Former ERA CEO, now fronting Bulebel opposition, calls for safeguarding of open spaces

Perit Ruben Abela, whose NGO Wirt iz-Zejtun is opposing Bulebel Industrial Estate extension, emphasised Zejtun’s strong rural tradition on Xtra yesterday

Ruben Abela (right) is a former ERA chief
Ruben Abela (right) is a former ERA chief

Malta has no long-term vision on the environment, said Ruben Abela, the former CEO of the Environment and Resources Authority who is now fronting the NGO Wirt iz-Zejtun.

"It was not for us but for upcoming generations that open spaces have to be safeguarded," Abela said on TVM's Xtra. Abela – whose NGO is opposing the extension of the Bulebel Industrial Estate, which would take over agricultural land in the Wied iz-Zring area in Zejtun – said that Zejtun had a connection to rural work dating back many years, and which was felt to this day.

“Our group comes from the heart of the village where there are very strong rural traditions,” Abela said.

Highlighting the importance of safeguarding Wied iz-Zring, Abela explained that it was evident that there were archaeological artifacts from the classical era in the area. Moreover, an engraving with the coat of arms of Grand Master Perellos, who was Grand Master from 1667 until his death, had also been discovered.

Asked by presenter Saviour Balzan whether he had found support when he decided to speak out against the proposed development in the area, Abela said that he had the backing of the over 80 members of his NGO, which has been active for the past five years.

“Our aim is to bring people closer to the cultural heritage around them,” he said, “But we do not oppose every government development. We are proactive.”

Balzan, remarking that it seemed like the government would be flexible and would not press on with its proposal to extend the industrial estate onto the Wied iz-Zring area, asked whether this could be because it did not want to upset the large Labour Party support base which existed in Zejtun.

“This could be the case – but, actually, people today can think and determine what is and isn’t good for them,” Abela replied.

“We are getting a response from all angles of Zejtun on this issue, and also from neighbouring locations such as Fgura, for whom Wied iz-Zring is the closest open space to their locality.”

“We have spoken to the government about areas such as the Delimara Peninsula, for instance. The coast in the south east can attract a certain type of tourism which brings substantial funds – the type of tourists who come to Malta to experience living in a community, observe how things work and go for walks.”

Abela expressed his hope that the work of Wirt iz-Zejtun would serve to motivate people from other localities to form similar groups.

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