16 October 2011
I refer to a concluding statement made by environmental columnist Anne Zammit in her article ‘Coastal defence at Marsalforn’ which was published in the Sunday Times on the 09th October 2011 and consequently quoted in a front page report under the heading ‘Decision on Marsalforn breakwater and a larger beach expected soon’.
In her opinion piece Anne Zammit evaluates the proposed development, submitted by the Ministry for Gozo, for the construction of coastal defences against wave incidence on shore at Marsalforn Bay. The measures, upon the recommendation of the Marine and Storm Water Control Unit at the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs, propose beach nourishment, the construction of a groyne, upgrade of storm water channel and the construction of submerged breakwater. Ms Zammit concludes her opinion piece by stating that MEPA is currently assessing this application, “in the absence of a full environmental impact assessment there is a strong risk of permanent alteration of the natural environment at Marsalforn Bay.” This statement is highly incorrect.
Following the submission of a project description statement by the applicant earlier in this year, MEPA screened the proposal and last July, informed the applicant that both an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) and an Appropriate Assessment (AA) need to be carried out for the application to be processed. Both the EIS and the AA will assist the Authority to predict, analyse, interpret and prevent significant environmental and ecological impacts of the proposed project.
The EIA process for the drawing up of a full Environment Impact Statement commenced on the 16th August with a 3 week public consultation period whereby the public was given the opportunity to suggest what key issues should be addressed in the compilation of the Environmental Statement (ES) and the framework of approach that has to be taken. These Terms of Reference have been sent to the applicant and are available on the Mepa website.
Following this the applicant, through the appointed consultants, can start working on the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) - which will once again include a public consultation phase together with a public meeting. The Environment Impact Statement (EIS) will be reviewed by the Environment Protection Directorate who in turn will publish a report with its recommendations prior to the Planning Directorate’s report getting concluded and published. This new procedure has been introduced over the past weeks and is aimed at increasing the public’s perception that the EIA process is fairer, more transparent and safeguarded from undue bias.
Additionally, given that this proposed development lies within a proposed Marine Natura 2000 site, as it hosts the largest variety of Posidonia, the Authority has requested the applicant to also carry out an Appropriate Assessment. The Appropriate Assessment will further establish what likely impact the project will have on the ecology for which it is proposed to be designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
The Authority will be adequately assessing all the environmental implications and pressures that this proposed project can create prior to making any decision.