News | Sunday, 27 September 2009

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‘Biased’ report gives thumbs-up to Hondoq project

‘Yes to the Hondoq ir-Rummien Yacht Marina’. So ran the title to the summary of an environmental impact statement for the controversial Hondoq ir-Rummien marina, in Gozo.
Like this obvious title, several comments on the impact report compiled by Environment Management Design Planning (EMDP) have been removed after MEPA Natural Heritage Panel deemed them to be “biased” in favour of the marina project.
The report was prepared for Gozo Prestige Holidays Ltd, which wants to develop a marina, hotel and tourist complex in a derelict quarry at Hondoq.
MEPA’s natural heritage panel claimed EMDP’s statement had shown “a certain bias in [its] remarks,” referring specifically to the title of the non-technical summary which was deemed to be “most inappropriate” by the Panel.
The report claimed that the project “cannot and indeed should not be hidden” and that its visual impact would be “positive if all mitigation measures are strictly put in place”.
But the panel said such comments were “purely subjective opinions which have no place in an EIA report.”
In another section, the report recommended “a good public relations exercise” when it comes to dealing with mega-project’s visual impact.
The panel again said the suitability of such comments in an EIA report were “dubious”.
The panel’s objections later led EMDP to remove “comments which could possibly be interpreted as biased”.
But they defended themselves from the accusation of being biased insisting that their assessment was independent and conformed to international standards.
“Nevertheless it is important to note that impacts are to be assessed and a certain amount of judgement in such interpretation has to be involved,” the EIS coordinator replied. They also claimed that any such judgements were based on the conclusion of scientific reports.
The EIS was finalized in 2007 but is still being reviewed by MEPA. The natural heritage panel has however declared that, from a strictly natural heritage aspect, the negative impact of the project “outweighs the positive aspects.”
It warned that the project would generate large quantities of construction waste due to excavation, for which no disposal space was available in Gozo.
But it welcomed the fact that the quarry will be rehabilitated. “From a land-use point of view, the project will take up land which has already been damaged by quarrying, and if such a project is deemed indispensable for Gozo, it would be preferable to locate it on an already degraded site.”
However, it said the option of filling the disused quarry with the construction waste was only “superficially explored in the EIS”. On their part the consultants claimed that using the quarry to dump inert waste will increase the risk of dust being blown in to the sea.


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