Hundreds gathered in Valletta this morning to take part in the “Enough is enough” protest on the way the government is riding roughshod on environmental matters.
Nearly 60 non-governmental organisations have joined the main organisers, Graffitti, in a protest sparked after the government continues to ignore pleas to safeguard the environment.
Trees have been uprooted to make way for new roads and the widening of others, a situation that has spiralled out of control in spite of government reassurances that the some of the trees have been re-planted while other new ones will also be replacing the ones that were removed.
But the protest went beyond the defence of trees, as it also highlighted concern about excessive development. Many projects – huge and small – have been approved and are in the process of being constructed, leading to noise, pollution and traffic issues. There is also fear that new projects could cause damage to existing structures, as in fact has already happened with collapses of buildings in Pieta, Mellieha and Guardamangia in the past four months.
Many youths and people from all walks of life are taking part with banners and slogans. Activists wore dust masks and held colourful placards with messages against the exploitation of the environment.
Politicians were not allowed to join the civil society protest, and none were seen along the streets of Valletta.
Protestors gathered in front of the law courts and walked up Republic Street towards the Parliament building. Some protesters carried drums and others chanted messages against excessive development which is ruining the environment and causing health issues.
‘Today a new movement is born- those who are not afraid to say enough is enough’
Wayne Flask, activist and member of Moviment Graffitti one of the speakers during the protest reflected the destruction of the island’s environment due to the two major parties. “Don’t let those few individuals in power stop you from standing up for your rights and the environment.”
He said that the interest of the developers and parties is in filling their pockets with money, and that they have no interest in the citizens. “We are here in front of parliament to fight for our rights which are not being respected. The state should be taking care of our water, air and land, but they are not in favour of the environment, but instead their interested is towards those developers who want to fill their pockets.”
He stressed that today’s protest is not for nothing, and that as a population we must stop coming up with excuses and empathy, as this will only let those developers continue doing what they want to do.
Ramblers Association member Ingram Bondin continued on the notion as to why coming together was so important. “Instead of us being at home, locked up and frustrated, we are here in solidarity, together, against all that is happening on our island.” Ingrid said that the citizens of Malta cannot let the developers continue destroying the island’s identity. “We have a planning authority, yet why all this confusion? Our laws are designed to be faulty, so as to allow developers to get away with whatever they wish. This fight is not divided by colour, but is a common fight amongst us citizens. Everyone suffers when the environment suffers.”
“At 24 years old the island I knew as a child no longer exists”
Independent Zebbug Local councillor Steve Zammit Lupi spoke about how his locality drastically changed as he grew up, remembering a time when he could enjoy the green areas in different localities, many of which have now become areas of flats and construction sites. “I grew up being taught about sustainability and the importance of the environment, but now the environment is no longer a priority, and our government just throw buzzwords when discussing environmental issues.”
He expressed about how he decided to go up as an Independent local councillor in his locality and although he faced difficulty he was ready to take the necessary steps to work alongside people from different backgrounds to safeguard the environment of his locality.
“It is all well and good to plant trees in Comino and Ta Qali; but we want to plant trees in the areas where we live, in our roads and squares,” said Zammit Lupi.
Amongst protestors and members of NGO’s there were also the victims of the construction site collapses, which have left these individuals feeling helpless and upset as they were forced out of their homes.
Anthea Brincat, who lost her Guardamangia home in June expressed to the crowd how such destruction has left children, single parents and pensioners homeless. “I pass by my childhood home and remember my father screaming as the wall collapsed. The developers have more control over your own home and they have put us in the situation we are in now.” She said that the island is in a national crisis.
Anthea offered a minute of silence to fellow viticm, 77 year old Maggie Smith who died just two weeks ago, and two months after her Mellieha apartment crumbled.
“This is just the beginning and if people think we are going to stop protesting, we are here as a movement of residents in Malta who are fed up and do not know where their future is heading. We will not allow developers and partisan politicians run our country and continue to feed on money and power, we are standing up to Gasan, Tumas and all the other big developers,” said Andre Callus organiser and member of Moviment Graffiti.