Archive for August 1st, 2011

Wied Inċita quarries in Ħ’Attard – my campaign continues…

August 1, 2011


Government perpetuating regulatory free-for-all in quarry industry, says AD

By Nestor Laiviera

 The lack of a regulatory framework keeping the quarry industry in check is allowing operators to defend transgressions and illegalities, says Alternattiva Demokratika.

“Government and parliament have never felt the need to introduce laws which set clearly the limits and parameters within which quarries can operate,” AD chairperson Michael Briguglio said.

As a result, he added, “quarry owners are allowed to hide behind the lack of legislation which regulates their industrial activity to the detriment of residents.”

He was speaking a few meters away from a quarry in Attard which Briguglio said was an example of government’s lack of regulation and enforcement which was negatively affecting the 300-some households in the immediate vicinity.

AD Attard Councillor Ralph Cassar said that the local council has been trying to draw the government’s attention to the lack of regulation for years. “This quarry is just one example of how this industry was given a laissez-faire remit.”

Cassar presented documentation revealing that the Attard quarry has three enforcement cases open against it for development infringements for building a bridge, wall, and various rooms without permits.

The documentation also showed outstanding enforcement cases against similar quarries in Zebbug (Wied Incita) over illegal developments such as removal of topsoil and excavations, construction of warehouses and reservoirs, and a brick plant.

None of the enforcement cases were ever enforced, Cassar said.

He added that “one need only mention the fact that, according to the police operation licence, quarry owners are obliged to start rehabilitating the area upon completion of rock excavation work,” gesturing towards the quarry area, which also featured a large mound of construction waste.

“Apart from that,” he said, “the quarry has also been allowed to store construction waste without any controls or enforcement procedures as to how this should be kept or stored. Like other quarries, there are also illegal structures.”

He criticised government for lacking the “political will” to address the problems caused by quarries operating outside a regulatory framework, or to try hold the operators accountable.

“I will let everyone decide why this is happening,” he said, declining however to comment further in this regard.

Cassar pointed to how government and parliament have never passed specific laws which regulated the operation of quarries. “There are such things ‘best practices’ in every industry,” Cassar said, adding that however “in Malta we do not even dream of them.”

He also said that in 2010, MEPA announced a new system of permits for quarries which would impose new and modern conditions on the operations of quarries, calling for the authority to be clear on what stage this system is currently at.

He slammed the authorities for “abandoning for both the people and the efforts of the local council” which had been working towards protecting the rights and welfare of the residents directly affected by the quarry’s operation.

Cassar said, when questioned or pressed for a regulatory framework, authorities would resort to excuses regarding MEPA’s new permit system, or how discussions are ongoing. “The time for discussions is over,” he stressed.

He added that the Attard Local Council had also presented a judicial protest against the quarry’s operators in a bid to take them to court and hold them accountable (Rainbow Concrete Mix Ltd, and Sand & Gravel Ltd) but “it is unclear what this will lead to.”

AD spokesperson for sustainable development and local government Carmel Cacopardo maintained how MEPA is duty-bound to ensure that the residential area is not negatively affected by the quarry.

He said that once MEPA approved residential development applications and issued permits that turned the area a residential area, it is duty-bound to regulate the operation of the quarry.

“The existence of this quarry so close to an inhabited area is unacceptable,” he said. “MEPA and its predecessor, the PAPB, should have taken the decision to close this quarry a long time ago when it was decided that this zone would be a residential area.

He added that the first building permits were issued in the 70s, and the rest of the area was subsequently built up over the 80s and 90s.

Several residents attending the press conference also complained of the dust emanated by the quarry, and how the quarry’s trucks often dropped bricks or other waste in the road which had to be removed by the residents themselves.

One resident complained at the bully-ish attitude presented by the quarry owners when approached to determine a solution for the issues, and how residents were stonewalled at every turn.