Wayne Flask

Author Translator Music Writer Public Annoyance

Dry County

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L-artiklu oriġinali li ktibt u mbagħad qassart sabiex deher fuq it-Times tal-Ħamis, 7 ta’ Awissu, u li tista’ ssib billi ssegwi dan il-link.

Josie Muscat (Promises on Marsascala, 30th July) has finally woken up to smell the ‘morning coffee’.

Residents of Marsascala have had to put up with an acrid aroma for the last ten years or so, although this odour is only partly generated by the monument donated to the people of Marsascala by Wasteserv. Or as the leaflets refer to it, the Waste Treatment Plant.
Says Dr Muscat in his letter, “one day this nation will finally wake up to the fact that electoral manifestos have become highly imaginative exercises.” So far so good, weren’t it for the following assertion, “that is why they say a nation gets the government it deserves”.
Now, I hope this credo does not apply to local government, because I would wonder where the people of Marsascala have got it so drastically wrong to deserve such a lethargic local council.
Dr Muscat was elected to the council after an encouraging, visionary campaign. But as time passed, it seemed Dr Muscat was busier planning refugee airlifts to Brussels and making other imaginative exercises, such as shutting down the Waste Treatment Plant.
After a long, deafening silence, he has now decided to speak out, but he has only touched a small part of the big sore that afflicts our town.
For years, we have been witnessing the slow decay of this tranquil little seaside village. I am frankly surprised that very few people have had the gall to speak out, aside from some resident association or other, who, without political backing, found the struggle uphill. Some issues are taken for granted, I suspect.
For example, there is not a single decent road leading to Marsascala. The bypass leading from Zabbar, built by some engineering genius in the eighties, is in a horrific state, comparable to a desert track in the Malian desert. True, there are (were?) government funds allotted to the renovation of this primary artery. To drive the point home, ADT set up a billboard along this road. This has stood there for more than a year, so much that the colour of the print has faded from white into a sickly yellow. The billboard itself is bent forwards, the structure unable to bear the weight of that forgotten promise.
As time went by, most of us have given up our vehicles in favour of camels, as the lethargy seems to spread to neighbouring villages: from Marsascala to tal-Barrani, passing from Zabbar (especially the notorius Triq tac-Cawsli) and Bulebel, all passages are one lane roads with a host of craters. Overtaking is unthinkable, alternative routes are no option either.
This, Josie, is how we go to work every single morning. Try asking the commuters from Marsascala, Zabbar, Cottonera, who drudge through this frustration, rain or shine, from 6.30am onwards.
Which brings me to the once thorny issue of morning coffee and the Waste Treatment Plant. Some arguments presented by authorities to us residents simply defy logic. Quoting from an interview with Wasteserv’s CEO, Vince Magri to a local newspaper in 2005:
“As for the increased volume of traffic that will be passing through Marsaskala and other localities in the vicinity, Magri argues the impact would be negligible.”
There is a misconception. If 200,000 tonnes of waste were to be transferred to Marsaskala, traffic would increase by around three per cent. With only 71,000 tonnes being transferred to Marsaskala the impact of traffic is expected to be much less.”
Mr Magri conveniently forgot that traffic volume and congestion are not the same issue. From Tal-Barrani to Marsascala via Bulebel and Zabbar, a single truck takes more time than a Sherman tank to roll through this magnificent network of roads, and with a host of traffic lights and craters to dribble, the congestion is unbearable. Try sticking behind a refuse truck from Bulebel to Marsascala. You will notice the misconception, dear Mr Magri, fails to appear to us common mortals who drive to and from Marsascala everyday, hardly hitting third gear before we get to Marsa. So much for your maths!
In all of this, local councils and political parties seem to be hand in glove. Perhaps our mayor, Mario Calleja, can take time off glorifying himself on One News for mediating petty squabbles between the parish priest and the restaurant association on some outdoor concert, and concentrate on the serious issues.
I will never forget the day when Carmel Cacopardo, an unknown AD candidate this side of the island, held a tiny press conference at the entrance of the Waste Treatment Plant, amidst the din of trucks passing us by. Seemingly, there was a host of irregularities during the process for the plant’s expansion.
Where was Mario Calleja, that afternoon, was he too busy watching the demarcation line set by his party? Where was Josie Muscat, was he too afraid of being seen with the green liberal enemy? Where was the Malta Labour Party, who enjoys the lion’s share of votes in the area, yet consistently fails to stick up for the constituents? Where was the new generation of Nationalist environmentalists?
Chastising Carmel Cacopardo for unethical behaviour was akin to telling residents that they were eavesdropping top secret government business, and that really, all the infractions in the Sant’Antnin application process are just a secondary issue brought up by vote-craving greenies.
The politicians’ unflinching commitment to us residents is there for all to see.
But, as I said, Sant’Antnin is not the only scourge. The closing down of Jerma spelt the death knell not just to a hotel, but to a landmark of Marsascala.
Mario Calleja once had a vision to transform Marsascala in a Portofino of sorts, as he had spelled out in one his mailouts before the last local elections. I am still looking for the Portofino, but all I can find are potholes, cranes, trucks, and a general shabbiness all round. Nor has the fishfarms issue been resolved.
* * *
I much welcomed the initiative to reform local councils by 2015, and the invitation to suggest changes. I will make my primary suggestions public, if you don’t mind.
First of all: do away with political parties contesting the elections. We already have a fair share of the parties’ shenanigans at a national level. I fail to understand the merits of creating local governance only to allow party polarisation to interfere in daily, local issues. My second proposition: encourage neighbourhood associations and NGO’s to take part in local governance.
Someone has finally taken notice, at last, and like most others I feel better about the Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna taking over at Fort St Thomas.
That said, Marsascala desperately needs a facelift.
Yes Josie, it stinks indeed, and not just for the tourists. The residents can smell the acidic odour too, from miles away, and it has very little to do with the EU funded treatment plant. It’s the smell of lethargy, incompetence, and political opportunism that irks us.

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