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Protest against Mushroom Farm

The Gharb Local Council on behalf of:

• The health and wellbeing of the residents of Gharb and St Lawrence

• The tenants of Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Village

• The 150 employees, Baldacchino Company which invested in Gozo and the operator of Kempinski San Lawrenz Hotel

• Restaurants in Gharb and San Lawrenz

• Farmhouse owners and all those involved in the tourist sector in this zone

• Others who in a way or another depend on this zone for their living

The Gharb Local Council is totally against the proposed mushroom factory development in the area of ta’ Dbiegi for a number of reasons amongst which:

1. The proposed development is not 183 metres away from a residential area as required by MEPA regulations.

2. The proposed site is near a residential area and this will create an inconvenience to the residents with the foul smells of chicken manure that has to be transported to site daily, around 22 tons per week as indicated in the EPS. A small amount of manure in the nearby fields already creates an unsupportable smell let alone the amounts mentioned above! It is a fact that the quantity of chicken manure generated in Gozo is not enough to cater for the needs of the proposed mushroom factory and so manure would have to be transported all the way from Malta to Gozo passing all the way through the Gozo Channel and the main road from Mgarr through Victoria to Gharb. Gozo produces around 22,000 kgs of Chicken manure a year and so the rest from the total of 1.2 million kgs required for the farm has to be transported from Malta. The same applies to the hay required in the factory.

3. The transportation of the hay to this zone can also destroy the agricultural product. The farmer may prefer to start producing hay instead of the agrticultural product. As already stated the Gotizan hay production will not be enough and so this would have to be transported from Malta to Gozo too.

4. This will lead also to dirt in the streets all year round. During the period of the hay transportation one could note the amount of hay that is left staggered along the streets.

5. It will generate emissions, dust and traffic problems let alone the noise pollution that to day the zone is free of.

6. The zone which to day was popular amongst tourists for its tranquility will no longer exist.

7. It will destroy the countryside with a development in an ODZ zone, an industrial zone and the unique Crafts Centre in Gozo. One has to mention that ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Centre enjoyed EU funds for its embellishment and thanks to which the zone was refurbished from its previous state of neglect.

8. The proposed development represents a serious health hazard with the increase in hay-fever and will create a lot of insects attracted by the chicken manure which will be transported to site as indicated in the EPS. All this when MEPA’s policies state that farms should not be allocated in residential areas. Malta & Gozo already experienced similar cases referring to the Qortin in Gozo and Maghtab in Malta and to day these sites have been closed since this way necessary for the citizens well being.

9. Emissions will be generated during the process of the mushroom cultivation. Mushrooms consume a large amount of oxygen from the air and throw back emissions.

10. The investments of Baldacchino and Kempinski groups are being endangered and with them the employment of the 150 hotel employees not to mention others who’s living is indirectly related with the hotel’s operations such as restaurant owners, car hire, tourist operators, food suppliers and many others.

11. The living of 50 persons at Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Centre would also be endangered. With these one can add many other jobs indirectly related to this area.

12. The developer already acquired a permit at Hal-Qormi for the same project and after committing this zone at Hal-Qormi is now proposing to do the same at Gharb.

13. We already had an unwelcome experience in the past, referring to the Villa on Ghammar hill. That was an environmental disaster and the destruction of agricultural land. Today with the approval of this project the same error will be repeated despite of all the promises for the protection of the environment and the rural areas which Gozo still has.

14. The Government has the ambitious aim to transform Gozo into an ecological island. This project will threaten this goal even before it starts.

The Council emphasizes that the application was from the very beginning incorrect, ambiguous and misleading. There is no other way how one could describe this application except scandalous to the way it is being treated by MEPA to build this factory on a stretch of 15600 sq mts of agricultural land which fall outside the development zone (ODZ). It is very clear that MEPA is not treating seriously the Gozitan environment. This is another case where MEPA’s credibility is once more being obscured. All this is being done just before the entering into force of the MEPA reform, a reform that should aim to protect the environment of the Maltese Islands and to ensure transparency. The Council believes that everyone has to be treated the same in front of the law and that everyone has the right of protection by the law. We must say also that this is a case where those involved have to be responsible for their acts and be transparent. This is another case where the citizen’s voice is being put to the side when the reform was done to protect the citizen’s rights. The Council appeals for an absolute union against this shocking proposed development and appeals that no one uses this matter as a means for political personal achievements. The Council applies all Gozo politicians to declare publicly their position against the distortion of Gozo environment and countryside with a development in an ODZ zone.
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