Back in May 2016, Parliament unanimously approved the Public Domain law, which lead to the Planning Authority opening up public consultation on any sites nominated by Maltese NGOs and MPs. A collaboration between the NGOs Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) and Friends of the Earth (FOE Malta) suggested 22 of the total 23 sites last April, later launching an online petition this summer for more people to join their cause.
Their initial target on the 14th of July was 500 signatures. Less than one month later and with a couple of hours to go, they’re now at 5,474.
“Each signature is an individual email which is being sent to the Planning Authority,” Friends of the Earth Malta Director Martin Galea DeGiovanni told Lovin Malta. “The sites had to be suggested by NGOs and MPs, so some of the places we nominated are on behalf of individuals who asked us to help safeguard them.”
The eNGOs have recently been in contact with the Planning Authority, who have confirmed they’ve been receiving the large amount of emails. “They received over 5,000 directly from our form,” the FOE Director said. “They also received individuals ones directly or by post. They promised us that we can send more emails by midnight tonight.”
The list of sites includes anything from green areas in Floriana and Ta’ Xbiex to islands like Comino and Manoel Island, and a list of locations and the entire process behind the public consultation is available on the Planning Authority’s official website. These are the 23 sites, along with the body proposing each.
1. Site at Manoel Island: FAA
2. Site at Wied Garnwa: FAA
3. Site at Ħondoq, Qala: FAA
4. Site at Kalanka, Delimara: FAA
5. Site of three historic landmark trees, Ta’ Xbiex: FAA
6. Site of beaches from St. George’s Bay to Sliema: FAA
7. Sites at Valletta coastline and Fort St. Elmo: FAA
8. Sites from St. Thomas Bay (Marsascala) to Xtrobb l-Għaġin (Marsaxlokk): FAA
9. Sites from Siġġiewi to Żurrieq: FAA
10. Sites: Pinetum beyond Floriana fortification walls and Argotti, St. Philips and Sa Maison Public Gardens: FAA
11. Stretch of land from Ġnejna to Mtaħleb: FAA
12. Villa Gwardamanġia, Pieta’: FAA
13. Site at Simblija: FAA
14. Comino: FAA & FOE
15. Ċittadella, Victoria, Gozo: FAA
16. Site at Ta’ Ċenċ, Sannat: FAA
17. Site at Ħas-Saptan and Wied Żembaq: FOE
18. Site at is-Simblija (including Wied ir-Rum, Ta’ Baldu, & Wied Ħażrun): FOE
19. Site at Il-Ballut tal-Wardija: FOE
20. Site at Il-Ballut tal-Imġiebaħ (l/o Mellieħa): FOE
21. Site at Ras ir-Raħeb and Qlejgħa: FOE
22. Site at Fomm ir-Riħ: FOE
23. Nwadar National Park: Hon Jose Herrera MP
When asked why the two NGOs nominated 22 sites and not more, De Giovanni said they initially didn’t know whether there was a limit, and what deadline they’d have. “We therefore decided to pick a few of the most pressing ones and throw them in,” he said.
Speaking about the number of signatures they managed to get, the FOE Director explained how technically, there isn’t really a particular minimum amount of signatures which are required. “It’s just a matter of public pressure, and a case of the more definitely being the merrier,” he said. “We initially opened the petition up to a target of 500 signatures. We secretly had the ambition of getting 4,000 since that represents around 1% of the entire population. With a couple of hours to go, we’ve exceeded 5,000.”
So, what’s next?
The list (and an attached report) will now go back to Parliament after the summer recess, and then the sites will be voted upon. People who have private property in the sites have been warned to contact the NGOs and the Planning Authority to flesh it out, seeing as some have already expressed concerns on whether this would lead to the government taking their land.
The voting on the sites will not be done by bulk, but will rather see Parliament voting on individual sites. This is particularly good news since some sites like Comino and Manoel Island are definitely more controversial than others, and might’ve stalled other smaller sites if a bulk voting system were present.
The petition is still open, and the deadline is tonight at midnight.