On the beautiful morning of the 3rd of May, 2015, the honourable Prime minister of Malta, (i.e. the King of Malta), Joseph Muscat stated that Malta will be home to sustainable development and not a concrete jungle. This was great news for everyone. The country rejoiced. And that got me thinking. Without haste, I was able to think of 3 ways in which Malta, a tiny island nation of 420,000 nationals living in just over 300 square kilometres, is the embodiment of the word sustainable.
1. The Out of Development Zones, LOL
We love these in Malta. I can’t think of anything we cherish more than an ODZ. The ODZ in the limits of Marsascala is a prime example. Failed were the attempts by developers to build three hotels, failed were the attempts of an American For-Profit university, to build a huge sprawling campus. The government was firm. With a number of derelict areas throughout the south of Malta, it was the Prime minister himself who spearheaded the movement to preserve what’s left of the Maltese countryside! Curiosity killed the cat – and we’re dying! – what will the opposition say?
2. Our lovely ‘Natural’ Parks
Natural – existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind. That is the definition given by Google. And in Malta, we long to create more of the ‘Natural’ parks. Now don’t be fooled, by natural, people will have you believe that we will be dedicating entire stretches of land, untouched by the greed of man, to the general public. The citizens and tourists, will have the opportunity to experience what’s left of Malta’s beautiful, Mediterranean ecosystems. But no, here in Malta, we won’t be confined by the definition of a word. Of course not! We’re sustainable! We go the extra mile. We’ll just call over a few developers, have them rip open a couple of large expenses of land, create many concrete pathways, plant trees and shrubs, alien to the area, cultivate the soil with lovely planted flowers, oh and don’t forget the benches! Ahh yes, nothing is more natural than a man-made park!
3. Tourism – the more, the merrier?
What does an overpopulated island really need? Millions of tourists of course. Now let’s be clear, tourism is important. As a nation we depend on it. And to depend on tourism, we must give tourists value for their money and sites to see and experience. One may assume there are two approaches to such a system: We focus on delivering quality over quantity. When an island such as ours can only take a finite amount of people, we may want to make sure that the tourists that travel over, can have the time of their lives through a number of attractions and facilities built in sustainable locations. One may say that less tourists spending more may be a better model than more tourists spending less.
Or we can take the can-do attitude. We can build more hotels, in questionable locations. More is more. More money for the rich, is more money for the… well rich. But they’re Maltese..probably. Well at least they’re not immigrants.
But this is unlikely to happen right? I mean that’s as if planning to build another hotel, at the door-step of a natural reserve and a prime wildlife location at Ghadira bay. I mean like seriously, who would even consider such a proposal?
4 Pinocchios – The ODZs are a sham. Natural parks are not natural, they’re another development aimed at making some money for the select few. Tourism will get out of control; quality can’t be assured for those visiting and those living on the island. Let us be clear, foreign investment is of great news to this island. But don’t be blinded. Just because development happen in the South of the Island, doesn’t mean such development will be of any help to people living there. Contractors and businessman will be the first to get something out of this. Maltese will get more jobs, and that is great. But it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the environment when more sustainable routes are present. Why is land in the ODZ chosen for all these projects? Because its probably cheaper for the developers to build over there, than it is for them to build in areas which have already be desecrated and abandoned by previous projects and developments. Choosing a more sustainable location means that jobs will be created, a sustainable industry can be created, unused land can serve a better purpose, the environment can be safeguarded for the pleasure of ourselves and those who will come after us and developers will have a slightly smaller pay-day. But that’s how you close the gap.
Our lovely island is attracting investment and the economy is in great shape, thanks to successive governments which have embraced an economy which encourages investment. But for this to continue and for the people to get value for their money, it must be done appropriately. Building hotels at scenic locations means that these locations are no longer scenic. Not questioning doesn’t elude the truth. Is our model sustainable? Probably not. Are we making it more sustainable? Probably not. What can we do?
Make our voices heard as loudly as we can. The government has done a great job at encouraging investments. Now let’s ensure we can reap their benefits whilst protecting our shared heritage. Our King doesn’t appreciate what we have. Let’s show him we do.