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Reclaimed land ‘won’t do’

Existing space should be used

Environmentalists and developers are concerned about the impact land reclamation would have on Malta’s coastline. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Environmentalists and developers are concerned about the impact land reclamation would have on Malta’s coastline. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Reclamation would be a “fake” solution to the problems resulting from bad management of existing land, according to environmental organisation Friends of the Earth.

The starting point must be the project, not creating land

“There is no justification for it to take place before existing land is planned efficiently.

“It’s a fake solution about doing something because you did not manage to control something else,” said Martin Galea De Giovanni, who chairs the NGO.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said a new Labour government would look into land reclamation. He was discussing construction, which had to be sustainable and respect the environment.

Mr Galea De Giovanni said the situation had not changed since 2005 when Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi spoke about exploring the option, as there was still a lot of vacant property.

The proposal was shot down by two reports commissioned by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. The first, released in 2005, aimed to find suitable areas for land reclamation and identified two potential spots: Qalet Marku and Xgħajra.

Other areas were either too deep or ecologically sensitive, among other factors.

The second study, issued in 2007, found that it was not viable to build artificial land using construction debris.

Marine biologist and environmentalist Alan Deidun said nothing had changed since then. There were no new technologies or changes in the landscape that might discredit the reports’ conclusions.

Dr Deidun said he had “huge misgivings” about land reclamation that would have “huge repercussions” on the marine environment.

In past debates on land reclamation, some argued that it could provide an efficient way to use construction waste. But Dr Deidun pointed out that Malta did not produce enough construction waste to reclaim the land.

Mr Galea De Giovanni added that the process was an unsustainable way of getting rid of construction waste.

Stone, a valuable resource, should be re-used, not dumped into a landfill or a reclaimed site.

One had to keep in mind the impact on the coast and the repercussions on the marine environment, he said.

Malta Developers’ Association president Michael Falzon was also concerned about the coast.

“One has to be very careful where to do it. We have to protect our coastline.”

What was sure was that if the government decided to reclaim land, it would be for some form of development, he said. If the project was aimed at tourism, for example, it might be feasible.

An economist said that, at face value, he believed a project had to be identified before talking about land reclamation.

For a project to be worth it, there would have to be a very high value added project, he said.

“The starting point must be the project and not creating land.

“Once that’s established one must look into whether it’s best done on existing land and the impact on the environment,” said the economist, who preferred not to be named as he first wanted to study the issue in more depth.

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