[WATCH] Government selling country’s health to developers – NGOs

Green NGOs accuse government of selling country’s health to developers.

Recent development permits controversially approved by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority have underlined the government's willingness to sell the country's health and well being to developers, environmental NGOs said.

While announcing a protest march to be held on Saturday 30 November, the NGOs slammed the lack of transparency in the way permits are issued by MEPA.

The NGOs involved in the protest are Din l-Art Helwa, Birdlife Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth, Moviment Graffiti, Greenhouse Malta, Malta Organic Agricultural Movement, Nature Trust Malta and the Ramblers' Association.

In a press conference addressed by green NGO leaders Simone Mizzi and Astrid Vella this morning, the organisations expressed their anger and concern over a series of permits issued by MEPA, with the controversial Mistra development being the final straw.

Describing the state of the Planning Authority as "tragic," the NGOs said that despite the Labour Party's harsh criticism on the Delimara power plant before the March election, it was repeating the same errors after being elected to office.

Highlighting a recent World Health Organisation study which showed that 14% of diseases are linked to the environment, the NGOs said that over-development was affecting the country's health.

Insisting that the NGO were not opposed to progress and development, Astrid Vella from Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) said that development should not come to the detriment of "clean air, open spaces and people's health."

"We should not sell our own health to developers, however that is what this government is doing," Vella said.

She said that the environmentalists were not the only losers in the equation. The tourism sector, and consequently the economy, would feel the consequences of such mismanagement when foreigners stop coming to Malta, if all it had to offer was "urban canyons".

"Would tourists really be willing to spend money to come to Malta's beaches, if they are plunged in shade?" she asked, adding that it was the Maltese who would ultimately be paying for such projects through their taxes.

Vella also critisised the small number of enforcement officers, and said that they could not be described as "proactive" as all they seemed to do was to react to complaints.

She said that it was "outrageous" that even the case officers, who themselves were assigned to draw up reports in order to approve or disapprove of such projects, many times do not even go on site to carry out the proper studies.

"These people are deciding the fate of many communities without doing the proper research," she said.

On her part, Simone Mizzi from Din L-Art Helwa (DLH) pointed out that anyone driving from Valletta to St Julian's not only does not come across any green open spaces but "you do not even come across one single building which is aesthetically pleasing and makes you proud of being Maltese."

They also expressed their disappointment at the approval of the Mistra development last week, saying it lacked transparency.

"The authorities' obligations should be towards the Maltese people and the environment," Mizzi said, adding that unnecessary buildings were being constructed all over the islands.

Both Vella and Mizzi were in agreement that MEPA's plans to separate the Planning and Environment departments could have little effect unless the Authority's ideology, as a whole, did not change.

"No amount of procedural change will mask the fact that MEPA's priorities are not what they should be," Mizzi said.

Asked whether big businesses and developers who bankrolled the two big political parties had excessive influence over MEPA, Vella said that it was obvious that "as long as big businesses fund political parties there can be no transparency in the development sector."

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Tghid Astrid Vella ghadha tghaddi l-artikli taghha lil Dolores Cristina? Ilkoll nafu x'kulur ghandha deep down Astrid u hafna minn shaba l-ohra (bhal Ramblers Association u Lino Bugeja) li jippuzaw t'ambjentalisti. Wolf in sheep's clothing I say!
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Never ever, NEVER trust a politician. They are the most morally bankrupt people in existence.
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Ms Vella its useless you make blunt statments. If you have proof name them,shame and name each one of them. If you keep your mouth shut it means that you are talking for nothing.
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NGOs b'agenda politika taghhom mohbija. Agenti politici li mqabbda biex ifixklu l-progress li qieghed jipjana l-gvern laburista. Dawk il-mistoqsijiet li ghamlet Simine Mizzi messa ghamlithom li esponenti tal-PN ghax huma hawdu kemm felhu fl-ambjent f'dawn l-ahhar hamsa w ghoxrin sena. Naqta' rasi li- din il-protesta hija kordinata mill-PN u hemm is-swaba tal-qarnita nazzjonalista warajhom. Ghax il-PN, allavolja stupra l-ambjent kemm fellah meta kien hu fil-poter, xi haga bhal din li-smoke screen jidhlilha bhal bicca hobz biz-zejt. Basta jfixkel lill-gvern u jagevola l-prospetti tieghu li jerga' jahtaf il-poter taht idejh.
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Concluding para says it all.