News | Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Sustainability and Planning

Julian Zarb

It never ceases to amaze me whenever I browse through the blog comments for a particular daily newspaper here! Bloggers are faceless people (at times, I have to say it, they are also spineless!) and we are now resorting to comment about everything and everyone – as long as it is a case of bad mouthing and mud slinging. I would rather we said less, thought more and then speak once our brain is in gear!
At the start of this week we read about the fact that 1000 persons (a mere 0.25% of the total population of these islands) had actually objected to the enhancement of the City Gate area – the most likely chance in 60 years when we may just be close enough to see a complete overhaul of the pathetic site we call the “Entrance to Valletta”. Ever since the young and fiery Dom Mintoff dismantled the Opera House ruins (supposedly placing the stones in a safe place, carefully numbered) and allocating the money for its reconstruction to other projects, many a visitor and local has been faced with the sad remains that have been likened to some Roman Forum or Amphitheatre, added to this we even dismantled the colonial city gate (Kingsgate) to build a rather out-of-place edifice that could be more at home in some 1930’s Italian City than as part of a 16th Century walled town!
Over the years – more appropriately, over the centuries, we paid little respect to our built heritage and traditional culture, particularly, when we consider that our colonial masters in the past were more interested in their own needs than in building the character and Culture of a few inhabitants on an isolated and dry rock in the middle of the Mediterranean! But today, we realize, that as a nation we have survived and we have succeeded in building a strong island state that can boast of a hardworking and industrious resident population with a fairly high level of education compared to larger European states. So it should follow that we, at least, appreciate our own heritage and culture. Another reason why we should appreciate this heritage and culture is that it belongs to one of the smallest island states in Europe and the world and it should be easy for all of us to identify with its history.
The focus on sustainable development and the MEPA reform which is being implemented by the Government should help us to put into perspective the need to appreciate our Culture, Heritage and History without being too nostalgic, secular and subjective and more objective and rational about the substance – putting away those spectacles which criticize anything new and innovative and bemoaning anything which is old. I am all for creating living history and preserving our built and intangible heritage but we need to consider that this has to be LIVING history, this is not a static society, we should all look to improve our quality of life.
The important key words here are : Quality and Living and these have to be guided by the principles of sustainable development and serious planning regulations that are implemented – without exception or deviation – by an organization that respects the environment and the principles of sustainable planning. When we moved from a government planning department more than twenty years ago to an autonomous entity we knew it would not be easy, this is a parochial little island with plenty of paternalistic influence and autonomy between 400,000 inhabitants is not easy to exercise! Now we have a chance for a fresh start, we can learn from our past mistakes, but we need to realize that these last few years since MEPA was set up have not been
wasted – at least we have come to understand that our quality of life and heritage are important factors for us as a nation!


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27 January 2010


Malta Today


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