To those that are not familiar with the current situation in the Maltese Islands, allow me to briefly explain what’s going on; a national protest was held yesterday in front of the Parliament Building in Valletta, where over 3,000 people attended what was considered the biggest environmental rally in the country’s history. People from all walks of life gathered together to protest the rampant over-development of what are known as ODZ (Outside Development Zone) lands and the general countryside. The demonstration was triggered specifically by the government’s proposal to use Żonqor point in Marsascala (over 90,000 sq. M. of ODZ and agricultural land) as the site for the development of a University and the establishment of Front Ħarsien ODZ, the organisation which masterminded the protest.
What’s absolutely unacceptable and unabashedly shady about the development is that, at the time of the writing of this article, the Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat has not yet published the agreement made with Sadeen Investments Ltd, the company behind the proposal. Several Labour MPs have declined to answer questions in relation to the development; in fact, the government in general has maintained a stoic approach of giving the issue as little coverage as possible as well as doing its utmost to smear the image of the countryside in question and labelling it as a wasteland rather than the beautiful stretch of fields and greenery it actually is.
The protest was, therefore, a success – a small step in the right direction. However, we must not stop now and think we have thwarted the government’s efforts to turn our country into the next Dubai or Singapore (these were the Prime Minister’s words, not mine). Our country is not characterised by slabs of concrete and man-made structures, nor is it a haven for the affluent; Malta’s best parts are the ones we are ruthlessly bulldozing to build accommodations for the wealthy. The serene countryside, the richness of our history, the beauty of the unpolluted beaches and the clean, fresh air of the natural environment are the country’s biggest attractions. Most of the tourists that come to Malta come here to relax and unwind from the fast-paced lifestyles of bigger, built-up cities, thus making the systemic destruction of the environment at the hands of relentless developers and money-hungry politicians both irresponsible and short-sighted.
It is for these reasons that we must do anything we need to do in order to stop our countryside from being pillaged any further. 3,000 people is not a number that should be ignored, yet Dr Joseph Muscat, in his typical irritating and passive style, still had the stones to say that “we are not an arrogant government but we have to ensure that the economy continues to grow so we will take the necessary decisions… I believe there are common sense compromise solutions which this government is working upon.” It does not take a genius to construe that what he meant by that is that the protest has been acknowledged, but we will still make sure that money keeps flowing into the country’s coffers, even if it means screwing the environment anyway. More people need to snap out of the red vs. blue mentality that has made the country a free gravy train for those in bed with the ruling party and one, giant slab of concrete for the rest. More people need to add their voice to the resistance, or what makes our country beautiful and unique will keep on being chipped away until there’s nothing else left.