured concrete paving on Comino.

Whereas before, there was a perfectly serviceable track which blended with the wild and unspoilt context of Comino, there is now something very much like the paving of an enclosure at a zoo. This excess of concrete was deemed to be an ‘emergency work’ of the utmost importance – to be executed without delay and without obtaining a permit. This so-called ‘emergency work’ consists of a service culvert. It will probably service the cacophony of kiosks mushrooming on Comino – ruining the last spot of pristine unbuilt area there is.

The Commissioner for the Environment within the Office of the Ombudsman said as much. He concluded that the service culvert which was being constructed does not qualify as a work of emergency and that no permission from the Planning Authority (PA) was published for the said works. The Ombudsman recommended that the PA should publish a notice to stop the works in question.

The Ombudsman also suggested that this site should be reverted to its original state, where certain interventions are reversible.

Apart from this, the PA should fine the offenders and place the money gathered in a fund for the safeguarding of Comino. The Ombudsman also advised that if a service culvert is to be constructed, the PA should ensure that it is covered by a full development application and that a certain degree of consultancy takes place.

The PA did not agree with this. The same authority which went ape over an innocuous niche in Għargħur and which shook with indignation over a colourful mural on private property, had the gall to defy all notions of legality. The same authority said that it shouldn’t have to determine whether the works are really “emergency works in relation to public safety”. Treading further into the realm of the ridiculous, the authority, which is charged with regulating planning and enforcing illegalities, shrugged off the Ombudsman’s opinion and refused to implement it.

A French TV station filmed a documentary aptly named Malta – the Paradise of Concrete- Claire Bonello

Now Comino is an ecologically sensitive site and is afforded the highest level of protection by law. You would have expected the Environment and Resources Authority to come out swinging, in defence of the jewel in the crown. But there wasn’t a whimper from the absentee authority, no crackdown, no enforcement orders issued. No – the very same authority which is busy promoting coffee table books about biodiversity, did not deign to declare itself against the desecration of one of the most environmentally sensitive areas on the archipelago.

The very same authority which fought tooth and nail against the request to have 300-year-old carob trees designated as a Tree Protection Area, had nothing to say. ERA’s inaction is nothing new. It is most evident when faced with illegal works carried out by entities such as Infrastructure Malta or other ministerial arms.

In Dingli, Infrastructure Malta carried out trenching works without a permit in a protected ODZ area. The trenching works lead to the disused Pulvich Explosives factory where – coincidentally – an application for a change to villas is pending. The trenching works so conveniently implemented by IM, means that there is now an infrastructural network in place for the villas and the consequent urbanisation of the ODZ area.

What did ERA do when faced with the illegal works and the application? Issue a permit for the first and give its no-objection to the second, cementing its reputation as the Enabler of Ruinous Applications.

The above is a little snapshot of what’s going on on the environmental front.

So, when another government spokesperson says “The institutions are working” you will have a clear idea of just how they are working – namely against any concept of good governance and all for environmental destruction.

All the above came to mind when a television crew from the French TV station ARTE TV came over to film a documentary. The crew had done their research well and came armed with the facts – they knew that Malta was the country with the greatest amount of soil sealing and artificial paving.

They were armed with statistics about the number of buildings. They knew all about the construction boom. But they weren’t prepared for the ugly reality of it all.

As they made their way around Malta and Gozo, they were engulfed in dust from construction sites, they made their way under cranes and heavy-duty vehicles and noted the ugliness of it all. They asked people on the ground why no one was pulling up the brakes on this savage destruction of ODZ areas and prized landscapes. They filmed a documentary aptly named Malta – the Paradise of Concrete. You can watch it online to see the madness captured on film.

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