DLH calls for national spatial plan

Din l-Art Helwa says major infrastructural projects are laudable but couldl take their toll on the environment if not approached sensitively

DLH president Simone Mizzi
DLH president Simone Mizzi

The budget’s intentions to increase social economic development through the introduction of major infrastructural programmes are laudable but these will take their toll on the environment if not approached sensitively, Din l-Art Helwa said.

The NGO said financial, social and environmental studies necessary for long term sustainability of such schemes must be included in a national Spatial Plan that must include Marine areas and made available to the public.

DLH executive president Simone Mizzi noted that the 2015 Budget states that feasibility studies for land reclamation schemes are still being drawn up as are those for major connectivity plans to Gozo such as cruise liner facilities and the bridge from Malta to Gozo. 

She added that such studies to prove the sustainability of such schemes and their over all impact assessments have still not been made available to the public. 

“The Budget also makes a call for private public partnerships for the redesign of areas of rocky foreshore for improved public access and the introduction of more artificial beaches, yet the Government has not yet carried out a Marine Spatial plan,” Mizzi said. 

Mizzi said that unless done sensitively and with appropriate studies, such measures can only be detrimental to the natural state of Malta’s dwindling coastline. 

“While it is positive that a management scheme for Comino is to be undertaken, DLH urges that this is implemented before the forthcoming summer.”

While noting that a number of measures are positive for the environment, including proposals to increase green belts through forestation, Mizzi however, said “|care has  to be applied when planning improvements to rural road networks as such schemes will take up yet more of the remaining countryside and facilitate construction of ODZ areas.”

DLH also pointed out that increasing the number of bring in sites for recycled materials is also a positive step if Malta is to reach its 2020 waste reduction targets, but it is not good news that the waste collection facility in Wied Fullija is to be reopened. 

“This is an area of high landscape value which the southern region of Malta needs to retain not just for public enjoyment and the protection of its rich biodiversity, but if it is to focus on increasing visitor footfall in a sustainable manner.  Polluter pay schemes, in particular for fish farming activity are positive but DLH would prefer to see preemptive measures to prevent such pollution rather than foster a culture which encourages pollution to take place with a ‘pay later’ mentality. It will be the tax coffers that gain while the environment continues to lose. “

Mizzi also welcomed the reduction of traffic congestion, the promotion of car pooling, incentives to increase use of public transport, the taxation of cranes and the educational programmes for the sustainable consumption of fish.

“Measures to protect the landscape and increase biodiversity and regeneration of valleys are steps in the right direction and DLH looks forward to learning more about these programmes while restoration of further landmarks and monuments, and the regeneration of culture visitor hubs such as Strait Street are also most welcome.”

Moreover, Mizzi applauded increases in budgets to cultural heritage entities, national theatres and to the Arts Fund and in particular the increase from €1.8 to €2.5 million for the restoration of forts, fortifications and historical places.

However she called for more funds by Heritage Malta to embark on further capital projects and by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to step up control and monitoring of heritage sites.

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