Appreciation: Joe Sultana

September 14, 2018
Friday, September 14, 2018, 07:24

Alfred E. Baldacchino, 
General Secretary 1974-86, Malta Ornithological Society, writes

I met Joe Sultana when I was in my late 20s, through the Teens and Twenties Talent Trust – 4T’s, where I was committed. Eventually I sat on the committee of the Malta Ornithological Society (MOS), the first few months as PRO and later as the general secretary.

We became great friends and worked together for the better appreciation and conservation of birds. It was no easy task, especially during those early times when one had to hide one’s binoculars when out bird watching.

But Joe was determined, focused and had a dream, a dream which was so contagious.

All the bird lovers at that time got this bug. There were difficult times, with threats and also bullying. But under the guidance of Joe we marched on, through thick and thin all with one aim: the protection and better appreciation of birds as an international heritage.

As a nation we are responsible for such a natural heritage which we share with others especially during migration.

From a handful of members, the society grew not just in numbers but also in stature: international contacts, ornithological studies, educational activities all leading to a stronger, public awareness on birds. Joe was instrumental in establishing bird ringing studies through overseas contacts. Scientific papers slowly became part of the MOS work. Publications, from simple stickers, pamphlets to books were published to further increase the scientific and popular awareness by the general public.

Unfortunately, these were seen by some as a threat.

Politicians were not always helpful and neither were the religious entities during those times. But Joe was optimistic, he was not easily discouraged, and his leadership was instrumental in achieving such a noble, social, ecological, dream. Yes, he was.

Like him or hate him, one can never ignore or forget the vision, determination and unstinting dedicated work Joe gave to ornithology and its appreciation. Not only so but today one can never forget Joe Sultana in the world of ornithology.

Although Joe’s leadership gathered many admirers, none the less, there was no lack of enemies.

For 12 whole years, there was rarely a day when we were not in contact discussing and arguing the way ahead. Twelve years during which I learnt a lot from Joe, not only in the field of ornithology, but also in getting closer to achieving one’s dream.

After 12 years we drifted apart, though our aims and efforts towards the better appreciation of birds and nature were never dented. Each was contributing in his own way.

A look at the social media today reveals without any doubt the fruit of Joe’s dream.

The ever-increasing public awareness for the need of better protecting birds, and the professional photographing of birds in their natural habitat spell it all.

Professional photos of birds taken locally can rival others from overseas. It is not just the satisfaction of the stronger public outcry or the photos per se but the fact that during Joe’s early involvement in bird protection, these protected birds were not only butchered beyond any sense of imagination or reasoning, but also publicised as trophies in the mass media.

Surely the greatest satisfaction of all is that some of the professional photos are taken by the same finger which in the not so distant past pulled another kind of trigger. It did take almost half a century, but collective efforts have finally established a permanent basis to make Joe’s dream a reality.

While extending my condolences to Lucy, Mark and Ruth, Joe’s wife, son and daughter, I would also like to thank him for giving so much towards the birds of Malta and also for the many experiences we shared together working for the better appreciation and protection of nature.

Without doubt these have been of great help to me in my life.

Until we meet again, goodbye Joe.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Getting to know Maltese indigenous trees

January 4, 2022

Alfred E Baldacchino

Tuesday 4th January, 2022

The University of Malta’s Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences (PLAS) is an excellent opportunity for personal and professional development. You may apply for any and as many Units as you wish from the broad range of PLAS Units on offer.

PLAS Units consist of weekly evening lectures between 18:00 and 20:00, normally spread over 14 weeks.  Each study unit is of 4 ECTS which involves between 20 to 28 contact hours.

Timetable Semester 2 of the academic year 2021/2 (Updated 26/11/21)

Apply now

Among the units being offered is one on getting to know indigenous trees. Below is a brief description of this unit.

Applications for such courses are now open and  these will remain open till 25 January 2022.

Lectures will start in the week commencing 14 February 2022

The course will run for 14 weeks. so if you are interested in getting to know more on our indigenous trees, all you have to do is to fill in the application. The courses will be conducted in English.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


A budget with a tinge of green

October 16, 2021

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Some call this budget a green budget. Admittedly, it has a tinge of green, which, if professionally implemented, could perhaps start to support the environment after the assault, neglect and exploitation of the past years.

The management of Natura 2000 sites is also referred to. Photo: Shutterstock.com
The management of Natura 2000 sites is also referred to. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Among the biodiversity topics mentioned was the repair of rubble walls in Gozo. Such a restoration of natural habitats will definitely be a step forward. But not if these are built like those by Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg, where they are anything but rubble walls: a concrete column with a façade of rubble stones, covered with concrete slabs on top.

A professionally built rubble wall in Wied Għasri Gozo

The management of Natura 2000 sites is also referred to. One hopes that the management will be in accordance with the plans drawn up with the help of EU funds and approved by the environment minister on December 14, 2016.

Our adherence to the EU Habitat Directive had to be in place six years after accession. If this were the case, the disaster on Comino and the ecological deterioration of Buskett would not have taken place.

One can still hope that something can finally come out of this budget to halt the poor state that Natura 2000 sites are in.

The Inwadar afforestation in Marsascala had made the headlines before the budget. The idea is positive but it can harm biodiversity if not biologically planned, as meticulously explained by biologist Justin Cauchi in this newspaper on October 5.

Invasive species were also mentioned in the budget. With hindsight, one cannot be very optimistic here. The resolution of the Bern Convention regards imported indigenous trees as invasive when planted in rural areas because of their negative impact on the gene pool of the local species. The boasting by Borg about thousands of imported indigenous trees speaks for itself.

The Ta’ Qali national park is another good idea if the ecological and social aspects are given priority over commercial interests. This project is also under the responsibility of Borg. Can one be optimistic when concrete rules the day in this ministry’s projects? 

The restoration of gardens was also included in the budget, specifically San Anton Gardens and Romeo Romano Gardens. These too can contribute to more awareness, protection and education about Maltese biodiversity, only if the works are orientated towards biodiversity and are not commercially driven.

 

This is an election budget, isn’t it? – Alfred Baldacchino

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is remains-of-mastic-tree.jpg
The remains of a mature lentisk at San Anton Garden, managed by ELC

Following the management of San Anton Gardens by the Environment Landscaping Consortium, when wild species growing in this garden ‒ such as the indigenous lentisk ‒ were butchered, one hopes that this won’t be repeated. In reality, the restoration can be accomplished without the need of uprooting one single tree.

Again, one has to wait and see with fingers crossed that landscapers will not be involved in the restoration.

One would have hoped that, following the surge in public awareness on the use of indigenous trees propagated from local stock, the environment ministry would be financially helped to set up its own nursery, where local indigenous flora would be propagated, both for conservation and education purposes, with the possibility of leading to a new industry and where local workers across the board will be offered opportunities of training in such ecologically sensitive areas, as they are overseas.

The incentives for organic and carbon farming for conversion through agroforestry and the availability of ‘new’ water for such aims can also be positive from a social and ecological aspect.

Some may ask why there are such doubts about such ‘greening’. One remembers the Labour Party billboards before the 2013 election, assuring everyone “so the environment truly becomes a priority”.

Since then, we have experienced a biodiversity onslaught: hundreds of trees, some mature and protected, were decimated with ERA’s permits;  thousands of imported ‘indigenous’ trees were planted; valleys were covered in concrete with the help of EU funds; rubble walls were destroyed to be replaced with artificially commercial concrete ones, also with EU funds. One cannot forget the ‘endemic’ imported seeds too. Once bitten, twice shy is most appropriate here.

But let us not be pessimistic and try to wait and see. After all this is an election budget isn’t it?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

The environment is anything but a priority as promised.

 

Related articles

 

Embarrassing ‘endemic’ seeds – Alfred Baldacchino

A tree, a Minister and the EU

The environmental destruction of Malta

 

 


On solar panels’ blackout

September 23, 2021

Thursday, 23 September, 2021

Alfred E Baldacchino


The application for the development of a solar farm on agricultural land at Tar-Ragħad, Mġarr, has sent shockwaves through those who put environmental, ecological, social and economic issues before short-sighted commercial projects.

The three-megawatt photovoltaic plant would take up 43,303m² of what is described as “empty plot of land currently not being used” and “dominated by flat fields”.

Photo: Shutterstock.com/Times of Malta

The Planning Authority screening datasheet shows that trees will be cut down and rubble walls altered or demolished for the project.

It also confirms that the principal use of the site, which lies in an ODZ, is agricultural. The panels will cover greenhouses, also constructed as part of the project.

How can glasshouses be productive if they are covered by solar panels? One hopes that both the PA and the ERA boards can see through this gimmick.

Looking at the section on environmental impacts and mitigation measures in the project description report, the aesthetic, ecologic, economic, social and hydrologic impacts of the project are conspicuous by their absence. This is only to be expected when impacts and mitigation measures are drafted by the applicant.

The PA screening data states that the development does not necessitate trenching of a connection to the potable water distribution network or sewage system but it has conveniently ignored that the area will be covered by 6,023 photovoltaic modules of 500 watts each. This will contribute substantially to water run-off from the site, which “will be disposed of in the street” and find itself in the sea or in the sewer system. And it will prevent the absorption of rainwater by the soil to supplement the water table. These hidden costs will be borne by society and the ecosystem.

The solar panel cover will have a detrimental impact on the ecosystem, as will the removal of trees and alteration of rubble walls– Alfred Baldacchino

The solar panel cover will have a detrimental impact on the ecosystem, as will the removal of trees and alteration of rubble walls, both natural habitats. This will lead to biodiversity loss in an ODZ, something which ERA is entrusted to ensure does not happen, in line with Malta’s EU obligations. No reference whatsoever is made to these factors in the project development report. These hidden costs will have to be borne by society and the ecosystem.

Aesthetically, the impact of such an expanse of reflecting material seems of no concern to the PA, ERA or the person who drafted the report. No studies in this field have been undertaken either.

These panels will affect both residents and wildlife from wherever the panels are visible, by day and night, another hidden cost to be borne by society and biodiversity.

What about the economic aspect of the project? The PA confirms that the area is “mainly used for agriculture”. The report highlights that the footprint is composed “of plots of land currently not being used”. How can the fields be used if the owners of the land have not allowed the farmers to continue using them? And how will the products which were, or which can be produced, from these fields impact prices on the local market? Has the PA studied the loss of revenue to farmers and the increase in price to consumers compared to the profits to be made from the solar farm?

Without a doubt, solar panels are beneficial and essential but not at such a cost to society, ecology and the economy.

Our urban roofs are quite adaptable to the use of solar panels. There are so many official buildings, such as schools and car parks, which can accommodate far more solar panels than those being proposed to obliterate agricultural land in Mġarr.

The PA should not use only its economic ruler for its decisions. If the PA has any planning vision – social, ecological, environmental, economic and aesthetic – it would rise to its obligations in the interests of the whole country.

Why is it not obligatory for new buildings to have solar panels on their roofs? Some may argue that this would make these buildings more expensive for the construction industry. Is the PA only interested in accommodating this sector to the detriment of the environment, biodiversity, hydrology and society that are shouldering all the hidden costs?

One hopes that both ERA and the PA will fulfil their responsibilities in the interest of all stakeholders and take into consideration the burdens they may inflict on society and the environment by their decision.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


Guido Lanfranco

September 12, 2021

Appreciation

Guido Lanfranco

 

 

Alfred E Baldacchino

Saturday 11th September 2021

18 October 1930 – 8 September 2021

Guido Lanfranco, is in the heart of all Maltese and Gozitans who have a love for their country, a love for the local biodiversity, and an interest in all that is Maltese. A man who can never be forgotten, even by those who do not cherish the love he had for nature and the well-being of these islands.

Despite difficult times in his younger days, Guido had the determination and the strong will to get in touch with the richness of the natural wonders of these islands. Not only so but, he used such knowledge to teach and create a public awareness of such a rich heritage.

His efforts starting from a very young age towards the importance of biodiversity from an ecological, economical, social and spiritual aspects, without doubt show that he was already practicing the principles embraced in Pope Francis encyclical Laudato Sí more than 50 years before it was conceived.

Almost single handed, he embarked on a mission to show how rich our natural heritage is. He also underlined the responsibility we have to protect, conserve and manage it. Despite the insular perception dictating that what does not contribute to economic yields is of no importance; despite the fact that what is found of interest and of beauty has to be picked up, collected or shot to be carried home; and despite the fact that such negative impacts to our natural heritage is politically capitalised on, Guido never looked back from his ideal and with conviction and determination moved on, for the good of the country.

His efforts starting from a very young age towards the importance of biodiversity from an ecological, economical, social and spiritual aspects, without doubt show that he was already practicing the principles embraced in Pope Francis encyclical Laudato Sí more than 50 years before it was conceived. 

But this was not enough for Guido in his determination to work for the benefit of the people of the Maltese islands. In 1962 he founded the Natural History Society of Malta, today known as Nature Trust. In the same year he co-founded the Malta Ornithological Society, today known as BirdLife Malta. He served as President for both societies for a number of years. He was also President of the International Council for Bird Preservation – Malta.

Following his research and accumulation of knowledge on the flora and fauna, folklore, and geology of the Maltese islands, Guido wrote a number of scientific publications, in popular language. Besides serving as a stepping stone for further research, his publications are also a mine of information to all others who want to enhance their knowledge and get acquainted with our natural heritage and our responsibility for its conservation.

Borrowing a leaf from Orpheus In the Underworld, Guido’s wife Salvina wrote: “he is gone and gone forever… all our love alas is gone… rest in peace, from all of us”.

Yes, physically Guido is no longer with us, but his research, his teachings, his love and passion for what is Maltese, his vision will never be forgotten. No, they can never be forgotten. His teachings will remain with us forever. We are indebted to him for leading the way towards the appreciation and the need for conservation of flora and fauna, and for what is Maltese. He has shown one and all the responsibility we bear for the natural wonders we have been entrusted with by future generations.

No bronze medal can fully show our indebtedness. Full gratitude to Guido will be shown when we put in practice what he has taught us. Only when we shoulder such responsibility towards biodiversity can we show our gratitude to Guido for his lifelong dedication and efforts.

Thank you Guido. Others you have enlightened will without doubt carry on with the noble aims you have instilled in them. Rest in peace.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Ħarsa lejn ir-rwol u l-bżonn tan-naħla Maltija

September 3, 2021

it-Tlieta 31 ta’ Awwissu, 2021

Anthea Cachia

“Jekk ma jkunx hemm rispett lejn il-biodiversità għalxejn li wieħed jibki”

M’għandna ebda dubju li kull persuna u ħlejqa fuq din id-dinja għandha r-rwol tagħha. Ir-reliġjon tidetta li r-rwol ewlieni tagħna bħala bniedem huwa li nirriproduċu. L-opinjoni fuq din il-fehma ivarja minn kull individwu, speċjalment issa li ngħixu ħajja aktar libera u moderna. Iżda, għan-naħal dan huwa stat ta’ fatt.

“In naħal huwa insett soċjali, jiġifieri jgħix f’kolonja mmexxija minn reġina. L-għan naturali tiegħu huwa li jibni xehda fejn ikabbar il-kolonja biex ikompli jnissel l-ispeċi. Biex jagħmel dan, joħroġ jirgħa fuq il-fjuri fejn hemm jiġbor l-għasel tal-fjuri, in-nektar, kif ukoll l-għabra tad-dakra, il-pollen. Dawn jużawhom biex jaħżnu l-ikel f’forma ta’ għasel biex jitma’ kemm lir-reġina kif ukoll lid-duqqajs, kif ukoll biex jibni x-xehda tax-xema.” Hekk spjegalna Alfred Baldacchino, ambjentalist.

Baldacchino tkellem ma’ L-ORIZZONT fejn stqarr li l-bniedem sa mill-qedem għaraf il-bżonn u l-importanza tan-naħal, tant li anke llum insibu wħud li jkabbru n-naħal.

“Jintużaw qollol u kaxxex biex il-kolonji tan-naħal ikunu jistgħu jiżdiedu. Meta dawn jagħmlu l-għasel ġox-xehda, il-bniedem jieħu parti minn dan l-għasel anke għal raġunijiet kummerċjali. Dan minħarra li l-għasel jintuża ħafna għall-għanijiet mediċinali,” qal Alfred.

Fatturi li jwassal għall-qerda.

Meta mistoqsi jekk dawn il-ħlejjaq humiex mhedda, bla eżitazzjoni qal “iva u dan bla dubju jwassal għal riżultati kbar u koroh, kemm fil-qasam ekoloġiku, f’dak soċjali kif ukoll f’dak ekonomiku.”

Huwa elenka li l-akbar theddida ġejja minn dawk il-fatturi kollha li jwasslu għall-qerda tal-ambjent u għal dan huwa qasam dawn it-theddid fi tlieta.

In-naħal f’pajjiżna mhux tallli mhux aħjar minn dak ta’ pajjiżi oħra imma b’sogħba kbira wieħed jgħid li huwa agħar.

l-ewwel waħda hija proprju dwar il-qerda mill-bniedem tal-ekosistema, “meta jqaxxar u jeqred il-flora indiġena u salvaġġa li jirgħa fuqha n-naħal.” Spjega wkoll kif kontributur ieħor għall-qerda tal-ekosistema huwa l-kimika, “għaliex m’hemmx kuxjenza edukattiva biżżejjed biex wieħed jara li dak li ħafna jħarsu lejh bħal ħaxix ħażin, huwa s-sisien tal-għajxien tan-naħal u insetti oħra”

Baldacchino jgħid ukoll li t-tbdil fil-klima, li qiegħda teskala b’rata mgħaġġla, mhux qiegħed jagħti biżżejjed ħin lill-biodiversità biex tilqa’ l-bidliet estensivi li ġġib magħha u b’hekk flora u fawna jinqerdu wkoll.

Punt ieħor li qajjem dan l-ambjentalist huwa wieħed li ta’ xejn nikkunsidraw bħala parti l-qerda tal-biodiversità Maltija: id-dħul ta’ speċi oħra li jiġu minn barra minn Malta. Dawn jistgħu jkunu saħansitra naħal iżda ma jkunux tal-istess speċi bħal dik li nsibu fil-gżejjer Maltin u għaldaqstant idgħajfu l-ispeċi tan-naħla tagħna. Jista’ jagħti l-każ li jkunu speċi oħra għedewwa għan-naħal Maltin jew inkella jġibu xi mard magħhom.

“Dan anke minħabba ċ-ċokon tal-pajjiż. It-tibdil fil-klima ma nistgħux naħarbuh minnha. Il-bexx bla rażan, bla ebda raġuni xjentifika u bil-ħsieb biss ta’ qligħ tal-flus, żgur li ma jgħinx. Il-qerda ambjentali f’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna wkoll twassal għall-qerda tan-naħal, flora u fawna oħra Maltija,” qal Baldacchino.

Naħla fuq il-fjura ta’ siġra tal-lewż.

Id-dinja mingħajr in-naħal, hija possibbli li tibqa’ l-istess?

“In-naħal huwa l-qofol tal-għajxien tal-biodiversità għaliex mingħajr ix-xogħol tiegħu, flimkien ma’ insetti dakkara oħra, jgħinu biex il-flora tkompli toktor, tinfirex, tiżdied u tissaħħaħ,” wieġeb l-ambjentalist.

Bħal ma spjega qabel, in-nuqqas tagħhom mhux biss iwassal għal eradikazzjoni tal-flora iżda jonqsu ukoll, “dawk li jgħinu u jwieżnu l-bniedem bl-ikel ta’ kuljum. Il-frott li llum insibu fuq il-mejda għall-ikel, bħal ngħidu aħna tuffieħ, larinġ, bettieħ, ħawħ, għeneb, u oħrajn huma kollha riżultat tar-ragħa tan-naħal meta dan idakkar il-fjuri tagħhom biex ikunu jistgħu jagħmlu l-frotta,” qal Alfred.

Bla dubju, jekk in-naħal jiġu estinti il-pilastri tas-sostenabilità, l-aspett soċjali, ekonomiku u ekoloġiku jikkrollaw. “Dik ekonomika minħabba n-nuqqas ta’ ikel u għalhekk żieda fil-prezzijiet fis-suq. Dik soċjali, minħabba n-nuqqas ta’ ikel naturali, li sussegwentement iwassal għal impatt fuq id-dieta differenti għall bniedem. Minn-naħa l-oħra, dik ekoloġika kawża tat-tiċrita ekoloġika: ambjent bla ħajja, bla fjuri salvaġġi, nieqes minn fawna, għeri minn kull ħajja, bla ruħ.”

X’nistgħu nagħmlu bħala ċittadini biex nissalvagwardjaw in-naħal u nipprevenju milli jsiru estinti?

Jgħid li l-ewwel pass huwa li l-bniedem għandu jifhem u jaċċetta li huwa ukoll parti mis-sistema ekoloġika u għalqastant dak li jiġri fl-istess ekosistema, jolqot lilu wkoll. “Ħu mit-tibdil tal-klima. Għalkemm hawn minn din qiegħed isejħilha fake news ukoll.”

Żied jgħid li t-tieni pass huwa li jekk ma jkunx hemm apprezzament u rispet lejln il-biodiversità u l-bżonn tal-ħarsien tagħha għall-għixien tal-ħolqien, inkluż dak tal-bniedem, huwa għalxejn li wieħed joqgħod jibki.

“Tweġġagħni ħafna meta nisma’ li x-xagħri hija kollha art moħlija, meta x-xagħri huwa l-akbar ambjent naturali sinjur fil-gżejjer Maltin, tant imfittex minn-naħal, l-aktar dak fejn jinsab is-sagħtar.”

Sostna li diġà qegħdin naraw il-prezz qares li l-bniedem qiegħed ikollu jħallas minħabba dan in-nuqqas ta’ għarfien fil-qasam tal-ħarsien tal-biodiversità.

Il-fjura tax-xewk abjad hija tant infittxa min-naħal.

Aktar kemm il-biodiversità tingħata bis-sieq, aktr il-prezz se jikber, sakemm ma jkunx hemm biex jitħallas.

B’passjoni liema bħala huwa jtemm jgħid li jrid ikun hemm ir-rieda soda u l-viżjoni li l-biodiversità għandha prezz u valur ekonomiku kbir ħafna tant li ma nistgħux ninjorawh. “Il-bniedem irid jiddeċiedi jekk iridx li l-aġir tiegħu huwa lest li jċarrat din in-nisġa naturali… li artna hija mżejjen biha.”


Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 11 – Il-fejġel

August 22, 2021

Soċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija – Mosta

15 ta’ Awwissu, 2021

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Il-fejġel hija pjanta indiġena, frekwenti fil-gżejjer Maltin, jiġifieri pjanta li ilha tikber fil-gżejjer Maltin minn qabel il-bniedem rifes fuq dawn il-gżejjer.

Hi tiflaħ għall-ambjent kiefer, bħal ngħidu aħna irjieħ kiesħa, jew nixfa, u tghix minn sena għal oħra. Hija tgħoxa f’ħamrija fqira u tkun fl-aqwa tagħha fix-xemx, tal-anqas għal 6 jew 7 sigħat kuljum f’ħamrija li ma żżomx ilma. Tant li meta jkollha ħafna ilma tmut.

Il-fejġel tikber kważi kullimkien, imma l-aħjar ambjenti li tħobb huma f’postijiet kennija u niexfa.

Il-fejġel tħaddar is-sena kollha, f’għamla ta’ siġra baxxa b’ħafna friegħi, minflok zokk oħxon u wiesa’. Minkejja dan, iz-zokk tagħha fil-qiegħ tiegħu huwa tal-injam. Il-fejġel tgħola minn 20 sa 60 ċm fuq zokk li jkun lixx mingħajr ebda suf jew lanżit.

Il-werqa jkollha għonq kemmxejn twil u madwar 1.5 mm wiesa’ bil-ġnub dritt. Din tkun 1.5 darbiet itwal milli tkun wiesgħa, u tkun wiesgħa l-aktar fit-taraf tagħha, ġejja għal-ponta fit-tarf, forma ta’ lanza.

Il-wera q jikbru mtarġa waħda fuq kull naħa tal-magħseb u huma ta’ lewn ħadrani jgħati fl-ikħal. Dawn il-weraq jitfaw riħa qawwija li ma tintgħoġobx minn uħud. Minbarra hekk għandhom tgħoma morra, qawwija u li tqalleb l-istonkju.

Il-fjura tal-fejġel hija safra tgħati fl-aħdar. Din ikollha petali li jkunu itwal milli jkunu wiesgħa u li jkollhom it-truf tagħhom imkemmex u qishom imqattgħajn, filwaqt li n-nofs tal-fjura jkun aħdar. Il-fjuri jidhru bejn Marzu u Ġunju.

Il-fjuri ma jkunux imgeddsa ma xulxin għalkemm jikbru qrib xulxin. L-għonq tal-fjura jkun daqs jew itwal mil-frotta. Il-frotta, li tkun lixxa mingħar ebda suf, tkun ġejja għall-ponta imma b’għafsiet ’l ġewwa fil-ġnub. Meta ssir u tinxef, din tinqasam fi tnejn biex tkun tista’ tferrex iż-żerriegħa.

Mhux diffiċli li wieħed inissel il-fejġel. Dan jista’ jsir jew permezz taż-żerriegħa, jew bil-biċċa.

Iż-żerriegħa jistgħu jinżergħu barra fir-rebbiegħa u meta jikbru f’għoli ta’ madwar 5 ċm, jitħawlu barra f’posthom, 45 ċm ’l bogħod minn xulxin.

Il-frotta tal-fejġel

Il-biċċiet għandhom jittieħdu fir-rebbiegħa u jiddefsu fil-ħamrija u jitpoġġew fid-dell sakemm jagħmlu l-għeruq.

Ir-riħa qawwija tagħha tbiegħed numru ta’ annimali minna, bgħal ngħidu aħna klieb, qtates u anki xi nsetti. Tant li fil-passat qarib biċċiet mill-fejġel kienu jintużaw fid-djar biex ibiegħdu l-insetti. Id-drawwa kienet li jinġabru ftit weraq, jitnixxfu, u mbagħad jitpoġġew f’boroż żgħar taċ-ċaruta, u dawn kienu jitqiegħdu fil-kxaxen u f’postijiet fejn wieħed ikun jixtieq li jbiegħed l-insetti.

Kienet drawwa komuni tar-Rumani li jużaw il-fejġel biex jgħatu tgħoma lill-ikel. Dawn kienu jorbtu biċċiet tal-karfus, fejġel, tursin, u sagħtar f’borża tal-garża, biex minnhom isir zalza waqt li l-ikel ikun qed jissajjar u hekk ituh togħma differenti.

Friegħi tal-fejġel kienu wkoll jitferrxu fl-art għax kien maħsub li dawn ibieghdu l-pesta. Dan minbarra li jbiegħed is-sħaħar. Din id-drawwa kienet ukoll tintuża wkoll mill-knijsa u l-friegħi tal-fejġel kienu jitbillu fl-ilma mbierak biex jitbierku r-rjus tal-fidili. Din l-imġieba kienet laqmet il-fejġel bħala l-pjanta tal-grazzja.

Fil-qedem and aktar qrib lejn żminijietna, il-fejġel kienet meqjus, f’numru ta’ partijiet tal-Ewropa, biex tilqa’ kontra s-sħaħar, u kienet tintuża wkoll kontra xi magħmul.

Kien maħsub ukoll li din il-pjanta setgħet tgħin biex ittejjeb il-vista’ tal-għajnejn, l-aktar meta l-vista’ ta’ dak li jkun tkun saret waħda mċajpra. Kienet tgħin ukoll lil dawk li kienu tilfu id-dawl ta’ għajnejhom.

Fil-mediċina tradiżżjonali, billi l-fejġel hija stimulu ħafif għall-istonku, kienet tintuża biex tikkalma l-isteriżmu, is-sogħla, il-ħanqa, l-uġigħ ta’ żaqq tat-trabi, u l-gass żejjed fl-istonku. Kienet tintuża wkoll biex teqred id-dud parassita fl-istonku, u anki biex iġġiegħel lil dak li jkun biex jibda jgħareq . Minna kienet ukoll issir ġbara, kienet titħallat, jew tinqela maż-żejt taż-żebbuġa għal fuq il-feriti, tbenġil, tfekkik, ħruq u rumatiżmu. 

Minħabba li l-fejġel hija pjanta li għandha kimiċi bioloġiċi irritanti, kienet tintuża biex iżżid iċ-ċirkolazzjoni tad-demm, kif ukoll biex tmewwet l-uġigħ kroniku.

Kien maħsub ukoll li meta l-weraq tagħha kienu jkunu mgħaffġa kienu jgħinu biex inaqqsu l-uġigħ tax-xjatika. U ftit qtar tagħha kien magħruf li jintuża kontra l-ħolm nervuż. Anki l-weraq friski kienu jitqiegħdu fuq in-ngħas biex ittaffi l-uġigħ ta’ ras. Barra minn hekk dekott tal-fejġel kien jintgħorok fuq is-sider kontra l-bronkiter kronika.

Il-farfett tal-fejġel fuq il-pjanta tal-fejġel

Wieħed mill-akbar friefett tal-gżejjer Maltin, il-farfett tal-bużbież jew il-farfett tal-fejġel ukoll ibid fuq il-fejġel.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Speċi li jissemmew f’dan l-artiklu

Farfett tal-bużbież, il- – Papilio machaon – Swallowtail butterfly

Farfett tal-fejġel, il- – Papilio machaon – Swallowtail butterfly

Fejgel, il- Ruta chalepensis – wall rue

Ara wkoll:

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 10 – Is-salvja tal-Madonna

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 9 – In-narċis

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 8 – Il-kaħwiela

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 7 – Is-sempreviva ta’ Għawdex

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 6 – Għajn is-serduq

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 5 – It-tengħud tax-xagħri

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 4 – It-tengħud tas-siġra

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 3 – Il-kappara

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 2 – Il-kromb il-baħar

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 1 – Il-ħannewija

Friefet Maltin – 1 – Il-farfett tal-bużbież


Earth burns while man plays the lyre

August 17, 2021

Tuesday, 17th August 2021

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Extreme weather: Burning forests in Northern Morocco, August 15. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP

Climate Action Ambassador Simone Borg’s contribution (Times of Malta, August 10) on the report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the only local official comment on this environmentally dangerous situation.

Borg’s comments touch on the difficult times now facing humanity and the increasing difficulties confronting man as a result of the anthropogenic damage that has been wrought.

All of it arises from materialism and greed for power while ignoring the impacts on the planet’s economic, ecological and social networks.

Borg also hints at possible actions which can contribute towards halting such impacts and, possibly, trying to reverse the process.

Strangely enough, the minister responsible for climate change seems to find solace in green walls. He splashes out millions in planning exotic gardens while ignoring Natura 2000 sites and boasts of local ‘landscaping’, which gulps down tons and tons of water, a scarce resource.

While he is mesmerised by the importation of ‘endemic’ seeds, permits for the destruction of trees are dished out at the whims and fancies of his political comrades.

These activities not only fail to contribute anything to addressing climate change but throw more coal onto the fire, to the extent that Malta’s commitment on climate change has fallen far behind established targets. Studies are now being proposed, it has been said.

Climate change may well be too much for the environment minister to chew and comprehend. This despite having the rector of the university and another ‘professor’ there to guide him and lead him in environmental matters in the name of the citizens of this country and beyond.

According to their official stated goal, they take “the leading role in advising government on environmental policy-making at the national level as well as in the context of international environmental negotiations”. Can’t wait to see the minister in action in Glasgow!

The official political approach to climate change seems to reflect Nero’s, who played his lyre while Rome burned. As outlined in Borg’s contribution, the ecological, economic and social impacts of climate change are being felt locally as well. The rise in temperatures has already devastated a percentage of crops, besides other indigenous flora and fauna which form part of our indispensable ecological network.

Sometimes, I have the feeling that humanity is dead bent on eliminating itself from this planet – Alfred Baldacchino

Such losses will, no doubt, lead to higher prices for the consumer, loss of jobs in the field and the disruption of our standard of living and peace of mind.

The multiplier effect of climate change, as also referred to in Borg’s contribution, will eventually lead to further negative economic impacts, including on tourism and local industry, making the island less and less attractive and more difficult for everyday life.

Easter island was denuded of all its trees to be used to transport and erect these gigantic stone statues

Sometimes, I wonder if the social entities of these islands, be they political, educational, economic, commercial, social or religious, are trying to emulate Easter Island in its fatal vision when it constructed monumental statues (towers in our case) at the expense of ecological resources, with expensive consequences.

Mother Earth is now calling it a day. It has had enough of the lack of foresight in the way humanity manages global natural resources and biodiversity. Mother Earth cannot bear anymore the rape of the ecosystem, the damage being done to the delicate natural network and the complete disregard for the delicate ecological balance.

It is expected that there will be an increase of extreme weather leading to more fires and floods. What are the next steps on these accelerated changes in climate change? Is humanity ready to sacrifice some of its elevated, affluent way of life to save itself?

Political slogans on saving the planet only show man’s arrogance and egoism. Who on earth believes that, to save it, the planet needs one of its species that are dependent on its ecosystem?

Is humanity ready to accept that it is already tasting the predictable future through climate change as the result of the misuse of its ‘intelligence’?

Is humanity ready to come down from its high horse and admit that it is just another species dependent on the ecosystem, like all others?

Can humanity realise that, despite its self-proclaimed intelligence, it is, and will always be, subject to the ecosystem?

Is humanity ready to take the necessary measures to stop the foreseen mass extinction of species, including itself, through its short-sighted vision of greed? Can humanity free itself from its laissez-faire, egoistic greed for more and more?

I’m not optimistic at all. In fact, sometimes, I have the feeling that humanity is dead bent on eliminating itself from this planet.

Humanity is so imbibed, blindfolded, proud of its ego and its quest for power and materialism, that it will be too late when it realises that its selfishness has contributed to its demise.

Is humanity ready to heed this red alert for the sake of its own survival?

In the meantime, while humanity plays the lyre, the planet keeps on burning.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Seeds sent out by Environment Ministry are not endemic

July 26, 2021

Saturday, 24th July, 2021

Claudia Calleja

One of the many poppy fields in Malta which could have contributed to the distribution of indigenous seeds to the public, according to Alfred Baldacchino. Photo: Agrippina Bekeykina

Seeds of imported indigenous plants sent out to 180,000 households are wrongly labelled “endemic” and, according to biodiversity specialist Alfred Baldacchino, risk contaminating the local gene pool.

Ambjent Malta, the government agency coordinating the project, has admitted to a “misprint” in the Maltese version.

However, it said the impact of the imported seeds on the local population of these wild plants would be “negligible”.

In April, Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia said households would receive a mix of wildflower seeds and information on how to care for them in a bid to help conserve pollinators.

The seeds originate from four native wildflower species: Sweet Alyssum (Buttuniera), Red Corn Poppy (Pepprin Aħmar), Chamomile (Kamomilla) and Borage (Fidloqqom).

The project, run by the Environment Ministry and Ambjent Malta, forms part of the EU’s biodiversity strategy for the period 2020 to 2030.

‘Indigenous, not endemic’

When Baldacchino received the seeds, he was horrified.

In an opinion piece appearing on Saturday Baldacchino writes: “The first thing which pops out of the envelope is a postcard size leaflet with a 9 by 10 cm photo of the minister (see inset). The leaflet also carries photos of four flowers whose seeds are contained in a sachet.

“The most horrible, painful, humiliating thing is the fact that under the emblem of the Government of Malta, the seeds inside are described as ‘endemic’. Is it possible that the Minster for the Environment has some difficulty with the meaning of the word ‘endemic’?”

The seeds sent out to households.

Baldacchino, who holds an MSc in environmental management and is a former assistant director of the Environment Protection Directorate, was involved in transposing the EU’s environmental body of law into Maltese regulation.

He explained that the plants listed in the letter are indigenous, not endemic.

An endemic species is something that is unique to the island and cannot be found anywhere else. This is why it can never be imported.

An indigenous species grows naturally in Malta but can be found in other parts of Europe.

Given the distance between Malta and other parts of Europe they never cross-pollinate. Over time, the species evolves and becomes unique to the country.

Importing the foreign version risks contaminating the local gene pool as it spreads, Baldacchino said.

“This was purely commercial and not environmental. These four species are very common in Malta so, rather than importing them, the government could have issued a call to collect seeds from the local plants and distribute them around the island.”

Seeds distributed to 180,000 households

Herman Galea, from Ambjent Malta, said the wildflower seed mix was distributed to 180,000 households.

He continued that the four indigenous wild flowering plant species were selected following research with the aim of raising awareness among the public of the value and importance of so-called weeds to pollinators and the need to preserve wildflowers in public urban open spaces, urban fringes and managed natural sites.

The distributed seeds were ordered from a local supplier and sourced from Europe, given the quantity in weight of the seeds required.

Galea said that the financial cost of the seeds was €4,502.29 including VAT.

related article

Embarrassing ‘endemic’ seeds – Alfred Baldacchino

Exotic wild flowers for the environment


									

Embarrassing ‘endemic’ seeds – Alfred Baldacchino

July 24, 2021

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Alfred E Baldacchino

Public awareness on the protection of biodiversity is growing by leaps and bounds. This can be seen both on social media and in the primary and secondary schools, thanks to the dedication and hard work of teachers.

Without hesitation, a primary school student can tell what endemic means: a species of flora or fauna whose native distribution is limited to a specific place only. Examples are the national plant of Malta, the Maltese rock-centaury (Widnet il-baħar), and the Maltese Everlasting (Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex).

These two can be found growing wild only in the Maltese islands. That is why they are endemic and so their seeds are not found overseas and, as such, cannot be imported.

The word indigenous is also familiar at this educational level, meaning growing, living or occurring natively or naturally in a particular region or environment. The Maltese are indigenous people of the Maltese islands, the Italians and Chinese are indigenous of their countries.

Even invasive is not a strange word, referring to an alien species whose establishment and spread threatens local biodiversity. Like the imported seeds being distributed by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia.

After all, these words are legally explained in Legal Notice 311 of 2006, issued by the minister for the environment.

Such imported seeds were recently posted to Maltese and Gozitan households. The first thing that pops out of the envelope is a postcard size leaflet with a 9 by 10 cm photo of the minister. The leaflet also carries photos of four flowers whose seeds are contained in a sachet. What is missing is some narcissus seeds!

The most horrible, painful, humiliating thing is the fact that, under the emblem of the government of Malta, the seeds inside are described as ‘endemic’. Is it possible that the minister for the environment has some difficulty to understand the meaning of the word ‘endemic’?

The second concern is how the minister, with the Environment and Resources Authority in his portfolio, chaired by a professor from the Malta University, was not advised with regard to the proper definition of ‘endemic’.

Is it possibble that the minister for the environment has some difficulty to understand the meaning of the word ‘endemic’?

This faux pas is equivalent to a statement by the minister for foreign affairs saying that the capital city of Belgium is Paris.

The project, officially published and executed by the environment minister, is an insult to the professionals working within the ERA, not least to the two professors on its board, especially to the rector of the University of Malta.

The distribution of these  seeds labelled as ‘endemic’   not only fails to contribute to environmental education but completely derails all efforts in the field.

One might argue that the professors were not asked for their advice. But one cannot deny the fact that this is the pitiful state of the environment in Malta, under the responsibility of the present minister. This is one of the main reasons why Maltese biodiversity is engulfed in destruction, exploitation and disregard in the political arena. Instead of professionally educating people, not only are people capitalised upon because of their lack of awareness but steps are taken to ensure this pitiful mentality is conserved.

The Maltese electorate has been bombarded with government propaganda that the environment is of utmost priority. We have heard this ad nauseam. And, then, the electorate receives from the minister for the environment ‘endemic’ seeds imported from Holland to contribute to the Maltese biodiversity.

Without doubt, those with the mentality I have just described will applaud their minister’s innovative, ingenious idea. Those who do not have this endemic political mentality would put as much distance as possible between themselves and the minister’s idea.

Just imagine Farrugia attending a ministerial meeting of the European Union, boasting of his initiative – to import from Holland – Maltese ‘endemic’ seeds of four indigenous wild flowers “to contribute to the growth of our country’s biodiversity”.

Who would blame the other ministers for being a little perplexed? This minister is indigenous to which EU country? Can this invasive mentality be barred from EU fora?

I would not like to be a stitch in the minister’s socks. And no true Maltese academic would like to be associated in any way with such an environment minister.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino, former Mepa assistant director


The saga of Notary Zarb Street trees

June 5, 2021

Their uprooting turned into a circus, but nobody was laughing

Alfred E Baldacchino

Friday 5th June, 2021.

For the last 70 years these magnificent trees adorned Notary Zarb Street, in Attard but, on May 27, workers started to saw off branches. The trees were uprooted in a savage way. Photos: Alfred Baldacchino

For the last 70 years, magnificent trees adorned Notary Zarb Street, in Attard. They served the residents and commuters of the street with their aesthetic, ecological, social and economic values.

The trees contributed to fresh oxygen and captured carbon dioxide daily; they served as a barrier to the carcinogenic exhaust of the traffic in the street; they shielded the houses from the sun’s rays and also from the strong wind and rain to the extent that shielded rooms were spared the use of electricity to warm and cool houses.

They were a joy to behold, with roosting birds and their dawn chorus, thanking the Lord for lending them another day. They also served as a shield to the owners of the garages behind them to allow the cars to slowly zip in the traffic lane. They were a godsend to the residents and commuters in the street until Infrastructure Malta, part of Ian Borg’s ministry, intervened.

At 7am on May 27, workers on two cherry pickers with chainsaws in their hands were high up in the trees sawing off branches to their hearts’ content.

Residents started to gather, and Nationalist MP David Agius arrived on the scene. With every chopped branch falling to the street below, some of the ELC workers shouted “chop another one”.

According to the regulations for the protection of trees, workers had to show an ERA permit. They didn’t have one.

So, the work was stopped until the permit was produced. The permit clearly stated that one had 30 days in which to appeal the decision to chop the trees. The chopping stopped.

IM’s architect, legal officer and ELC representative appeared on the scene. The legal representative, with an air of entitlement, indulged in a partisan outburst directed at the Nationalist MP and residents. I was accused of working with ERA – when ERA was only formed years after I retired (see photo 10 in addenda below).

It was pointed out that the spending of EU funds necessitated a public consultation because the plans were changed after IM failed to remove the carob trees in Dingli. I was accused of getting inside information from ERA!

Shouldn’t the European Union be proud of a member state which uses EU funds for the destruction of the natural environment?– Alfred Baldacchino

IM’s legal officer could not come up with legal answers, especially when it was pointed out that the uprooting of the trees would deny the right of appeal as stipulated in the ERA permit

IM’s lawyer said she felt she was being harassed because she was a woman and broke down! She was ushered away by IM’s architect and comforted by PN candidate Rebekah Cilia.

During all this circus, Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg passed by in his official car, videoing the butchering of the trees on his watch.

At about 4 pm, workers were instructed by IM to continue with the chopping and uprooting of the trees. They even parked their vehicles in private driveways.

Before one could say ‘Frederick Azzopardi’, the trees had disappeared. A large excavator soon appeared on the scene pulling and pushing the stumps of the trees and uprooting them (see photo 6 in addenda below).

One by one they were carted off to be planted at Ta’ Qali. IM’s professionalism in this EU member state is indeed astounding.

No tree specialist was on site, unless, of course, ERA says otherwise. The water supply and the telephone service were disconnected. Should the Maltese be grateful to the minister in getting things done this way, especially when all works were being done with EU funds?

The trees were uprooted in a savage way. This is how IM get things done and it shows the glaring lack of the government’s political will and vision in the professional management of biodiversity and EU funds.

The official reason for this tree butchering was that these were a danger to safe driving. These trees were never a danger when the road was used for two-way traffic but they became a danger when the road became one-way!

I cannot but feel ministers’ presence every time I look at the place where the trees once grew. I cannot but feel the pain and cannot but conclude that such a ‘gift’ was delivered because we all work for the better appreciation and protection of our country’s biodiversity, for the good of the people, for the good of the country, and we have not jumped on the bandwagon of government-sanctioned destruction with EU funds. (see photo 7 in addenda below)

Shouldn’t the European Union be proud of a member state which uses EU funds for the destruction of the natural environment?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

VIDE MORE PHOTOS BELOW

other related articles

Trees hit headlines

Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’

Rabat Road trees would not survive being transplanted

No future for Maltese trees

Dingli carob tree circus

ERAdication of trees

Dingli trees will down ERA

Dingli trees and ERA

“For our trees”

ADENDA: MORE PHOTOS AND COMMENTS

Video – the sound of music to the ears of Ian Borg and Frederick Azzopardi

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2021.05.27driving-seat-250.jpg

Photo 6 Besides inflicting great pain because of officialdom’s lack of biodiversity appreciation and professional management by the government, was the savage way the trees were uprooted. This is how Infrastructure Malta gets things done. This photo I took gives me so much strength to carry on, because it shows the glaring lack of Government’s political will and vision in the professional management of biodiversity and the mismanagement of EU funds.

Looking at it, I can imagine Minister Borg and his CEO Frederick Azzopardi in the driving seat of the large excavator, while Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia and ERA’s chairman cling to the bucket of the excavator trying to convince us all of the benefits of all this tree butchering. Surely, an excellent subject for a cartoon.

_______________________________________________________________

Photo 7 Taken on the evening of Friday, May 28, this photo shows the patch of concrete which covers the holes in the ground where the majestic trees grew. The glorious trees which graced this street for 70 years were destroyed in one day by Infrastructure Malta, making use of EU funds! The official reason for this tree butchering was that these were a danger to ‘safe driving’, while waiving away the safety of commuters and residents.

______________________________________________________________________________

I cannot but feel the minsters’ presence every time I look at the place where the trees once grew. I cannot but feel the pain of the ‘gift’ inflicted on stakeholders, and cannot but conclude that such a ‘gift’ was delivered because we all work for the better appreciation and protection of our country’s biodiversity, for the good of the people, for the good of the country, and we have not jumped on the bandwagon of government-sanctioned destruction with EU funds.

Photo 8 These two trees grew in front of my house. One can see the impact of the ‘gift’ when comparing this photo with photo 9. below. Every time Infrastructure Malta drives its bulldozers into a street they have to find a tree to leave their signature. What better opportunity than the trees which grew in front of my house?

Surely we have to thank them for their glorious ‘gift’.

Photo 9 (taken 2021.05.24) the two majestic trees which adorned the street for the last 70 years and which gave so much benefits to the residents’s houses they protected. Until Frederick Azzopardi & Ian Borg intervened and destroyed because of ‘drivers safety’. completely ignoring residents safety, acknowledged by Frederick Azzopardi IM CEO during a meeting with him.

And shall we expect similar future ‘gifts’ from Ian Borg and co. if we continue to campaign for the better appreciation of Malta’s environment and the better use of EU funds?

Should the European Union be proud of a member states which uses EU funds to destrou the natural environment?

________________________________________________________________________

Photo 10 The tree (sorry Three) representative of Frederick Azzopardi and his Infrastructure Malta in the Ministry of Ian Borg.

Postcard 1

Postcard 2 TThese postcards show the legacy left to present and future generations by politicians who fail to hear stakeholders’ pleas for a safer life and biodiversity protection, according to EU obligations.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Exotic wild flowers for the environment

April 30, 2021

Friday, April 30, 2021

Alfred E Baldacchino

It was indeed of great relief to read and hear that the Minister for the Environment has finally realised and accepted that “90 per cent of flowering plants depended directly on pollinator species to reproduce, including many fruit trees and crops.” and “some 35 per cent of the world’s food and over half of human beings’ diet of fats and oils came from pollinated crops.” Very good, congratulations for such vision.

Imagine a roundabout planted with poppies: they are free, self-supporting and do not need any weeding, watering or management.
(Photo: Alfred Baldacchino)

This has filled many environmentalists with high hopes and optimism, as much as a couple who see their child make the first step! Although the concept behind such a project is encouraging, its implementation, however, leaves much to be desired.

With the pro-business mentality, the seeds are going to be imported. The quantity of seeds needed are being brought from a foreign natural environment despite the fact that they are the same species. One would have thought that ERA is conscious of the fact that species imported from other countries, despite being of the same species as indigenous ones, are regarded as ‘invasives’, according to EU policy, especially in a small country like ours.

Unfortunately, the ERA board does not regard trees as part of the ecosystem, so it is not a surprise that it would be difficult to understand that such tiny seeds are a source of pollution to the gene pool of the local indigenous flora.

One can imagine that those who receive such seeds from the minister, and who are not in the least interested in sowing them, would throw them away in the first patch of soil they find!

Some might argue, naturally using their hearts and not their minds, that such an amount of seeds could not possibly be collected locally. This is a purely commercial reasoning, diametrically opposed to a professional ecological one.

A wise and willing environment politician could easily have issued a call for interest from locals to collect such seeds from the local stock. There are more than 100 individuals who can easily identify and handle the species which the minister is going to import, namely: sweet alyssum (buttuniera), red corn poppy (pepprin aħmar), chamomile (kamomilla) and borage (fidloqqom).

Every poppy, after being pollinated, produces such a capsule full of tiny seeds. Distributing poppy seeds collected from such capsules would have been financially cheaper, more ecologically friendly, and would have prevented the polluting of the local gene pool. Couldn’t the ERA board have advised the Minister accordingly? (Photo: Alfred E Baldacchino)

The minister assures us that “various ecosystems and living things within them depend on the synergy between pollinators and flowering plants. Reduction in the population and collapse of pollinator populations would negatively impact the agricultural sector and, consequently, the global economy and essential food supplies”. So true, so ecologically correct.

Unfortunately, the ERA board does not regard trees as part of the ecosystem – Alfred Baldacchino

Then why, one would ask, are herbicides being sprayed by the government’s ‘landscaper’ and many local councils in every country lane, centre strip and roundabout using public funds to destroy such wild species? And why is the destruction of biodiversity in Natura 2000 sites, like Buskett and now Comino, and trees like the ones at Dingli, which ERA condemned to destruction, allowed to ignore such a concept?

The prevention of the above biodiversity destruction would indeed be “an ambitious and long-term one (strategy) that would protect nature and reverse habitat loss through nationwide commitments, including action on pollinator species”. Could there be any commercial hurdles preventing the minister to apply his beliefs across the board?

With the help of Ambjent Malta in his portfolio, the minister can try to establish a strategy for the benefit of biodiversity and pollinators, as obliged by the EU. This can be implemented, for example, by ‘landscaping’ roundabouts with such species instead of expensive annuals. Imagine a roundabout planted with poppies. They are free, self-supporting and do not need any weeding, watering or management.

“Wild flowers provide food and shelter for pollinators, including bees, butterflies and moths. In return, pollinators collect and spread wild flower pollen from plant to plant allowing for the development of seeds,” the minster also correctly declared.

The yearly €8 million secret contract with the ELC is managed by a department in the minister’s portfolio. Where there is a will, there is a way but, unfortunately, there is no will at all. Any biodiversity project, first and foremost, seems to have to be linked with commercial profits!

Those who are honestly looking forward to professional conservation, protection and management of Maltese biodiversity for future generations cannot be blamed for thinking that this is more of a damage control exercise with commercial strings attached.

The message that households will get when they receive such seeds is how the number of wild indigenous species is being destroyed because of lack of conservation, management and professional management due to heavy commercial and political interests.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related reading

ERA lost in the woods


ERA lost in the woods

April 26, 2021

Monday, 26th April 2021
Alfred E Baldacchino

ERA has finally broken the deafening silence (Times 17.04.2021) it has been engulfed in since its emergence from limbo within MEPA. The surprising fact is that such vociferous outburst is mainly aimed at environment stakeholders, to convince them, in a populist manner, how beneficial ERA is. Nothing against the “the concrete cancer” personally seen by its chairman.

The now stale song of how the new tree protection regulations of 2018, protect a total of 91 tree species, is the only topic ERA can muster. Numerically, on paper, this is correct. But what about enforcement, the relegation of species from strict protection to a lower level, the fruit trees which have boosted the number of species, only to accommodate political minds to boast that the new regulations were increased by an additional 33 tree species?

ERA CEO has also fallen in this rut, suggesting that these new regulations “include a considerable strengthening of the legislation with an increase of 33 additional tree species being protected by ERA when compared to the earlier regulations implemented by its predecessors. The 2018 regulations also govern the protection of old trees in urban public open spaces, for which permits are required.” Like the ones in Dingli! All political garbage and no scientific reasoning. Protecting trees till the regulator itself decides, or is made to decide, to give a permit to chop them down! The new tree protection regulations nicely accommodate such butchering for the further spread of that ‘concrete cancer’.

What about the tree guidelines, which do not have any legal power. Guidelines which are ignored by everybody, including ERA itself! One has only to look at the way trees are massacred to see how these guidelines are not worth the paper they are written on.

A look at the compensatory measures demanded by ERA, for example valuing a centenarian tree with 30 new saplings, is indeed another populist numerical approach to tree massacre. It is indeed an insult to every academic who sits on the ERA board.

Following the number of so many butchered, maimed or destroyed trees, stakeholders of the natural environment are being told that “new guidelines on landscaping, a protocol on afforestation processes, as well as a strategy and related action plans on Maltese trees and woodland are being devised by ERA”, “to assist both the government in its work as well as planners, architects, and the public in implementing afforestation landscaping projects.” To assist everybody, except biodiversity conservation!

ERA might just as well tell this to the marines. An exercise to detract from the pitiful situation of non-enforcement of any of its regulation and guidelines, just to gain time, and present the Minister with a platform for camera exposure. It also shows the complete failure of ERA’s present regulations and guidelines.

ERA has to find itself and get out of the woods before it can realise the contribution trees and woods make to biodiversity.

ERA’s CEO laments that “not withstanding such efforts, it is a pity that the response to the public consultation process on the landscaping guidelines and the trees and woodland strategy was very poor. Such a strategy” the CEO continues” is important in that it will provide Malta’s outlook and action from 2022 until 2030 to ensure long-term tree and woodland protection, with actions and deadlines being committed as part of the strategy.” Will it when past and present interventions by stakeholders all fall on deaf ears?

How many more permits for the destruction of trees will ERA dish out until such strategy is in place. A request to the Commissioner for Data Projection, revealed that 840 permits for the ‘removal’ of trees were issued to accommodate Infrastructure Malta, in their wake of biodiversity destruction by EU funds; not including the Dingli centenarian trees.

All efforts and suggestions for the establishing of a national nursery with the aim to propagate indigenous trees for local consumption have been ignored by ERA. Not only so but personal efforts got engulfed in ERA’s red tape. This is applauded by ‘landscapers’ whose can maximise their profit at the expense of the national biodiversity, through ERA impotency.

The lack of will to manage Natura 2000 sites, such as Buskett and Comino, an EU obligation under ERA’s responsibilities is also another feather in ERA cap. Natura 2000 sites are there for the taking, and slowly dying out, with no will or professional vision at all, despite Malta obligation to manage them from six months after EU accession.

The finalised plans for the management of the EU Natura 2000 sites, following public consultation on each and every one of them, are gathering dust on some ministerial shelf. Who can believe that such new proposed guidelines and measures will not finish on adjacent shelves?

The public consultations regarding petrol stations, derelict land, invasive species, and others, have never been finalised, perhaps ERA is still studying them. This has made all stakeholders lose faith in ERA. With such hindsight, I never attend such public consultations anymore, because, besides being a waste of time, I feel this is a measure of alienation from the onslaught going on.

“ERA firmly believes that a balance is required, which implies adequate protection to areas outside the development zone (ODZ), the promotion of issues linked with rural and urban biodiversity and the increase in awareness and citizen engagement on tree protection and other biodiversity issues.” If ERA is honestly convinced about this, the natural environment would not be in the pitiful unrecoverable state it is in today. Such official statement only contributes to its impotency in its obligations to protect the national and international obligations it is trusted with.

A centenarian protected carob tree condemned to death by an ERA permit – to make way for the advance of the ‘concrete cancer’.
Is this the balance ERA believes in?

“ERA’s role often remains unseen”, “particularly in discussions held behind the scenes during assessment and screening processes in which suggestions are put forward by ERA to redesign a project to minimise or mitigate impacts.” Is there anyone who believes this? This is one reason why ERA’s Board meetings should be open for the scrutiny of the public, to hear the submissions made on which ERA takes an official decision.

ERA’s CEO also seems proud that such behind the scenes discussions have resulted in promoting and constructing green walls and promote landscaping! Another populist decision devoid of any professional approach, relegating ERA to the lowest possible level of biodiversity protection, lacking any vision at all.

Green walls composed of cultivated garden plants, some of them invasive, and the spreading thousands of exotic imported flower seeds, all of which are so gladly sold by ‘landscapers’ and other commercial outlets, while criticised by environment stakeholders, seems to be the definition of biodiversity for ERA. But this is the best ERA can manage, making the Minister so proud, that a handful of environmentalist won’t stop development. The CEO should perhaps have explained if this is ERA’s new mission.

This seems to be the “balance … under which ERA operates” offering “different tools and options, including the protection of sites, habitats, trees and other species in urban areas. These also provide specific criteria for the designation of such protected areas, even if within the development zone.”

This is only wishful thinking, aimed for those who can be convinced that a circle is square. And these are the obligations which ERA is miserably failing to honour.

ERA has become the white elephant in the environmental field, accommodating commercial activities and making it difficult for practical scientific biodiversity conservation. How can genuine stakeholders not lose faith? Its interventions against environment stakeholders anchors it more deeply in the “concrete cancer”. To the extent that its chairman prefers to write in his personal capacity to reply to criticism directed at his ERA.

ERA has to find itslf and get out of the woods before it can realise the contribution trees and woods make to biodiversity.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

further readings:

Dingli trees will down ERA

Dingli trees and ERA

ERAdication of trees

Dingli carob tree circus


Dingli trees and ERA

April 21, 2021

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Alfred E Baldacchino

Read the rest of this entry »


Dingli trees will down ERA

April 10, 2021

10th April 2021

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The Environment and Resources Authority board meeting minutes (October 9, 2020) regarding the destruction of trees at Dingli reveal that the ERA vice chairman “suggested that such permission ought to be assembled in a holistic process”.

Chair Victor Axiak agreed with such a suggestion but added “that one should only be limited to ERA’s responsibility so far”. And the permit was granted.

Imagine a marine biologist saying that the reclamation of part of the sea does not concern the marine flora and fauna. It only concerns the removal of water!

ERA feels that the Dingli trees are not part of an ecosystem. The impact on other dependent fauna and flora, such as birds and pollinators, and their contribution to control climate change added to the negative impacts on the farming community and the residents are of no concern to the ERA board.

ERA, headed by a university professor, is showing that its vigour and strength are conspicuous by their absence: no consideration to protect biodiversity, not only on behalf of this generation but also on behalf of future generations who have lent us these natural treasures.

ERA has lost its vision, its direction and abdicated its responsibilities, approving the destruction of so many mature protected trees and biodiversity across the islands. During 2019-2020, ERA granted Infrastructure Malta 843 permits for the removal of trees, some of which were centenarians.

Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

One of the best efforts of ERA in protecting biodiversity – giving permits for tree destruction. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

On behalf of Moviment Graffitti and other individuals who signed a petition, lawyer Claire Bonello wrote to Axiak asking for a tree protection order for the Dingli trees. Naturally, this was blatantly refused. ERA seems more interested in chopping them down than protecting them. Aaron Farrugia, the minister for the environment, is quoted in the media as saying that he would not allow a handful of environmentalists to obstruct development.

Biodiversity destruction goes on and on, despite political promises and national and international obligations – Alfred Baldacchino

On March 18, the press reported that the appeal by Graffitti was turned down because environmentalists failed to prove they were aggrieved by the uprooting of the trees. This despite a letter being sent to Dingli residents, farmers and to Minister Farrugia, Transport Minister Ian Borg and National Heritage Minister José Herrera requesting their immediate intervention to stop the construction of a planned road on cultivated fields in Dingli.

Furthermore, in October last year, Graffitti activists teamed up with farmers and residents from Dingli to prevent roadworks from starting by standing in front of machinery. As they are also doing presently.

Three ministers seem quite comfortable to ignore what Prime Minister Robert Abela said a few weeks ago that the environment was a priority for the government! Unless, of course, they know he does not mean it.

The Environment Planning  Review Tribunal (EPRT), instead of ruminating and taking all this in consideration, announced that it was abstaining from hearing the case because the NGO has no direct interest in the case and could not appeal against the permit.

The electorate was told that Malta Tagħna Lkoll (Malta belongs to everyone). But it does not seem that this is taken seriously by the ERPT, the environment minister and, last but definitely not least, Borg, whose IM heads Malta’s ecosystem destruction, with some help from the €700 million from the EU.

Imagine the environment minister telling the EU that it has no direct interest in Malta’s measures taken to control CO2 emissions with regard to climate change. The EU should not tell us how to protect biodiversity as obliged. It should only forward us millions of euros so that we can spend them without it getting involved in internal matters. Even if these funds go towards increasing biodiversity loss, which Malta is duty-bound to prevent.

Dingli residents initiated a petition last month for those of them who do not agree with the proposed road.

Help from Dingli local council was not forthcoming. They can easily stand upright if they remove their political blinkers to respect the wishes of the residents who voted them into office.

Biodiversity destruction goes on and on, despite the political promises made, the national and international obligations and the demands by stakeholders. The pity is that if the EU did not grant €700 million there would not be so much biodiversity destruction.

When the Dingli trees go down, ERA will go down with them. And the environment minister will be happy because a handful of environmentalists would not have stopped development!

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related article:

Dingli carob tree circus


TĦALLIHOMX

March 23, 2021

Il-kanzunetta Tħallihomx kantata minn Mark Tonna kienet ħadet parti fil-Festival Kanzunetta Maltija fil-2001 (Mark Tonna/Alfred E Baldacchino)

Din is-sena fil-Festival Mużika Mużika kienet waħda mid-diski klassiċi magħżula u kantata minn Mark Tonna u Fabrizio Faniello.

Prosit Mark u prosit Fabrizio.

Wieħed jista’ jara l-video fuq il-ħolqa li tidher hawn taħt.

Għal dawk li jixtiequ jaraw il-kliem, qiegħdin jidhru hawn taħt ukoll:

TĦALLIHOMX

Żagħżugħ,

Għidli għaliex imdejjaq?

Tidher anke ftit għajjien.

Għajnejk qegħdin juruni

Li ferh u sliem, ma sibt imkien.

Żagħżugħ,

Għaliex tbiegħedt mill-ħajja

Af li tagħha l-ġmiel insejt.

U qridt lilek innifsek

Ftit ieħor lilha tkun temmejt.

              Mela kuraġġ, żagħżugħ, kuraġġ.

              L-għammad neħħi minn għajnejk,

              Iva ħares ftit madwarek,

              It-tmun ta’ ħajtek hu f’idejk.

              Biex meta jidhru il-problemi,

              Tilqagħhom, taħrabhomx,

              Billi tħares dritt f’għajnejhom

              U b’rieda soda tħallihomx.

              Tħallihomx, jgħaffġuk,

              Tħallihomx jeqirduk,

              Le tħallihomx, tħallihomx.

Żagħżugħ,

Tibqax tgħix f’dik il-ħajja,

Għal ftit gost u tal-mument,

F’idejk int għandek l-għodda,

Biex tgħix tant kburi, u tant kuntent.

Żagħżugħ,

Is-saħħa inti għandek

Biex tiġġieled il-ħażin,

U turi t-triq it-tajba

Lil ta’ warajtk li għadhom ġejjin

              Mela kuraġġ, żagħżugħ, eċċ. eċċ…………….

Alfred E Baldacchino 22 February, 1996.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

ara wkoll


Wied il-Qlejgħa

February 27, 2021

Frar 2021

Wied il-Qlejgħa

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Wied il-Qlejgħa, magħruf minn uħud bħala Chadwick Lakes, huwa wieħed mill-widien li jwieżnu l-ilma tax-xita li minn Wied Liemu taħt Ħad-Dingli iwwassluh sas-Salini. Tant huwa wied importanti dan il-wied li meta kien hawn is-Servizzi Ingliżi, l-Ingineer Oswald Chadwick għamel numru ta’ ilqugh biex l-ilma ma jibqax sejjer jiġri u jintrema l-baħar, imma jinġema’ wara l-ilqugħ matul il-wied. U filwaqt li l-ilma seta’ jintuża mill-bdiewa, kien ukoll jgħin biex jinxtorob mill-art biex jisqi l-ilma tal-pjan li l-bniedem jiddependi ħafna minnu.

 

Iżda bil-mod il-mod dan il-wied waqa’ f’telqa kbira. Telqa li mhux biss fniet lil dan il-wied, imma wkoll il-biodiversità kollha li jħaddan. Matul is-snin, wara kull ilqugħ, imtela’ bin-ħamrija li nġarret mill-ilmijiet, tant li naqas sewwa l-ilma li dawn kienu jaħżnu. U bil-firxa ta’ aktar bini fil-madwar, il-wied beda’ jilqgħa ġo fih ilma mniġġes mit-toroq li jfuru bl-ilma minn fuq il-bjut tad-djar li ma għandhom l-ebda bir jew ġiebja biex jaħżnuh.

Din it-telqa’ ta’ dan il-wied, li wkoll kien iħaddan fih numru ta’ speċi ta’ flora u fawna indiġena Maltija, kompliet tikber tant li waslet biex bis-saħħa tal-ilma li jgħaddi mill-wied mimli naqal u ħamrija, kien iwaqqa’ u jiftaħ numru ta’ selħiet tal-ħitan tas-sejjieh tal-għelieqi, li wasslu biex ukoll ikomplu jferrgħu u jżidu l-ħamrija ġol-wied.

Siġar tal-akaċja – siġra invażiva li fgat il-wied

Fost sforzi għall-aktar siġar f’pajjiżna, fil-wied tħawlu numru ta’ siġar barranin – Awstraljani –  bħal akaċja, ewkaliptus u kaswarina, li llum saru invażivi u qed joktru, jixterdu u jinfirxu mingħajr kontrol, jikkompetu u jieħdu post speċi indiġeni Maltin, u saħansitra jbiddlu l-ekosistema tal-wied. F’telqa bħal din, il-qasab infirex bla kontrol, ikompli joħnoq il-biodiversità Maltija.

Is-siġra tar-riġnu – siġra invażiva oħra

Barra minhekk, speċi oħra li jiġu miġjuba minn barra minn Malta biex jinbiegħu fil-ħwienet, sabu ruħhom ukoll fil-wied. Tant sabu ambjent tajjeb li nfirxu sewwa matul il-wied, jeqirdu l-ispeċi Maltin. Fost l-ispeċi invażivi nsibu s-siġra tal-riġnu, il-każwarina, u dan l-aħħar it-tuffieħ ir-riħ.

Ir-restawr qed isir fuq studji xjentifiċi professjonali, bil-għan li mhux biss issir ħsara mill-anqas, imma li l-biodiversità li darba kienet issaltan f’dan il-wied terġa tieħu r-ruh u terġa ssaltan b’mod naturali f’pajjiżna.

Iċ-ċkala l-ħamra tal-ilma ħelu li xi ħadd għall-raġunijiet i jafu hu biss, ried li jimla l-widien biħom. U anke hawn mingħajr ebda kontroll.

Għal uħud dan ma kienx biżżejjed, għaliex parti minn ilqugħ tkisser biex ikun jista’ jsir l-off-roading. U aktar minn hekk, xi individwi mingħajr ebda rispett lejn il-ħarsien tal-ispeċi indiġeni Maltin, u għal raġunijiet li jafuhom huma biss, telqu numru taċ-ċkala l-ħamra tal-ilma ħelu f’partijiet tal-wied. Dawn il-krustaċi Amerikani, jiżdiedu mgħaġġel u jieklu speċi oħra bħal ngħidu aħna, żrinġijiet, mrieżep, xgħat tal-ħanfus tal-ilma u anki dawk taċ-ċikkuġwiebi. Kif ukoll jagħmlu il-ħut tal-ilma ħelu li jintefgħu fil-wied ta’ spiss u l-fekruna tal-ilma ħelu tad-dabra ħamra li xi kultant xi ħadd jitfa’ hemm ukoll.

U l-ispeċi indiġeni Maltin, bi sforzi kbar jippruvaw ikomplu joktru fl-ambjent tagħhom li darba kienu jgawdu bla xkiel. Tant li kemm iż-żrinġ kif ukoll l-marżep, u insetti oħra li jgħixu fl-ilma, naqsu u naqsu sewwa.

It-tuffieħ ir-riħ – pjanta invażiva li qed timla l-widien kollha Maltin mingħajr ebda kontroll

Għalhekk kienet aħbar tajba meta tnieda l-proġett għar-restawr tal-wied immexxi mill-Aġenzija tal-Enerġija u tal-Ilma (Energy and Water Agency) bil-għajnuna ta’ fondi tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Diġà tneħħa ammont kbira ta’ ħamrija li kienet qed tifga partijiet minn dan il-wied. Ittieħdu passi wkoll dwar is-selħiet li kien hemm fil-ħitan tas-sejjijeħ. Is-siġar invażivi li kienu ħadu rgħajhom f’idejhom ukoll qed jiġu mneħħija. Dan mhux għalkemm jitneħħew għaliex wieħed irid joqgħod attent fejn jintremew inkella wieħed ikun qed jagħmlilhom pjaċir u jerġgħu jikbru f’postijiet ġodda fejn jintremew. U mhux hekk biss, għaliex uħud minnhom malajr jerġgħu jnibbtu jew jtellgħu. U dawn iridu jkunu mneħħija matul il-ġimgħat biex jiġu eliminati kollha, l-aktar is-siġra tar-riġnu u t-tuffieħ ir-riħ.

Anki s-siġar indiġeni Maltin tan-nixxigħat sejrin igawdu. Numru ta’ dawn is-siġar, bħal luq, fraxxnu, ulmu, u sebuqa, sejrin jitħawlu fl-ambjent naturali tagħhom u jieħdu post dawk invażivi. U ta’ min ifaħħar il-ħsieb li dawn l-għarsiet ġodda ta’ siġar Maltin li sejrin jitħawlu, huma mnissla minn siġar li jikbru f’Malta u ma ġewx importati minn barra. B’hekk ikun żgurat li ma jinġabux speċi aljeni jew mard minn barra, li jistgħu jagħmlu ħsara lill-biodiversità Maltija; u  li l-għaġna ġenetika tas-siġar indiġeni Maltin ma tiġix imniġġsa, kif ukoll li jsir użu bil-għaqal tal-fondi u jintużaw bl-aktar għajnuna possibli u ma jintefqux barra minn Malta.

Hekk għandhom isiru l-afffrijiet, u mhux bħal ma jsir minn oħrajn li jiftaħru bin-numru ta’ siġar importati filwaqt li jsejħulhom indiġeni Maltin.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Protecting our green spaces

February 2, 2021

Monday, 1st February 2021

Alfred Baldacchino

Open areas should not be sacrificed for financial gain

 

There was some good news on World Environment Day 2020. Three new important ecological areas were designated by the ministry for the environment as new EU Natura 2000 sites. These are: Tal-Wej, an open green space between the towns of Naxxar and Mosta; Ħas-Saptan, limits of Birżebbuġa; and Wied il-Mielaħ, limits of l-Għarb, in Gozo.

Furthermore, the already officially EU approved Natura 2000 site at l-Għadira s-Safra was also extended.

The additional designation of such new special areas of conservation (SAC), and special protection areas (SPA) without doubt contribute much to the social and ecological environment of these islands. As Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia said: “The environment, nature and biodiversity aren’t just things that are nice to have but they are a necessity and essential.”

Such designations contribute to the better appreciation and protection of Maltese biodiversity, with all the species recorded there, whether migratory or residential. One cannot but mention the living fossil and relict from the Triassic period – the geologic era and system that was also a time of tremendous change and rejuvenation.

Life that survived the so-called Great Dying repopulated the planet, diversified into freshly exposed ecological niches and gave rise to new creatures, including rodent-size mammals and the first dinosaurs.

These designated areas also contribute to open spaces, so much needed, following the uncontrolled exploitation of our natural resources by developers. The small size of the islands, the great population density and the crammed living concentration of many families make it a must for such open spaces to be available and officially managed.

Designating ecological areas contribute to the better appreciation and protection of Maltese biodiversity

Because of the conditions society is living in today, some never or rarely manage to experience the benefits of nature, to touch and roll on the grass, to smell the fragrance of natural wonders and to hear the natural sounds of wild species. The lack of such contact with nature does have a negative impact on human beings, psychologically, morally and spiritually.

Maltese society yearns for such natural conditions, which people try to seek away from their normal place of residence, planned without any access to some back garden or even access to the rooftop. These three new designated Natura 2000 sites await approval by the EU, then the drawing up of a management plan and its implementation.

Over a third of our islands is already urbanised. And it seems that some developers want more than their pound of flesh. A couple are contesting the designation of Tal-Wej, with a view to develop the area. It is important to note that the area is of rich cultural significance, incorporating cart ruts, silos and relicts from the Bronze Age, Punic tombs as well as old agricultural features such as the seasonal movement of livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures.

There are also historical assets from the Knights of St John and early British periods and, naturally, all the biodiversity attracted to the natural habitats.

Developers want to cover all this under concrete. This has rightly triggered a national petition to encouraging the prime minister and the environment minister to ensure that the area is protected, an area so important for the social and environment benefits of the inhabitants of these islands, an area which should not be sacrificed for purely financial benefits.

“Quality of life means that all citizens should be granted access to more recreational spaces, as well as heritage sites, which will allow them to fully appreciate and enjoy what their native country has to offer,” Farrugia said.

“This principle also extends to the conservation and preservation of these sites, which will ensure they remain accessible to future generations,” he added.

Malta just cannot afford to lose any more of its remaining accessible open green spaces.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino is former Mepa assistant director.

 

 

 

 


Happy Christmas and happy New year 2021

December 17, 2020

Nixtieq Milied hieni u sena mimlija paċi, hena u barka lil dawk kollha li jaraw dan il-blog, lil dawk li jgħatu daqqa t’id billi jaqsmuha ma’ ħaddieħor, u anki lil dawk li mhux bilfors jaqblu miegħi.

J’Alla is-sena d-dieħla 2021 tkun mimlija b’viżjoni għall-ambjent soċjali u ekoloġiku aħjar għall-ġid ta’ din il-ġenerazzjoni kif ukoll għall-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada li silfulna din l-art.

I would like to wish a very happy Christmas and a peaceful, healthy, blessed new year to all those who follow my blog, to all those who give a helping hand by sharing it, and even to all those who do not necessarily agree with me.

May the new year 2021 be full of determination towards a better social and ecological environment for the benefit of one and all, especially to the present generation and to future generations who have lent us this Country.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


ERAdication of trees

December 4, 2020

Friday, 4th December, 2020

Alfred E Baldacchino

The birth of the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), snapped from the jaws of MEPA, was welcomed by many who looked forward to the professional protection and management of the environment for the sake of country and future generations.

Controversial decisions by ERA representatives, however, led to such a flame of optimism to be short-lived and many today consider the authority spent.

Too many trees are being destroyed. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli 

This is indeed surprising considering that the staff at ERA are all dedicated, qualified and motivated to contribute to a better environment. What is contributing to ERA’s failure? Is ERA still suffering from the imprinting it got while in limbo at MEPA? Is it a lack of direction? Or is it political involvement?

Without doubt, ERA has reached the level where other ministers decide upon ERA’s responsibilities, then forward their decision for acceptance and for the minister’s endorsement and agreement.

The action taken against Infrastructure Malta when it covered valley paths with concrete, such as at Wied Anġlu and Lunzjata, in Rabat, is seen as damage control PR action. What happened at Wied Qirda, Wied Liemu, and, lately, Dingli indicates that ERA decisions are all taken at gunpoint, in getting things done.

If one were to ask what ERA is most renowned for these days, the top three replies would be:

The 100 year old Holm oak, with half a dozen other at Lija, were all destroyed with an ERA permit. Photo A E Baldacchino

1. The official permitting of the destruction of protected indigenous trees in the Maltese islands. A permit issued with a snap of a finger: 300-year-old carob trees such as at Lija and Dingli and a 100-year-old holm oak near the Lija cemetery have all fallen with the help of an ERA permit. In contrast, those applying for a permit to undertake professional ecological studies pass through hell, so much so that many of my academic friends do not even bother to venture there.

2. The lethargy of ERA regarding complaints and anti-environmental issues results in studies and further sine die studies. If ever finalised, the problem would have long solved itself to the detriment of the environment.

3. The publication of regulations and guidelines are more a messa in scena. These are immediately forgotten by everyone, sometimes even by ERA itself. These include the Guidelines on Trees, Shrubs and Plants for Planting and Landscaping in the Maltese Islands (2002); the Code of Conduct on Invasive Alien Species (2011); Guidelines on Managing Non-Native Plant Invaders and Restoring Native Plant Communities in Terrestrial Settings in the Maltese Islands (2013); Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations (2018); Guidelines on Works involving Pruning; Guidelines for the Control of Invasive Species (2018); Guidelines for the Reduction of Light Pollution in the Maltese islands (2020); Action on the Illegal deposits of Material on Land and Illegal Reclamation of Land Regulations (2017); and, of course, the Natura 2000 sites management plans, launched by ERA in 2017. The latter were supposed to be implemented six years after Malta’s EU accession.

When will ERA stand on its own two feet in the national interest of the Maltese islands?– Alfred Baldacchino

This is the ERA that was but never is.

The greatest enemy of biodiversity protection, without doubt, is Infrastructure Malta and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.

A protected Common Elder tree left abandoned to die after being uprooted at the Central Link Attard. Photo: A E Baldacchino

Ninety per cent of the destruction of indigenous trees and biodiversity are done with ERA permits. It is presumed that such permits had conditions attached.

A very rare indigenous protected tree, which was in the way of the Central Link project, was massacred and uprooted and thrown aside, left for dead. If it were not for the intervention of voluntary individuals, this tree would have been completely destroyed, despite ERA permits and conditions, if any.

Some people can be taken for a ride indeed.

The tree protection regulations contain a number of horticultural-grown fruit trees that are protected, mainly included, not for their ecological benefits, but for the minister to boast how many new protected species were included: “an increase of nine trees over the previous laws” and “24 more than under the old law” (José Herrera 2018).

But important species such as carob and rare trees as well as the common European elder were demoted to a lesser degree of protection. The actual undeclared reason is that they are more in the way of development.

The tree protection regulations give a monetary value of trees as fines for illegal activities, fines which can reach €2,000. But protected trees destroyed with an ERA permit simply carry conditions of compensatory planting, left to the whims and fancies of the applicant, with no monitoring, no controlling of source, no indication of adequate site and no ensuring that the compensatory planting is justified.

Unfortunately, this is the pitiful state of the protection of the environment in Malta, despite political promises and statements, not least from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure. It is indeed an insult to the dedicated personnel at ERA, to the Maltese people and to the international fora to which Malta is a member, including the European Union.

Budget 2021 shows that biodiversity protection is not on the government agenda.

When will ERA stand on its own two feet in the national interest of the Maltese islands? And when will politicians let go of their hold on official entities and let them perform their scientific responsibilities in the name of the Maltese people and not in the name of political gain?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino is a former MEPA assistant director.

Further reading:

Dingli carob tree circus

‘Greatest annihilator of biodiversity’

A tree, a Minister and the EU

No future for Maltese trees

 

Dingli carob tree circus

December 2, 2020

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020

The Planning Authority (in the portfolio of the Ministry for the Environment) asked Infrastructure Malta (IM) to proceed with the construction of a schemed road at Dingli. Before one could say Jack Robinson, IM applied for a permit to chop down the carob trees in its way. ERA (also in the portfolio of the Ministry for the Environment) willingly complied and issued the necessary tree destruction permit. Immediately trees started to be destroyed by IM, until Graffiti appealed against the tree destruction permits issued by ERA.

What a shocking statement! What a let-down to biodiversity conservation principles! What a populist approach by this supposedly scientific authority! What a self-defeating statement! What a self inflicted blow below the belt to an authority which everyone looks upon to protect the natural environment and resources of our country! What an embarrassment to the academics who sit on ERA’s board!

ERA was also asked about the procedures for the issuing of such permits. Seems that the Environment Resource Directorate forwards its recommendations to the ERA Board who approves the issuing of the permit. ERA does not even bother of any self-inflicted embarrassment!

Such is the pitiful state of this official scientific authority. The value of old, healthy urban carob trees is priceless. If ERA was worth its mettle, and could understand the ecological, economic, social, aesthetically and hydrological value of these carob trees it has endorsed for destruction, it would have immediately issued a Tree Protection Order, and possibly declared a Tree Protection Area where they grow. Instead it issued a permit for their destruction.

The vigour and strength of this official scientific Authority are conspicuous by their absence: no consideration to protect biodiversity, not only on behalf of this generation, but also for the coming generations who have lent us these natural treasures.

ERA has lost its vision, its direction, and abducted from its responsibilities as shown by approving the destruction of so many mature protected trees across the island.

The farcical compensatory planting measures for the destruction of such magnificent priceless trees is another measure how ERA fools itself. No amount of trees planted in place of the magnificent mature carob trees at Dingli can compensate for the destruction of the carob trees in question. And ERA has asked for the replanting of 30 trees as a compensation for those destructed. ERA may fool itself, but it cannot fool the intelligence of the majority of the people by its circus calculator.

While visiting the carob trees in question, I met some residents who together with those who cultivate the adjacent fields are against such road, which they have been told, is a very ‘important’ road. I asked if they had asked for help from the home grown Minister from Dingli. The look in their eyes explained it all.

Unfortunately the residents and farmers do not have the fortune, the means or the opportunity to go and live at the pricey Dingli outskirts in Simblija. They will have to be exposed to the emissions of vehicular traffic as this manoeuvres round the bends and corners in the neighbourhood, when the ‘important road’ leads to the development it is meant to accommodate.

ERA turned a blind eye to all this. But what can one expect from politically handpicked academics who cannot stand on their own two professional feet?

The Tribunal’s decision will without doubt decide ERA’s future image. It can confirm that ERA is an Authority in shambles, unworthy and incapable of rising to the occasion to protect Maltese biodiversity in the name of the Maltese people, acting as a circus facade for political decisions.

With such a circus image in the biodiversity conservation field, the Minister in whose portfolio these entities sit, might just as well go fishing.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


‘Greatest annihilator of biodiversity’

November 3, 2020

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Julian Delia

A veteran of environmental stewardship has forcefully slammed Infrastructure Malta’s ‘compensating’ efforts to replace mature trees with young saplings.

Referring to Infrastructure Malta as “the greatest annihilator of biodiversity in the Maltese islands”, Alfred Baldacchino insisted such practice did not come close to replacing what is lost when old trees are cut down.

Before and after: This old tree has been chopped down for the Central Link project in Attard. PHOTOS: MARK ZAMMIT CORDINA

He served as assistant director of two different versions of the same environment protection
unit within the former Malta Environment and Planning Authority for almost four decades before retiring in 2007.

“If, for example, they cut down a 300-year old tree and replace it with 300 saplings, they would still be far off from compensating for the tree that was chopped down,” Baldacchino argued.

“This example holds true whichever way you look at it, whether from the ecological, social, legal, aesthetic or financial perspective. Their reasoning is politically motivated and based on numbers instead of facts.”

IM planted over 11,800 indigenous trees in over 80 roadside strips and other urban and rural areas between summer 2019 and April this year. Nonetheless, Baldacchino remains clearly unimpressed with it efforts.

He had strong reservations about the mantra of “getting things done”, a direct reference to the slogan used by Infrastructure Minster Ian Borg.

“IM ignores everything and everyone as long as they bulldoze biodiversity to their own whims and fancies. It is only a dictatorial show of strength” he said.

Baldacchino insisted that “the claim demonstrates their insensitivity in a subject they do not understand or even want to know anything about”.

The former Mepa assistant director lamented the idea that the infrastructure agency seems to consider votes more important than the value of biodiversity and its necessity for the nation’s well-being.

“The agency knows that the damage being done not only infuriates all stakeholders but also lack signs of good governance, to the extent that they now destroy trees under the cover of darkness or behind shielded enclosures,” Baldacchino said.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


Mingħajri ma tgħaddix – 2

October 28, 2020

Video u lirika

Kantanta: Julia Camilleri; Mużika:https://wp.me/PL6Mk-e Chan Vella; Lirika: Alfred E Baldacchino

ħsieb

Mingħajri ma tgħaddix. Kif jista’ wieħed jgħaddi mingħajr xi ħadd li jgħinu jlibbes il-madwar bi sbuħija, u fl-istess ħin ikun jista’ jgħix ħajja aħjar?  Kif jista’ wieħed jwarrab kull għajnuna li xi ħadd itiħ b’xejn, mingħajr ma jitlob ebda ħlas? U kif jista’ wieħed ikollu qalbu iebsa ma’ xi ħadd li jnaddaf l-aktar ħaġa importanti għall-għixien – l-arja – biex ikun jista’ jkomplu jgħix?

Dan huwa l-messaġġ tal-kanzunetta Mingħajri ma tgħddix. Messaġġ li qiegħed jitwasslilna kuljum, għal ġid tagħna lkoll, biex inkunu nistgħu ngħixu ħajja aħjar, flimkien. Imma rridu nifhmu, napprezzaw u ngħinu lis-siġar li tant qed jgħinuna f’ħajjitna, u li b’dieqa wieħed jara’ li mhemmx apprezzament biżżejjed lejhom.

Ejja nħalluhom joktru u jiżdiedu biex jgħinuna, għaliex kif tgħidilna kull siġra: mingħajri ma tgħaddix.

Lirika

Ħares ara kif, / Inħaddar, sebbaħt il-madwar,  / Ngħinek tlibbes din l-art,  / Ħalli tgħix ħajja aħjar.

B’għożża nilqa’ għandi lil  /  Kull min ngħinu irid,  /  Ma nitlob xejn ħlas,  /  Inrodd biss ġid.

Ħallini ngħix u noktor,  /  Ħallini ngħix irrid ngħin,  /  Nistgħu naqsmu din l-art tagħna lkoll. / Ħalli nfehmek għaliex,  /  U hekk tkun taf li:  /  Mingħajri ma tgħaddix.

Għaliex imma hawn min, / Nieqes minn kull għarfien, / B’mibgħeda għall-ħolqien.

Kuljum l-arja insaffi,  /  Mingħajr biss int tkun taf.  /  Naħdem biex ħajtek  /  Din ma tieqafx.

Ħallini ngħix u noktor,  /  Ħallini ngħix irrid ngħin,  /  Nistgħu naqsmu din l-art tagħna lkoll. / Ħalli nfehmek għaliex,  /  U hekk tkun taf li /  Mingħajri ma tgħaddix.

Ħallini ngħix,  /  Ħallini ngħix irrid ngħin.  /  Nistgħu naqsmu din l-art tagħna lkoll.

Ħalli nfehmek għaliex,  /  U hekk tkun taf li  /  Mingħajri ma tgħaddix.  /  Mingħajri ma tgħaddix. 

Video

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

ara wkoll https://wp.me/PL6Mk-e

 

 

 


Ambjentalist jilmenta li l-Gvern nesa l-bijodiversità

October 23, 2020

il-Ġimgħa 23 ta’ Ottubru 2020

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aeb-3.jpg

L-ambjentalista Alfred Baldacchino huwa tal-fehma li l-ħarsien, l-immaniġġar u l-infurzar tal-liġijiet fil-qasam tal-bijodiversità mhux qiegħed fuq l-agenda tal-Gvern.

Baldacchino ntalab għal reazzjoni dwar il-miżuri mħabbra fil-Budget 2021 mil-lat tal-ambjent.

L-espert fil-bijodiversità irrimarka li huwa stenna li se jsib xi ħaġa li ttaffi u tgħin biex il-bijodiversità ta’ pajjiżna tiġi aktar apprezzata, u ma tibqax tiġi mżebilħa kif inhi llum, imma ma sab xejn.

Hu sostna li stenna wkoll li jara xi inċentivi biex fil-qasam ekoloġiku tikber industrja kummerċjali Maltija, biex minflok flus imorru barra mill-pajjiż biex nimpurtaw speċi indiġeni, b’dannu soċjali, ekoloġiku u finanzjarju, dawn il-flus jibdew jintużaw f’pajjiżna għat-tkattir ta’ dawn l-ispeċi, u hekk ikun hawn aktar speċi indiġeni li jistgħu jintużaw fit-tisbiħ tal-art, imma anki hawn ma tħabbar xejn.

Baldacchino kompla li stenna wkoll li jara xi ħjiel biex il-fragmentazzjoni li hawn fil-qasam tal-użu tal-bijodiversità, fejn numru ta’ Ministri jwettqu attivitajiet li mhux kollha huma konformi mal-obbliġazzjonijiet nazzjonali u internazzjonali f’dan il-qasam, jiġu koordinati u approvati b’mod professjonali mill-Minsteru tal-Ambjent, imma lanqas hawn ma sab xejn.

“Fittixt għal xi miżuri kif l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA) mhux biss tissaħħaħ biex tkun tista’ taħdem b’mod professjonali mingħajr indħil politiku, imma tkun tista’ wkoll tfassal u timplimenta direzzjoni ambjentali fil-qasam tal-bijodiversità u tkun tista’ tinforza, teduka u timmaniġġa (bħal ngħidu aħna s-siti Natura 2000) imma lanqas hawn ma sibt xejn”.

Baldacchino żied li stenna ukoll li jisma’ b’xi għajnuna għall-għaqdiet volontarji f’dan il-qasam, kemm għajnuna ta’ riżorsi, ta’ għarfien, u anki ta’ diskussjoni fil-ħarsien professjonali tal-ambjent, iżda anki hawn ma sema u ma sab xejn.

Hu kompla li stenna ukoll li l-landscaping  jiġi ndirizzat b’mod professjonali aktar u aktar meta l-Gvern qed joħroġ il-miljuni għal dan il-għan, imma anki hawn ma tħabbar xejn.

“Mhux talli hekk talli waqt it-tmiem tad-diskors tal-baġit, il-medja soċjali xerdet video ta’ numru ta’ siġar protetti Maltin li kienu qed jiġu meqruda fis-satra tal-lejl, fit-triq tar-Rabat, minn aġenzija tal-Gvern li llum hija magħrufa sewwa għal din il-qerda ta’ bijodiversità, mingħajr ebda viżjoni ta’ kif dawn jistgħu jiġu immaniġġjati bi professjonalità” insista Baldacchino.

L-espert ambjentali żied li għal dawn ir-raġunijiet jasal jgħid li l-ħarsien, l-immaniġġar u l-infurżar tal-liġijiet fil-qasam tal-bijodiversità, mhux qiegħed fuq l-agenda tal-gvern.

Hu temm jgħidilna li miżuri oħra ambjentali dwar l-użu tal-plastik u l-bdil fil-klima li ssemmew misshom ilhom fis-seħħ.

aebaldacchinon@gmail.com


Virus li l-armamenti ġabhom jidhru ġugarelli

October 12, 2020

Il-Ħadd 27 ta’ Settembru 2020

Ma naħsibx li hawn min għadu ma semax bil-Covid-19. Veru li hawn min ma jeħdux bis-serjetà u saħansitra hawn min, anke xi polititiċi, li jaħsbu u jgħidu li dan huwa xi ħrafa.

Il-virus wasslilna numru ta’ tagħlimiet. L-ewwel waħda hija li l-bniedem m’għandux ibagħbas man-nisġa ekoloġika mingħajr ma jaħseb fit-tul x’ser jkunu l-effetti ta’ dan it-tbagħbis. Nafu li dan il-virus twelled f’Wuhan, fiċ-Ċina, fejn numru ta’ annimali minn kull parti tad-dinja kienu magħluqa mħalltin fuq xulxin, f’suq mingħajr ebda kundizzjonijiet sanitarji.

                            Il-pangolin

Fost l-annimali kien hemm xadini, għasafar, friefet il-lejl, ħut, kukkudrilli, sriep, gremxul, fkieren, klieb, ħnieżer, pangolini, żibetti, badgers, rospi u oħrajn, kollha jistennew il-qatla fuq il-post biex jinbiegħu.

Numru ta’ annimali minn kull parti tad-dinja magħluqa mħalltin fuq xulxin, f’suq mingħajr ebda kundizzjonijiet sanitarji

Uħud minn dawn l-annimali ġew mill-Afrika, mill-Amerika, mill-Asja, u qatt ma kellhom il-possibbiltà li b’mod naturali jiltaqgħu ma’ xulxin. Il-kundizzjonijiet fis-suq għamluha faċli li virus fuq speċi li fis-selvaġġ kellha kontrolli naturali fuqu, beda jaqbeż fuq speċi oħrajn qribu li kienu ġew minn partijiet oħra tad-dinja u hekk ma kellhom l-ebda kontroll naturali biex iwaqqfuh. Ma għandniex xi ngħidu li dan, waqt li biddel l-għaġna ġenetika tiegħu, qabeż ukoll fuq il-bniedem. U minn fuq il-bniedem f’Wuhan, infirex mad-dinja kollha, saħansitra f’pajjiżna.

Dan minkejja twissijiet, sa mill-2007, li l-kummerċ f’kultura li hija mġewħa għall-ikel ta’ annimali eżotiċi huwa bomba li tisplodi fi żmien fil-qrib.

Virus li l-armamenti ġabhom jidhru ġugarelli

Dan il-virus ma jidhirx bl-għajnejn, iżda tant huwa b’saħħtu li l-armamenti sofistikati u qerrieda tal-bniedem għamilhom ġugarelli tat-tfal. U minkejja snin twal ta’ laqgħat u taħditiet biex jikkontrolla l-ħruġ ta’ gassijiet mill-enerġija użata li qed twassal għal bdil fil-klima, il-bniedem qatt ma wasal għal ftehim iżda dan il-virus naqqas dan il-ħruġ ta’ gass.

Is-saħħa ta’ din il-virus, fil-ftit xhur tal-għajxien tiegħu, wasslet biex għal numru ta’ xhur, kontra r-rieda għamja tal-bniedem, twaqqaf ħafna mit-trasport fuq l-art, fuq il-baħar u anke fl-ajru. Tant li studjużi xjentifiċi sabu li d-dijossidu tal-karbonju (CO2) fl-arja naqas.

Dan in-nuqqas kollettiv ta’ trasport wassal biex anke xi annimali bdew jidhru aktar qrib il-bniedem. Anke hawn Malta rajna dniefel qrib ix-xtut tagħna. Kellna wkoll numru ta’ fkieren tal-baħar li biedu fuq xtutna ramlin, bħal kif qatt ma għamlu qabel.

Tagħlima oħra li wieħed ma jistax iwarrab hija li matul il-firxa mgħaġġla tal-virus, numru kbir ta’ nies ingħalqu f’darhom, kemm bħala mezz biex ma jaħkimhomx dan il-virus u anke minħabba l-biża’. U forsi dan iż-żmien wassal lill-bniedem biex jifhem u jagħraf kif iħossuhom l-annimali magħluqa fiż-zoos, għal skopijiet kummerċjali wkoll, mingħajr il-possibbiltà li jiġru, jimirħu ħielsa u joktru fl-ambjent naturali tagħhom.

Wieħed ma jistax ma jsemmix il-kliem ta’ Papa Franġisku, meta fl-Enċiklika tiegħu Laudato Si widdeb lill-bniedem li, “Il-qawwiet ekonomiċi jissoktaw jiġġustifikaw is-sistema dinjija tal-lum, fejn fuq quddiem hemm l-ispekulazzjoni u l-kilba ta’ gwadann finanzjarju… Hekk jidher kif it-tħassir ambjentali u t-taħsir uman u etiku huma marbuta sew ma’ xulxin… Għalhekk illum kull ħaġa li hi dgħajfa, bħall-ambjent, tispiċċa m’għandhiex min jiddefendiha kontra l-interessi ta’ suq meqjus bħala l-alla tagħna, liema interessi jsiru huma r-regola assoluta.

Il-mentalità tal-bniedem li jaħseb li mhux parti minn din in-nisġa ekoloġika, u li wasslet għall-ħolqien ta’ dan il-virus, wasslitu biex qed iħallas sewwa għal għemilu. Il-messaġġ qawwi ta’ dan il-virus huwa li Ommna, id-dinja tagħna lkoll, ma għandha bżonn lil ħadd biex issalva lilha nnifisha, lanqas lil dik l-ispeċi li taħseb u tgħid li hija l-aktar speċi intelliġenti fuq din il-pjaneta.

Jekk il-bniedem mhux se jara, jifhem, jixtarr u jomgħod dan it-tagħlim, allura se jkompli jħaffer b’rata aktar mgħaġġla l-qabar tiegħu stess.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Course: Getting to know indigenous trees

September 2, 2020

Getting to know indigenous trees

A course on Getting to know indigenous trees, as outlined below, is being offered by the Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Malta.

This course consists of weekly Monday evening lectures between 18.00 and 20.00, starting from 12th October 2020 to February 2020.

Interested persons can apply online by the 22nd September 2020.  Limited number of places. See you there.

For information and application fees visit um.edu.mt/clas

facebook /um.atyourownpace

Telephone2340 3772/3

email: clas@um.edu.mt

 


Mingħajri ma tgħaddix

August 27, 2020

Julia

12 ta’ Awiwissu 2020

Din hija silta mid-diska tiegħi Mingħajri ma tgħaddix, li għaddiet għall-Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza 2020. Din tidher fuq NET TV matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin. Tistgħu jekk jogħġobkom tivvutawli fuq: 5230 2083.

This is a clip of my song ‘Minghajri Ma Tghaddix’ which will be previewed on NET Television during the coming weeks. ❤️ Please Vote by Calling on: 5230 2083 

Finally its out on Sound Cloud. You can listen to my song Mingħajri ma tgħaddix in for Finals of  Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza 2020.

Napprezza kull għajnuna minn għandkom.

Your support would be appreciated to share and televote by CALLING on this number: 52302083

Penned by A E Baldacchino

Composed by Chan Vella

 

Il-ħsieb wara Mingħajri ma tgħaddix

Mingħajri ma tgħaddix. Kif jista’ wieħed jgħaddi mingħajr xi ħadd li jgħinu jlibbes il-madwar bi sbuħija, u fl-istess ħin ikun jista’ jgħix ħajja aħjar?

Kif jista’ wieħed jwarrab kull għajnuna li xi ħadd itiħ b’xejn, mingħajr ma jitlob ebda ħlas?

U kif jista’ wieħed ikollu qalbu iebsa ma’ xi ħadd li jnaddaf l-aktar ħaġa importanti għall-għixien – l-arja – biex ikun jista’ jkomplu jgħix?

Dan huwa l-messaġġ tal-kanzunetta Mingħajri ma tgħddix kantata minn Julia. Messaġġ li qiegħed jitwasslilna kuljum, għal ġid tagħna lkoll, biex inkunu nistgħu ngħixu ħajja aħjar, flimkien. Imma rridu nifhmu, napprezzaw u ngħinu lis-siġar li tant qed jgħinuna f’ħajjitna, u li b’dieqa wieħed jara’ li mhemmx apprezzament biżżejjed lejhom.

Ejja nħalluhom joktru u jiżdiedu biex jgħinuna, għaliex kif tgħidilna kull siġra: Mingħajri ma tgħaddix.

 

PS Il-video u d-diska kollha jitpoġġew aktar ‘l quddiem

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

 


Waste as a resource

July 31, 2020

 

Friday 31 July, 2020

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Today’s political vision on waste is heavily imprinted by commercial greed: use and throw away (uża u armi).

As never before such imprinted vision is having its heavy toll on society and the environment. A look at the unmanaged waste-mountain at Magħtab spells it all. Every day it is rising and rising to new heights, bursting at its seams, determined to obliterate further resources, destroying and suffocating more biodiversity, putting people’s livelihood in danger, with direct and indirect negative impacts beyond its footprint.

Irrespective of whatever political colour one is blindfolded with, it is an accepted fact that waste is a resource: an organic or physical resource resulting from the exploiting mother earth. To achieve profit maximisation, products are presented to the consumer at an added invisible cost, which is borne by society and the environment. Not convinced? Have a look at Magħtab and the new expansions plans!

The concept of the separation of waste has made some in depths on the management of such a resource. However, one would be absolved for thinking that this initiative was more for convenience sake rather than conviction, undertaken to answer social and environmental concerns. If not, why does the same authority allegedly dump all separated waste at Maghtab?

From the political horse’s mouth, Government does not have any plans on how to deal with this ‘waste’.  We are told this is a necessary evil, despite EU targets linked to Waste Framework Directive (WFD), the Landfill Directive and the Packaging Directive, beside others.

In Denmark I visited the municipality of Hvidovre on a much sought date – the first Saturday of the Month. In a recycling hall (Genbrugshal) goods and products collected by the Commune from owners who wanted to get rid of such ‘waste’, were exhibited for sale at a nominal price. There were from chandeliers to syntesizers, from pots and pans to furniture. The proceeds went to the Commune

Waste as a resource in Denmark

Genbrugshal was socially, environmentally and financially friendly on all accounts. Such initiative took the pressure from landfills, Reducing the demand on natural resources, creating a new industry in its Reuse, with a financial multiplier effect in its Recycling.

A visit to Malta’s bring-in-sites, uncovered furniture, once-used new wooden boards, prams, white goods, electronic items, some waiting for the machinery jaws to render them to smithereens to be taken and dumped at Magħtab.

I tried to take one wooden pallet from the hundreds waiting to be devoured by the destructive jaws. ‘No’ was the answer, nothing from the bring-in-sites can be taken by the public, not even if paid for.

If such ‘waste’ is regarded as a resource and can be reused in Denmark, why cannot it also be done in Malta? The answer is simple: either because the political pro-business mentality feels that the business community profits would be threatened, thus sending shivers down the politicians’ ‘spine’, or because it is officially accepted, and applauded by the electorate, that we are a generation or two behind the modern approach of conserving natural resources.

Such a resource is awaiting to be harvested instead of obliterating more precious resources having social, environmental and financial importance. What is keeping politicians from embarking on such a win-win measures? Besides the myopic pro-business vision, the appointment of politically hand-picked individuals, whose only qualification is to faithfully echo their master’s voice, only leads to a cul-de-sac named Maghtab.

This destructive political agenda seems to be the local politicians endemic road map.

The lack of such win-win scenarios, brushed aside for quick temporary expensive solutions, only lead to more destruction of biodiversity. This destructive political agenda seems to be the local politicians endemic road map. Examples include: €70 million EU funds used to channel to the sea all rain water, another scarce natural resource (result of bad planning regarded as storm water); the bulldozing of fields, rubble walls, biodiversity, characteristic local buildings in getting things done with EU funds, to open new roads by Infrastructure Malta, experts at such destruction, mainly for political mileage; the destruction of local biodiversity through public funds used for spraying pesticides and herbicides by ‘landscapers’; and the destruction of local urban landscapes by the Planning Authority’s lack of any planning and management vision.

Who can be blamed for saying that the destruction of the local natural resources is on the Government official approved agenda, a long as somebody can make a quick buck, or perhaps a million or two. Making hay while the sun shines to collect golden eggs, while destructing our scarce natural resources has never been so official.

When this and future generations start to lick the wounds, and pay through their noses the hidden costs of today’s political short-sited vision and decisions, the politicians won’t be here to share the results of their decisions. And future generations will have to sort it out themselves.

The new young Minister for the Environment, also responsible for planning, seems to be au courant with environmental concerns. His urge  “… to keep criticising us and holding us accountable until we become the environmental  movement that we aspire to be” hopefully gives an added breath of fresh air to stakeholders, so far more accustomed to dictatorial decisions and fake consultations.

Stakeholders have to be involved in decision making, to achieve more professional approach in the name of one and all, for the good of our country which has been lent to us by future generations and which is presently being ransacked by greedy politicians and their friends.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


No future for Maltese trees

June 23, 2020

Monday, 22nd June, 2020

No future for Maltese trees

Alfred E Baldacchino

The feeling that indigenous Maltese trees and biodiversity have no future is increasing from day to day, despite national and international obligations.

There are four ministers who are involved with trees and biodiversity: Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg; Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo, and Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia.

A 100 year old indigenous Holm Oak chopped by the Ministry. Could easily have been saved, but it is not an electricity pole.

The minister under whose watch biodiversity loss is increasing by leaps and bounds is without doubt Borg. To add insult to injury the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure is importing a number of ‘indigenous’ trees, only for political numerical reasons: planted, some in pots, or distributed to local councils.

No biodiversity vision of any sort, no concern for the possibility of viruses and diseases and the contamination of the local gene pool; just a waste of resources which could be used for the benefit of a new local industry propagating indigenous trees.

The tarmacking and concreting of valley paths, the cosmetic rubble walls, built with EU funds, further add to biodiversity loss.

If there was a reward for a politician who contributed so much to biodiversity loss, the transport minister would win it hands down. History will surely document this.

Ian Borg’s rubble walls: more concrete, iron netting and no ecological niches, so diametric opposite to Legal Notice 169 of 2004. And they are still not covered by a top concrete layering.

The 15-year-old notorious ELC, pocketing €8 million per year, introducing invasive species all over, ignoring the EU Environment Acquis, mutilating a number of street trees, is now under the auspices of the Minister for Tourism. This ministry’s vision on biodiversity is also based on the importation of more trees.

Agriculture Minister Refalo is responsible for the phytosanitary of trees and other flora. There is never a word to protect indigenous trees from risks by importation of so many foreign imports.

No biodivesity vision of any sort, no concern for the possibility of viruses and diseases

Environment Minister Farrugia has the utmost responsibility regarding protection and management of trees and biodiversity.

The protected Elderberry tree left for dying at the Central Link Project, Attard, by Ian Borg’s Ministry, irrispective of ERA conditions or not.

His Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) is the focal point and competent authority of the European Union with regard to biodiversity.

On paper, ERA is very professional and publishes regulations and guidelines on biodiversity to honour EU obligations, and declares Natura 2000 sites, though left unmanaged, such as Buskett. In practice it is almost non-existent. Nobody takes any notice of these. The tree protection regulations and guidelines, and the way trees are being decimated all over the islands, by ERA’s permits or not, are there for one and all to see..

The Environment Ministry dishes out €30,000 to local councils to plant trees. Not a bad idea, but not when lists of imported exotics, some invasive trees are given to choose from, and conditions imposed to plant some in pots, as if to accommodate somebody.

During summer months these can be seen either parched dry, or on the verge of kissing their roots goodbye. In Attard the potted trees have been changed once or more.  The roots and soil in the pots become so hot that it would be a miracle if trees survive.

Ambjent Malta, once in the portfolio of the Environment Ministry, was short-lived.  These had the foresight to start a nursery to propagate Maltese biodiversity. But the change of hands at Castille saw that this was disbanded. The only remnant is the livery on vehicles they used. Ambjent Malta was also supposed to manage Natura 2000 sites.

If the government has the will to honour its electoral manifesto and the European Union Environment Acquis, it would not have fragmented such responsibilities in a way to make nobody accountable.

There is no will, no intention, no desire, no vision, no plan, no sensitivity to rise to such a national socioecological responsibility. Only the dictatorial urge to destroy, for political commercial purposes, some with EU funds.

Financial resources, managed by the environment minister, can contribute to a professional set up to see to the conservation of local biodiversity.

We need to do away with the present scenario where ministers compete with one another on who imports most trees, destroying Maltese indigenous ones in the process.

What future does all this offer to Maltese indigenous trees? No wonder that many are concluding that the government has a road map to make Malta the Easter Island in the Mediterranean!

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino, former MEPA Assistant director

 

related articles: 

A tree, a Minister and the EU

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment hit by EU funds

The environmental destruction of Malta

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

 


The impact of coronavirus

May 4, 2020

Monday, 4th May, 2020
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Coronavirus is lesson that the Earth does not need us

Hello coronavirus, or should one say COVID-19? You have spread and conquered the planet! Indeed you have outclassed SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola, all linked to animal food sources or wet markets.

You have infected over three million people and claimed over a quarter of a million victims.

Without a doubt you are familiar with wet markets, where animals are traded in unsanitary conditions, an adequate habitat enabling viruses to undergo fast mutations. The damp floors constantly hosed by vendors to clean food scraps of species they sell: from fresh vegetables and processed meats to live animals, consisting of fish, poultry, and also crocodiles, snakes, lizards, bats, turtles, dogs, pigs, civets, birds, badgers, pangolins, toads and more, all waiting to be slaughtered. It was pointed out, since 2007, that: “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.” At that time, you were still within your natural confines.

You must be thankful to mankind’s intelligence and to his cultural pride for your existence. Many of the animals on sale at wet markets never have had the possibility to come in contact with each other in the wild where viruses would coexist. The ecosystem does not allow this.

You must be thankful to mankind’s intelligence and to his cultural pride for your existence

But to satisfy an urge (mainly commercial), man brought them over from everywhere to be sold and eaten. Crammed in small cages, together or near each other, the unlikely transmission of inter species disease became possible, more so in such an unsanitary and unhygienic environment. A perfect place for viruses to jump on to other animals as intermediates, or directly to humans who crowd the stalls in such close contacts, in search of food?

It is documented that vendors often slaughter animals in front of customers, skinning them in front of shoppers, aerosolising things in the process. You know pretty well how popular beliefs of the use of animals to cure common ailments is heavily capitalised upon, mainly for commercial reasons.

One would assume that you will not tell us about your origin. Some assume that bats and their faeces could have been your parental source considering that your virus type share 96 per cent of genetic code found commonly in Chinese bat populations. Incidentally even SARS has, as a point of origin, direct relations to bats, also sold for food in such wet markets.

You have incredibly reached heights which mankind, because of invested interests, can never reach. In the few months of your existence you have rendered sophisticated military warfare to children’s toys. You have grounded almost all airplanes, garaged most of transport vehicles to the extent that this has had a significant effect on climate and the environment.

Such is your invisible strength that you have also succeeded in isolating man indoors, making him experience the fearful feeling of stressed animals in circuses and in zoos, caged for commercial purposes.

You have also echoed, and proved correct, the words of one religious leader on our planet, Pope Francis, who emphasised that: “Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain. As a result, what is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of the deified market, which becomes the only rule”.

The mentality that man is not part of the ecosystem is making him pay through his nose. This mentality has given rise to your presence.

The message that you are delivering with every victim you take, is very clear: Mother Earth does not have any need for anybody to save her, not even the self-proclaimed most intelligent being. If this message is heeded or not is still too early to bet upon.

Alfred Baldacchino is former MEPA assistant director

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 


Wied il-Qlejgħa jispiċċa vittma tal-vandaliżmu

April 13, 2020

Samuel Lucas

Il-Ħamis, April 9, 2020

Wara li ftit tax-xhur ilu Wied il-Qlejgħa magħruf aħjar ma’ ħafna bħala Chadwick Lakes, irċieva tindifa papali sabiex ikun jista’ jżomm aktar ilma, dan spiċċa vittma tal-vandaliżmu.

Dan l-istazzjon mar fuq il-post fejn hemm hekk seta’ jara trakki ta’ ħamrija maqluha minn quadbikes li għal xi raġuni niżlu fil-parti fejn jinġema’ l-ilma.

Dan l-att vandalu sar waqt li bħalissa fl-istess wied għaddej proġett ta’ madwar ħames miljun ewro li jinvolvi t-tindif ta’ tlieta u ħamsin elf metru kubu ta’ ħamrija minn fejn jgħaddi l-ilma biex b’hekk il-Wied jiġi jesa’ ħamsa u tletin miljun litru ilma iżjed. Dan filwaqt li fost oħrajn se jitħawwlu ħames t’elef siġra fiż-żona.

 

 

Wied il-Qlejgħa jispiċċa vittma tal-vandaliżmu

 

L-ambjentalist Alfred Baldacchino li hu kwalifikat fl-ippjanar u l-immaniġġjar tal-ambjent spjega l-vandaliżmu li sar fil-wied fejn fosthom semma’ wkoll kif twaqqa’ ħajt li nbena lura fis seklu dsatax.

Baldacchino stqarr, “Qegħdin jagħmlu l-ħsara għaliex f’dak id-daqxejn ta’ ilma hemmek hemm ħafna Flora u Fauna li jkunu hemmek reqdin għal ġranet tax-Xitwa u meta issa jasal is-Sajf u r-Rebbiegħa jagħtu l-ħajja u tgħaffiġ bħal dak jagħmel ħafna ħsara.”

Huwa spjega wkoll kif xi persuni ħelsu minn speċi nvażivi li jistgħu jkunu ta’ ħsara għall-biodiversità fil-Wied.

Kompla jgħid, “Ġieli rajna fkieren tal-ilma ħelu li dawn jieklu kulma jsibu l-imrieżeb, l-iżrinġijiet, il-larvea ta’ ċertu insetti allura dan qed jonqos in-numru tagħhom. Insibu l-ħut tal-ilma ħelu li kull sena insibu min jiġu jitlaqhom hawnekk u dik qed tagħmel ħsara lill-biodiversità.”

B’hekk is-Sur Baldacchino appella sabiex il-pubbliku jinforma ruħu iktar sabiex dan il-wied meqjus bħala ġawhra f’pajjiżna jiġi preżervat bl-aħjar mod possibbli.

“Dan ix-xogħol biex jirnexxi irid ikollu ukoll l-għajnuna indiretta tal-pubbliku li l-pubbliku jagħraf li dan ix-xogħol qed isir għal ġib tiegħu.” Ikkonkluda jgħid.

Il-proġett li bħalissa għaddej fiċ-Chadwick Lakes mistenni jitlesta sentejn oħra.

 

Xi fawna invażiva li tinstab f’Wied il-Qlejgħa

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

artikli oħra dwar Wied il-Qlejgħa

Jappella biex Chadwick lakes jigi mmaniġġat aħjar

Valley – check with likes

Wied il-Qlejgħa

 


Ambjentalist jgħid li l-virus qed jgħin l-ambjent

March 21, 2020

Is-Sibt, 21 ta’ Marzu, 2020

L-ambjentalista magħruf Alfred Baldacchino huwa tal-fehma li  l-coronavirus qed iwassal biex in-natura tieħu nifs mill-impatti negattivi li  l-bniedem kien qed iħalli fuqha.

Fi zmien fejn il-coronavirus qed tħalli impatt negattiv mill-aspett ta’ saħħa, ekonomija u ħajja soċjali madwar id-dinja ġew innutati diversi postijiet fejnc l–ambjent qed jitjieb.

In-nuqqas ta’ użu ta’ ajruplani u karozzi wassal biex l-arja tjiebet f’diversi pajjizi waqt li ċertu annimali bdew jiġu osservati f’postijiet fejn soltu ma kienux jidhru.

L-iktar eżempju riċenti kien dak ta’ Venezja fejn mhux biss  l-ilma fil-kanali iċċara imma ġew innutat wkoll ċinji u dniefel li daħlu f’din il-belt Taljana li soltu tkun mimlija dgħajjes u anke vapuri tal-passiġġieri.

Mistoqsi minn dan il-ġumal għar-reazjoni tiegħu dwar dan, Baldacchino beda biex innota li dan il-virus, li lanqas jidher bl-għajnejn, irnexxilu jagħmel dak li  l-bniedem la qatt ried u la qatt rna kellu rieda jifhem u jagħmel.

“Il-coronavirus poġġa lil kulħadd f’postu u waqqaf il-ġirja u l-kilba sfrenetika ta’ attivitajiet li kollha kien qed ikollhom impatt negattiv fuq l-ambjent u l-biodiversità”.

Huwa irrimarka li l-biodiversità, jew in-natura, diġà tidher li qed tieħu r-ruħ anki wara dan il-ftit żmien qasir u sostna li l-bniedem qed jara b’għajnejh li  l-ħajja li qed jgħix illum, imsejsa biss fuq poter u materjaliżmu, mhux biss qed teqred il-biodiversità imma anki lilu nnifsu.

“Kif dejjem għidt il-pjaneta, id-dinja ommna, ma għandha bżonn lil ħadd biex isalvaha. Huwa  l-bniedem li jrid isalva lilu nnifsu. Dan jidher ċar bil-biża’, u  l-paniku li mhux biss jinħass, imma jidher sewwa wkoll. Kulħadd magħluq ġewwa daru biex isalva lilu nnifsu”.

Baldacchino zied li huwa fatt li biex il-biodiversità tirranġa u terga’ ssib il-bilanċ dinamiku li jippermetti l-ekosistema tkompli taħdem b’armonija ma tħaresx lejn  l-uċuh jew il-kuluri jew x’pożizzjoni għandha persuna fil-ħajja.

“U dan huwa l-prezz kbir u qares li  l-bniedem irid iħallas għan-nuqqas ta’ apprezzarnent tiegħu lejn l-ekosisterna li qed twieżnu.

Wieħed jittama li l-bniedem jitgħallem lezzjoni minn dan kollu u jibda’ jifhem li ma jistax jibqa’ għaddej b’arroganza qisu hu jikkmanda  l-ekosistema. Il-biedem huwa parti minn nisġa ekoloġika u dak li jagħmel huwa sejjer ikollu impatt fuq din in-nisġa li jkollha effett anki fuqu”.

Baldacchino żied li huwa jittama li din l-armonija tidħol f’kull deċiżjoni li  l-bniedern jieħu mhux biss biex il-biodiversità tkompli toktor imma anke biex il-bniedem stess ikun jista’ jkun parti minn din  l-armonija.

 aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 

 


A tree, a Minister and the EU

January 25, 2020

Alfred E Baldacchino

Sunday, 2 February, 2020

Civil society lodged an appeal in the Courts of Justice after the Planning Authority approved (with the help of Environment and Resources Authority)  the Attard Central Link project in July 2019. The development is being funded by national and EU funds.

The court decision is expected on February 14, but Infrastructure Malta, also in the portfolio of Ian Borg, defied everyone and decided to start with the works.

They are demolishing everything in their path: trees, biodiversity, cultivated fields, farmhouses… anything as long as they get things done their own way.

The excavations along the route have almost been completed, irrespective of the fact that the court’s decision has not been taken.

Would one be wrong in saying that this is putting the courts in an embarrassing position, having to decide on something which has almost been completed?

Is this the way that public and European funds are managed to get things done?

Does this ministry believe that there is no-one in government or from civil society who can object to such a dictatorial fashion of getting things done? Does this not give the impression that Infrastructure Malta believes it has more power than a prime minister?

Getting thing done by Infrastructure Malta: unprofessionally uprooting a protected tree

The environmental impact assessment regarding the works – an assessment which was challenged in court – gives an indication of the richness of the biodiversity that would be destroyed by the works.

A call was received on January 21, regarding a rare tree – an elderberry tree – which had been uprooted days previously. This tree is protected by Legal Notice 258 of 2018.

But for Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta this is just another piece of paper they can ignore in getting things done, like they did at Wied Qirda, with many rubble walls, and all those concreted country paths in valleys, naturally using national and EU funds.

Such barbaric ways of getting things done also reflects on the new prime minister

Considering the complete disregard the Ministry of Infrastructure has for the protection of biodiversity – and considering the impotence of ERA, especially when confronted by this ministry – accompanied by a friend of mine, we decided to save this tree: voluntarily, using our own time and expenses.

So, on January 22, we went on site equipped with two secateurs and took all the possible cuttings from the almost dead tree, thrown and tied by the side of an adjacent field not to interfere with Infrastructure works. It took us two and a half hours to take all cuttings, which once cleaned and processed, would easily contribute to approximately 2,000 cuttings ready for propagation.

.

All possible cuttings taken from Infrastructure Malta’s massacre of the protected elderberry tree

Using our own personal car, we filled it with this precious propagation stock and drove to Ambjent Malta, seeking their help to preserve this rare protected species. They willingly obliged, but more help was needed.

The root ball could not be transported in our private car, so we asked for help to transport it for propagation too.

Some telephone calls had to be made to the so-called ‘higher authorities’ to save this important protected tree.

But the effort did save some red faces too, and Ambjent Malta was accompanied to the place where the half-dead tree was lying. It was transported and professionally replanted by Ambjent Malta within a couple of minutes.

Job done. Following the timely, intervention of two volunteers, the protected tree is given a good chance to survive with the help of Ambjent Malta.

Now if two individuals on their own voluntary initiative wanted to save a rare protected tree, why couldn’t Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta do this, considering the millions of public and EU funds they boast they have? They don’t simply because they do not care and do not want to.

Were ERA not so impotent when it comes to Infrastructure Malta, among others, it could easily have saved the tree.

The political, legal and administrative strength of ERA, one would assume, is much stronger than that of two private individuals. So why did they not take any action to save the tree in question? ERA would probably learn about all this destruction of biodiversity from the press.

Cabinet’s responsibility is collective. This means that such barbaric ways of getting things done also reflects on the new prime minister. Everybody who is not politically convinced that a circle is square is deeply concerned, because the way the Central Link Project is being managed – getting things done irrespective of everything, be it legal, be it administrative, be it the EU, or ignoring all stakeholders – makes a mockery of the new prime minister’s assurances and efforts to address the rule of law and the environment. How is this possible? Strange bedfellows, one would assume.

Good governance relies on the rule of law. There are many who really have the true, unselfish, good of the country at heart, and who are not imbibed with partisan politics. It is just political garbage that is getting things done without any professionalism and bereft of any good governance, using public and EU funds for such environmental destruction.

Getting things done because I say so can easily mean ‘I came, I saw, I destroyed’.

The European Union should make it a point that when it gives funds to any country, not least Malta, it should ensure that this is not used to destroy biodiversity in violation of its very own environment acquis.

Indeed, some do need to have wings clipped.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Mark Anthony Falzon is not appearing this week.

related articles:

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-architect-the-judge-the-house-and-the-illegal-driveway.686056

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/workers-at-wied-qirda-ignore-regulators-orders-to-stop.750328

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment Landscaping Conundrum

Environment hit by EU funds

“For our trees”

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

‘Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’


Kalendarju b’siġar Maltin

December 5, 2019

5 ta’ Diċembru 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Dan il-kalendarju għal 2020 b’siġar Maltin għadu kemm ġie ppubblikat minn Zahra Enterprises Ltd.

Dan il-kalendarju jiftaħ tieqa ġdida kull xahar fuq siġra Maltija li wieħed jista’ jara fil-gżejjer Maltin u Għawdxin.  Minbarra li juri x-xahar u d-data, għal xahar sħiħ juri siġra fl-aqwa tagħha, mlibbsa u mżejna bil-lwien. Wieħed jista’ wkoll jara din is-siġra fl-ambjent naturali ta’ pajjżna matul dan iż-żmien.

Għalhekk dan il-kalendarju huwa wkoll mezz edukattiv ta’ kif wieħed jista’ japprezza u jitgħallem dwar dan il-wirt ta’ pajjiżna.

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 www.zahra.com.mt

 

 


The environmental destruction of Malta

November 19, 2019

Tuesday, 19th November 2019

The environmental destruction of Malta

Alfred E. Baldacchino

How to destroy a valley with EU funds.

The recent destruction at Wied Qirda by Infrastructure Malta is no surprise at all. Environment destruction has become synonymous with the agency in the ministry of Ian Borg.

This long wave of destruction is endless. Thousands of public trees (even the ministry has lost count of numbers) and the destruction of national biodiversity seem to be part of their interpretation of their mission statement, “to ensure [public   infrastructure] can sustainably and dynamically support the country’s current and future economic, environmental and social development”.

Concreting a valley bottom at Wied l-Isqof by Infrastructure Malta

Destruction of trees by Infrastructure Malta at Wied l-Isqof.

The covering with concrete/tarmac of valley paths at Wied l-Isqof, Rabat, Wied Ħesri, il-Lunzjata limits of Rabat, Imselliet, Wied is-Sewda, Wied Qirda and a number of valleys in Gozo, among others, means all have suffered extensive environmental damage.

Destroying old traditional rubble walls, replacing them with large franka stone blocks cladded with used building stones to give the impression that they are ħitan tax-xulliel is another contribution, while covering such new walls with concrete further renders them useless as an ecological habitat.

These can be seen at Buqana l/o Rabat, San Ġwann, Bir id-Deheb, Żejtun, everywhere where one can see a bulldozer paid for by the ministry with EU funds.

Such environmental destruction does not help any minister, especially one who is aspiring to climb the hierarchy in his political party.

Destruction of biodiversity at il-Lunzjata by Infrastructure Malta “in the name of farmers”.

Large franka blocks, cladded with used building stone, with a concrete top layer. Infrastructure Malta refer to these as ‘new rubble walls’.

Standard replies from Infrastructure Malta are nothing but puerile, devoid of any biodiversity protection and sustainability concepts. Who can believe IM today except those who are politically convinced that a circle is square? Even the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) is not always consulted.

One cannot help but think that this is the dictatorial fashion in which IM are spending EU funds, ignoring any suggestions, criticism and appeals by stakeholders.

The Central Link Project is another case where stakeholders are going to court regarding the way decisions have been taken without adequate consultation.

It is only natural that one asks the European Union if it can stop such destruction of priceless biodiversity in our small island, which is being financed by their funds.

It would also be helpful if European Union representatives come to see the works being done and not only meet officials behind closed doors but also meet the stakeholders, who are  ignored and not consulted.

Those who feel responsible for the country and its natural environment cannot stand by and stare at such destruction

Butchered trees at Santa Lucia where a journalist was threatened – 04.08.2019. 

The usual lame excuse by the ministry, that such destruction in valleys and country paths is to accommodate farmers, is indeed hilarious. To the extent that such valley roads are being tarmacked in lieu of potholed secondary streets in towns and villages, unless of course IM believes that there are no such roads to address.

The desperate position of Infrastructure Malta reached culmination point when it stated Wied Qirda was being tarmacked in an area which has for the last two years been earmarked for expropriation.

Works by Infrastructure Malta at Wied l-Isqof concreting valley paths and dislodging rubble walls “in the interest of farmers”.

Are we expected to applaud such ‘good governance’: tarmacking a private valley path which has as yet to be expropriated?

The news that the ministry of Ian Borg will also take over Ta’ Qali to transform it into a national park makes many hold their breath.

The mentality, lack of vision on biodiversity and approach of destroying the natural environment by this ministry’s agency cannot but lead to another environmental disaster, funded by the EU.

About 8 indigenous Holm Oak trees eradicated from Balzan valley, near Lija Cemetery, to widen the road. Works done by Infrastructure Malta.

The importation of trees grown in different habitats overseas, even if they are indigenous, to be planted as new trees or to replace mature ones would only please the chosen ‘landscaper’ or his representative.

For the record, “The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure had appealed a tribunal’s (The Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal) decision and filed a court case (45/2017) against the Commissioner for Information and Data Protection, before the first hall of the Civil Court” for ordering the ministry to make available the public contract between government and ELC. Another official stand by this ministry against freedom of information on environmental matters.

One would be justified to ask what minister Borg is trying to achieve?

With his Infrastructure Malta at the helm of such destructive projects, he stands to lose not only his environmental credibility, if there is anything left to lose, but also his approach at handling, implementing and ensuring “sustainably and dynamically support the ongoing optimisation of the road network”.

Work is being executed by unprofessional personnel, who cannot see any light towards the need of the professional use, management and protection of biodiversity in a sustainable way, but blindfoldedly bulldoze over all stakeholders.

Those who feel responsible for the country and its natural environment, which has been loaned to us by future generations, cannot stand by and stare at such destruction.

Not everybody has a square-circled mentality in this country, and there are many conscientious people too in the party to which Minister Borg belongs.

Who would have thought that an old friend of mine with whom environmental matters were discussed would today be opposing such noble environmental principles?

It is important that future generations will know who was at the helm of such environmental destruction with the help of EU funds. Funds which could have been better used in a sustainable way for the benefit of society and the environment.

The legacy of environmental devastation, left by Infrastructure Malta, is there for one and all to see. Wied Qirda is another such legacy in their long list.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles:

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-architect-the-judge-the-house-and-the-illegal-driveway.686056

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/workers-at-wied-qirda-ignore-regulators-orders-to-stop.750328

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment Landscaping Conundrum

Environment hit by EU funds

“For our trees”

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

‘Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’

 


The public landscaping mistakes experts say need fixing

October 18, 2019

Monday, 14th October, 2019

As an old contract comes to an end, we asked experts what we’ve done wrong

Jessica Arena

   photo: Times of Malta

Public landscaping practices in Malta have been plagued by poor practices which should not be repeated once a contract with the old consortium comes to an end, experts have said.

The public-private partnership deal between Environmental Landscapes Consortium and the government expires at the end of the year and a process for a new call for tenders is in the works.

In 2017, the National Audit Office published a report that found that the partnership with ELC should have long been dissolved due to a series of contract breaches on the part of the consortium.

The government has spent over €100 million since the start of the agreement in 2002, where neither the original partnership agreement nor the two subsequent contract extensions were awarded through a competitive tendering process.

The report, however, does not address the environmental critiques leveled at ELC, particularly when it comes to taking a more biodiversity-conscious approach to landscaping works.

Planting invasive species

“The consortium’s most insidious environmental impact has been the indiscriminate use of non-indigenous species during a number of landscaping projects,” marine biologist and environmentalist Alan Deidun told Times of Malta.

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In its early days, the consortium was responsible for the widespread planting of the hottentot fig (Carpobrotus edulis), a highly invasive species of South African succulent, he said.

Using water-guzzling turf

Additionally, ELC was often criticised for its use of water-guzzling turfs and the planting of non-local stocks of native species.

Millions of euros were literally wasted, including the scarce resource of water used

Landscaper and garden expert Fernando Mifsud said: “Although aesthetically beautiful, lawns need a lot of water to keep them looking green and also need a lot of fertilisers and chemicals to keep them looking healthy.”

Such pesticides leach into the ground, killing the biodiversity in the soil. They are also washed in the water course through water runoff when it rains, therefore negatively affecting water creatures like frog populations, he said.

Removing local ‘weeds’

Additionally, the overuse of pesticides and the culling of local flora considered to be ‘weeds’ were also critiques leveled at the landscaping consortium.

Local flora is often culled from landscaping projects to maintain “neatness” – however, these species are closely linked to local fauna such as native butterfly or bird species, and their elimination contributes to the scarce propagation of local fauna.

Environmentalist Alfred Baldacchino maintains that had the funds invested in the consortium in the past 15 years been utilised professionally, Malta would be covered with indigenous trees grown from local stock.

“From a biodiversity point of view, taking into consideration national and international obligation, millions of euros were literally wasted, including the scarce resource of water used,” Mr Baldacchino said.

What should a new contract stipulate?

Mr Baldacchino, who has been petitioning the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure for a copy of the public agreement since 2015, believes a new agreement should regard contractors solely as operators and a regulatory role should fall within the Environment Ministry.

“Contractors should not be allowed any monopoly on landscaping. Emphasis should be entrenched in the contract that all trees and shrubs used for landscaping purposes should be propagated from local stock, so that a new local industry can be established for centres providing indigenous plants,” Mr Baldacchino said.

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This will also ensure the local gene pool of the indigenous species is not polluted, thus contributing towards better protection of indigenous species also from diseases and invasive alien species, having more educational input for the benefit of the public, and contributing to a multiplier effect from the funds allocated for landscaping.

Prof. Deidun stressed that future operators should ensure that only native or indigenous species fully adapted to the semi-arid conditions of the Mediterranean Basin are planted in landscaping projects.

“Additionally, plants which represent year-round important food resources for pollinators (e.g. bees) should be favoured, despite their status as ‘weeds’ by the public,” he added.

Mr Mifsud also says there should be an obligation to focus on the planting of indigenous species that propagate better in the region.

“These trees and plants need less care and are resistant to drought and pests. Over the years, they have evolved and adapted to our climate. This would also reduce the maintenance cost on the long run,” Mr Mifsud said.

When contacted, ELC declined to comment.

other related articles on this blog

Trees hit headlines

Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating

Maltese trees – conserving and landscaping

updating/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/trees-and-invasive-species

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/national-hobby-of-butchering-trees

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/use-and-overuse-of-pesticides-2

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/alien-invasive-species-animation-film

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/eu-stand-on-invasive-species/

 


Is-Siġar Tagħna

September 23, 2019

Għaqda Siġar Maltin

 

We look forward to continuing the series of educational talks for the general public themed ‘Is-Siġar Tagħna’ started last year by Għaqda Siġar Maltin. This year’s talks are going to be held in partnership with the Mqabba Local Council and are going to be divided into 3 sessions as follows:

Talk 1:  3rd October

‘Foresta 2000, The Creation of a Maltese Forest’ by Ray Vella

‘Pollination, nectar, propolis and the benefits of the ecosystem regarding bees and trees’ by Victor Busuttil

Talk 2:  17th October

‘Siġar f’Malta matul iż-żminijiet’ by Edwin Lanfranco

Talk 3:  7th November

‘Speċi indiġeni, speċi endemiċi, speċi aljeni u speċi invażivi’ by Alfred E. Baldacchino

– ‘The Learning About Forests – LEAF programme’ by Johann Gatt

All speakers have years of experience in their respective fields and will share with us insights into their experiences and knowledge.

Talks will be 30 minutes long, with additional time for questions from the audience. Talk 2 by Edwin Lanfranco will be 60 minutes long.

The primary language used in all talks will be Maltese.

Admission will be FREE of charge but any donations will be appreciated.

To book your place you are asked to fill in the following google form:
https://forms.gle/P2TCXnJyX1KxWy1Z7

Places are limited so kindly book your place to avoid disappointment.

Venue Coordinates:
https://goo.gl/maps/KU5qcK4Jsr165GmU7

 

___________________________________________________________________________

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

September 16, 2019

Monday, 16th September 2019

Ivan Camilleri

 

When is a rubble wall not a rubble wall? Structures put up along the Tal-Balal road. Photos: Chris Sant Fournierħ

The “fake” rubble walls being built along arterial roads, sometimes in place of traditional ones, are illegal, according to a former director of the planning authority.

“A look at the ‘rubble walls’ which Infrastructure Malta is building, some replacing protected old ones, reveals that they are just dummy, fake walls,” said Alfred Baldacchino.

He was asked for his opinion following an inspection of the walls by Times of Malta.

The faux rubble walls are made up of an aesthetic façade of local stone cladding set against large ‘franka’ blocks. This does not conform to regulations on how rubble walls – which are protected by law – should be constructed, he said, calling for an investigation.

Kilometres of ‘fake’ rubble walls are being built along newly constructed major roads – proof, said Mr Baldacchino, that “the government does not give a hoot about protecting the island’s heritage”.

A case in point is some 2.5 kilometres of what, according to Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg, were new “rubble” walls built along the perimeter of the road connecting San Ġwann to Naxxar, better known as Tal-Balal.

Plans submitted by Infrastructure Malta for the Tal-Balal road widening project described the new walls as rubble walls and not cladded walls.

However, a quick inspection shows them to be constructed of a superficial cladding made up of old and new stone set on large blocks of limestone.

Not only would this appear to fall foul of laws protecting Malta’s traditional rubble walls but they also present an environmental eyesore. Large tracts of wall are exposed at the back – left without cladding – jarring with the rural setting they are supposed to protect.

“To add insult to injury,” said Mr Baldacchino, “the walls are covered in concrete topping, which is also against the regulations, preventing the free percolation of rainwater through the structure.”

A senior government official who works with the government’s Valley Management section at the Transport Ministry told Times of Malta that the ministry had received warnings about the damage that was being done.

Warnings about damage that was being done

However, the road contractors appear to have been given the green light despite these warnings, said the source, who wanted to remain anonymous.

Times of Malta has been seeking the position of the Planning Authority on the matter for nearly a month, sending precise details of the roads and walls in question.

However, despite being the authority responsible for the protection of rubble walls, it has failed to reply to questions, one being whether the Tal-Balal rubble walls are in line with the relevant legal notice. Neither were replies to questions received from the Environment and Resources Authority, which is responsible for the protection of the environment.

A spokeswoman for the ERA initially said it was looking into the case but later passed the buck to the PA. “It is the Planning Authority which is the competent authority for implementing and enforcing this legislation,” she said.

Cladded walls cost significantly less to build than true rubble walls.

Infrastructure Malta was asked which it was being billed by the road contractors for, but it too failed to reply to questions.

Mr Baldacchino was scathing: “The roads agency and the ministry seem to think that they are exempt from local legislation. The problem is that besides the destruction of the environment, these roads are also financed by EU money.

“This should be investigated,” he said. Infrastructure Malta was already in hot water over the Tal-Balal Tal-Balal project when it started to build sections of the road without applying for a permit.

 

This concrete is against the regulations, preventing water drainage through rubble walls.

What does the law say?

The legal notice entitled ‘Rubble Walls and Rural Structures’, last amended in 2007, declared rubble walls and non-habitable rural structures to be protected.

This was in view of their historical and architectural importance, their exceptional beauty, their affording a habitat for flora and fauna, and their vital importance in the conservation of soil and water.

According to these rules, a rubble wall means a dry-stone wall, built in loose unhewn or rough-dressed stones which stands by gravity and friction without the use of mortar.

The Planning Authority is declared in the law as the competent authority responsible for the administration and implementation of these regulations.

The relevent regulation regrding rubble walls can be accessed through this link:

http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lom&itemid=11490&l=1

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 


Environment Landscaping Conundrum

September 10, 2019

The environment landscaping problem

Tuesday, 10 September, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

 

One of the environmental legacies from such ‘landscaping’ “secret contract” – the ubiquitous invasive fountain grass.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO) report of September 2017, “landscaping maintenance through a Public-Private Partnership” was a matter for which an agreement was entered into on October 31, 2002 between the government (Ministry of Finance) and the Environment Landscaping Consortium (ELC) “for managing government resources, which were made at its disposal to deliver the landscaping projects in accordance with the terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement.”

This agreement “was not derived through competitive tendering procedures” but awarded “through direct negotiations with ELC following a call for an expression of interest.”

The government further opted to extend this contract twice, namely in 2007 and 2012 through two direct orders which “also deviate from the spirit of competition promoted by the Public Procurement Regulations where it is stipulated that material contacts are to be subject to a European Union wide call for tenders”.

According to the NAO, “the contractual rates negotiated are not favourable to the government” because of such procedures.

This contract expires at the end of 2019, having to date received from the government approximately €8 million per year (that is, €136 million in total).

The NAO report goes into detail about the contractual deficiencies of this agreement. Amongst these, the report outlined how the parties’ documents did not reconcile on various aspects of service delivery. It noted that the Project Management Committee was non-functioning and that there was non-receipt of a number of reports, particularly the quarterly management accounts, which “constitutes a contractual breach”.

The report noted the use of pesticides at Buskett Gardens’ orchards despite the restrictions within an EU Natura 2000 site, and also how documentation relating to a detailed survey of the sites could not be traced by the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority.

The NAO also outlined how work was carried out without any authorisation and that work on four projects, which had to be completed by 2017 and which were to be carried out by the contractor at no additional cost to the government, had not yet commenced.

There was mention of how the government had not kept abreast on the status of the contractual clause needing to be fulfilled whereby the government had agreed to finance an in-house training course for students following horticulture studies at MCAST. There was also mention of the government’s lack of knowledge of the contractor’s financial input, which was not conducive to a balanced partnership.

The report noted how the contract rates higher than other landscaping agreements signed by governmental entities and that the operational and financial information gaps were not appropriately safeguarding the government’s position as a partner within this agreement. It went on to note: “The contractor’s non-compliance remains evident on a number of issues.

In some cases, deviations from contractual clauses that date back to 2002 impact negatively on the government’s direct and broader interests.”

Bad planning, wrong use and waste of scarce water resources.                    Photo A E Baldacchino 2011.07.01.

The NAO report refers only to the financial and commercial aspects of this PPP contract. The national and EU obligations with regards to biodiversity are not entered into.

A copy of this public agreement was requested on June 23, 2015. This request was vehemently refused by the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, as was the subsequent appeal dated August 13, 2015.A request was filed with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner on August 19, 2015. The Commissioner’s decision of January 19, 2016 considered “that the public interest is better served by providing the applicant with a copy of the requested document” and “that there are no impediments to release a copy of the agreement.”

 

I cannot help but wonder whether there is any hidden political hand in this environment landscaping conundrum

 

The Commissioner’s decision went on to say that, hence, “in the spirit of transparency and accountability as contemplated by the Act, the MTI [Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure] is instructed to accede to Mr Baldacchino’s request by not later than twenty-five (25) working days from the receipt of this decision”.

Following this ruling, an appeal was lodged by the said Ministry to the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.

The Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal (14.09.2107) waived the appeal made by the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, confirming the Commissioner of Information and Data Protection ruling (19.01.2016), and ordered that a copy of the agreement signed between the government and ELC on October 31, 2002 should be given to the applicant.

The Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal in its ruling (27/2016) concluded, amongst other things, that “in the said agreement, there is no information of a commercial nature that cannot be made public and that in terms of article 35(2) of the said Act, it is in the public interest that such an agreement be made public.”

The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure was unhappy with this ruling. An email from the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government in October 2017 subsequently explained: “The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure had appealed the Tribunal’s decision and filed a court case (45/2017) against the Commissioner for Information and Data Protection, before the first hall of the Civil Court”, arguing that the decision of the Commissioner for the Protection of Data should be declared “null and void”.

maintenance of public gardens –  pruning agony.

Judgement had to be reached by December 2017, but the sitting has been postponed and postponed again. The decision is still pending.

Considering the Freedom of Information Act (Chap. 496 of the Laws of Malta) and considering that, as a member of the European Union and also a signatory to the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), one would have thought that such a matter would have been solved within weeks. But after four years from the initial request for a copy of this agreement, such a contract is still not publicly available.

One would have thought that the ELC – the government’s private partner – would be proud to inform everyone how they utilised the €136 million from public funds in relation to their contractual obligations.

The NAO’s report (page 55) concludes: “Contractual non-compliance prevailed in the face of government’s limited enforcement action. In such circumstances, the government’s position shifted from one where action could be initiated to dissolve this PPP Agreement, to one where prolonged weak enforcement implied tacit consent”.

 

The Fountain grass will long be remembered after the demise of the ELC.  It will be up top the social, financial and ecological expenses to control and manage such an EU listed invasive species used in local ‘landscaping’.

The Ministry for Finance has opted for the second position and continued to vote €8 million per annum. What will be the stand taken by the Ministry of Finance vis-à-vis the coming budget with regards to this ‘secret agreement’? Hopefully the Ministry for the Environment, who is now responsible for this ‘secret contract’, will put its foot down.

I cannot help but wonder whether there is any hidden political hand in this environment landscaping conundrum.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

Related articles

Trees hit headlines

Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating

Maltese trees – conserving and landscaping

updating/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/trees-and-invasive-species

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/national-hobby-of-butchering-trees

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/use-and-overuse-of-pesticides-2

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/alien-invasive-species-animation-film

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/eu-stand-on-invasive-species/

 


Il-Knisja u l-ambjent

August 17, 2019

Soċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija Mosta – Awwissu 2019

Il-knisja u l-ambjent

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Il-Ġenesis jgħidilna kif Alla ħalaq id-dinja u s-smewiet. Ħalaq id-dawl, is-sema, l-ibħra, l-istillel, l-art, il-pjanti u s-siġar, u l-annimali bħall-bhejjem u l-għasafar. U Alla fl-aħħar ħalaq il-bniedem biex ikun fuq il-ħut fil-baħar, fuq l-għasafar fl-ajru, fuq il-bhejjem u l-annimali l-oħra u fuq kull ħolqien ieħor li jimxi fuq l-art. U Alla ra lil dak li kien ħalaq kien tajjeb.

Imma l-bniedem jaħseb u jemmen li bħala l-aktar ħolqien intelliġenti fuq din id-dinja għandu dritt mingħajr limitu mingħand Alla biex jaħkem lin-natura. U dan anki kif kien jiġi mgħallem.

Papa-Gwann Pawlu II

Kien il-Papa Ġwann Pawlu II meta f’Nairobi kellem lill-ġemgħa msejħa mill-Programm Ambjentali tal-Ġnus Magħquda (UNEP) fejn qal li Alla ħalaq kollox u għabba l-bniedem bir-responsabbiltà biex jieħu ħsiebhom u mhux biex jagħmilhom tiegħu u jeqred kemm jiflaħ. Il-Papa għallem li huwa meħtieġ għad-dinjità tal-bniedem, u għalhekk huwa ta’ responsabbiltà kbira biex il-bniedem jsaltan fuq il-ħolqien b’governanza għaqlija. L-esplojtazzjoni tal-rikkezzi tan-natura irid isir bil-għan mhux biss tal-bżonnijiet tal-ġenerazzjonijiet tal-lum, imma anki għall-bżonnijiet ta’ dawk ta’ għada. B’din il-direzzjoni li tana Alla mbiegħdu kull tmexxija ta’ kilba u ta’ gwadan personali, u twassalna biex nifhmu li dak maħluq minn Alla huwa għall-ġid tal-umanità kollha. Il-bniedem għandu r-responsabbiltà li jħares lin-natura.

Fil-kliemu, li llum huwa magħruf sewwa, li kien għamel fl-1 ta’ Jannar 1990, il-ġurnata dinjija għall-paċi, il-Papa Ġwann Pawlu II kien tkellem fuq ir-responsabbiltà tal-bniedem għall-ambjent. Tkellem fuq ir-rispett tan-natura, fuq l-egoiżmu kollettiv, fuq in-nuqqas ta’ rispett għall-ġirien, fuq id-diżonestà, fuq il-kriżi ekoloġika li tikxef in-nuqqas ta’ karattru morali u ta’ valuri etiċi tal-bniedem, fuq it-tbagħbis fl-ekosistema, fuq il-qerda bla kontroll tal-annimali u tal-ħajja tal-pjanti, u fuq ħtif u l-użu bla rażan tar-riżorsi naturali.

Il-Papa kompla jgħid li l-paċi fid-dinja hija mhedda, mhux biss bil-ġirja għall-armi, l-gwerrer u l-inġustizzji, imma anki bin-nuqqas ta’ rispett lejn in-natura, il-ħtif tar-riżorsi naturali, u bit-telf dejjem jiżdied tal-kwalità tal-ħajja. Dan l-istil ta’ ħajja jħaddan fih sens ta’ nuqqas ta’ kontrol u nuqqas ta’ serħan il-moħħ u, kif qal il-Papa huwa “ġuf ta’ egoiżmu kollettiv, nuqqas ta’ stima għall-oħrajn, u diżonestà.” Hawn il-Papa jgħid u jerġa jgħid u jwissi li l-kriżi ekoloġika “hija kriżi morali”.

Papa-Frangisku

Fuq dan il-pedament li firex il-Papa Ġwann Pawlu II, komplew bnew il-Papiet li ġew warajh. Tant li l-Papa Franġisku fl-24 ta’ Mejju 2015, ippubblika ittra pastorali Laudato Si li wieħed jista’ jsib fuq il-ħolqa http://thechurchinmalta.org/files/article/Enciklika_LaudatoSi.143514750116.pdf

Din tispjega, tgħallem, u twissi dwar ir-responsabbiltà li aħna bħala Nsara għandna lejna nfusna, lejn il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada, lejn id-dinja u l-aktar lejn Alla li ħalaqna.   L-Enċiklika tiftaħ bil-kliem mill-għanja ta’ San Franġisk t’Assisi lill-ħolqien: Tifhir lilek Mulej, (Laudato Si’) liema kliem ifakkarna li d-dar tagħna lkoll hija bħal oħtna li magħha naqsmu din il-ħajja. Jfakkarna wkoll fl-omm ħelwa tagħna li tiftaħ idejha biex tħaddanna magħha, li titmagħna bi frott, bi fjuri mlewna u bi ħwawar.

L-Enċiklika ta’ Papa Franġisku tgħallem kemm l-ekoloġija hija importanti u meħtieġa. Hija importanti bħala nisġa li għandha tkun il-mera tagħna f’kollox, l-aktar biex turina r-relazzjonital-persuna tagħna ma’ Alla, mas-sistema ekoloġika, magħna nfusna, ma’ persuni oħrajn, u mal-ħolqien.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

Ara wkoll

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/l-enciklika-laudato-si-u-l-kummerc/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/it-taghlim-tar-religjonijiet-u-l-ambjent-9/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/a-prayer-for-our-earth-pope-francis/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/the-biblical-apple-tree/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/mother-earth-brother-sun-sister-moon-some-spiritual-teachings/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/458/

 


“For our trees”

July 30, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Sunday, 28th July 2019, saw a strong determined crowd (2000 +/-) show their disappointment, disagreement and anger towards the recently approved Attard Central Link Project, a projects funded by EU funds.

Individuals from all levels of primary, secondary and tertiary education, young and old, from all walks of life, attended for this symbolic protest, expressing their concerns about the destruction of trees and other biodiversity, and other negative impacts this project will be having on the social, environmental and ecological fabric of the area, with far reaching consequences.

Some tied themselves to the trees adorning the Rabat Road, trees which are not necessarily earmarked for destruction, but nonetheless representing the 500+ trees officially granted a permit by ERA to be removed, transplanted or destroyed.

Congratulations for the 19-year-old Sasha Vella and friends, who organised such activity, despite “pitiful attempts by partisan forces” to undermine their work. It was indeed encouraging to see so many youths and others so concerned about our environment. No wonder Sasha Vella was over-whelmed by the response.

Congratulations also to all those who turned up to encourage and support such a voice for the environment.

The following are some of the posters and messages which were used for this activity for our trees. It definitely show that there is a voice, getting stronger, which is being professionally, sincerely, without any political influence, used to show the stand being taken for our environment in the national interest.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

related article:

Environment hit by EU funds