Last Updated on Thursday, 1 June, 2023 at 1:00 pm by Andre Camilleri
The thousands who gathered in Valletta last Saturday in a protest for better planning, the safeguarding of the environment, and an end to the greed of developers are not the only ones who are “fed up”.
There are many more thousands of others who, in the privacy of their homes, were with the activists in Valletta in spirit. They are not the kind of people who attend protests, and prefer to make their voice heard in elections.
Environmentalists and developers have never seen eye to eye, because their aim is different. The first want to protect what’s left of the good things in life, the latter want to build on every open space.
But, today, it’s not only the hard-core environmentalists who are annoyed and frustrated. Many others, who cannot be described as environmentalists, but who endorse a sense of justice and who are seeing this country go to the dogs – and not only from an aesthetic point of view – are unhappy with the situation.
Developers have been allowed to do what they please in the last decade. Those who say that the Planning Authority should have its name changed to the Permitting Authority are not far from the truth. We have now come to a point when individuals are seeking protection and justice from the courts of law, seeing that their complaints to the authorities responsible for construction and mega-projects do not want to listen. But not everyone has the time and the means to go to court.
The speakers at last Saturday’s protest had one common message – that Malta cannot proceed the way it did in the last decade. The Labour government is hearing this message from two of its own mayors. Gzira’s Conrad Borg Manche and Qala’s Paul Buttigieg made it clear that “the country is choosing greed and money over its own people” and that “harmful decisions should not be made under pressure from big contractors motivated by money and business”.
Will the government listen? We have strong doubts that this will be the case. The Labour government’s policies, which started under Joseph Muscat and continued under Robert Abela, have made it much easier for developers. With the government pushing its own “developing” through the its infrastructural projects, the country became one whole permanent construction site, with all the noise, pollution and inconvenience that is created.
The closure of one single road – either because it’s being redone or else because it is occupied by a crane – creates so many difficulties, given our small size and the lack of alternative routes.
Future generations will look back at this time in our history to denounce us for changing Malta for the worse. The concrete jungle that we have become is certainly not the best example of being attractive – not to us, residents, who live here permanently, and neither to tourists, who come here for a short holiday but end up looking at concrete or being stuck in traffic.