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Why Muscat’s land reclamation idea is such a bad idea

After his excursion in hyper-capitalist Dubai, Joseph Muscat has rediscovered the bright idea floated by Lawrence Gonzi in 2005 but dumped after all studies showed how unfeasible it was: land reclamation.

James Debono
18 June 2012, 12:00am
Labour’s enthusiasm for turning Malta into a Dubai in the Mediterranean seems to know no bounds.
It has become trendy for Labour to go Nationalist.

But the transformation seems to go deeper than blue ties - Muscat is a late convert to the pro-development ideology which has driven post-1987 Nationalist governments and he does so at the very moment the Nationalists themselves have realised that we have to move away from dependence on real estate, and re-channel this industry to the restoration of old buildings. On this aspect so far we have seen lots of words, a few tokens, but little action.

Let's face it. All studies show that the only way an artificial island can be feasible is through a massive real estate project on the scale of Smart City. This would be the only way developers will be able to recoup the considerable costs of "dumping" construction waste in to the sea to reclaim land.

And this would mean that in a country were 25% of all dwellings are empty we would be building even more properties on new land.

Apart from the impact on our coastal landscape, the loss of habitat and the risks to our marine environment, the major danger of such a project is economic. It will perpetuate our dependence on construction and re-inflate the property bubble, which one day could burst in our face.

This is exactly what happened in Spain when the socialist government of Josè Zapatero had chosen to continue with the pro-development obsession of previous governments. The rest is now history.

Despite the writing on the wall, Labour's enthusiasm for turning Malta into a Dubai in the Mediterranean (the party had led a similar delegation with its developer chums to the emirate a few years back) seems to know no bounds. After endorsing the uglification of Fort Chambray (which could include a high-rise tower too if a current MEPA application is approved) Muscat has taken a leaf out of Gonzi's book.

Superficially, land reclamation is easy to sell because small islands will have no angry neighbours except for the fish and posedonia meadows. It also rides on the delusions of grandeur of those obsessed with Malta's smallness.

Moreover, it exploits tensions and cracks in the PN's hegemonic block: but rather than trying to lure new middle-class, environmentally conscious people, Muscat feels more at home with developers. Probably they are convenient allies, having the financial capital to oil the electoral machine, but lacking the cultural capital to see through contradictory policies.

Once in government like GonziPN, MuscatPL will probably discover that the project is not feasible. The problem is that once again Labour would have whetted unsustainable appetites. Once in power it will have to satisfy them, probably on land in your neighbourhood and not far out at sea.

James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
Antoine Vella
Lou Bondi is a PN propagandist; Peppi Azzopardi is a PN propagandist; James Debono is a PN propagandist . . . and the list continues. The anonymous Mintoffian marmalja is back in action.
gIOVANN DeMartino
It is all the editorial board's fault that readers would not accept any criticism from the MT Why? For the same reason that labour would not accept any criticism from l-Orizzont or it-Torca. Lately the MT has been regularly its bias for the MLP.
Tony Fenech
Why just bother to reply to James Debono blogs, to tell you the truth every day that the election gets near James tends to supply hotchpotch trying to discredit Joseph Muscat and now he is surely showing his true colours, mind you its not our concern, but he should just say and declare that he is a true blue so that we all would not waste time to comment on his ridiculous blogs and sometimes the disorderly collection or confused mixture of things he comes out with is farcical.
Pat Muscat
Mr Debono does not even know that Holland and Belgium still reclaim thousand of square meters from the sea every year; they call them polders!They v'e been doing so for many decades. In Italy, la Maremma has all been drained, whilst the land up to the suburbs Bologna from Rimini has been reclaimed by the Benedictines in the year 1000AD! London is thinking of reclaiming part of the river to build and international airport; Hong Kong does the same and none of these use land reclamation for real estate! Mr Debono must have a mindset of a Nationalist, because only Nationalists would think of land reclamation to be good only real estate...... Not to mention Dubai and other countries in the middle east! What fauna or mammals are going to get extinct by reclaiming parts of the cost at Bahar ic-Caghaq or Marsascala? If the PL manages to flaten the mountain at Maghtab...'dak li iwarrad' and reclaim miles from the sea..it would be just wonderful! Who knows we can build playing fields, use the land for photo voltaic farms or an artificial beach; the land scheme can add miles of landmass to our little Malta!
Christian Thorn
It has ALWAYS been the trend for Labour and PL Leaders ,past and present, to go Nationalist, seeking the NATIONAL INTEREST first and formost and not playing at being "Trendy Nationalist" putting the NATIONAList Party's interests first! Dear Mr. Debono if you consider this as a Gonzi brainwave, it is Dr. Gonzi that is unfeasable for not taking the lead and ollow on it!
m borg
Reclaimed beach in Birzebbuga, reclamation Sliema Strand and Gira main road, reclamation Msida, Free Port built on reclamed land, Valletta water-front, Valletta cruis liner quays, James are you blind or are you playing the fool. Who said tha PL's proposal means reclamation for the purpose of buildingmore apartments.There are other pprojects that can be done by reclaiming the sea. Wait till all is made known and you will see what it's all about. Until then right about something you know which is .......
Larry conti
Tider li ma peppi azzopardi trabejt,ghal ma xarabank tajjeb int,ghax bla idejat u lanqas tkun taf xint tghid,hlief li laqwa tikritika lil labour.
b farrugia
You can write a better article. you are assuming to many falsities without proof. Muscatpl does not exist ,god forbid. Malta must never ever repeat gonzipn. Mega-buildings feed ideas of grandeur. If reclamation is thought out well it would not fail. at least it would save the natural land we still have. the private sector would invest in this.
Mark Borg
Sorry to have to say this James Debono, but this article is a load of hogwash. Scaremongering is old crap James. You should know that. At this rate you will be telling us that seeing eye to eye with Joseph Muscat is a mortal sin! Why don't you 'come out' and admit that you are anti-Labour, in all ways! The point is you will not admit this but continue playing the 'objective' journalist. 'Objective' my foot!
GRACE PAVIA
Dear James, what is so wrong with Dubai? What was so wrong in becoming a Switzerland in the Mediterranean? We have managed this in fact, although only very partially via financial services, and only because of all round agreement. Whatever made you conclude that Labour is in cahoots with real estate developers, rather than the middle class? You seem to be in the know regarding the proposed whereabouts of these "islands". Please share with us this info. Careful because you might, just might, came across as an anti PL guy, rather than a convinced environmentalist.
m borg
Bart Simpson could have written a better article.
Tony Fenech
Why just bother to reply to James Debono blogs, to tell you the truth every day that the election gets near James tends to supply ammunition and arrows always in the direction to Joseph Muscat and now he is surely showing his true colours, mind you its not our concern, but he should just say and declare that he is a true blue so that we all would not waste time to comment on his ridiculous blogs and sometimes the disorderly collection or confused mixture of things he comes out with is farcical
Christian Thorn
It has been "trendy" for Labour to go Nationalist... and being true Nationalist having ALWAYS the NATIONAL INTEREST AT HEART IN ALL THE DECISIONS TAKEN BY PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE Labour Party Leaders!!
eddy privitera
James Debono keeps trying to give a helping hand to AD ! Has he seen any plans which Dr. Muscat and the PL may have, or is he just shooting from the hip, thus hoping that some PL voters may switch over to AD ????
Mike turner
Oh dear what a shallow, poorly researched and one sided article. Of course there are pro's and con's for such a scheme, but having seen the detailed engineer's and architect's plans and model for the original scheme I can assure that it was a very professional and well conceived project. Furthermore it would have injected a huge sum of much needed hard currency into the Maltese economy. Surely it is in the best interests of all Maltese for a potential Prime Minister to fully research all investment propositions. Not up to MT standards.
Fumarole
Well,your political bias shines from high heaven !. Unfortunately you are wrong. The idea was floated by Dom Mintoff way back in the 70s and 80s, thirty years before Dr.Gonzi aped the suggestion.
Giuseppe
@niko001 - Since you need to be spoon-fed; this is the part you are looking for: . "And this would mean that in a country were 25% of all dwellings are empty we would be building even more properties on new land. Apart from the impact on our coastal landscape, the loss of habitat and the risks to our marine environment, the major danger of such a project is economic. It will perpetuate our dependence on construction and re-inflate the property bubble, which one day could burst in our face." . Learn to read and comprehend before commenting and making a fool of yourself.
gordon scicluna
better than mountains of construction material/waste and enginered landfills??!!! Ah but yes those rubbish mountains by the coast road are truly pleasing to the eyessssssore... Get on with it.
Noel Cutajar
I am still trying to know in which part of the article why land reclamation is wrong...as always JD is trying to demonize Muscat and now trying to introduce a 'new' concept of MuscatPL...apart from his sweeping statements that developers are convenient allies to Labour...please wake up, such developers have been riding on our back since 1987 with the PN.
salgister
"Once in power it will have to satisfy them, probably on land in your neighbourhood and not far out at sea." Resorting the scaremongering, Mr. Debono