As an uncontrolled building spree keeps disfiguring much of the face of Malta, demolishing in the process the government’s environmental credentials, an attempt is being made to save a bit of the administration’s face in the wake of a growing public reaction to the degradation of the environment.

In the midst of an avalanche of bad news for the rural and urban environment, there have been two welcome developments in the space of a few weeks. They are both for the rehabilitation of important valleys, Wied il-Għasel and Chadwick Lakes, in Wied il-Qlejgħa.

When so much damage has been done to the valleys over the years, blighting what ought to have been kept in pristine condition but which was, sadly, left completely neglected, the news that the administration is finally waking up to the need of rehabilitating the valleys is heartening. But hardly had these plans been announced when another application was submitted for a development in a valley in Mellieħa.

It would be a further blow to the environment if the new application were to be approved. The plan is for the building, in an outside development zone, of a nine-storey apart-hotel comprising 118 rooms, underground parking and shops. Nationalist MP Robert Cutajar has described the application as obscene and Alternattiva Demokratika lost no time in filing an objection.

As the struggle between national and purely commercial interests goes on, distrust is growing over the administration’s ability and willingness to seriously check development in areas that ought to be preserved for the enjoyment of all. It is all very well to roll out plans for the rehabilitation of valleys but what counts most at the end of the day is a commitment to protect such valleys on an ongoing basis.

In announcing a €5-million rehabilitation of Chadwick Lakes, the man in charge of the agency that will be managing the project said their aim was to tap EU funds for the continuous maintenance of the valley as it would be pointless rehabilitating and then allow it to fall in a state of neglect once again. This is exactly what usually happens – a project is left to deteriorate in no time after it is completed.

Regular maintenance is almost unheard of as the deplorable state of so many places all over the country show only too well. What happens if the agency fails to tap the EU funds for the continuous maintenance of Chadwick Lakes? Maybe the agency and the ministry under whose responsibility it falls are not prepared to think long term. But that is another big mistake.

In the case of Wied il-Għasel, rehabilitation will be done by Ambjent Malta in collaboration with Infrastructure Malta. It will be costing €2.2 million, of which €1.8 will be tapped out of EU funds. Since over half of the island’s water supplies still come from the aquifers, it is doubly important for the country to preserve the valleys. 

Of the countless number of authorities and agencies that have been set up over the years, Ambjent Malta can be one of the most profitable to the country if it is given the resources it needs, both financial and, also, in terms of manpower, to do the job it has been set up for.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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