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‘Għarb Will Be Completely Ruined’: Retreat Centre Owner Speaks Out On Proposed ODZ Development

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A health and wellness centre, Amchara, that touches upon agricultural ODZ land in Għarb is facing a major threat to its defining characteristics.

Lovin Malta spoke with Sophia Cefai, daughter of the late Lino Cefai, owner of the health and wellness centre Amchara which touches upon the site directly and the manager of the centre.

The area is facing a proposal that looks to turn over 5,000 square metres of ODZ land into a new road and residential development. It would set up a dangerous precedent across all the Maltese islands.

“I grew up in this place, so I remember it from when I was still a child, and we had lived here for a while,” she recounted.

“Għarb is one of the last towns in Gozo that hasn’t yet been struck by overdevelopment,” she said, comparing it to other places such as Marsalforn and Victoria, where the height of buildings seems to be on a constant rise.

“People seek Amchara because they want a place to relax, switch off from their daily lives, or maybe because they would have gone through a tough time, either mentally or physically, and they come here to recover,” she explained.

“We feel that we have something very special here, a health and wellness retreat providing a place where one can escape their everyday life and calm down.”

“It is their safe haven, and the silence that it comes with makes it just that,” she said.

“A development such as the one that is being proposed only translates to noise pollution and a loss of vegetation. In the time taken to be built, the aura of Għarb will completely be ruined,” she retaliated.

Cefai also emphasised that sight of the bigger picture is being lost, and it’s being forgotten that Gozo thrives purely on tourism.

“You speak to the residents that moved here precisely of how Gozo is, and they say they will leave if this development is approved,” she said. 

“The people that come to Gozo are mainly those that are fed up with the construction in Malta, so they come here, to escape that life, and what are we doing? Creating it here again.”

“And it’s the same for the business that I own here, and the people that are running it, if this development happens they’re not going to stay here, because the whole concept of the business is completely ruined.”

She also dubbed the project as unsustainable, as it will open the doors for other illegal developments of such nature to happen.

“We’re letting greed take over, and we’re not thinking about the future,” she said. 

The View Of The Site From The Retreat Centre

The View Of The Site From The Retreat Centre

While speaking with the residents, we were sitting in the gardens of Amchara, and the only things you could hear were a couple of birds, the waterfall behind us, and the trees moving with the wind.

Lovin Malta also spoke to the manager of the health and wellness centre, who had initially come to Gozo for a visit and ended up staying there.

“When people come here, it’s their peaceful and happy place, many of them come back, many of them fall in love with Gozo and the peace and quiet that it comes with,” she explained. 

“I was one of them myself, I had come to Gozo to this place specifically for a retreat, and I fell in love and ended up staying here myself,” she said.

Looking out from the yoga studio in Amchara, one can see the sunset coming down directly onto the agricultural fields.

“That will all be gone, and the view will be replaced by bricks,” she said. 

She also explained how they have visitors who are suffering from cancer or other life-shortening diseases, and they refind a new lust for life and more peace.

Emotions are high, as the residents of the area are petrified at the chance of losing their silence and clean air, which were the main reasons for their relocation to the quaint town of Għarb.

The road and zoning application that is currently being proposed on over 5,000 sqm of ODZ land in Għarb, led by Joseph Portelli’s employee, are set to have major ramifications on the residents and the classic characteristics of the town.

The representations period for this permit ends on 27th October, and you can object to the permit by following this link.

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READ NEXT: Fireworks Factory Proposed On Agricultural ODZ Land In Ħal Għaxaq Among Historic Buildings

When Sasha (formerly known as Sasha Tas-Sigar) is not busy writing about environmental injustice, she's probably fighting for women's rights. Follow her at @saaxhaa on Instagram, and send her anything related to the environment, art, and women's rights at [email protected]

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