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Authorities turn a blind eye to destruction of Gozo’s heritage, FAA says

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Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar on Friday deplored the lack of protection of archaeology in Gozo. In the midst of NGOs’ uphill struggle to have the context of Ġgantija protected, a construction site is being excavated close to the scheduled Santa Verna Temple buffer zone, it said in a statement.

In its report, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage attested that “There is a risk that ground disturbance in this area may uncover cultural heritage features” and imposed the condition “Any clearing or excavation works (including the removal of the existing flooring, soil and/or fill) are to be monitored by an archaeologist who has to be approved and directed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage… The discovery of cultural heritage features may require the amendment of approved plans and the rerouting of services.”

However in reality, the excavation works have exposed supposedly protected caves on the site, yet far from amending the approved plans, work is continuing unabated. The residents reported the presence of bones and pottery in the exposed subsoil and the lack of monitoring to assess the finds yet the excavation debris is being disposed of without being archaeologically examined, FAA said.

All attempts to report to the Planning Authority have been unsuccessful as the PA refused to send officers to inspect, claiming it only acts on infringement of plans and not of permit conditions. Similarly, approaches to the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage met with resistance as the SCH was more intent on protecting “the privacy rights of a private site” than on taking immediate action.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has become an authority shrouded in secrecy, refusing to reveal whether works of cultural heritage value are found on sites, or whether heritage features have been reported, as developers are legally bound to do.

FAA highlighted the fact that protection of cultural heritage is enshrined in both our constitution and the Cultural Heritage Act, 2002, which stipulates:
“Every citizen of Malta as well as every person present in Malta shall have the duty of protecting the cultural heritage. Cultural heritage is an asset of irreplaceable spiritual, cultural, social and economic value, and its protection and promotion are indispensable for a balanced and complete life. (3) The State in Malta shall have the duty of establishing and maintaining administrative regulatory structures of superintendence so as to ensure that this heritage is protected and conserved”

The works being undertaken, including the damage to the caves, are clearly a violation of this law, and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar urges the Police to investigate this case with urgency, before Gozo loses even more of its unique heritage.

Article Source: The Independent