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


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Environment hit by EU funds

July 27, 2019

Saturday, 27th July, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

On July 18, the Planning Authority approved the Attard Central Link Project for which the EU is going to contribute €55 million.

There were a lot of questions and doubts on this project which everybody hoped a meeting would iron out. Not only were these not answered but even more doubts were cast.

The meeting was opened by the Infrastructure Malta CEO, Engineer Fredrick Azzopardi, representing the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure. He tried to convince those present that this Central Link project has many benefits. Stakeholders subsequently expressed more doubts and asked more questions, confirming the lack of public consultations.

Here is a résumé of the questions:

Those present for the meeting asked how such a project would be beneficial for full-time or part-time farmers, and those involved in animal husbandry.

There were also questions about the loss of 22,000 square metres of agricultural land and the subsequent loss of jobs due to this land being destroyed.

There were concerns about the fruit and crops in the area since these would be covered with additional emissions that would disperse across the adjacent fields.

The biodiversity of the area was also a point of concern seeing as this was facing the destruction of more than 550 trees, many of which are protected, and the loss of their contribution to climate change and the ecological niches of which they form part.

Questions were asked about the hydrological system feeding Wied is-Sewda, along with the farmers’ cisterns and the disruption of natural water flow destroyed by the project (which was unbelievably referred to as “flood water”).

Not to mention the concerns about the psychological and physical health of residents in the vicinity and beyond Attard, including those residing in Siġġiewi and Qormi, given the increase in noise pollution and toxic chemicals that the project is sure to cause.

There was also the question about the cultural heritage of the area and the number of historical constructions that would be threatened, some dating back to the times of the Knights of Malta.

Will the towers being built close to the Malta Financial Services Authority, nonchalantly approved by the lack-of-vision, commercially minded PA – definitely be­yond the carrying capacity of the area – be the main beneficiaries of the public land being taken up and the EU funds being spent?

None of the social and environmental elements mentioned above is going to bene­fit from this EU-funded project.

None of the questions were answered by the CEO of Infrastructure Malta. None of the concerns put forward were even addressed. The Environment Im­pact Assessment presented gave a very superficial indication of the project’s negative impacts.

The chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, as silent as a grave, in a later interview in the press (July 19) was quoted as saying that “he had nothing to add” because none of the comments raised by stakeholders during the meeting changed anything from the ERA’s report.

He called most interventions against the project “emotional”! He also justified the project “on the basis of national interest”.

In yet another section of the press (July 19), Environment Minister José Herrera said that “the authority (ERA) would be vigilant and in a consistent way, [fulfil] its duties to offer the greatest elements of protection to our natural capital, and this with the means and parameters established by law”.

This trophy was first awarded to MEPA in 2015. Despite the fact that the year 2019 is not yet out, this has been awarded to the Planning Authority and the Infrastructure Malta for the environmental devastation that they are involved in.

 

So long as there are EU funds, then they have to be spent irrespective of the foreseen environmental destruction

The Infrastructure Malta CEO said that this project, according to his economist’s report, will “give back” €16 savings for every €1 spent without even saying how. His economist did not refer to any externalities or the hidden costs that would be borne by the public and the environment. No wonder all the above questions asked were ignored by the CEO.

With regard to the uprooting of trees, he told the press, with hand on heart, “they are using the ERA compensation system of planting trees for those uprooted”, and that the “trees to be planted as compensation will have to be at least three metres tall”. This implies they will all be imported irrespective of the possible dangers of diseases and other invasive species they may bring with them, contrary to EU recommendations as administered by ERA.

Farmers were up in arms when they heard the Infrastructure Malta CEO say that they had been consulted, and could not keep from emphasising that this was a blatant lie.

This is how decisions are taken in Malta – a final late meeting on decision day without the stakeholders being properly consulted, despite this being a requirement whenever EU funds are involved.

All stakeholders and the public have to be involved and consulted so that they are part of the decision rather than just being informed of the decision after it has been taken. Consultation does not mean planting political individuals amidst the public and stakeholders and having them clap every time their minister’s wishes are supported.

The bottleneck at the roundabout beneath Saqqajja Hill will not only remain as it is but will become worse because of the heavier and faster volume of traffic that will be introduced, as advertised by the Ministry’s billboard in Attard.

How on earth can one imagine that the bulk of this traffic has to make its way up Saqqajja Hill where there are only two carriageways? No explanation whatsoever was given by the Infrastructure engineer.

Unbelievably, the EU is dishing out €55 million to the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure for this particular project, while stakeholders and the public have to depend on voluntary contributions to protect the country from environmental and social destruction.

If there were no EU funds, there would not be such useless environmental destruction taking place. The impression one gets is that, so long as there are EU funds, then they have to be spent irrespective of the foreseen environmental destruction.

ERA, the competent authority recognised by the EU for the protection of the environment, gave its endorsement of this environmental destruction because most of the questions asked, according to the ERA chairman, were “emotional”.

On its website, the ERA says that it is committed “to safeguard the environment for a sustainable quality of life”. There was no confirmation of this whatsoever from the ERA chairman during the meeting, which took place on a very black Thursday for the Maltese environment, with the blessing of ERA.

Can anybody with a real national, social and environmental conscience, and without any political influence, be blamed for losing all confidence in ERA?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 


Where have all the butterflies gone?

July 21, 2019

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Landscaping works contributing to further biodiversity loss

Jessica Arena

 

A few decades ago, butterflies of every shape and colour would take off in swarms as you walked under carob trees. Nowadays, the decline of butterflies is occurring at such a high rate that when naturalists spot a particularly uncommon species, they do not disclose its location; to protect the insects from harm.

While migratory butterflies can still be spotted with some frequency, local butterflies have all but disappeared from view. Landscaping works being carried out without consideration for local fauna and flora are having a devastating effect of the state of Maltese biodiversity, according to experts.

Jake Farrugia, an earth systems student and amateur lepidopterist, recounts how just earlier this month, while collecting fennel for his own larvae, he spotted a large number of swallowtail butterfly larvae nestled in the fennel bushes. Returning to the site a few days later, Mr Farrugia says that during landscaping works in Triq il-Buskett, Rabat, the native fennel bushes on the side of the road were all removed, taking the butterfly larvae with them.

“Plants growing under country walls and other walls are essential in providing micro habitats for all sorts of flora and fauna,” Mr Farrugia says.

“A butterfly looking to deposit eggs, such as the swallowtail, would have gladly chosen this spot since it is sheltered from the sun and wind as well as potential predators.”

The removal of fennel bushes and other local flora constitutes as habitat loss… We are shooting ourselves in the foot,” Mr Farrugia says, adding that the desire to ’embellish’ public spaces is not allowing nature to adapt .

Alfred Baldacchino, an environmentalist and former assistant director at the Mepa Environmental Directorate, describes the conservation of biodiversity as pitiful.                   ,

“Despite the fact that the Environment and Resources Authority is responsible for biodiversity protection and conservation through the enforcement of EU legislation, they  are incompetent, ignorant of the situation and failing to take any proactive measures,” Mr Baldacchino says.

Biodiversity loss can be attributed to an intersecting number of external situations, the most pressing of which, according to Mr Baldacchino, is climate change. Rapid changes in temperature, the use of fossil fuels and pesticides are compounded upon flora and fauna, giving the environment very little time to adjust.

“ERA is incompetent and ignorant of the situation”

“This year alone we have seen temperatures in France soar to 45’C, several fires in Europe, the destruction of Miżieb,” says Mr Baldacchino.

“There is a complete lack of interest, lack of tangible effort, lack of any help at all from the Ministry responsible for climate change and the environment.”

According to Mr Baldacchino, the ERA and Ambjent Malta are not doing enough to mitigate  the   effects  of   climate change and prevent further biodiversity loss through adequate conservation plans.

“Mizieb is a case in point,” he says,”first there’s a disaster and afterwards we run a study about how it could have been prevented.”

When it comes to landscaping, Mr Baldacchino says the authorities and entities concerned demonstrate a pattern of disinterest and wilful ignorance with respect the havoc being wreaked on native flora.

“The Environmental Landscapes Consortium is the worst enemy of biodiversity,” Mr Baldacchino says. “Their only interest is.monetary profit. Despite the fact that they have been paid €8 million a year for the past 15 years from public funds, all they have to show for it is the destruction of biodiversity, use of chemicals and water-thirsty turfs which compete with local flora.”

There is a public perception of biodiversity that regards the majority of wayside flora as ‘ħaxix ħażin’ (weeds) and that its removal causes only superficial damage. This position is something Mr Baldacchino calls “professional ignorance” as even school children are taught that flora is an integral part of the ecosystem.

Wayside flora are unique ecological niches and  often serve as breeding grounds for insects and other fauna, as well as being highly attractive to pollinators, such as bees and even butterflies.

The careless removal of these niches could spell doom not just for our butterflies but for the long term health of the environment itself, Mr Baldacchino stresses.

“When ELC act like they derive pleasure from removing every blade of grass that grows, we only have a recipe for disaster.”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Dwejra: Tribunal dazzled by delight

July 8, 2019

 

Monday, 8th July 2019

Alfred Baldacchino

A recent decision by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has overturned a Planning Authority decision, ordering it to approve a permit for the extension of a restaurant, the installation of light and increasing the number of tables and chairs in an EU Natura 2000 site in Dwejra.

Without any doubt, this throws a lot of light on the official political disrespect, disinterest, exploitation and disregard for the environment as well as national and international legislation.

Dwejra is a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation with regard to biodiversity, in line with the Birds and Habitat Directives. It is part of the EU Natura 2000 network because of its importance to the EU.

The Malta Environment and Resources Authority is the responsible competent authority recognised by the EU. Competent national authorities are those entitled to give authorisation or consent to a plan or project in Natura 2000 sites.

 

Dwejra is the best remaining site on the islands for astronomical observations. Photo provided by the Physics Department and the Institute for Astronomy and Space Sciences

Dwejra is also designated as a ‘dark sky heritage area’ in the Gozo and Comino Local Plan.

Article 6 of the EU Habitat Directive can be regarded as a key framework for giving effect to the principle of integration with regard to the management of the protected areas in a sustainable way and sets the limits of activities that can impact negatively on protected areas.

In an international context, Article 6 also helps to achieve the aims of relevant international nature conservation conventions such as the Berne Convention and the Biodiversity Convention (Malta is a party to both), while at the same time creating a more detailed framework for site conservation and protection than these conventions themselves do.

Where assessment is required by Article 6 (3) it takes the form of an assessment under Directive 85/337/EEC (on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment), where public consultation is necessary.

In this context, it is worth mentioning the possible longer-term implications of the Aarhus Convention, which emphasises the importance of public consultation in relation to environmental decision-making.

According to Habitat Directive’s article 6 (2) “any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives”.

The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has completely undermined Malta’s obligations at EU level

“In the light of the conclusions of the assessment of the implications for the site and subject to the provisions of the Habitat Directive (para 4), the competent national authorities shall agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and, if appropriate, after having obtained the opinion of the general public.”

An EU Commission publication dated 2000, Managing Natura 2000 Sites – The provisions of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive 92/43/CEE, explains that “member states shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, (like Dwejra) the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbances of the species for which the areas have been designated, in so far as such disturbance could be significant in relation to the objectives of this directive”.

The article also states that “member states shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration… as well as disturbances…” of species and habitats for which the sites have been designated and should also be implemented if necessary outside the sites. (Article 6 (2)).

Disturbances include, among others, noise and source of light.

The intensity, duration and frequency of repetition of disturbance are, therefore, important parameters and can be regarded as a significant disturbance.

Even a plan or project that includes conservation management among its objectives may still require assessment.

Although the management plan for Dwejra has long been drawn up with the help of EU funds, and approved by the EU, it is still gathering dust on the ministry’s bookshelf.

There is still no administrative set-up for its implementation, enforcement, management, administration, education and no stakeholders are involved, as obliged by the management plan.

The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has completely undermined Malta’s obligations at EU level. Can the ERA contest such a decision in court, especially when the Minister for the Environment has publicly stated that he does not agree with this permit? If not, does this decision mean the ERA is impotent as a competent authority responsible for EU obligations when confronted by such a tribunal?

Do the citizens have to refer the matter to the EU to achieve what the ERA should be on the front line defending on their behalf?

This is definitely another decision reached by hand-picked political academics,whose short-sighted decision embarrassed Malta with regard to its international obligations.

If such a tribunal is independent, then the responsibility has to be carried by those people involved in such a decision and who have completely ignored and defied the decision made by two national competent authorities and also the public with great political and environmental consequences.

It is high time the EU DG Environment investigates how Natura 2000 sites in Malta are being brought to disrepute.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

related articles:

Dwejra: Gone with the wind

A window pain for sure

Sifting solidified sand at Dwejra

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com


Crossing the cross

May 14, 2019
Alfred E Baldacchino

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier   

The Gozo permanent link discussion has now been politically sealed by the House of Representatives, though not the relevant scientific studies. From the horse’s mouth we now know that it is up to the official agencies to decide how to go crossing this cross with the least possible damages: presumably damages with regard to social, ecological and financial impacts.

One can never vouch for what is said and written, much less for what is not said and not written.

Now this cross is on the lap of the hand-picked academics to decide (or blindly endorse) and shoulder responsibility. One hopes that work will not start, and when problems are encountered, a study is initiated when there is no reversing the damage done, and the necessary permits have been issued. We have seen this a number of times, lately with the widening of country paths by the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The present fleet of Gozo ferries was adequate when they were launched because the demand was adequately met then. But today, the demand has increased while the ferry service has not.

“Surely a fourth ferry can extend the 12-year expiration date… but delaying the problem is not good enough” a young engineer wrote (May 2). Seems waiting for 12 to 15 years for the tunnel to be completed is better than waiting for the fourth ferry which can be in service before one can say Jack Robinson. This student engineer concluded that the fourth ferry is not “economically possible”.

Drivers from Mġarr still have to drive through bottlenecks and traffic congestions from Xemxija, to Sliema, Mater Dei, University, airport, and Valletta: dispersing emissions through towns and villages to the detriment of society and the environment, if these are of any relevance today.

It has also been implied and said that a fast ferry service should be for passengers only. Why? Is there a monopoly which needs protection?  Is this in the interest of commuters or traffic management?

“Congestion is not removed by restricting it. What better ways are there to eliminate traffic congestion other than to facilitate its mobility?” and do away with monopolies. “The idea of a permanent link is not to cut down on the 25-minute ferry trip, but to remove the queues. The engineer caters for the target user first and foremost.” (May 2).

Only? Those who used the ferry service from Mġarr to San Maison know what I mean, before the area was taken for a yacht marina.

Political mongering warns that if northern winds hit the island a fast ferry cannot operate at all. How many times did the fast ferry service from Malta to Sicily (more than 27-kilometre distance) not operated because of inclement weather? Besides, even aeroplanes are occasionally grounded either because of inclement weather, terrorism threats, and volcano emissions! And what about accidents half way through the tunnel?

Saying that the fast ferry service will create a parking issue in Gozo, is trying to convince that a circle is square

Political tears maintain that there is no room in Mġarr for the berthing of fast ferries, not even for a fourth ferry because of the yacht marina. What is more important for commuters: a quay for fast ferries or a yacht marina for the selected few?  One cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Saying that the fast ferry service will create a parking issue in Gozo, is trying to convince that a circle is square. Will there be a selective quota for the number of cars entering the tunnel so that “they will not create a parking problem”?

The political mentality dictates that fast ferry services pollute more than all the cars. Why is this of concern only to ferry services to Gozo and not to the number of cruise liners, which all work on heavy fuel oil even when they are berthed in Grand Harbour?

Young University students are all computer literate. I hope none of these have been imprinted by a ministerial political comment that “environmentalists are not those who stay on the computer writing about everything that passes over the country”!

Students should be proactive and become familiar with modern technology, and not just look at an old ferry fleet to the sound of political idiosyncrasies as if nothing is related to the environment. Student engineers should be at the top of the list on such modern approach as other academic students are doing.

Surfing the internet, getting one’s feet wet, can enlighten one on the modern way of solar-powered ferry services. Sitting near and hearing politicians can lead one to a tunnel vision. There are solar powered ferries working in Scandinavia, where the sun does not shine as strong and as long as it does in Malta and Gozo.

“Engineers are a separate species from the rest of the broader Homo sapiens. Engineers act, socialise and think like engineers; they think laterally. Also, engineering is non-democratic” (May 2) does not reflect well at all on the profession, unless of course this comment is relevant only to those engineers with such a vision, who are building highways in country paths guided by a ministerial mentality of “ħaxix ħażin”.

There are many professional engineers who incorporate the findings of other professions, like economists, ecologists, physicists, chemists, psychologists, geologists, sociologists, planners, legal and medical professions, and also public consultations.

Unfortunately, hand-picked politically faithful academics, some engineers not excluded, fear to tread or consult other professional studies, even if it is just an exercise to “…to remove the queues”, and might I add “ħaxix ħażin”.

Political comments do imprint some hand-picked academics, mercenaries, and the square circled mentality, to whom such political comments are directed.

An appropriate title for this parody would be: “Of guinea pigs, parrots and carrots.”

An appropriate title for this parody would be: “Of guinea pigs, parrots and carrots.”

“Regardless of which career you have, you are going to think like an engineer.” (May 2). A dangerous statement, which can only put engineers in a very bad light, and isolate and lead one into tunnel vision, professionally, physically and morally.  And to say the least, it is not expected from a budding university student, unless of course this is the axiom on which students are taught.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

Related articles:

To Gozo with love

Efficient link to Gozo

Wirt Għawdex tunnel debate

Tunnelling the cross

 


Cancellation of nature walk

April 20, 2019

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the nature walk event that was going to take place on Sunday April 28 has been cancelled.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Saturday, 20th April, 2019

Image may contain: cloud, sky, ocean, text, nature and outdoor

Image may contain: ocean, cloud, sky, outdoor, text, nature and water

Come and meet some indigenous wild flora and fauna which might be completely new to you. Learn about the richness of wildlife in the Maltese Islands especially at the Qortin ta’ Isopu garigue at Nadur, Gozo. Bring along your cameras to record such living richness and come with good walking shoes.

This walk organised by Wirt Għawdex will be conducted by an expert in biodiversity Alfred E. Baldacchino

A photographic competition will be held and two winners – an adult and a child – will receive the just published ‘Siġar Maltin’ (Maltese Trees) by Mr Baldacchino.

Members of Wirt Għawdex free, non-members will be asked for a donation, or take the opportunity to become members.

Sunday 28 April meeting at 09.45 am at the parking on the road leading to San Blas Bay at Triq Torri Isopu, Nadur
(coordinates 36.051633 14.300227)

We will start the walk at 10 am sharp.

Please book at membership@wirtghawdex.org
or call on
79771981

The prizes are this book:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/my-publications-biodiversity/


Credit where credit is due

April 18, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Following concerns expressed by members of the public, eNGOs, and individuals, on the destruction of biodiversity in country paths which were being widened and covered with concrete, Environment Resources Authority (ERA) ordered Infrastructure Malta to halt the works, and issued a stop and compliance order. Furthermore, according to press reporting, ERA ordered Infrastructure Malta to reinstate the country paths to their original state.

One hopes that all country paths mismanaged by Infrastructure Malta will be reinstated to their original state. One also hopes that this is the end of an era where biodiversity is regarded as ‘ħaxix ħażin’ (good-for-nothing-vegetation) and that such mentality will be put to rest.

One cannot but applaud the stand ERA has taken and look out to more similar decisions in the near future to protect biodiversity.

The following is one of the article which appeared in the media.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rabat country roads being reinstated after controversial widening

Recent concrete works encroached adjacent land

Keith Micallef

 

Country roads at Wied l-Isqof in Rabat are being reinstated to their original state. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Country roads at Wied l-Isqof in Rabat are being reinstated to their original state. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Some of the concrete controversially laid on country roads in a Rabat valley is being pulled up again by Infrastructure Malta on orders from the environment watchdog, which wants the roads to be reinstated to their original footprint.

The controversy erupted last month when it transpired that a number of narrow country roads used primarily by farmers at Wied l-Isqof were being widened, as part of a government project to “reconstruct” rural roads.

Faced by this outrage, the Environment Resources Authority ordered Infrastructure Malta to halt the works, through what it called a stop and compliance order. The measure was taken because the project was resulting in “biodiversity destruction”, ERA had said.

Infrastructure Malta argued that the roads in question were not being widened beyond their original footprint – even though evidence on the ground suggested otherwise.

However, an ERA spokeswoman confirmed that Infrastructure Malta had, in fact, encroached on adjacent land. She said that concreting beyond the original footprint was being removed by the roads agency’s contractors through the use of appropriate heavy machinery.

Several truckloads of material have been removed and dispatched for appropriate disposal to enable the area’s habitat to regenerate even in the area previously concreted, she said.

An onsite visit confirmed that the roads had been narrowed, with a stretch of soil replacing the concrete along the perimeter.

In its reply, ERA said it had intervened because the roadworks were degrading the ecosystem of the area beyond the asphalted area.

Among other things, the interventions had altered the physical profile of the valley and the natural course of the freshwater stream to the detriment of the biodiversity and the natural characteristics of the site, the spokeswoman said.

Environmentalists had denounced the works, saying vegetation was being obliterated as concrete was being poured beyond the existing footprint, damaging flora and fauna on both sides of the road.

Biodiversity expert and former assistant director of the environment protection directorate at the now defunct Malta environment and planning authority, Alfred Baldacchino, had warned that turning these roads into “highways” could have a detrimental effect on farmers due to the increase in traffic.

He also criticised the project, saying the concrete was blocking the percolation of rainwater to the water table.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

related articles:

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

 

 

 


The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 

April 12, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019,

Alfred E. Baldacchino

A click on the keyboard leads one to the obligations of the EBUS 2020. No need to get muddy boots to arrive at such data. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/info/pubs/docs/brochures/2020%20Biod%20brochure%20final%20lowres.pdf 

Conscious of the need to avert global biodiversity loss, on May 3, 2011, the European Commission adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity, known as EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (EUBS).

This was a response to two important strong political mandates adopted by the 27 European heads of state in March 2010. Furthermore, such a biodiversity strategy is in line with international commitments adopted by 193 countries (including EU member states in the conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan in 2010). Malta is a party to both.

The EU is obliged to establish its own biodiversity policy in line with these international commitments, improving the state of Europe’s species, natural habitats and ecosystems, aware of the services biodiversity provides. The immense value of ecosystem services and the urgent need to maintain and restore these for the benefit of both nature and society are highlighted.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet, essential for our economy and for our well-being. It is about maintaining nature’s capacity to deliver the goods and services that we all need, and whose loss comes at a high price. Life on this planet – we call home – depends completely on biodiversity, a natural capital to be managed sustainably for the benefit of future generations.

The EU Commission co-financed a study on ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’. Findings include: the cost of biodiversity loss due to the current over-exploitation of global fisheries estimated at $50 billion; global business opportunities from investing in biodiversity could be worth up to $6 trillion by 2050; the €15 billion a year estimated economic value of insect pollination within the EU.

If one does not understand the economic and social value of ecosystem services and the need to restore them for the benefit of the economy, one can never honour the principles outlined in the EUBS. The economic benefits of biodiversity is not just protecting species and their habitats for their own sake.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet, essential for our economy and for our well-being

It is not ħaxix ħażin (unwanted good-for-nothing vegetation) as unfortunately some Maltese politicians believe, or are made to believe.

For the effective implementation of the EBUS, the main policies need to be integrated to sectoral policies and be taken into account in wider policy concerns, something the Planning Authority is adamantly refusing to accept.

The EUBS lays down six major targets each with actions to be taken:

A full and swift implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. On paper Malta is in line, but implementation and enforcement – well, well, well, anything but; to establish green infrastructure and to restore degraded ecosystems. Definitely not on the radar of Infrastructure Malta and the Planning Authority (both in the same ministry); to reform the Common Agricultural Policy so that it increases its contribution to biodiversity conservation on farmland and to improve forest management (see below);

To reform the Common Fisheries Policy so that it reduces its ecological impacts, including its impacts on marine ecosystems. The political entity responsible for this is more concerned with animal rights and bird shooting. Perhaps biodiversity is not regarded as including fisheries and agriculture;

To combat invasive alien species including through preventing the establishment of these species and through control and eradication. Such a concept has not yet been conceived by some local politicians; and to step up its contribution to combating global biodiversity loss.

There are separate ministries responsible, directly or indirectly, to combat global biodiversity loss. But how are these contributing to such obligations?

Official ‘landscaping’ with Invasive Alien Species.

Millions are budgeted per annum and used substantially, to import alien invasive species, some serving as carriers for other alien species and diseases; spray herbicide and pesticides on indigenous wild species, uproot indigenous mature trees and bulldoze other indigenous vegetation. Other funds pay official entities to ‘clean’ vegetation, from country lanes and rural areas. These funds are literally a waste of resources, when biodiversity is crying out loud to be managed, monitored, legally protected and discerned to honour such EBUS obligations.

Besides, the Public Authority involved in ‘planning’ regards biodiversity as the main enemy of the State, to be exploited to the fullest as long as commercial considerations are met.

Government projects with a ‘ħaxix ħażin’ mentality, subsidised with EU funds, completely ignoring EBUS targets.

 

Since the inception of the EUBS, two outstanding official government projects stand out: a quality garden of excellence at the Mdina Ditch; and the present widening of valley paths to ‘highways’ in Malta and Gozo.

Il-Lunzjata, at Rabat, cleared from, its ‘ħaxix ħażin’

 

 

The cherry on the cake is that these are subsidised by EU funds. And none of the EBUS targets and activities outlined in the EUBS are taken in consideration, but all managed and executed with a ħaxix ħażin mentality.

These two projects, besides others, cannot but show the complete resistance and ignorance of the concept that biodiversity loss is one of the main environmental challenges facing the planet (if we regard ourselves as forming part of the planet), despite the ‘economic value of ecosystem services and the need to restore them for the benefit of the economy’.

And if this is not enough, some politician/s, tongue in cheek claim, that Malta is the best in the EU. Would be a perfect statement if intended to mean that nobody ignores the obligations of EUBS as we do.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

related articles

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

The ‘garden’ at Mdina Ditch officially inaugurated

MASSACRE OF MDINA DITCH TREES – IS THE EU REALLY INVOLVED?

Cash cow in the ditch

Qerda tal-biodiversità fil-foss tal-Imdina… biex isir ġnien ta’ kwalità!


Wirt Għawdex tunnel debate

March 22, 2019

A debate on the Gozo-Malta Tunnel

Wirt Għawdex – Oratory Don Bosco Hall, Victoria, Gozo.

Monday, 18th March, 2019

Wirt Għawdex organised this debate so that the general public would be more informed of the pros and cons of the Gozo-Malta proposed tunnel.

The list of speakers is being attached.

Furthermore, a questionnaire which was distributed to those present, is also being attached.  Those who are interested can also forward the filled in questionnaire to Wirt Għawdex at: http://www.wirtghawdex.org or: Triq L-Imġarr, Ir-Rabat Għawdex VCT 9010.

The recording of the debate can be seen on this link.

List of speakers:

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

related articles:

To Gozo with love

Tunnelling the cross

Efficient link to Gozo

 


More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

March 10, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Sunday, 10th March, 2019

Following my latest blog of 4th March 2019, regarding the destruction of Maltese biodiversity by the Ministry for Transport, with the use of EU funds,  Infrastructure Malta, in the portfolio of Dr Ian Borg, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, have issued a statement saying that the works being carried out are being done “within existing road footprint” and ” “in line with applicable road works permits”.

On the other hand, the Environment and Resource Authority in its press statement  dated Tuesday 5th March, 2019, confirmed that the government road agency’s work had been carried out without the necessary permits, resulting in “environmental destruction”.

ERA’s press release confirmed that: Because of these works, it resulted that there is the destruction of the natural habitat suffered from the laying of construction material on the land which before was colonised by natural vegetation; leading to a physical change of the valley and the water course’s profile.

Besides, these works are all taking place without the necessary permits from the Authority (ERA).

For ease of reference to those who want to see for themselves, this is the link of the ERA press release.

I am sure that the Ministry for Transport officials have brought this ERA statement to their Minster.

Minister Ian Borg knows the site very well because it is in his constituency. A visit to the site, would at once reveal that the Ministry for Transport agency Infrastructure Malta’s press-release is totally incorrect, not only scientifically, factually, but also politically.

The gutter on the right shows to what extent the rich valley bed has been reduced to. And according to Ministry for Transport, this is a footprint of the once farmer’s country path. 

By all means let the farmers be given a helping hand, but not by widening a country path to two or three lanes. And certainly not by obliterating a valley bed, so rich in indigenous Maltese biodiversity, and disrupting the hydrology of the area, impeding the contribution to the water table and the farmers’ wells, if this is of any importance to the Minster’s experts in road widening.

Neither is it in the farmers’ interest in having their rubble walls destabilised, which eventually will be so detrimental to them.

Which professional architect, (unless of course over-ruled), would plan, and approve such damaging works which will lead to the eventual destruction of the rubble wall, and say it is in the interest of the farmers.

Renowned botanists friends of mine have confirmed that a rare indigenous protected tree was destroyed and annihilated, in the parts where the works were carried out by the Ministry for Transport.

A number of environmental NGOs and individuals have also all expressed their concern, dismay and anger against such damaging works by this Ministry.

I am sure Minister’s Borg ‘experts’ have drawn his attention to a number of EU Directives all of which have obligations, even with regards to the works in valleys. Just in case they did not, I would like to draw the Minster’s attention to the following:

  • Valleys are all subject to the EU Water Framework Directive. The local Competent Authority recognised by the EU for surface water in the Maltese Islands is The Energy and Water Agency, in the portfolio of the Ministry for Energy and Water Management, Joe Mizzi. Has the Ministry for Transport discussed the hydrological impacts of their works with this Ministry?
  • Biodiversity management, protection and enforcement is under the responsibility of the Environment and Resources Authority – ERA, in the portfolio of the Minister for Environment, Dr José Herrera, mainly through the EU Habitat Directive, and other International Conventions. Has the Ministry for Transport discussed the impact of their works with this Ministry. Definitely not, according to ERA itself.
  • Wied l-isqof is adjacent to the Natura 2000 site of Buskett and Girgenti. This means, according to the EU Habitats Directive, that any works even outside the boundary of the Natura 2000 site which can have an impact on the Natura 2000 site has to be discussed with the Competent Authority recognised by the EU, that is, ERA. Has Transport Malta discussed the negative biodiversity impacts of their works with this Ministry? Definitely not.
  • The newly appointed AmbjentMalta, is also responsible for valley management. It is also in the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment. Has Transport Malta discussed the impact of their works with this Ministry. Again definitely not as also confirmed by The Ministry for the Environment itself.
  • I would not like to mention the Planning Authority because as far as I am concerned, this authority, coincidentally in the portfolio of Dr Ian Borg Ministry, is more of a rubber stamp than anything else, with only paper professionalism not reflected in decisions taken.
  • The question is: from whom did the Ministry for Transport obtain the necessary permits as stated in their press statement?

I cannot image that the Energy and Water Agency responsible in Malta for honouring the obligations of the EU Water Framework Directive, agreed to render the valley at Wied l-Isqof to a gutter. Perhaps the Ministry for Transport can explain.

I have known Dr Ian Borg since he was a Mayor at Dingli Local Council. We had long discussions regarding the environment. I was convinced that he would be in the front line to protect our natural and international heritage for the good of our country Malta. I still do believe this, unless of course I am corrected by Dr Borg himself.

That is why I ask myself, how is it possible that such biodiversity damaging works are being carried out under his political responsibility, which are far from being environmental friendly in any way.

This make me think that the Minster is not being kept up to date and made aware of the damages being done by his Ministry’s, funded  by the EU.

I am sure that his biodiversity ‘experts’ cannot distinguish between a Sonchus and a Sambucus, and are completely unaware of environmental obligations Malta has, both nationally and internationally.

The damages being done is not just environmentally. It also reflects lack of good governance. It highlights the degradation of the biodiversity of Malta, who as a member of the EU, is obliged to safeguard biodiversity by 2020, according to the EU biodiversity Strategy 2020, This is not done by using EU funds to destroy biodiversity in the name of ‘help to farmers’.

Such works are also embarrassing those Ministries responsible for EU Directives above mentioned, who were not even consulted, not to include the whole country vis-a-vis the EU, if this is of any concern to the Ministry for Transport.

Infrastructure Malta has issued tenders for resurfacing works of various rural roads (IM001/2019). Can the Minister, who has the ultimate responsibility, ensure the Maltese people that such works will not continue to destroy more biodiversity with EU funds, but will be undertaken in line with Malta’s national and international obligations? Can he also take action to restore the damages done in country paths by his Ministry?

Photos have already appeared on the social media with regards to biological diversity massacre at il-Lunzjata.

More biodiversity destruction in il-Lunzjata Malta (subject to correction this is also in the Minister for Transport constituency). One can see the old footprint, and the additional widening resulting in the destruction of biodiversity, presumably with EU funds also. One can also see the butchering of trees undertaken. Can ERA please note and take necessary action. (photos Courtesy of V Abela Facebook/09.03.2019)

https://www.etenders.gov.mt/epps/cft/viewContractNotices.do?resourceId=5258763&fbclid=IwAR2YqL7wX72IATtkm_AVXFwVR0ik-heisQtCZ45fbTzjdAQ6WIYZdFboVgA

If the Minister can bring this electoral poster to the attention of his officials, perhaps they can remember this electoral promise.

One thing is very very obvious. Infrastructure Malta are carrying out works in the name of the Minister, without any professional expertise in biodiversity, or hydrology, no awareness of national and international obligations, and no consultations whatsoever, either with official entities, like ERA, and the Energy and Water Agency, or with individuals and NGOs. The fact that they are undertaking road works with EU funds, does not justify the bulldozing of biodiversity as is being done.

I will still be following the development of such works, not only in the farmers’ interest, but also in the interest of the protection of our national natural heritage, in line with national and international obligations, for the benefit of this and future generations who have lent it to us. And knowing Dr Ian Borg, I do expect his help in achieving this.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related article:

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity


EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

March 4, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

Monday, 4th March, 2019

Having received a number of photos from many environmental friends, I paid a visit to Wied l-Isqof, yesterday, Sunday 3rd March 2019 to see for myself what is being done.

The photos taken shows the great irresponsibility in the work being supported, and financed by the Ministry for Transport. To the extent that now I regard biodiversity destruction in the Maltese Islands as synonymous with the works undertaken by this Ministry (also keeping in mind that the Planning Authority is also in the portfolio of this Minsiter)

Following a lengthy exchange of emails with officials of the Ministry for Transport, all I could get from them is an apologetic reply:

Grazzi hafna tal-email tieghek u kif ghidtlek f’korrospondenza precedenti u anki meta ltqajna fil-passat, it-tnejn li ahna nixtiequ l-gid tal-bdiewa taghna li b’tant dedikazzjoni jiehdu hsieb l-ucuh tal-ghelieqi fil-pajjiz, xi haga li hija mportanti ghal biodiversità. 

Fuq sigar, sfortunatament dawn tqacctu bil-maltemp imma ser inkunu qed inhawlu sigar indigeni kid tajjeb irtakomandajtilna int f’rapporti li kkumissjonajnik biex taghmel ghalina.

 Meaning: Many thanks for your email and as I told you before in previous correspondence, even when we met in the past, both of us have the interest of  our farmers, who with so much dedication cultivate their fields in the country, something, which is important for biodiversity.

With regards to trees, unfortunately these were damaged by the storm, but we are going to plant indigenous trees as you so rightly recommended in your reports which we have commissioned you to compile for us.

NO,  definitely not, this is not in the interest of the farmers. They will have to pay a heavy price because of such works. And there were other suggestions in the reports mention. Works being undertaken are diametrically opposite to the recommendations made.

 Furthermore information forwarded by me to the Ministry for Transport, and others, have all been ignored, , which leads me to conclude that they are reluctant to stop the destruction being done:

  • the country paths in valleys are being turned into highways ;
  • some areas in the valleys seem more like urban squares – big enough to hold political or public meetings.
  • the complete destruction of vegetation and other fauna in the pathways have all been destroyed;
  • the concrete paths made are, in some places, lower than the foundation of the rubble walls. These will eventually all collapse;
  • The valley bed has been reduced to a gutter, with a four-lane concrete road taking its place;
  • European Union money is being used for this destruction of biodiversity. Something which the EU is, not only against, but has a program to conserve biodiversity by 2020.
  • It is not true that the trees at Wied l-Isqof were damaged by the latest strong winds, but by the irresistible chainsaws paid for by the Ministry for Transport.

All these are, according to the Ministry for Transport, in ‘the interest of our farmers’. NO this is not in the interest of our farmers as far as I am concerned. They will have to pay dearly for such mismanagement of the environment.  Most of the works can be done with more thought, more professionalism, and more attention to local and international obligations. But it seems this is not in the interest of the Ministry for Transport. It seems that they are having more fun in such destruction, and how they are spending the EU money, despite the public outcry and criticism of such destruction so loud on social media.

I believe that this follows the complete failure in managing transport by the Ministry for Transport who are now turning to exploit every country path, in ’the name of farmers’ to widen and give it a fresh covering of concrete so that it can be used as a by-pass for traffic. Naturally with a little bit of help from their Planning Authority.

This is being done in a number of valleys both in Malta and in Gozo.

Hope I won’t be disturbing the Environment and Resources Authority, but can they intervene please to stop such destruction of our biodiversity?

Some of the photos taken yesterday, of the works blessed, authorised and paid for by the Ministry of Transport, from public and EU funds, naturally for the ‘benefit of farmers’

rubble wall foundation exposed – naturally in the farmers’ interests

Valley bed filled in. No problem it is only destroying biodiversity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More effects of the strong winds? Why not tell this to the marines?

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the benefit of our farmers: a four-lane concrete road in the valley bottom!

 

The valley bed reduced to a gutter to make way for a four-lanes concrete road.

More destruction of the valley bed, naturally ‘for the benefit of farmers’ too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rejoice farmers, rejoice. This is all being done in your name. You can now also race your pickup trucks without any fear of having them scratched. Rejoice.

Future Ministers will have to apply for EU funds to restore collapsed rubble walls which collapsed through the help of EU funds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A country path for the benefit of our farmers! It has to be the Ministry for Transport to come up with such a vision, naturally with a little bit of help from their Planning Authority.

 

Will we be having horse racing in this country path built for the benefit of farmers, and also to accommodate the former too?

Ministry officials ‘experts’ say that this tree was damaged by the strong winds. The winds must have been carrying chainsaws to achieve this. And the winds must have been God sent to eliminate the tree which was obstructing the country path!


Orchids of the Maltese Islands

February 25, 2019

Stephen Mifsud (2018) Orchids of the Maltese Islands: a descriptive guide. Malta: Green House. ISBN 978-99957-1-367-6

Monday, 25th February, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Maltese flora is mostly unappreciated, overlooked, senselessly butchered, and exploited. Considering the smallness of the Maltese islands, compared to the United Kingdom, Malta has more different species per square kilometer than the UK has. Such is the richness of our country.

It is left to individuals or environmental NGOs to take the lead in scientific studies, fieldwork, publications whether scientific, popular or educational, and public awareness. Official entities are more interested in paper talks, drafting guidelines without any legal powers, or publishing regulations, hardly, if ever enforced.

One of the natural fields in this biodiversity richness with which the Maltese Islands have been gifted is Orchidaceae – the family of orchids. Scientific data on indigenous orchids was scattered. Such data was mainly available to botanists dedicated to scientific research. This data was not easily available in a popular way to many educators. As with many other wild species of flora and fauna, popular interest lacking scientific background, usually leads to a negative way of appreciating such a delicate, priceless richness – through collection.

Without any doubt, a breath of fresh air in this field, is the new 232-page book, Orchids of the Maltese Islands – a descriptive guide, by Stephen Mifsud. The initial efforts came from Green House  Malta and BINCO. The former is a non-profit eNGO with its major aims to conserve through ongoing monitoring schemes of threatened flora and fauna with the help of citizen scientists.

Biodiversity Inventory for Conservation (BINCO) is an international non-profit organisation with a passion for nature and a desire to help preserve the remaining natural resources on this planet. The Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change; EcoGozo within the Ministry for Gozo; the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) co-sponsored the publication.

Stephen Mifsud, though relatively young, is definitely on the way to becoming one of the leading botanist on these islands. With years of dedication, field work, an eye for detail, a vast experience in macro-photography, especially in the study of wild flora, he could not have been a better choice to author this book. The past difficulties he found in his studies without doubt gave him more drive and experience for such work.

This first comprehensive book on the subject, introduces the biology of orchids, systematic and classification.

The book goes in great detail about orchids in general and deeper on indigenous orchids. The main part of the book is taken up by orchid species profiles – 36 indigenous species of orchids, grouped in 7 genera. It goes in details with regards to recorded species. The present names of the species together with any related synonyms, including the etymology of the botanical name. The habitat, frequency, and local and global distribution, detailed morphological description, species variability, closely related species, taxonomic notes and problems, history accounts in Malta, observed pollinators and a useful quick identification note are also discussed. The status of each species is given: very rare, rare, scarce, frequent, locally frequent in restricted areas, or common.

The book is lavishly illustrated with 300 professional scientific photos the majority of which are taken by the author himself. Line drawing are also included where it was found necessary to illustrate details of parts of the species. A distribution map for every local species is also included. The distribution  maps are compiled from data available from the mid-19th century to date of publication. Wisely enough, the rare species are not accompanied  by a distribution map, to protect them  from avid orchid collectors, both locals and foreigners.

A classification table of each species, its description, and morphological, availability, reference to closely related species, flowering period are also given. These are also accompanied by a quick identification help.

It also explains that there are 20 species which are either misidentified or extinct because of the above given reasons.

A reference list shows the extensive research conducted. Two appendices further contribute to the great wealth of the book.

Appendix I relates to orchids occurring in Sicily.

Appendix II contains a number of tables with valuable data such as:

  • history of orchid taxa recorded in the Malta – a references table;
  • a table on selected taxa recorded from the Maltese Islands and their current treatment;
  • a taxonomic guide of the Maltese orchids – lumping and splitting classifications;
  • a botanical, English and Maltese names of orchids – one sorted by species name; one sorted by Maltese name; and one sorted by English name;
  • flowering periods of orchids in the Maltese islands;
  • orchids flowering per month;
  • known pollinators of orchids found in the Maltese islands;
  • and orchid protection provided by ERA.

These are followed by a glossary, index, and short notes on Green House, BINCO, and on the author.

Another great contribution of this book is the standardisation of Maltese names for wild natural species, in this case orchids, given in Appendix II.

This comprehensive reference on indigenous orchids is not only a much needed updated scientific platform for locals and other foreign botanists, but also for orchid enthusiasts, as well as for educators, planners, as well as those passionate about Maltese natural history. One also hopes that such a publication will catch the attention of politicians to help them realise the biodiversity richness of our Country, and the destruction for which they are responsible by their decisions, taken without any thought for the safeguarding of our national and international heritage.

It is also another tool to help create a stronger public awareness which can be a deciding factor in the harnessing and controlling the continuous destruction of natural areas resulting in the ever bleaker outlook, not only for dwindling orchid population, but also for all Maltese biodiversity.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Maltese indigenous trees and their propagation – A two session course

January 26, 2019

published by Josmar Azzopardi on 2019.01.22

A 6 hour course, including a practical session, where one can learn about Maltese indigenous trees, the need for their protection, the negative impact of invasive aliens species, and how to propagate them.

The first session will take place – 7th February at 5:30pm -8:00pm – Scout Island Head Quarters Congreve-Bernard Memorial Hall, E.S. Tonna Square, Floriana.

The second session will take place 16th February at 8:30am – 12.00pm – Ghajn Tuffieha International Scout Campsite

The sessions will be presented and facilitated by Mr Alfred E Baldacchino and the course will be delivered in Maltese/English.

Maximum number of participants is limited to 20. If you are interested to attend this training course please complete the application form below.

The course is open to active member of the Scout Association of Malta and the General Public.

Course Fee is 10 euros for Scouts and 15 euros for non Scout participants.

REGISTRATION can be done online via https://bit.ly/2Dtkufx by  Tuesday 5th February 2019.

Brief cv of trainer: Alfred E. Baldacchino D.P.A.; D.E.S.; P.G.D. Env. Managt.; M.Sc. Env. Mangt & Plan. 
Born in Rabat, Malta in 1946. Studied at the Malta College or Arts, Science and Technology; Teachers Training College; and the University of Malta. General secretary of the Malta Ornithological Society (MOS) from 1974 to 1986. Assistant Director at the Environment Protection Directorate from 2002 till retirement in 2007. Author of a number of books on Maltese biodiversity.

This Training course is being undertaken as a TSAM Ltd initiative to create a better understanding of the wealth of biodiversity available at the Ghajn Tuffieha Campsite.

For more info please send an email to chairman@tsam.com.mt

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


Valley – check with likes

January 23, 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

The news of the restoration of Wied il-Qlejgħa, alias Chadwick lakes, is good news. Not least because the ‘cleaning of valleys’ has been put to bed.

The largest dam at Wied il-Qlejgħa in all its glory

The measures highlighted in the media for such restoration are also something to look forward to, namely: restoration of dilapidated rubble walls; removal of the playing area; removal of invasive alien species of flora and fauna; removal of accumulated sediment behind dams; restoration and utilisation of the Fiddien pumping station; and the planning of walking trails.

Dilapidated rubble walls – not an uncommon site after some heavy rainfall

Valleys in the Maltese islands are a sensitive ecological areas – much ignored, unappreciated and abused. These have been abandoned and mismanaged for years, making their restoration more delicate. They are dried river beds, once adorned with dwarf hippopotamus and endemic swan. Climate change reduced these rich fresh water habitats to what they are today.

30+ year old gabbjuni still uncolonised by indigenous flora.

 

Dilapidated rubble walls is the first item that should be addressed, thus stopping soil erosion, one of the main culprits for the filling up of the dams.

The use of gabbjuni (big cages) to repair/replace rubble walls should not even be considered. A look at the 30-year-old gabbjuni installed along the valley, shows how barren they are. Not even the tenacious invasive cape sorell (l-ingliża) has managed to colonise any of them.

The play area in the midst of willow trees. Now who would have thought of this?

The removal of the playing area in the midst of the valley is a sine qua non. I wonder who was the architect who conceived this idea in the middle of one of the largest valley in the Maltese Islands!

Alien invasive eucalyptus trees dominate the valley. One might have to tread careful here because these can be protected by the latest tree protection regulations issued by ERA.

The removal of invasive alien species of flora and  fauna is another step in the right direction.

No need to say that this is a sensitive and delicate endeavour. It is not just bulldozing them on the lines of how the Ministry of Transport bulldozes trees. The invasive species of flora have to be gradually removed  in some areas, while being replaced by indigenous species.

Invasive species growing in Wied il-Qlejgħa include: she oak (less than a dozen), castor oil trees (less than 100), acacias and eucalyptus (more than a score and twenty of each species).

Their removal has to be professional so as not to contribute further to their dispersal. This applies mainly to the castor oil tree which has to be uprooted, and burned on site thus eliminating the possibility of giving it a free ride and opportunity to its seeds to germinate on new reclaimed grounds.

Furthermore, indigenous species which grow in the valley, such as poplar trees, willows, almond trees, lentisks, olive trees, chaste trees,  should not be mistaken for invasive species and removed. Not a far-fetched concern.

The removal of invasive alien species of flora and fauna is another step in the right direction. No need to say that this is a sensitive and delicate endeavour

On the other hand, the notorious lately introduced red swamp crayfish also abounds in the valley, detrimental to any fresh aquatic life such as indigenous painted frog and its tadpole, dragonflies and water beetles larvae. The person who introduced such alien species, should be chained to a poplar tree until the last crayfish is collected.

The indigenous poplar tree – adorns its natural habitat. No it is not dead.

On the other hand indigenous trees adapted to such a riverine habitat include the poplar tree, already established in the valley, willow (two species also established), chaste tree (of which there is half a dozen) and rare species of ash and elm.

AmbjentMalta can start propagating them immediately so that they will be readily available for planting as standard trees as soon as a parcel of the valley has been restored.

There are also a number of indigenous flora, some  rare and scarce aquatic species, such as water cress, sanicle-leaved water crowfoot, and bulbous buttercup. Others not so rare are greater plantain, creeping cinquefoil, rushes and sedges.

Rare and scarce aquatic plants whose seeds aestivate in the sediment. (Photos by Stephen Mifsud).

 

Another delicate exercise is the removal of debris, and sediment accumulated behind the two main water dams. Presumably, one would think, this would be undertaken during the hot summer months when the cisterns are dry. This means that the top layer of the sediment will be full of seeds and ova of species frequenting the aquatic habitat. The collecting of approximately 15 cm of scraped surface sediment to be redeposited in the restored parts, would contribute to the survival of these rare species.

motor bike tracks in the main footpaths 

The valley bottom is constantly being abused by off-roading motorbikes as one can see from the erosion of footpaths and fresh tyre marks.

One of the shallow dams closest to Fiddien has also been damaged to make easier access.

Modern environment friendly public access gate

So the suggestions for walking trails is another positive approach, especially if these are somewhat raised from the ground, for the convenience of wild fauna.

Furthermore, public access gates can be installed along the way, as a measure for controlling bikes – motor or manual.

I know that if Dr Daniel Micallef, one of the few politicians with environment at heart, could see this, I am sure he would send some people to hell.

The Fiddien box, which was restored during the time when Daniel Micallef was Minister for Education and Environment, has long been vandalised and the heavy water pump has seemingly disappeared – hopefully taken by the Water Services Corporation for safe keeping?

The plans for their restoration and educational use is also another positive step.

The second dam, needing some structural repairs, still contributes its best for the storage of water, before it passes it to Wied tal-Isperanza.

Once restoration works are completed, the valley has to be monitored and managed. Traffic management tops the list.

This will ensure that the number of vehicles frequently jamming the area on public holidays and Sundays will not bring such restoration to naught by their haphazard parking. So it would be beneficial to one and all if the road through the valley is made one way: from Imtarfa to Mosta.

The farming community can have an identification permit displayed on car windscreens, to allow them to use it both ways during working days.

The proof of this EU funded pudding is in the eating.

I will be watching grastis et amoris patria, naturally.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles on this blog:

Jappella biex Chadwick lakes jigi mmaniġġat aħjar

In-nixfa tax-xitwa u s-siġra tal-lewż

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/xqed-naghmlu-bl-ilma-tax-xita/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/water-harvesting-culture/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/aghmel-xita-aghmel-2/

 

 

 


To Gozo with love

January 8, 2019

The proposed Gozo tunnel has resurfaced once again. No surprise. The MEP elections are round the corner. It is normal that white elephants are driven in the political arena during such times.

Their main aim is to try to get on board the blindfolded followers who can be convinced that a circle is square, especially if this comes from the political leaders, no matter from which side.

This time a new step in this regard has been made. An international call for tenders for the construction of the 10km underwater tunnel, plus additional inland excavation – approximately an additional 5km – was announced.

The information was revealed by the Minister for Transport, who regrettably, is already associated with the destruction of any tree which dares stand in the way of spending EU millions to widen roads – the latest to bite the dust are national trees at Buqana.

Suggested socially and environmentally friendly alternative connections between the two islands.

Suggested socially and environmentally friendly alternative connections between the two islands.

Does the public have a right to know what were the findings of the social, environmental and financial impacts of this tunnel? After all, our country belongs to all of us and not just to politicians and entrepreneurs.

Has consideration been given to the negative impacts of such works on the only remaining unadulterated water catchment area at l-Imbordin?  How will this affect the water table? And how will this affect the livelihood of  those involved in agriculture in the area?

What about the Gozitan farmers on the other side of the tunnel exit? Is this of importance? Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists? Have such studies been undertaken despite the official tender calls? Has the general public a right to know of these negative impacts or are these confidential too? Would any professional firm tender for such works without such important scientific studies?

How much deeper under the 35 m of sea-depth will the tunnel be excavated? What kind of geological strata grace such depths? What is the position of the ERA?

Who will be giving the assurance and take responsibility for any loss of human life and limb in meddling with such dangerous large and deep sea bottom faults the area is full of, as has been pointed out by geologist Peter Gatt?

Will the responsible minister and the Planning Authority, which incidentally is in his portfolio, be shouldering all responsibility for loss of human life and ecological and social destruction and disasters, both on the site in question and also, directly or indirectly, in the affected areas? Somebody has to.

The answer to these and other questions raised by sociologist Godfrey Baldacchino ‘What purpose should tunnel serve?’ (January 4) have never been addressed, much more answered.

In the background of this political circus, one can hear the artificial, shameless pleadings that this is all in the interest of the general public, especially Gozitans, who deserve to have better crossing facilities between the two islands. No doubt about it.

Everybody agrees that Gozitans and Maltese deserve better crossing facilities. But not with such destructive decisions bereft of any technical and scientific studies, solely based on local arbitrary political acumen and agendas.

There is an ever-increasing momentum among the public, not least Gozitans, that the best environmental, social and financially friendly approach is the fast ferry service between the two islands. These can run not just from Mġarr to Ċirkewwa, but also to St Paul’s Bay or Qawra, to Sliema and also to Valletta.

And if found that there is the appropriate economically feasible demand, also to the Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk.

This would help commuters from getting caught in traffic jams along the way in St Paul’s Bay, Mosta, Birkirkara, Msida, Ħamrun, Floriana or everywhere along their journey across the island, something the tunnel can never achieve. The sea routes are already available at no cost at all. And these do not need any widening.

Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists?

If the Ministry of Transport is open to suggestions, unless they believe that the people out there can all be convinced that a circle is square, they can plan a holistically better managed public transport system on both islands, in connection with the stops of these fast ferries service. The present service between the two islands should also form part of this national transport management plan.

Such holistic public transport management can include, among others, a shuttle service from the Valletta ferry stop to the Valletta bus terminus to cut down on private transport and help commuters reach their destination easier.

Another shuttle service can take commuters to the Blata l-Bajda park-and-ride to reach a parked car which, if one wishes, can be left there. Such facilities can also be available at every fast-ferry stop.

This would be far less expensive and more socially and environmentally friendly than the proposed tunnel, in all aspects. It would also help commuters to cut down on expenses, both in the consumption of petrol, and also in the wear and tear of their cars. It would also help to further reduce pollution from the urban and rural environment, with all its negative impacts on the people’s physical and psychological health.

Furthermore this would also help to lessen the stress in crossing from one island to the other, especially through the 15 km+ tunnel, where all the psychological impact studies seem to have been completely ignored. Unless of course these negative social impacts are also officially regarded as further contributing to the economy.

It would also be interesting to know the toll commuters will have to pay to use the tunnel. It seems that this is not in the public interest either, possibly because it might scare some of the ‘faithful’ who may have concluded that driving through the tunnel would be free, like driving through any other road.

From past experience, I am convinced that the minister responsible for transport has a positive environmental awareness and would positively study any alternative suggestions. However, I have my doubts how much power he has to decide himself because of directions from upstairs.

From the way the social and environmental fabric of these islands is being officially exploited and destroyed, without any scientific studies or regard for their negative impacts, it is very difficult not to conclude that their destruction is part of an official political agenda supported by the square-circled mentality, and endorsed by some academics paid to decide politically and not to think professionally.

The Minister for Transport, nonetheless, is both personally and collectively responsible for the future sanity and well-being of the people of these islands and their environment with regards to the tunnel and transport management.

The crossing to Gozo and back can be made easier for the benefit of the people of these islands, with love and not with co-ordinated politically motivated destruction.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece


To Gozo with love

January 8, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The proposed Gozo tunnel has resurfaced once again. No surprise. The MEP elections are round the corner. It is normal that white elephants are driven in the political arena during such times.

Their main aim is to try to get on board the blindfolded followers who can be convinced that a circle is square, especially if this comes from the political leaders, no matter from which side.

This time a new step in this regard has been made. An international call for tenders for the construction of the 10 km underwater tunnel, plus additional inland excavation – approximately an additional 5 km – was announced.

The information was revealed by the Minister for Transport, who regrettably, is already associated with the destruction of any tree which dares stand in the way of spending EU millions to widen roads – the latest to bite the dust are national trees at Buqana.

Suggested socially and environmentally friendly alternative connections between the two islands.

Does the public have a right to know what were the findings of the social, environmental and financial impacts of this tunnel? After all, our country belongs to all of us and not just to politicians and entrepreneurs.

Has consideration been given to the negative impacts of such works on the only remaining unadulterated water catchment area at l-Imbordin?  How will this affect the water table? And how will this affect the livelihood of  those involved in agriculture in the area?

What about the Gozitan farmers on the other side of the tunnel exit? Is this of importance? Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists? Have such studies been undertaken despite the official tender calls? Has the general public a right to know of these negative impacts or are these confidential too? Would any professional firm tender for such works without such important scientific studies?

How much deeper under the 35 m of sea-depth will the tunnel be excavated? What kind of geological strata grace such depths? What is the position of the ERA?

Who will be giving the assurance and take responsibility for any loss of human life and limb in meddling with such dangerous large and deep sea bottom faults the area is full of, as has been pointed out by geologist Peter Gatt?

Will the responsible minister and the Planning Authority, which incidentally is in his portfolio, be shouldering all responsibility for loss of human life and ecological and social destruction and disasters, both on the site in question and also, directly or indirectly, in the affected areas? Somebody has to.

The answer to these and other questions raised by sociologist Godfrey Baldacchino ‘What purpose should tunnel serve?’ (January 4) have never been addressed, much more answered.

In the background of this political circus, one can hear the artificial, shameless pleadings that this is all in the interest of the general public, especially Gozitans, who deserve to have better crossing facilities between the two islands. No doubt about it.

Everybody agrees that Gozitans and Maltese deserve better crossing facilities. But not with such destructive decisions bereft of any technical and scientific studies, solely based on local arbitrary political acumen and agendas.

There is an ever-increasing momentum among the public, not least Gozitans, that the best environmental, social and financially friendly approach is the fast ferry service between the two islands. These can run not just from Mġarr to Ċirkewwa, but also to St Paul’s Bay or Qawra, to Sliema and also to Valletta.

And if found that there is the appropriate economically feasible demand, also to the Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk.

This would help commuters from getting caught in traffic jams along the way in St Paul’s Bay, Mosta, Birkirkara, Msida, Ħamrun, Floriana or everywhere along their journey across the island, something the tunnel can never achieve. The sea routes are already available at no cost at all. And these do not need any widening.

Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists?

If the Ministry of Transport is open to suggestions, unless they believe that the people out there can all be convinced that a circle is square, they can plan a holistically better managed public transport system on both islands, in connection with the stops of these fast ferries service. The present service between the two islands should also form part of this national transport management plan.

Such holistic public transport management can include, among others, a shuttle service from the Valletta ferry stop to the Valletta bus terminus to cut down on private transport and help commuters reach their destination easier.

Another shuttle service can take commuters to the Blata l-Bajda park-and-ride to reach a parked car which, if one wishes, can be left there. Such facilities can also be available at every fast-ferry stop.

This would be far less expensive and more socially and environmentally friendly than the proposed tunnel, in all aspects. It would also help commuters to cut down on expenses, both in the consumption of petrol, and also in the wear and tear of their cars. It would also help to further reduce pollution from the urban and rural environment, with all its negative impacts on the people’s physical and psychological health.

Furthermore this would also help to lessen the stress in crossing from one island to the other, especially through the 15 km+ tunnel, where all the psychological impact studies seem to have been completely ignored. Unless of course these negative social impacts are also officially regarded as further contributing to the economy.

It would also be interesting to know the toll commuters will have to pay to use the tunnel. It seems that this is not in the public interest either, possibly because it might scare some of the ‘faithful’ who may have concluded that driving through the tunnel would be free, like driving through any other road.

From past experience, I am convinced that the minister responsible for transport has a positive environmental awareness and would positively study any alternative suggestions. However, I have my doubts how much power he has to decide himself because of directions from upstairs.

From the way the social and environmental fabric of these islands is being officially exploited and destroyed, without any scientific studies or regard for their negative impacts, it is very difficult not to conclude that their destruction is part of an official political agenda supported by the square-circled mentality, and endorsed by some academics paid to decide politically and not to think professionally.

The Minister for Transport, nonetheless, is both personally and collectively responsible for the future sanity and well-being of the people of these islands and their environment with regards to the tunnel and transport management.

The crossing to Gozo and back can be made easier for the benefit of the people of these islands, with love and not with co-ordinated politically motivated destruction.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

other related articles:

Tunnelling the cross

Efficient link to Gozo

 

 


Il-Milied u s-sena t-tajba / Happy Christmas & happy new year

December 16, 2018

Lil dawk kollha li matul din is-sena għoġobhom jaraw il-kitbiet fuq dan il-blog, u dawk li żiedu l-kummenti tagħhom, jew inkella għenu biex ixerrdu l-messaġġ biex dejjem titqajjem kuxjenza pubblika aktar b’saħħitha dwar l-ambjent ta’ pajjiżna, u lill-ħbieb kollha tagħna nixtieq, flimkien ma’ Mary Rose, nawguralkom Milied hieni u sena ġdida mimlija paċi u barka biex flimkien ilkoll naqsmu u ngħixu f’dan il-pajjiż li ġie misluf lilna mill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. J’Alla jkun hemm oħrajn li jingħaqdu magħna għal dan il-għan.

————

To all those who during the current year had the pleasure of going through my blog, and those who contributed by adding their comments or else helped to share the message to further increase public awareness on the environment of our Country, and to all our friends, together with Mary Rose, we would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a new peaceful and blessed new year, so that together we can share and live in this Country which was lent to use by future generations. May others join us in doing so.

 

 


The environmental state

November 24, 2018

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Alfred Baldacchino

The last meeting of the Environment and Development Planning Parliamentary Committee on the state of the environment report highlighted, consciously or unconsciously, the environment hurdles that are preventing professional environmental awareness, management and enforcement, in short not allowing Environment and Rural Authority to fulfill its obligations.

One of the main difficulties is the fact that environment is not understood and interpreted in a holistic way. This was also emphasised by the chairman of ERA who stressed that a great percentage of people only regard the building and development aspect when referring to the environment, unaware of other important biodiversity, marine, air and water aspects. A case in point is the replenishing of Balluta Bay with sand, which was completely carried away at nature’s whims and fancies.

An MP on the head table remarked on the marine environment, as if dumping to reclaim land is something to which there cannot be any objection, because it is far from the visible eye, ignoring the biodiversity (biological and physical aspect) completely. Environment Minister Josè Herrera was quick to comment that the ERA has the qualified officials (in fact two marine biologist professors sit on ERA’s board) to address this issue.

What irritates me most is the fact that such need for awareness and educational approach is more often than not addressed to ‘school children’. Not that this in itself is wrong, but today a good number of  primary  schoolchildren, individually have more environmental awareness than that collectively of most of the political MPs and official entities who are nilly-willy involved with environmental matters.

Perhaps the Planning Authority tops the list for such lack of awareness through the blindness for development without any environmental considerations.

As I had the opportunity to write and say many times, it is not just the Minister for the Environment and his entourage who bear all responsibility for environmental matters, but all official and social entities such as religious, legal, commercial, educational, voluntary organisations, mass media and the man in the street.

Each of these, in one way or other, use, abuse, and is in contact with environmental matters and has different but collective responsibility for such a holistic approach.

The ERA on its own cannot, despite all its willingness, achieve this national responsibility, the more so since it is not given the importance it deserves by the government

I would like to see or hear somebody, possibly a political leader who does not need air, water, the ecosystem and health for his everyday livelihood.

This was endorsed by another MP on the head table who emphasised that at home it is his children who tell him what to do and what not to do on environmental matters – thanks to the hard-working professional educators.

Another MP on the head table, referring to the building of towers, remarked that if there is a demand for them and a demand for more people on this island, than one has to satisfy this demand. Yet again, the unawareness of the holistic approach towards environmental matters, through narrow specialised teaching, ignoring the greater environmental demands of society such as a healthier environment, more open spaces, demand for less population density because of its negative social, ecological and financial impacts, less stress, all in the interests of present and future generations. It seems that the politician is programmed by the Planning Authority’s dictum.

ERA on its own cannot, despite all its willingness, achieve this national responsibility, the more so since it is not given the importance it deserves by the government, both with regard to resources (financial and human) and also by the lack of respect it has from other government quarters, especially from the Planning Authority, which still dictates what goes on in the construction and developmental field irrespective of social, national and international environmental obligations, not to add electoral promises.

This was again highlighted by the Environment Ombudsman when saying that the ERA needs to be strengthened and be on the same level as the Planning Authority if environmental matters are to be taken seriously and professionally.

The Environment Ombudsman also dwelt on a case in point. He said that it is unacceptable that an employee (a case officer) of the Planning Authority completely ignores and dismisses a report on a project drawn up by the Environment and Resource Authority.

It is not only unacceptable but also unethical by an official authority to act in this way and regard the ERA as still under lock and key in limbo and under its control, as it was when it was under Mepa.

These are the highest hurdles faced by the environmental watchdog. It was so evident from the debate in the said parliamentary committee. Whether this is being done with political blessing or with personal initiatives and interests is left for the intelligent public and intellectuals to conclude. One can build more on these environmental official hurdles following next week’s two-day seminar on the state of the environment report.

aebaldachino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

Some trees of Malta

November 20, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sandro Lanfranco

 A new and updated book about Maltese trees could not have come at a more opportune moment.

Trees have been in the news almost every week and almost always for the wrong reasons. Over-development, upgrading of the road network and accident prevention, to name a few, have all been used as justification for the removal or  mutilation of old, mature trees in recent months. This general regard for trees as expendable ornaments of landscape reminds us we are still a very long way from appreciating them as an integral part of our environment, including our built environment.

This is why Alfred Baldacchino’s new book, Sigar Maltin – taghrif, tnissil, ħarsien, għajdut (Klabb Kotba Maltin), is so timely. It is an educational tool that, one hopes, will go some way towards raising awareness of what we have and of what we stand to lose.

It is not a comprehensive account of Malta’s trees, instead, the author chose 12 species and devoted a chapter to each, telling a story about every one tree, describing its natural history, horticulture, pests and diseases, cultural importance, historical background and conservation status.

The author includes an introductory chapter describing the Maltese environment and the biology of trees, a list of relevant legislation concerning trees, an extensive bibliography and a list of species with Maltese and English vernacular names accompanying the scientific  binomials. There is also a glossary defining both technical and unfamiliar non-technical terms.

The book is well-organised, written in refreshingly fluent Maltese and draws upon the author’s vast experience in this field. Descriptions of species are comprehensive and accompanied by a generous number of functional photographs. The author does not just describe the leaves, flowers and bark of each tree but also provides photos of seeds, fruits and other distinctive features, depending on the species. This is a very welcome addition as it is a feature missing from many  books  about Malta’s plant life.

The scientific aspect of Baldacchino’s writing is correct and updated, with only one or two very minor quibbles.

Appreciation of this book also revolves around an understanding of two key choices made by the author: species and language.

The species included are all native but are by no means all common. This is certainly a positive point as it introduces readers to trees that may have never seen.

Moreover, the author’s definition of a ‘tree’ is also quite inclusive and incorporates plants such as Spanish Broom and Lentisk that are probably better described as shrubs.

There is also no trace of alien trees in Baldacchino’s account. He is very much a ‘purist’ in this regard and these latecomer usurpers have no place in his book, in spite of their important ecological and cultural roles.

The author’s definition  of Maltin (Maltese) extends to species that have been recorded prior to 1500 and any species not present before that point are considered ‘alien’. Baldacchino, nonetheless, recognises that several trees, now considered native, were probably also introduced by humans in antiquity.

Baldacchino chooses the path less-travelled  and  writes  in Maltese. His reasons are twofold.

Firstly, while completely aware he is excluding much of his potential audience, he is reaching out to those who may be more comfortable reading in Maltese than in English, an unquantified cohort neglected by most local authors in this field.

Secondly, by writing in Maltese he is reinforcing and reviving a subset of vocabulary that is not in general use. The Maltese language has its own lexicon for trees but this is often supplanted by more general terms or by inclusion from other languages. Through his choice, the author is not only teaching about trees but is also teaching language.

The book will be an indispensable addition to the libraries of readers on natural history and melitensia in general. It will be appreciated by general readers as well as by students of the Maltese environment and those of the Maltese language.

One looks forward to seeing a version written in English for the benefit of a wider readership.

Sandro Lanfranco – Senior lecturer in biology at the University of Malta.

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Kummenti fuq il-Baġit mill-aspett tal-ambjent

November 5, 2018
il-Ħadd, 4 ta’ Novembru 2018

Tħawwil ta’ siġra għal kull wild

… kliem li aktar juri l-falliment tal-Minsteru tal-Ambjent

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Dwar l-ambjent u l-baġit li ġie ppreżentat smajna ħafna. L-argumenti ma jonqsux. IT-TORĊA tkellmet mal-ekoloġista Alfred E. Baldacchino, dwar il-ħsibijiet tiegħu rigward il-miżuri li ttieħdu fil-baġit dwar l-ambjent. Alfred E. Baldacchino jgħidilna li:  

Filwaqt li taqsima 5.0 ‘Ninvestu fl-Ambjent’ fiha daħla bi kliem sabiħ u ta’ tifhir, bħal: Il-Gvern jinsab konvint li investiment fl-ambjent se jfisser ukoll tkabbir u titjib fil-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ kull wieħed u waħda minna, imma ftit li xejn hemm indikazzjoni ta’ miżuri jew għajnuna finanzjarja għall-ambjent, fil-milja kollha tiegħu, “biex dan il-qasam daqstant importanti u sensittiv jingħata l-attenzjoni li jixraqlu.”

“5.4 Aktar siġar”

L-unika miżura li tispikka dwar l-ambjent fid-diskors tal-Ministru tal-Finanzi hija li: “Biex inkomplu nsebbħu l-ambjent, mis-sena d-dieħla l-Gvern se jkun qed jiżra’ siġra f’isem kull tifel u tifla li jitwieldu f’pajjiżna. Dan ifisser li kull sena se jkunu qegħdin jitħawlu madwar 4,000 xitel ta’ siġar.“

Għalija dan huwa kliem li aktar juri l-falliment tal-Minsteru tal-Ambjent milli xi ħaġa oħra.  U bil-viżjoni li bħalissa tirrenja fil-Minsteru tal-Ambjent, din tista’ tkun aktar ta’ ħsara milli ta’ ġid mill-aspett ta’ biodiversità.

5.3 Twaqqif ta’ Ambjent Malta

“Din is-sena qegħdin isiru preparamenti biex titwaqqaf Ambjent Malta bl- iskop li tindokra u tieħu ħsieb il-wirt naturali tagħna.” Pass tajjeb li jista’ jkollu riżultati pożittivi, dejjem jekk titmexxa fuq passi professjonali. Imma biex wieħed ikun jista’ jiffoka fuq “l-implimentazzjoni tal-immaniġġjar ta’ siti Natura 2000 filwaqt li se nkunu qegħdin nagħmlu l-kampanja tagħna aktar aċċessibbli għaċ-ċittadin” u “Permezz ta’ hekk se nkunu wkoll qegħdin nippromwovu infrastruttura ħadra għaż-żoni urbani tagħna.” hemm bżonn ta’ riżorsi, mhux biss finanzjarji imma anki kapitali.

Kif intqal ukoll l-Ambjent Malta sejra tkun responsabbli wkoll għat-‘tindif tal-widien’ u għat-tisbieħ tal-art jew kif inhu magħruf il-‘landscaping’.

Kont qed nistenna xi kumment x’se jsir bit-€8 miljun li qed jintefqu kull sena u li ftit li xejn qed ikun hemm riżultati professjonali u permanenti. Aktar u aktar issa li hemm l-Ambjent  Malta li qed tieħu ħsieb dan ix-xogħol. U aktar u aktar meta dawn it-€8 miljuni  qed jiqu amministrati fuq ftehim li mhux accessibli għall-poplu.

Meta wieħed iħares lejn it-tabelli li hemm mehmuża mad-diskors, isib li filwaqt li kien hemm xi żieda fl-ammont lill-Ministeru tal-Ambjent, ir-raġunijiet mogħtija għal dawn huma għall-“allowances” u għall-“Waste Management Strategy”. L-ebda referenza għall-Ambjent Malta.

Anki fil-qasam tal-infiq kapitali kien hemm tnaqqis ta’ madwar €4 miljun. U ma nafx kif dan kollu jista’ jwassal “biex dan il-qasam daqstant importanti u sensittiv jingħata l-attenzjoni li jixraqlu.”

5.5 Enerġija u Ilma

Ħsieb li nnotajt huwa li “Il-Gvern bħalissa qed jaħdem ukoll fuq il-Pjan Nazzjonali tal-Enerġija u l-Klima għall-perjodu 2020-2030” li wieħed jassumi li dan jinkludi wkoll lir-riżorsi tal-ilma ta’ dawn il-gżejjer. Veru daqsxejn tard wara l-isforzi kbar li saru minn għaqdiet u individwi f’dan il-qasam, l-aktar fuq il-ħela u t-teħid tal-ilma tal-pjan bla kontrol. Imma anki hawnhekk l-emfasi qegħda fuq is-settur domestiku. U dak industrijali, agrikolu, u ambjentali?

Huwa minnu li taqsima “5.7 Ilma”, titkellem fuq miżura li sejra “tipprovdi seba’ miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma ġdid, u b’hekk se tikkontribwixxi biex jinkisbu  riżultati sostenibbli tal-użu tal-ilma, parti kbira billi titnaqqas l-estrazzjoni tal-ilma ta’ taħt l-art” li huwa ħsieb tajjeb.

Inħoss li ma hemmx miżuri biżżejjed fil-qasam ambjentali ħolistiku.  Ngħidu aħna mizuri ambjentali edukattivi, ekoloġiċi, u anki fil-qasam tas-saħħa ambjentali, u nistaqsi lili nnifsi: dan huwa nuqqas ta’ provisjoni tal-Minsteru tal-Ambjent, jew inkella nuqqas ta’ amministrazzjoni li qed iċċaħħad lill-Minsteru tal-Ambjent biex jaħdem “biex dan il-qasam daqstant importanti u sensittiv jingħata l-attenzjoni li jixraqlu?”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Overshoot-and-collapse

October 16, 2018

Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Local mass media daily carry news of an alarming increase in traffic accidents, some with loss of life; injuries and deaths in the neck-breaking rush of the construction industry; the alarming increase in criminal activities, some leading to manslaughter and even murder; already seven in less than nine months.

Not necessarily hitting the headlines are the number of physical and psychological impacts on both the old and young population, especially children.

“A new government will put the environmental health as a focal point in the decisions taken,” said one of the government’s last two electoral manifestos. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Unless the socio-ecological fabric of our country walks hand in hand with the economic factor, the former will have to pay externalities – the hidden costs – of short-sighted commercial decisions. The latter are putting the carrying capacity of our country under heavy pressure.

The overshooting of the carrying capacity was emphatically stressed by a pro-rector at the University, jokingly or not, saying that the government should consider buying Pantalleria.

Any sociologist qualified in population dynamics and population ecology can easily expound on the naturally occurring negative impacts of an over-populated affluent society, now rumoured to double.

The carrying capacity of a country is the number of people, animals or crops, which a region can support without environmental (social and ecological) degradation. When population exceeds the long-term carrying capacity of its environment, it leads to an ‘overshoot’. The environment usually has mechanisms in place to prevent such overshoot – often referred to as ‘overshoot-and-collapse’.

A country’s biocapacity deficit increases as either its population or its per capita consumption grows: faster if both grow. Decline is then faster than growth leading to social and ecological dysfunction.

The biocapacity or biological capacity of an ecosystem is an estimate of its production of certain biological materials, such as natural resources, and its absorption and filtering of other materials such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the ecological footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the environment it lives in, this can be called an ‘ecological overshoot’.

I tend to believe that this is not the government’s intention, though I am afraid I cannot see any official measures in place to prevent this – not even from the handpicked Planning Authority or the Environment and Resources Authority. It would be a great injustice to our younger and future generations if they find themselves in this cul de sac.

The accelerating mismanagement of the socio-ecological fabric is contributing to such overshoot-and-collapse. This can be gathered from the decimation, with official consent, of biodiversity: land, ecosystem, air and water resources. The lack of enforcement of the national and international obligations, including those of the EU, make it seem as if these, as well as official authorities referred to, exist only on paper.

Past promised commitments as outlined in the government’s last two electoral manifestos led one to hope for a better future through good governance in the light of such principles; but it gives me great heartaches when I remember such signed commitments. Allow me to quote some:

“Social justice also means environmental justice. It means clean air. It means that everybody has a right to live without fear in our country and feel safe. Social justice means the creation of a society which thinks about everybody. These are the foundation of what we believe in” (forward to Labour Electoral Manifesto 2017).

“Environmental protection will be given priority and weight in all major Government decisions” (page 117).

“Protection of outside development zones will be strengthened. A new government led by Joseph Muscat will be committed that no major public project will be constructed in ODZ” (page 117).

“We believe that Malta should be in the front line in environmental standards. Not because of the obligations of European directives, but because this is what our children deserve” (2013, page 93).

“A new government will take more seriously and with greater commitment environmental matters. We are going to work with determination so that the lost time will be regained, aware that there are difficult decisions to be taken, among which is the reform of Mepa, from its roots. We are going to take this measure in the environmental interest of our country so that we will be in a better position to address the challenges” (2013, page 93).

“A better environment leads to better health. A new government will put the environmental health as a focal point in the decisions taken. Our aim is that we will make our country one of the best in air quality; water conservation; waste management; drainage treatment; and other related fields. Therefore, a new government commits itself to better considerably these fields, to ensure a better environmental heritage to our children” (2013, page 96).

“We will focus with more professionality on the protection of biodiversity and natural species in our country, while we will ensure honouring all the obligations of our country for the protection of biodiversity” (2013, page 100).

“A new government acknowledges and recognises the professional work and the professionals in the environmental field. Therefore, we will create a structure which recognises and better leads the professions in this field, while encouraging more professional specialisation (2013, page 101).

“Environment will be given the priority it deserves and this will be incorporated with that of the present Resource Authority and so establish the Environment and Resource Authority, which will be more proactive and strategic and which will focus more specifically on the conservation, protection of the environment and resources, while also assuming the important role of an environmental regulator which presently our country does not have” (2013, page 94).

Past promised commitments as outlined in the government’s last two electoral manifestos led one to hope for a better future

These are all commendable, noble commitments, with which I fully agree. I have been working for the best part of my life towards such aims, because I love my country, its people and its environment. So, I feel it is my obligation and my responsibility to say that the way official decisions are presently being taken and implemented are diametrically opposite to such commitments – commitments which our country not only deserves, but also demands. The government is responsible to implement such commitments. Unfortunately, I cannot see any, not even in their embryonic stage.

I also remember a circular e-mail (February 20, 2013) titled “Your priorities are our priorities” from Joseph Muscat, now Prime Minister, confirming that: “I will be personally accountable for delivery.”

Regrettably, with hindsight, I would not be surprised if I am laughed off, or told that these are now past the best-before date.

The people of Malta, irrespective of their political beliefs, deserve to feel confident of a better, safer, peaceful, healthier, common future, living in a healthy environment, as after all has been officially promised.

Science never lies. So would I be expecting too much if I say that I am eagerly looking forward to immediate action, in the interest of the young and future generation, who have lent this country to us? I am sure that anybody with a genuine socialist background not only would agree with these principles and commitments, but would also take immediate measures to implement them. Not so if one is blinded by the capitalist system. Unless of course, I am corrected again.

“The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave,”  said Tavis Smiley, the American talk-show host, author, political commentator, entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 10 – Is-salvja tal-Madonna

August 15, 2018

Soċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija – Mosta

l-Erbgħa, 15 ta’ Awissu, 2018

Is-salvja tal-Madonna

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Is-salvja tal-Madonna hija waħda mill-ħafna speċi ta’ fjuri indiġeni Maltin li taqsam din l-art magħna. Iltqajna magħha fl-aħħar kitba li dehret f’din il-pubblikazzjoni s-sena l-oħra meta tkellimna fuq Wied il-Għasel.

Is-salvja tal-Madonna ilha tikber fil-gżejjer Maltin minn qabel il-bniedem rifes fuq dawn il-gżejjer. Għalhekk hija indiġena. Dan ifisser li din il-pjanta tinstab tikbr ukoll f’pajjiżi oħra. Din tinstab tikber ukoll fis-selvaġġ fl-għoljiet madwar il-Mediterran mill-Greċja sal-Iżrael. Tikber ukoll fl-Albanija, fl-Italja, fil-Bożnija Ħerzegovina, fil-Kroazja, fil-Maċedonja, fil-Montenegro, fis-Serbja u fis- Slovenja.

Din l-ispeċi tagħmel parti mill-familja Lamiaceae, familja li hija magħrufa bħala l-familja tal-menta. Din il-familja tħaddan fiha madwar 236 ġeneru li fihom jiġbru aktar minn 7,000 speċi mxerrda mad-dinja. Uħud minn dawn huma mkabbra kemm għall-weraq ifuħ u l-fjur li jiġbed l-għajn. Dan jagħmel il-familja Lamiaceae, waħda importanti għall-bniedem anki minħabba n-numru ta’ ħwawar li juża biex jgħinuh jagħti togħma aħjar lill-ikel, biex jagħmel il-fwieħa, jew fl-użu medicinali. Fost dawn insibu l-ħabaq, in-nagħniegħ, il-klin, is-salvja, il-merqdux, l-origano, l-issopu, is-sagħtar, il-ħabaq, is-sagħtrija u l-lavanda.

Wieħed mill-ġeneru f’din il-familja huwa l-Phlomis, ġeneru li jiġbor fih madwar 100 speċi ta’ pjanti. Dan il-ġeneru huwa magħruf ukoll għall-użu fil-mediċina tradizzjonali. L-ispeċi f’dan il-ġeneru għandhom kimika bioloġika li tintuża għall-kuluri, għall-fwieħa, u għall-mediċina tradizzjonali bħal kontra d-diabete.

Is-salvja tal-Madonna hija waħda mill-ispeċi f’dan il-ġeneru Phlomis. Fil-gżejjer Maltin tikber mal-ġnub tal-widien, qalb il-blat, fix-xagħri, fil-makkja u anki fl-isteppa. Hija tikber minn sena għall-sena, togħla minn metru sa tnejn u tinfetaħ madwar metru u nofs, daqs li tilħaq meta jkollha minn 5 sa 10 snin.

Il-magħseb tagħha huwa twil, muswaf, u jwieżen weraq griżi jagħtu fl-aħdar, bojod minn taħt, u li jinħassu qishom bellus. Il-werqa tkun forma ta’ qalb fejn taqbad mal-magħseb b’għonq twil madwar 4 ċm, u ġejja għall-ponta, twila anki sa 12-il ċm. Jingħad li l-weraq tagħha jintużaw kontra s-sogħla.

Il-fjuri tas-salvja tal-Madonna jkunu madwar 3 ċm twal, u jidhru fi troffof sofor b’leħħa oranġjo, qishom tubi minn 3 sa 9 ċm twal, f’saffi fuq xulxin. Dawn ikunu jfuħu u jidhru bejn Marzu u Ġunju jikbru madwar xulxin f’għaqda ta’ 20, fuq għonq qasir.

Is-salvja tal-Madonna kienet magħrufa minn Wied Inċita, Wied il-Għasel, il-Mellieħa, Misraħ Għonoq, il-Majjiesa, l-Aħrax, il-Buskett, Ħad-Dingli, Ħofret ir-Rizz, Wied Anglu, Binġemma, Wied Ħesri, matul il-Victoria lines, u fil-madwar ta’ Għar lapsi.

ir-ras tal-fjura niexfa biż-żerriegħa ġo fiha

Mhux diffiċli xejn biex tnissel is-salvaja tal-Madonna. Iż-żerriegħa li tinġabar għandha tinżera’ fir-rebbiegħa u, jew titpoġġa għall-ewwel f’serra, jew inkella f’qasrija mogħttija bi ħġieġa. Imma din ma għandhiex titħalla fix-xemx. Meta tnibbet u wieħed ikun jista bis-swaba’ jaqbad l-ewwel weraq li joħorġu miż-żerriegħa, għandha titpoġġa waħda waħda f’qasrija għaliha. Iżda ma għandhiex titħalla fix-xemx għall-ewwel sena. Din tista’ titħawwel fl-art fir-rebbiegħa ta’ wara, f’post fix-xemx imma li ma jżommx l-ilma.

Is-salvja tal-Madonna tista’ titnissel ukoll bil-biċċiet. Għandhom jintagħżlu biċċiet li jkunu sejrin jagħmlu l-injam u dawn jitħawlu bejn Lulju u Awissu.

Hija tiflaħ għan nixfa u ma għandhiex bżonn ta’ ħafna fsied. Tista’ tintuża biex iddawwar xi wesgħat, anki jekk dawn ikunu żgħar, kif ukoll tintuża fil-ġonna. F’pajjiżna hija mhedda u għalhekk hija mniżżla fil-ktieb l-aħmar ta’ Malta.

Hija ħasra li pjanta sabiħa bħas-salvja tal-Madonna hija daqshekk imwarrba. Hija tista’ tintuża anki biex isebbaħ l-ambjent urban tal-gżejjer tagħna, iżda minflok hekk, qed jinġabu pjanti eżotiċi barranin. F’pajjiżi oħra fejn tikber, din tintuża biex issebaħ il-ġonna kif ukoll għall-bukketti tal-fjuri. Hija fjura li tiġbed lejha numru ta’ naħal u friefet.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Ara wkoll:

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


IS-SIĠAR TAGĦNA

July 22, 2018

Il-Ħadd, 22 ta’ Lulju, 2018

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Naħseb li ma nkunx ‘l bogħod mill-verità meta ngħid li s-siġar tagħna għaddejjin minn żmien li ma tantx hu sabiħ. Dan minħabba li ma tantx hawn tagħlim uffiċjali fuq l-apprezzament u l-ħtieġa tal-ħarsien li dawn għandhom bżonn. Aħna għandna bżonnhom għaliex, fost affarijiet oħra, huma jagħtu l-ossiġenu u jnaqqsu d-diossidu tal-karbonju li tant qiegħed jagħmel ħsara lill-ekosistema, tant li qed iwassal biex ibiddel il-klima tad-dinja, kif qed naraw u anki nħossu. Din il-bidla qed tifni u tħarbat l-ekosistema.

B’dieqa kbira naraw numru kbir ta’ siġar li qed jinqerdu minħabba n-nuqqas ta’ dan l-apprezzament. Nafu b’siġar li nqerdu għaliex jew iwaqqgħu l-weraq, jew għax iġibu l-għasafar u dawn iħammġu taħthom, jew għax qed jagħttu l-veduta u wieħed u ma jkunx jista’ jara n-nar tal-festa jew l-istatwa ħierġa u dieħla ġewwa l-knisja, jew għax qed jagħmlu l-ħsara lill-bankina, jew għax iċ-ċaqliq tal-friegħi jfixklu l-istudenti ġewwa l-klassi u issa smajna wkoll li l-għeruq tagħhom deħlin f’xi kmamar tas-sodda. X’għarukaza hux!

Min ma jaqbilx li s-siġar għaddejjin minn żmien ikrah, u n-numru tas-siġar Maltin xjuħ u maturi qiegħed dejjem jonqos, allura ma jkollix għajr ngħid li dan veru jobgħod is-siġar. Saħansitra nqerdet siġra tal-ballut li kellha qrib il-mitt sena u oħra tal-ħarrub li kellha tlett mitt sena biex floka jinbena’ garaxx.

U meta wieħed jiftakar li dan kollu sar bil-barka ta’ min suppost iħares, jgħallem u jindokra s-siġar u l-ambjent tagħna allura bilfors wieħed jgħid li s-siġar tagħna għadejjin minn żmien ikrah.

Suġġerimenti dwar is-siġar u l-apprazzementi tagħhom dejjem għamilt u se nerġa nagħmel. L-għarfien u l-imħabba tas-siġar Maltin qegħdin dejjem jiżdiedu, kemm minn xi għaqdiet mhux governattivi, kif ukoll mill-pubbliku. Sfortunatament imma mhux mill-entitajiet uffiċjali.

Dan qed iwassal biex tikber it-talba għal siġar Maltin mkabbrin miż-żerriegħa meħuda minn siġar Maltin li ilhom jikbru f’pajjizna. Tant illi dawk li jkabbru dawn is-siġar mingħajr ebda għajnuna uffiċjali ta’ ħadd, mill-ewwel isibu min jixtri dawn is-siġar minkejja li jkunu għadhom żgħar.

Ma nistax nifhem għaliex milli jidher il-ministeru u l-awtorita’ tal-ambjent ma jaqblux ma’ dan. Dan għaliex sa issa għadhom ma ħadu l-ebda inizzjattiva biex jilqgħu għal din it-talba ta’ ħarsien u għajnuna biex siġar Maltin jitkabbru minn żerriegħa ta’ siġar li jikbru f’pajjiżna.

Illum insibu numru ta’ għaqdiet mhux governattivi u numru ta’ persuni kkwalifikati li kollha għandhom esperjenza u anki kwalifiċi terzjarji fit-tnissil ta’ siġar Maltin. Dawn kollha qed jagħmlu ħilithom u jkabbru dawn is-siġar. Nerġa ngħid li dawn qed jagħmlu dan mingħajr ebda għajnuna uffiċjali, u b’sagriffċji kbar, imma bi mħabba kbira lejn is-sigar u l-ambjent naturali Malti. Mhu qed jagħamlu xejn għalihom infushom jew biex jieħdu xi ħaġa lura.

Kif nista’ nifhem ukoll, il-ministeru għandu rizorsi finanzjarji biżżejjed biex jgħin u jintlaħaq dan il-għan. Mit-tagħrif ta’ dawn l-aħħar xhur, il-ministeru qassam lil xi kunsilli lokali madwar €30,000 kull wieħed, biex dawn jixtru siġar eżotiċi u wħud anki invażivi, biex isebbħu r-raħal tagħhom. Dawn ir-riżorsi finanzarji setgħu jintużaw b’aktar għaqal.

Li kieku tqassmu bil-kunidizzjoni li dawn għandhom jintużaw biex jitkabbru siġar Maltin imnissla minn dawk is-siġar Maltin li diġà jikbru fil-gżejjer tagħna u li dawn wara setgħu anki jinbiegħu bi prezz nominali lil Ministru meta jikbru, kieku kien ikollu riżultati ferm u ferm akbar milli jintużaw biex jinxtraw sigar importati. Riżultati aħjar kemm fil-qasam edukattiv u dak soċjali, ekoloġiku u finanzarju. Minbarra hekk, il-flus li kienu jmorru barra minn Malta, kienu jibqgħu hawn Malta u jkollhom aktar riżultat kbir u sostenibbli (multiplier effect).

Dawn id-deċiżjonijet għaqlin kienu wkoll jgħinu biex iwaqqfu kull biża li siġar importati ma jdaħħlux magħhom mard u speċi oħra invażivi bħal ma ġara fil-każ tal-bumanqar aħmar tal-palm, il-ħanfusa tal-qrun twil tas-siġar tat-tut u speċi oħra li qed jattakkaw u joqtlu numru ta’ siġar oħra bħall-ħarrub, tin, tut, u ċawsli. Bħalissa hemm marda qerried fl-Italja Xytella fastidiosa li allaħares tidħol hawn għax il-ħsara ekoloġika, ekonomika u soċjali li jkollha ma jkun jista’ jwaqqafha ħadd.

Ma nistax ma ngħidx li s-siġar importati bħal dawk indiġeni Maltin iwassal wkoll biex iniġġsu l-għaġna ġenetika tas–siġar Maltin li minn dejjem kienu jikbru f’pajjiżna.

Is-siġra tar-riħan bil-fjuri. Sfortunatament l-importazzjoni minn barra minn Malta ta’ din is-siġra qegħda tniġġes l-għaġna ġenetika ta’ dik Maltija.

 

Hawn numru ta’ individwi u entitajiet oħra li huma lesti u li jixtiequ li jkollhom għajnuna biex ikomplu jgħinu fit-tnissil tas-siġar Maltin u l-ħarsien u l-apprezzamnet tal-ambjent Malti tagħna ukoll. Imma din l-għajnuna ma tinstabx la mill-ministeru u lanqas mill awtorità tal-ambjent.

Il-qerda tas-siġar Maltin xjuħ u maturi u d-dħul tas-siġar importati għandu aktar għan kummerċjali milli xi viżjoni ekoloġika u għalhekk li nsibha diffiċli ħafna li nifhem lill-ministeru u l-awtorità tal-ambjent kif dawn m’humiex jieħdu ebda azzjoni professjonali biex jintlaħaq dan il-għan, li suppost huwa l-għan tal-ministeru u tal-awtorità tal-ambjent stess.

Ir-riżorsi finanzjarji li qed jintużaw b’aktar minn €8 miljun fis-sena u li bihom qed isir xogħol mingħajr ebda viżjoni ekoloġikka u bl-approvazzjoni tal-ministeru u l-awtorità tal-ambjent, jistgħu jintużaw f’għajnuna lokali mhux biss ta’ ġid għal ekosistema Maltija, inkluż is-siġar, imma anki biex jiżdied it-tagħlim u t-tisħiħ tal-kuxjenza pubblika u anki jwasslu biex jinbtu oqsma kummerċjali privati f’dan il-qasam, imsejsa fuq għanijiet ekoloġiċi professjonali.

Meta naħseb fuq kemm-il siġra indiġena Maltija jirnexxilhom ikabbru minn sena għal oħra t-tfal tal-iskejjel primarji, nistaqsi x’għandhom aħjar u aktar minna l-mixliet barranin minn fejn jiġu importati s-siġar. Forsi l-Maltin mhux kapaċi jkabbru dawn is-siġar? Forsi l-Maltin mhux intelliġenti biżżejjed biex jagħmlu dan? Jew forsi għax il-ministeru u l-awtorità tal-ambjent ma jridux li jaraw Maltin jgħatu sehemhom biex ikabbru siġar Maltin hawn Malta stess? Jew forsi għax hemm xi ħadd ieħor li ma jixtieqx li jara l-Maltin jitgħallmu u jgħinu u jagħtu sehemhom biex huma wkoll ikollhom minn fejn jaqilgħu biżżejjed biex jgħixu billi jkabbru siġar Maltin mnissla minn dawk lokali?

Naħseb li l-mixliet ta’ barra minn Malta żgur għadhom rieda akbar milli jidher li għandna aħna hawn Malta. Din il-viżjoni għandha tkun fuq nett fuq l-aġenda tal-ministeru u l-awtorità tal-ambjent jekk verament iridu jħarsu l-ambjent naturali Malti u jedukaw il-poplu biex jilħaq dan il-għan.

Il-ministeru u l-awtorità tal-ambjent jistgħu jużaw ir-riżorsi finanzjarji, li bħalissa qed jinħlew fuq l-irjus, billi jiftehmu mal-università ta’ Malta, aktar u aktar meta r-rettur qiegħed fuq il-bord tal-awtorità. Dan jista’ jwassal biex il-ministeru juża’ r-riżorsi tiegħu aħajr billi jgħin lill-università ta’ Malta toffri studji professjonali biex dawk li jixtiequ jispeċjalizzaw f’dan il-qasam, bħal ngħidu aħna l-immaniġġar tas-siġar, iż-żbir, it-tisbiħ tal-art professjonali u ekoloġiku, u studji oħra ġenetiċi fuq il-flora ta’ Malta. Imma mid-dehra ma hemm l-ebda viżjoni la minn naħa u lanqas mill-oħra, sakemm ma hemmx xi deċiżjoni li dan ma għandux isir.

Hawn numru ta’ individwi li jixtiequ jkomplu bl-istudju tagħhom fuq dan is-suġġett, imma minħabba li dan l-istudju mhux offrut fl-università tagħna, ikollhom iħabbtu bibien barranin u ma għandniex xi ngħidu jridu jaraw kif sejrin jagħmlu biex iħallsu l-ispejjes li hemm bżonn.

Din hija l-viżjoni tiegħi għall-ekosistema Maltija. Biex insiru aktar professjonali, aktar nuru mħabba lejn il-biodioversità Maltija, u mhux nibqgħu nħallu d-dilettantiżmu jmexxi hu. Imma sfortunatment ikolli ngħid li l-ministeru u l-awtorità responsabbli mill-ambent qisu dan ma jinteressahomx. Kieku jinteressahom, kieku ilhom li ħadu passi fuq dan jekk iridu li l-ambjent Malti ma jkomplix jitmermer u jinqered.

Bit-€8 miljuni fis-sena, li sa issa ntefqu (€8 x 15 = €120 miljun) u b’riżorsi finanzjarji oħra li qed jonfoq il-ministeru mingħajr ebda viżjoni ekoloġika, altru li hemm riżorsi biżżejjed biex dawn l-għanijiet jintlaħqu. Imma l-ministru u l-awtorità tal-ambjent iridu li nimxu ‘l quddiem b’mod professjonali, skont obbligi internazzjnali, biex nilħqu dan il-għan? U jridu jaraw il-poplu Malti jserraħ rasu li l-ambjent naturali ta’ pajjiżna jkun imħares b’mod professjonali? Milli jidher ma tidher l-ebda rieda. U nistaqsi: dan għaliex?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Rabat Road trees would not survive being transplanted

June 19, 2018

Tuesady, June 19, 2018

Rabat Road trees would not survive being transplanted – expert

Revised plans reduced the number by 60

Keith Micallef

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier (Times of Malta)

Updated 10am – Added PD statement

A biodiversity expert has branded a plan to uproot dozens of trees along the so-called ‘Rabat Road’ the result of an unprecedented “wave of environmental destruction” financed through taxpayers’ money.

Alfred Baldacchino said measures to transplant the uprooted Aleppo pine trees from Rabat Road and import mature ones were doomed

Alfred Baldacchino said measures to transplant the uprooted Aleppo pine trees from Rabat Road and import mature ones were doomed.

Alfred Baldacchino also warned that measures to transplant the uprooted Aleppo pine trees and then import mature ones were doomed to fail.

Mr Baldacchino gave this damning assessment when the Times of Malta sought his views on a controversial €55 million project to upgrade the arterial road from the foot of Saqqajja Hill down to Mrieħel.

The Central Link Project, as it is known, came under a barrage of criticism following a story published last Saturday, which highlighted the large number of mature Aleppo pines facing the axe.

Read: Official promises about Rabat road trees rubbished by eNGO

Despite official Transport Malta plans identifying every tree earmarked for uprooting, the Transport Ministry said this was not the case. In a statement it acknowledged that trees would have to be uprooted and transplanted, but insisted 212 additional trees would be planted.

A few hours after the controversy erupted, a batch of revised plans were uploaded on the Planning Authority’s website. Compared to the original ones, the number of trees identified for uprooting in the stretch of road from Mount Carmel Hospital to the foot of Saqqajja Hill was revised downwards by about 60.

However, no change whatsoever was noted in the rest of the route from Attard to Mrieħel, where another significant number of trees could be uprooted.

In his reaction, Mr Baldacchino, a former assistant director of the Environmental Protection Directorate at the now defunct Malta Environment and Planning Authority, did not mince his words at his disapproval for the uprooting of the mature trees.

“By being given the wrong advice, Transport Minister Ian Borg has been put in an embarrassing situation. Aleppo pine trees cannot be transplanted,” he explained. “Similar trees which were uprooted from Castille Square near the Manuel Dimech monument and transplanted elsewhere – including at the Pietà pinetum – did not survive,” Mr Baldacchino added.

He also pointed out that importing mature trees was another measure doomed to fail and on which the minister has been misadvised.

TIMES TALK: ‘Some trees survived the war, but not this Environment Minister’

“The measure was taken some years ago when the new bus terminus was being constructed, prior to the Arriva takeover. The majority of the imported mature trees died,” he remarked.

“More often than not transplanting and importing mature trees is a waste of energy and money. While each tree costs about €500 to transplant, importing one costs thousands,” he said.

“If such money was used to plant locally grown trees, the result would be much better, given that these would need some years to grow.”

Mr Baldacchino was also in contact with the minister himself in an attempt to draw his attention to the facts.

The former Mepa official summed up his feelings by saying the situation on the environment was of huge concern.

“I have never witnessed such a wave of environmental destruction from taxpayers’ money with the blessing of those who are responsible to safeguard biodiversity,” Mr Baldacchino said.

He noted it was also very telling that none of the online petitions to save the trees were coming from the Opposition ranks.

This trend has to stop’ – PD

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the PD noted that Malta’s environmental regulator had turned down just two of 67 applications to uproot trees last year.

The same trend could be seen in the first four months of the year, with 32 ERA approvals and not a single rejection, they said. The information came as a result of parliamentary questions made by PD MP Godfrey Farrugia.

Dr Farrugia and fellow PD MP Marlene Farrugia have asked parliament’s Environment and Planning Committee to review the ERA’s and Plant Protection Directorate’s existing policies and regulations.

“Our country is already arid and we have to preserve what greenery is left, not continue to destroy until no trees are left,” the party sad. “This has become a matter of grave urgency.”

Environment Resource Authority Mission Statement – Alfred E. Baldacchinio

Who we are

The Environment and Resources Authority shall safeguard the environment to achieve a sustainable quality of life. 

Our Mission
“To safeguard the environment for a sustainable quality of life”

Our Goals

“·         To mainstream environmental targets and objectives across Government and society.

·         To 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.

·         To develop evidence-based policy; backed by a robust data gathering structure.

·         To draw up plans, provide a licensing regime and monitor activities having an environmental impact and to integrate environmental considerations within the development control process.”

Our Philosophy 

“As the national regulator on the environment, we shall also maintain consultation with stakeholders so as to promote and instill sound environmental management.”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com