The cold, pitiless heart of our government has been fully exposed by its plans for a yacht marina in Marsascala. This blatant attack on a quiet fishing community, in the name of profit, makes the government an enemy of the Maltese way of life

I dare not say I am a local of Marsascala, however, I spent some of the most beautiful summers of my childhood there. I used to spend weekends at my grandparents’ villeġġatura.

Beyond doubt, life there revolves around the bay. With a small net and pail, in a Winnie the Pooh bucket hat, I would go down to the shore with my grandmother to catch crabs (released before it was time to go home).

Later, when I was old enough to hold a fishing rod, I caught my first fish in the bay with my father. I insisted on keeping the poor young fish as prize and adamantly ate it: fried and full of bones.

I swam in the same bay, a few hundred metres from the small house my grandparents own, with other residents that swim there daily to this day, clustered into small groups and cycling to remain afloat and have a chat.

By noon, they would all be gone for lunch. Life returned to the bay at around six o’clock, when the sun calmed down and allowed people to walk along the promenade and sit on the metal benches, discussing every subject that came to mind, deep into the starry night. The slick oil-black sea was the perfect mirror for all the lights that surrounded the bay.

Suffering from dementia, my late grandfather would sit on a foldable chair outside the house and enjoy the view of the bay before lunch. If he was lucky, there would even be a breeze, a żiffa ħelwa, coming in across the sea.

But I must return to objectivity. My tender memories offer a truth: that life in Marsascala revolves around the bay.

To begin with, the bay does not host great yachts but small boats. The largest, a commercial fishing vessel, falls just under the 13-metre mark by my approximation. Under Transport Malta’s plans, boats this size will occupy 50 per cent of the bay. The remaining 50 per cent will be yachts ranging from 13 to 36 metres in length.

It takes a twisted mind to eye a small fishing village as a potential playground for the rich- Andrea Caruana

To allow this to happen, some dredging must be done. So much for the ecology of the bay then. Though I may not be a marine biologist, I do know that vulnerable fish grow in the shelter of the bay before heading out to open sea. They can easily be observed by peering into the sea at any time before October.

As for the microclimate around the bay, the large vessels would dissipate that unearthly żiffa ħelwa.

It is important to note that the aims for the marina stipulate it should be ‘environmentally friendly’. This sounds a little hollow considering that a natural bay full of marine life will be converted into a swimming pool for fuel-consuming machines.

If research had consisted of more than a call for expressions of interest, this oversight might have been avoided. Frankly, it’s a relief no tiles are to be installed on the seabed.

It is not certain that residents have been fairly consulted and their concerns taken seriously. With or without ‘research and studies’, one may infer a clear response from the residents because they turned up en masse to protest against the plans.

And if one should need further convincing, my elderly grandmother (with a troublesome knee) proudly attended for the full duration of the protest, standing all the while. 

To spell out what is at stake, I ask: who will pace around a yacht marina? Who will swim, probably illegally and against much security, in the filthy water between yachts?

The residents have a lot to lose. Intense development will spell the ruin of a quiet village of simple pleasures.

It is not welcome.

It takes a twisted mind to eye a small fishing village as a potential playground for the rich.

What incentive will the residents have to stay in Marsascala with all its pleasures removed?

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