Marsascala residents, NGOs want EU support

The proposed project would turn Marsascala Bay into a yacht marina. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Hundreds of Marsascala residents have written to the European Commission in their bid to stop plans to develop a yacht marina in the village’s bay.

The residents are seeking an inquiry into the proposals, which they argue breach several EU regulations aimed at combating pollution and protecting marine life.

Signed by 700 individuals and eight Maltese organisations, the letter argued that the planned marina breaches the EU Habitats Directive and other conventions and protocols.

Dated December 27, 2021, but only made public yesterday, the letter was sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, with EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius and European Parliament Acting President Roberta Metsola copied in.

“We call on the European Commission to step in and support us in our struggle to preserve Marsascala Bay by inviting the government of Malta to withdraw its plans to develop a yacht marina in Marsascala Bay,” they wrote.

The yacht marina plans were brought to light last year after Transport Malta published a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), soliciting bidders for the massive project. Following public uproar, Transport Malta argued that the plans were not final but insisted that the 2006 local plans earmarked the bay for a marina development.

Objectors have noted that Malta has become dramatically more populated since 2006, with the bay being one of the country’s dwindling number of open spaces. Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has argued that the country needs an additional marina because the number of pleasure boats has mushroomed.
Marsascala’s Labour-led local council is opposing the plans, as is the Nationalist Party.

In their letter to the European Parliament, residents and NGOs listed a series of concerns they have about the proposal.

Chief among them is the survival of a Natura 2000 protected area known as ‘il-Magħluq’, which includes two types of habitat and one fish species, the Mediterranean killifish (il-Bużaqq), which are protected by the EU’s Habitats Directive, as well as a critically endangered species, the European eel and another protected habitat, Posidonia meadows.

All risk being annihilated by the marina plans, which will introduce water pollution, alter water flow and light penetration and require breakwaters and chemical anti-fouling agents, the objectors noted.

Objectors have also based their arguments against the marina on the fact that the project would run contrary to the EU’s climate change goals and its much-vaunted European Green Deal.

The letter was signed by Ann Bugeja, who serves as president of the Marsacala Residents’ Network.
It is backed by the following organisations: Marsascala Residents’ Network; Moviment Graffitti; Nature Trust Malta; Din l-Art Ħelwa; Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar; Friends of the Earth Malta; Rota; and the Archaeological Society Malta.

As per The Sunday Times of Malta, 16 January 2022