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New amnesty offered for illegal boreholes

Water being extracted from an illegal borehole.

Water being extracted from an illegal borehole.

The Malta Resources Authority is giving borehole owners the last chance to register their groundwater source after a similar exercise last year revealed the existence of 2,600 of them.

An MRA spokesman said the Resources and Rural Affairs Ministry published another legal notice amending the one issued in October 2008 that was for the notification of groundwater sources by November 20 of that year.

But unlike the first legal notice, this one has no closing date. It allows borehole owners who failed to fall in line the first time to regularise their position. However, they have to give good reason for their failure to comply and produce evidence to justify their reasons and claims.

Government sources said the new legal notice was aimed at people who genuinely missed the November 2008 deadline. In the past months it has been faced with genuine cases, where people were forced to travel for extended periods, and the authority did not have the legal means to waive the penalty in the case of these people.

The applications of these people will be assessed by an independent committee which will determine whether the evidence produced by the applicant justifies their failure to fall in line.

Besides a registration fee of €230, applicants will have to pay an additional fee of €100.

At present, there are around 8,000 registered boreholes in Malta and Gozo. A total 2,600 were notified to the MRA in November 2008 while another 5,400 boreholes had resulted from a similar exercise conducted in 1997.

The exercise is part of the authority's crackdown on borehole drilling - extraction of ground water is estimated at about 31 million cubic metres a year, eight million cubic metres more than the recommendations for sustainable extraction. Farmers use 16 million cubic metres a year.

The purpose of the exercise is to take stock of the local situation regarding the sources utilised for groundwater abstraction. The MRA spokesman said it was part of a long-term process whereby groundwater extraction will be conducted in a regulated manner for the purpose of restoring the quality of groundwater and aquifer reserves.

Following the 2008 exercise, the highest numbers of groundwater sources were reported in Siġġiewi with a total of 216, closely followed by 215 in Rabat. Żebbuġ follows with 155 sources and another 113 in Qormi. Mellieħa, Mġarr and St Paul's Bay, including Burmarrad, account for another 380.

In Gozo, Nadur registered the biggest number of groundwater boreholes with a total of 76, followed by 47 in Żebbuġ and 44 in Qala.

Several boreholes were found to be located in private households where the water is being used for domestic and other purposes, including irrigation of gardens and landscaping.

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