Land reclamation proposals cover large tract of sea – Charlò Bonnici

Opposition MP says government is calling for proposals for land reclamation project over “very vast tract of sea in the northeast.”

As Parliament reconvened tonight to discuss the budget estimates for the Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate, Opposition MP  Charlo' Bonnici called for cross-party cooperation in the sector which he said is "of common interest."

Describing government's plans on land reclamation as a "nightmare," Bonnici said that adverts publicising an expression of interest was asking for proposals for a "very vast tract" in the northeast, close to Pembroke.

In July, MaltaToday revealed that bidders for land reclamation projects are being asked to sign a confidentiality agreement in which they acknowledge the government's discretion on deciding whether to issue a competitive tender or not after the initial bids are analysed by the Government Property Division.

Moreover documents related to the government's call for expression of interest (EOI) for a "concession for the reclamation of land in Maltese waters" are only available against a €5000 fee and the signing of a confidentiality agreement binding bidders not to disclose any information contained in the EOI documents to third parties for the next three years.

Bonnici also expressed his apprehension at government's plans in land reclamation despite the large stock of vacant dwellings.

He also said that government had not carried out any consultation with civil society on its plans to reclaim land and "ruin" the sea. This, Bonnici said, confirmed the government's belief that it could steamroll over anyone following its handsome electoral victory.

The government had lost civil society's trust over its plans on land reclamation because it had not issued a tender, Bonnici said, asking who "was government obliged to this time?"

MaltaToday asked for a copy of the EOI document issued for prospective bidders interested in the government's land reclamation plan, however, the Government Property Division replied to this request asking the journalist to sign a confidentiality agreement and pay €5,000 to collect the document, as is the case with any prospective bidder.

The EOI contains valuable public information, including a CD pointing out ecologically sensitive areas and other limitations.

The government has refused to conduct any prior studies to identify a suitable site for this project and has ignored a previous study by Danish experts Carl Bro, which had identified only two suitable sites for land reclamation  (namely Bahar ic-Caghaq and a stretch of coastline between Marsascala and Xghajra) and a €400,000 study by British experts Scott Wilson, which deemed land reclamation projects unfeasible unless massive real estate development is included in the project. 

The study also points out at ecological constraints due to the presence of the EU protected posidonia meadows in Maltese waters.

Hailing the Labour Party's past agreement on policies such as climate change and waste management under a PN government, Bonnici said he was "disappointed that now that it longer is in opposition, Labour is changing everything, including the policies it had voted for. I wonder why? Because what it voted for is no longer good or is it gaining time?"

The MP explained that in the past eight months the government had not only signalled it was prepared to change existent policies but it also was starting things from scratch.

He added that the 20124 Budget announced the creation of a new environmental national policy when this was already introduced by the previous PN administration.

"Will we start from scratch or will we simply change what needs to be changed?" Bonnici asked, adding that the same applied to waste management.

Questioning what government's policy is, Bonnici said that the Labour administration was "scaring people with its irrational behaviour."

Citing the public rage caused by the government's action on hunting and development permits issued by MEPA, Bonnici said that the people have no trust in the government because it was not respecting its electoral pledges.

Following the initiative to hold a referendum on spring hunting, the environmentalist lobby was now organising a protest against development permits which showed that government was not committed to protect the environment.

"This is an absolute record and a stellar defeat for government," Bonnici said, adding that it was conditioned b y its promises to the construction and business lobbies.

Warning that the chickens have come home to roost, Bonnici said that environmentalists were upset by the shameful permits issued by MEPA and the proposed changes to the Outside Development Zones. He added that so far in November, development applications increased by 500 over the same month last year.

"Environmentalists are concerned because government is selling our children's health to Maltese and foreign speculators," he said.

On his part, opposition MP Censu Galea acknowledged he did not expect government to perform miracles in just eight months in the agriculture and fisheries sector, however "existing difficulties have to be addressed."

Galea noted that although the budget announced that the government was examining proposals for private sector involvement in the Pitkalija he said that persistent rumours had it that an agreement with private companies was already in place and they were expected to take over the running of the exchange market.

More in Budget 2014
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Why is Bonnici trying to mimic the Tower of Pisa?
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What a lot of rubbish!!Trying to sell that they where politically correct in all they did when in government!! as if! after all what the present government is doing is calling for ideas to be evaluated. Wouldn't it be better to wait and see the outcome before one issues such criticism or these only intended to frighten prospective bidders away.
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Mqama Mia x'wahda din, se nispiccawli l-Eggixxjani jiggildfu maghna ghax il Kanal ta suez ma jibqax jintuza ghax se naghlqu ir'rotta minn Lixandra ghal Gibiltya bil-bahar li li se niehduu naghmluh art. Veru jista jservi li l'imigranti irregolari ma jibquix ihallsdu l-belli liri biex imorru Sqallija ghax ikunu jistghu jaqsmu mill-pont li se maghmlu
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Mhux ovvja! The more the merrier! Kulhadd jaghmel hekk barra ta Simon! Kontra kollox!