PC/00038/20 – the number of the beast

Our sister island Gozo is well and truly under attack by yet more development. That word has now become dominated by negative connotations in the Maltese mind. It did not have to be this way. Gharb, a tiny and unique gem with 1,300 people is now under attack by the usual suspects, responsible for land grabs in Qala and elsewhere.

Application PC/00038/20 now hangs over its head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles. It is a project promising to obliterate 5387 sqm of ODZ land. A new road will extend out from Triq Birbuba ploughing through the countryside to make way for new residential development. Taken in isolation it is shocking enough, given how much lip service is paid to the sanctity of ODZ.

Despite what some might think, Gozo still has a unique charm and identity and it can yet be preserved. Yet, if all the pending PA applications in the pipeline were to be granted, Gozo would be lost in the blink of an eye. The widening of road between Victoria and Marsalforn is one front in this wider war, along with the flats in Qala, the constant attack on Hondoq ir-Rummien and Ramla Bay, and let us not forget the shining gem of an idea to build a tunnel between Malta and Gozo.

Instead of allowing Gozo to thrive and succeed based on its unique characteristics and identity, we are seeing Maltese authorities give permission to a handful of insiders to rape and pillage the sister island. We did not learn from our mistakes. Instead, Gozo seems to be undergoing the very same process of auto cannibalism which Malta has been going through non-stop for the past decades.

It is eating itself and uglifying itself to line the pockets of the usual cabal of tycoons who have the audacity to think that they are doing us a favour by destroying our countryside. It is like having a beautiful face and one slices it off with a blade out of spite. This abusive relationship is certainly to the detriment of the vast majority, and it seems that in spite of Gozitans wanting it to stop, they are powerless to defend themselves because they are simply ignored.

Property on such a tiny island should not be seen as a tool for speculation by businessmen but should be a necessity according to the needs of the residents who live there. How many empty houses are there in this country, with so much potential if they were restored? Why are new buildings always built to the very worst aesthetic taste? Why is there no planning? The lack of pride in our country has reached new depths in spite of government rhetoric promising a new direction.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana spoke bravely when he said that the country needed to stop relying on overdevelopment. Unfortunately, the government seems to have backed out of this bold statement. What kind of a mess are we in when even our Ministers have their hands tied when they try to fix the very real problems facing our country? It is more evidence that party financing reform is more desperately needed than ever.

For some the country is something to be sucked dry without giving anything back. These people fail in their social and moral obligations to protect it and to form part of a wider community. They simply take whatever they can without thinking of the consequences, even when they have more than enough wealth in life to live happily ever after. It is the buffet table of the few who keep piling more on top of their plate even though that plate is full and brimming and they know that they will not be able to eat it all. But still, the greed continues. Would it not be more satisfying to invest in solutions instead of a quick payout?

Gozo must be saved. The helplessness every Maltese feels as every bit of heritage is torn down to be replaced by tasteless boxes, the tug at our heart whenever we see a PA sign knowing exactly what it will entail, has become a shared burden for most in this country. With every PA notice comes not only the loss of identity, place and purpose, but also months of dust, noise and closed roads which kill communities and our way of life more effectively than any coloniser could possibly dream. We do all of this to our own detriment. Let us not keep making the same mistakes in Gozo as we did in Malta. Empower the Gozitan local councils to have a say in what happens to their island.

Sandra Gauci
ADPD Deputy Secretary General
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 3 October 2021