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

 

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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

 


Trees hit headlines

May 4, 2018

Trees hit headlines

Friday May 4, 2018

Alfred E  Baldacchino

The last couple of months saw trees in the news.

Following the collapse, on February 10, of a mismanaged, unprofessionally pruned alien tree on the Mrieħel road, which led to the death of a foreigner, a spokesman for an entity paid out of public funds, was interviewed on a local TV station. He did not deny that the management of the trees in that particular road was their responsibility.

Photo: (Times of Malta) Jonathan Borg

April 9 saw another fatal accident in Żurrieq where a double-decker tourist bus “hit low-lying tree branches resulting in two dead tourists, 50 injured and some ending in intensive care, one needing a  major operation” (Times of Malta, April 10).

“Transport watchdog has long recognised trees as road hazards” read a heading in this newspaper (April 15). It referred to an “EU directive regarding road safety audits, impact assessments, inspections and high-frequency collision investigations”. The guidelines drawn in the light of this EU directive, outlined the fact that trees and landscaping are a “potential roadside hazard” and “need to be taken into account”.

In all honesty, the transport watchdog does not have the necessary acumen, adequate paraphernalia or professional personnel to plan, monitor, and professionally manage roadside trees. They rely on contractors.

Trees do not grow on their own in urban areas. They are planted, monitored and managed by contractors paid from public funds. So it is not the trees that are road hazards. It is the contractors who are responsible for their upkeep, ensuring that trees are managed aesthetically, professionally, and not posing a road hazard.

Trees do not move from the place where they are planted. If a tree has a 15- year-old branch protruding onto the road, it is not the fault of the tree, but that of unprofessional management. Even schoolchildren are today conscious and aware of proper tree management.

Following the ever-increasing negative impacts of such mismanagement and lack of awareness of international biodiversity obligations, a copy of the agreement for landscaping was requested on June 23, 2015. An agreement which the government and a private-public partner signed on October 31, 2012.

This request was vehemently refused by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (under Joe Mizzi) on  July 23, 2015, as was the subsequent appeal, on August 13, 2015.

On August 19, 2015, the matter was referred to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. The commissioner’s decision of January 19, 2016 “considers that the public interest is better served by providing the applicant with a copy of the requested document” and “the commissioner has resolved that there are no impediments to release a copy of the agreement.

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

One would have thought that such a matter would have been solved within weeks. But it seems, not in Malta

Subsequently a letter from the commissioner informed me that an appeal by the ministry (still under Mizzi) had been lodged to the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.

Almost two years from the initial request, the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal decided, refusing the appeal made by the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, confirming the decision reached by the Commissioner of Information and Data Protection, ordering that a copy of such agreement signed between the government and ELC on October 31, 2001 should be given to applicant.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure in 2017 said that legal proceedings were instituted by the ELC (Environment Landscaping Consortium) 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”. Judgement had to be reached in December 2017, but the sitting has already been postponed twice.

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 it seems, not in Malta.

What is the reason for such objections? The National Audit Office (NAO) published a ‘Performance Audit: Landscaping maintenance through a Public-Private Partnership’, dated September 2017. This throws a lot of light on possible reasons.

Topics covered in such report deal with: the non-availability of management accounts; no details regarding questions asked; contractor’s evident non-compliance on a number of issues; the government’s limited enforcement actions; arising questions regarding the financial and economic considerations revolving around the agreement; the non-submission of management accounts constituting a contractual breach; government’s lack of knowledge of the contractor’s financial input not conducive to a balanced partnership;

Contract rates higher than other landscaping agreements signed by governmental entities; operational and financial information gaps not appropriately safeguarding the government’s position as a partner within this agreement; contractual deficiencies that incorporated two subsequent addenda, as well as a number of elements of contractual non-compliance, generally, having their roots within the 2002 contract, beside others.

One of the conclusion the NAO report came to is that: “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 government’s direct and broader interests.

One of the invasive species, Penisetum or Fountain grass, planted and paid by public funds, which is today spreading uncontrolled along roadsides, valleys, and other natural habitats. The social, ecological and financial negative impacts have to be paid by the man in the street.

“Contractual non-compliance prevailed in the face of government’s limited enforcement action. In such circumstances, 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” (page 55).

To these financial observations, the immediate and long-term negative impacts on the Maltese ecosystem must also be taken in consideration.

What is the next immediate step? The Minister for Finance has to decide: either the dissolution of the agreement in the national interest, or the dishing out of an additional €8 million for the continuation of the implied tacit consent of such non-compliance.

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

further readings:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ktieb fuq Siġar Maltin

April 4, 2018
Baldacchino, A.E. (2018) Siġar Maltin – tagħrif, tnissil, ħarsien, għajdut.     Klabb Kotba Maltin. 226 pps +  xxv.

Trid tkun taf aktar fuq is-siġar Maltin li jlibbsu u jżejnu pajjiżna?  Trid issir tagħraf aktar kemm dawn jgħinnuna? Trid tgħin biex ikun hawn aktar għarfien u aktar apprezzament lejn dan il-wirt naturali? Naħseb li mela dan il-ktieb jinteressak. Dan għadu kif ġie ppublikat illum, L-Erbgħa, 4 ta’ April 2018. Aħseb għall-kopja kmieni. Iktibli jekk ikollok xi diffikultà biex issibu. Niżżik ħajr tal-għajnuna tiegħek biex flimkien inħarsu dak li ġejna mislufa.

  • Jagħti tagħrif wiesa’ fuq is-siġar u jidħol aktar fil-fond fuq xi speċi indiġeni Maltin.
  • Jiġbor tagħrif fuq il-ħajja tas-siġar u l-ambjent naturali tagħhom, kif dawn jistgħu jitnisslu u saħansitra jintużaw fit-tisbiħ tal-art.
  • Juri ritratt bil-kulur ta’ kull speċi msemmija, kif ukoll taz-zokk, tal-werqa, tal-fjura u taż-żerriegħa.
  • Jagħti tagħrif ukoll fuq kif dawn kienu jintużaw fil-mediċina tradizzjonali, kif jissemmew fil-mitoloġija u fil-Bibbja.
  • Jissemmew ukoll il-prinċipji tal-ħarsien, l-użu u l-immaniġġar tas-siġar u t-theddid minn speċi invażivi.
  • Ifiehem l-obbligi dwar il-ħarsien tas-siġar u l-ambjent naturali tagħhom – kemm dirett kif ukoll indirett – li Malta għandha bħala msieħba f’numru ta’ ftehimiet internazzjonali u anki dawk bħala Pajjiż Imsieħeb fl-Unjoni Ewropea.

Il-ktieb jagħti wkoll ħarsa lejn il-liġijiet tal-ħarsien tas-siġar: mill-ewwel regolament li ġie ppubblikat fil-Gżejjer Maltin sa dawk li hemm fis-seħħ illum.

Siġar Maltin – tagħrif, tnissil, ħarsien, għidut huwa ta’ għajnuna għall-għalliema u dawk kollha li jixtiequ jkunu jafu aktar dwar is-siġar, jew biex jgħallmu aktar l-imħabba u l-għarfien tagħhom bħala parti mill-ħajja naturali li taqsam din l-art magħna.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

għal aktar pubblikazzjonijiet fuq il-biodiversità Maltija ara:

https://wp.me/PL6Mk-bP