Tourism Minister Dr Francis Zammit Dimech speaks to DAVID LINDSAY about the long-overdue St George’s Bay development and the added value it is expected to bring to Malta’s ‘golden mile’ of hotels
Fresh off the drawing board after a year and a half of planning, and following up on the revamping of the Sliema and St Julian’s promenade, the Lm550,000 development plan for St George’s Bay is now seeing the light of day after being launched to the public on 20 February.
The project envisages metamorphosing St George’s Bay’s small strip of beach into a full blown sandy beach – via the importation of some 5,000 cubic metres of Jordanian sand – complete with a catering outlet, a kiosk, a deckchair rental gazebo and open showers.
The project will effectively transform St George’s Bay into what will be the only sandy beach in the northern harbours district, with untold benefits to Malta’s tourism industry.
It is this potential for tourism, Malta’s strongest economic sector, that led the Tourism Ministry to plan, spearhead and ensure the implementation of the groundbreaking project.
Interviewed by MaltaToday this week, Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech emphasised that, despite being championed by the Tourism Minister, the development has been a multilateral effort.
He explains, “This has been very much a joining of forces in an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry for Tourism together with the Malta Tourism Authority. Having said that, we have also we have also managed to bring a number of different players together - particularly the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the Ministry for Resources and Infrastructure, which will be carrying out part of the project, and the Roads Directorate and Malta Maritime Authority within the Ministry for Transport and Communications.
“I am very proud of the team we have managed to put together, which has handled the project in a very professional manner in all respects. By ‘professional manner’, I mean bringing in different experts to deal with different aspects of the project – such as sand quality and the ecological effect of the sand on the bay, determining what kind of sand we need to import and the planning of the eventual beach management and project management procedures.”
Phase one of the project, which includes the sand replacement, water culvert and drainage system works, is expected to be completed before July this year.
Commenting that the project is long-overdue, Dr Zammit Dimech adds, “We have stated many times as government that St George’s Bay was, in a sense, the next project on the product line following the embellishments of the promenades as we have done in Sliema, St Julian’s and even Paceville. The St George’s Bay project was the next logical step.”
Asked how he sees value being added to the area’s numerous hotels, catering and entertainment establishments, Dr Zammit Dimech explains, “There will be tremendous added value, not least because St George’s is the bay sitting right next to what we call our golden mile of hotels. As such, all the various hotels and leisure outlets in the area will all be able refer to the fact that there is a proper and well-managed sandy beach right next to their establishment.
“This added value will be strengthened further through the fact that the beach will be well managed. We will also be issuing a call for the beach’s proper management, eventually moving to blue flag status. The beach will also eventually hold a catering outlet within its confines and a kiosk - making sure they are within very precise parameters within very precise delineation zones. Standards of quality are also paramount in this project and we intend to enforce them.”
The sand chosen for the beach was only approved after an extensive selection process and a Jordanian company, Safi Dead Sea Products, has been contracted for the supply. The company had won the tender after 11 quarries and 19 sand samples were considered.
According to Dr Zammit Dimech, “It had to be a particular type of sand that incorporates granite material because of the colour scheme we were after. The sand also had to be of a particular size, heavier and larger than what we are normally used to because of the characteristics of the beach and to ensure that the sand does not immediately sift back into the sea. The sand also needed to be from a land-based source in order to ensure it would be totally clean and would not introduce any species that are alien to the area.”
At a price of Lm200,000 the Jordanian sand will be shipped to Malta in bags with the capacity of one cubic metre to prevent spillage.
In what must bring back memories of his days as environment minister, Dr Zammit Dimech adds, “All the necessary ecological studies were also carried including studies of the beach area, the sea, the possedonia, the gradient, and the type of sand required to match the characteristics of these elements.
“We also carried out mathematical modelling of the waves and the interaction between the waves, the possedonia and the beach area and the impact of the new beach on the surrounding area. We went into all these areas and now we’re ready to go!”
The St George’s bay development also falls in line with the general regeneration of Paceville. I ask Dr Zammit Dimech how these initiatives have been welcomed by the area’s private enterprises.
“We’ve had an excellent response,” Dr Zammit Dimech comments, visibly enthused. “We launched the initiative last week together with the people in the industry themselves – the owners and managers of hotels, the leisure facilities, restaurants and night clubs – where they were given an extensive presentation by the experts themselves.
“All attending the launch had the opportunity to make comments and suggestions and I am very pleased to say that they are all very much on board and in favour of the project. I also have to say there has been total co-operation from the St Julian’s Local Council and I want to thank them for that as well.”
Phase one of the project will kick off toward the middle of next month and will see the replacement of the sand at St George’s Bay and works on the bay’s drainage system and water culverts.
This initial phase is expected to be concluded before July this year and will resume once again in October, for final completion for summer 2005.
This interview appeared originally in our sister paper, MaltaToday, last Sunday.