Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) welcomes the proposal put forward by Dr Jose Herrera, Minister for the Environment, for Wied il-Għomor to be designated as a Public Domain site in order to safeguard it from further development. This valley that harbours a vibrant eco-system of local flora and fauna, acts as a natural lung between the over-developed areas of San Gwann, ta’ l-Ibragg and Swieqi. It has been reducing in size for decades, as development encroached from all sides, and this past year several applications were submitted for major projects in the valley which would have ruined the valley with more traffic and construction in this once-pristine area.
FAA had made submissions for 19 other similarly sensitive and important sites across Malta and Gozo to be included in the public domain in order to ensure that they are preserved for the benefit of the public. Sites proposed by FAA include Wied Garnaw in Luqa, the Pinetum in Floriana, the Ta’ Ċenċ Area in Sannat, and the Delimara peninsula, all of which, if sustained in their natural state, would contribute to a better well-being and quality of life for residents of Malta and Gozo.
FAA calls on Government to further empower this Ministry by reforming planning law to ensure that the Environment Resource Authority (ERA) has a stronger voice on ODZ applications. As things stand, the Planning Authority is overruling most of the ERA’s objections against applications for developments in Out of Development (countryside) Zones. This makes a mockery of the claim that the MEPA demerger would serve to strengthen nature protection. This is proven by the fact that last year a record number of ODZ permits were approved, increasing from roughly 22% of total permits in 2011 to 55% in 2016, due to the liberal planning rules introduced in 2014 which allow more construction in rural areas.
The Environment Ministry’s bold move to schedule Wied il-Ghomor as a public Domain, along with its recent initiative to protect wooded areas, are much-needed steps in the right direction which will have long-term benefits for public health.