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

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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

 


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

June 6, 2018
Bertrand Borg

Alfred Baldacchino slams Malta’s tree removal and conservation policies

    Alfred Baldacchino is angry

Every other week, horrified citizens report that a grand old tree of some sort is being hacked down to make way for a road or garage – and the authorities who should be slapping down such behaviour instead excuse it away.

“Some trees survived the war, but not this environment minister,” the environmental management old hand, ecologist and author quips in this Times Talk interview.

Mr Baldacchino, a prolific environmental writer who served as the assistant director of MEPA’s Environmental Protection Directorate before retiring, has little time for the official line that trees can be removed as long as they are “not protected”.

“Who is going to protect a 300-year-old Carob tree? Or 100-year-old Holm Oaks? The minister says they’re not protected,” he says. “But who’s responsible for protecting them?”

Not that José Herrera is the only person he blames for the wanton destruction of Malta’s arboreal heritage: the Environment and Resources Authority is completely missing the mark, Mr Baldacchino argues.

“I have yet to hear ERA speak against this senseless destruction,” he says. “What is their role? Do they have a vision? Do they have an opinion? Are they afraid?”

Faced with mounting criticism about old trees being removed to make way for more paving and concrete, the Environment Ministry has promised to revise tree regulations introduced in 2011 and which made it far easier for authorities to clear trees in the name of progress.

Revised laws, the ministry told Times of Malta, would be presented to cabinet “in the coming weeks”.

Mr Baldacchino is not holding his breath.

“These revised laws have been in the pipeline ever since this government has been in power,” he says.

Watch the 10-minute Times Talk interview with Alfred Baldacchino in the video above.

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180606/timestalk/watch-some-trees-survived-the-war-but-not-this-environment-minister.680954 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/tree-protection-laws-pruned-for-developers/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/destroying-trees-to-make-way-for-cars-is-a-big-mistake/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2018/05/04/trees-hit-headlines/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/sigar-maltin/


Tree protection laws ‘pruned for developers’

June 1, 2018

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ivan Martin

Robust laws protecting trees were “pruned” years ago and fresh efforts by this government to revive them left a lot to be desired, a veteran environmental expert told the Times of Malta.

“It is obvious trees are seen as an obstacle to development and roadworks. Why else would this administration be taking so long to reverse a decision, made by their predecessors, if not to continue facilitating construction,” the former deputy director at the environment protection directorate, Alfred Baldacchino, said.

Conservationists on Tuesday called for an investigation into the needless “massacre” of trees in various localities, saying the laws had to be bolstered.

A number of trees – some of them landmarks – were removed from urban areas over the past weeks, including 14 mulberry trees in Victoria, a Holm oak tree just outside the Upper Barrakka, in Valletta, and the iconic carob tree in Villa Forte Garden, Lija.

Mr Baldacchino said the scaling back of the protective status enjoyed by various tree species had started as a result of pressure on successive administrations by the construction and roadworks lobbies.

He was among the officials responsible for drafting the Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations back in 2001. This included a list of about 54 species that could not be removed.

Mr Baldacchino said that although the original law contained loopholes that allowed protected trees to be uprooted or chopped down if special permission was obtained, the authorities still came under pressure from “certain interests” to amend the law.

“Eventually, the government gave in and, in 2011, the law I had drafted was amended. I protested at the decision but, ultimately, this is what happened,” Mr Baldacchino recalled.

The list of 54 protected types of trees was cut by half to 27

The list of 54 protected types of trees was cut by half to 27 and some clauses were reworded. A section of the original law, protecting “all trees older than 50 years” irrespective of whether they were on the protected list or not, was removed entirely.

The government last February announced plans to review the laws protecting trees and woodlands, however, although a public consultation period closed in March, Mr Baldacchino pointed out there was still no word on when the reformed law would be enacted.

“This is what happens in this country, we drag our feet and, in the meantime, old trees are cut down to make way for slightly wider roads or someone else wanting to enlarge a garage,” Mr Baldacchino said.

The remains of the iconic carob tree in Villa Forte Garden, Lija. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A spokesman for Environment Minister Josè Herrera said the government was addressing the situation from “a policy and implementation aspect”.

New regulations on the protection of trees would be submitted to the Cabinet in the coming weeks, he added.

Meanwhile, sources at the Environment and Resources Authority said complaints on the cutting down of trees had been received in recent weeks and a meeting on the matter was scheduled to be held in the next few days.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

Some photographic evidence of recently destroyed trees 

The iconic 300 year old carob tree at Lija. According to comments by the Ministry for the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, this tree was not protected. So it was chopped down to make way for a garage.

 

This historic tree Holm Oak indigenous Maltese tree, at the entrance of the Upper Barrakka gardens, adjacent to the Office of the Prime Minster, had withstood World War II, but did not withstand the decision of the Ministry for the Environment responsible for the protection of trees. It was chopped and destroyed during the silent hours of the night.

In a statement, the Ministry for the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, said that “the tree had been sick and deteriorating fast, especially following strong winds in the past weeks” (sic.). (TOM, May 30, 2018).

A line of eight old Holm Oaks at Lija, including one 100 years old, were all chopped down after the Minster for the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, confirmed that these trees were not protected.

 

 

After my attention was drawn by the public to this cypress tree which was damaged by winds, I drew the attention of the Environment and Resource Authority, in the Ministry for the Environment, so that measures could be taken to save the tree. The now short standard reply from the Ministry of the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, was: “Ġentilment ninfurmak li s-siġra taċ-Ċipress f’Santa Venera mhix protetta u għaldaqstant ma tirrikjedix permess.”  (We would like to kindly inform you that the Cypress tree in Santa Venera is not protected, and as such it does not need any permit).!!

A tamarix tree on the Sliema promenade disappeared during the night. No comments from the Ministry for the Environment responsible for the protection of trees, except that government workers were seem on the following morning clearing up the mess.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Josè Herrera said the government was addressing the situation from “a policy and implementation aspect”.

 

other related articles:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2018/05/04/trees-hit-headlines/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/lija-tree-felling-a-result-of-jose-herreras-failure-environmentalist-says-2/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/lija-tree-felling-a-result-of-jose-herreras-failure-environmentalist-says/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/our-landscaping-needs-professional-updating/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/lija-oak-cemetery/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/there-is-no-respite-for-trees/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/destroying-trees-to-make-way-for-cars-is-a-big-mistake/

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

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/trees-butchered-at-university/


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

May 25, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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

Keith Micallef

The destruction of trees to accommodate the increasing number of cars was a short-term solution with long-term environmental and health repercussions, a biodiversity expert and an NGO have warned.

Alfred Baldacchino and Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar were approached by the Times of Malta in view of plans to uproot a kilometre of trees along the Addolorata Cemetery hill in Paola. The trees have been earmarked for destruction to make way for a new underpass at the Santa Luċija roundabout.

Trees were also recently uprooted to make way for the multilevel junction under construction in Marsa and the widening of Lija’s high street.

Both the FAA and Mr Baldacchino questioned the government’s strategy of addressing traffic congestion by widening arterial roads and building new junctions, like the one at Kappara.

“That approach will just result in traffic bottlenecks being shifted elsewhere without actually addressing the source of the problem, which is the increasing number of vehicles on the road,” FAA chairman Paul Cardona said.

His views were echoed by Mr Baldacchino, who criticised the project as the product of successive governments’ lack of vision.

He pointed out there had been no efforts to compensate for the loss of trees. Moreover, he threw cold water on efforts to replant uprooted trees elsewhere, saying it was a very costly exercise with low success rates.

He noted that, on average, it cost €500 to transplant a tree. “It would probably be more cost effective to use the funds on afforestation projects and other initiatives meant to combat climate change and safeguard local ecology,” he pointed out.

Mr Baldacchino expressed frustration that the authorities had not been forthcoming about a series of proposals he submitted some time ago.

He also questioned the goverment’s political will to protect the environment. “The loss of indigenous species, which are being replaced by imported ones, makes me wonder if this is based on an unofficial decision made at Cabinet level,” Mr Baldacchino said. “Future generations will pay a hefty price for these mistakes,” he warned.

Mr Cardona of FAA called for bold decisions to discourage the use of private cars, such as introducing congestion charges in areas like Valletta.

“Replanting uprooted trees elsewhere is a very costly exercise with low rates of success”

“In countries like Singapore, the solution was to address the oversaturation of cars on the roads, not building tunnels and bridges. The problem must be tackled at source by forcing people to use the bus to avoid congestion charges:’ he said, adding that as long as commuters kept using private cars, buses would remain stuck in traffic.

“The bottom line is that having a greater number of cars on the road will only result in more toxic emissions – which, in turn, will increase the incidence of cancer in the Maltese islands,” Mr Cardona said.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com