29th April, 2012
MASSACRE OF MDINA TREES –
IS THE EU REALLY INVOVLED?
Alfred E. Baldacchino
A very interesting debate has developed on the site Save the Trees which can be accessed on: http://www.facebook.com/groups/227850170644983/267876579975675/?notif_t=group_activity
An outstanding feature on the above blog is that 99% of the bloggers who love trees and biodiversity are criticising the official persecution and massacre of trees in the Maltese Islands. But those who express such concern are taken to task by one particular blogger who clams that he works at ELC.
Sometimes I can hardly believe what I read on this blog in defence of the mutilation of trees and biodiversity by ELC. It is to the tune of the official Government policy on projects relating to biodiversity, despite the electoral promise of an environmental column. Such a blogger says they he is writing in his own personal capacity, a right which he has and which he can exercise to create such a discussion. Yet details are given which the public is not aware of. This makes one think that ELC is finding it very convenient to let their alleged workers speak for them, and these cannot do otherwise but laud all ELC’s works of wonder. They would certainly be shown the back door if they were to write something which the ELC, or their Ministry, does not approve of. They would be charged with conflict of interest if they criticise, even constructively, the works of their Ministry. And they will surely get the axe if they make a faux pas, even if what they say might have been suggested to them.
In criticising Ministerial projects, although the EU obliges public consultations on public projects, blogers are called names, accused of not knowing anything about trees and their ‘pruning’ and also accused of belittiling the ELC workers. This still happens, despite the fact that time and time again, all blogers have made it clear that workers have to do what they are ordered to do and cannot be held accountable for executing the decisions taken by their employers or their Minister. But this calling of names is something which is now very synonymous with such quarters.
The ELC is responsible to the Minister of Resource, whom it shields. The mania about creating gardens in such fashion, is something well known within this Ministry. A few years ago there was an attempt to transform Buskett into a garden!!
Everyone knows of the massacre executed at Buskett by ELC with the blessing of their Minister. Now we have the transformation of the Mdina Ditch into a garden, with TURF and fountains as the Save the Tree site have been informed by an ELC alleged spokesman.
Uprooting trees to create a garden….. very hard to believe. Substituting them with TURF which takes gallons and gallons of water, such a rare resource in the Maltese Islands, especially in the hot summer months. The paving of straight-line paths furthermore contributed to the uprooting of even more trees. This Ministry seems to have a mania with expanses of turf and dancing-water and fountains, like the dancing-water at St. George’s Square in Valletta. And believe it or not, all this has been approved by a Ministry responsible for the local scarce resource of WATER, and also for Climate change!! Unbelievable! I am sure that a spokesman for this Ministry will come up with some crude explanation and possibly with more calling of names. But one has to accept that some Ministries are very good at this type of dialogue! It is their forte.
The reference to EU funds by the ELC alleged-worker in the Save the Trees blog is interesting because it is coming from this semi-official bloger in favour of this project leading the public to understand that this project is funded by the EU, saying that 85% of the total cost of the €6.2m project is being funded by the EU! This creates and incongruency with the press release issued by the Minister which said that it was being done by the Minster’s (public) funds “The works are being carried out by the Restoration Directorate of the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs.” No mention of EU funds; and “The project, costing €1,200,000, is due to be completed by the end of this year.” See the attached link for the official press release: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120406/local/works-start-on-recreation-area-in-mdina-ditch.414277
When I visited the site, I failed to notice any reference to any EU involvement on the site. Now if there are any funds from the EU, one of the obligations is that the EU logo has to appear on all the publicity for the project. There are now two version with reference to the financial input to this project: the Ministerial publicity which refrains from mentioning any EU involvement; and EU funding according to a bloger with ELC connections. Which is the correct version? I am sure that the EU would be very interested in knowing how its funds, if it has funded this project, are being ‘used’ and ‘managed’, what the public opinion vis-a-vis this project is, and how such project is impacting on biodiversity!
According to EU obligations, whether it has financed the project or not, the public is entitled to a breakdown of the money which is going into this project, such as how much the turf will cost, the quantity of water it will consume per annun and at what cost; how much will be the upkeep, how much did the planners and designers charge, and how much will the launching of the project cost.
The lack of any biodiversity and social concept are evidently lacking to any informed visitor. This view is sustained by the comments supporting this project on the Save the Trees blog: Orange trees are being uprooted because they interfere with the vision of the bastions, but fountains do not! And insects and birds aren’t going to commit suicide, if they do not find a tree, they go on another one, the Rabat environs are full of trees. ( L-insetti u l-ghasafar mhux ser jaghmlu suwwicidju, jekk ma jsibux sigra, imorru fuq ohra, inhawi tar-Rabat huma mimlija sigar min daqsekk). Not surprising at all since this is the recurring approach used by the Ministry under whose responsibility this project falls! No wonder that when the same Ministry was responsible for the EU measure to tackle biodiversity loss, it made a complete mess and failure out of it.
The official Ministerial publicity material attached to the bastins, (shown above) states that this project is a Rehabillitation of the ditch. In contrast, the bloger with ELC inside informations states that “The ditch outside Mdina’s bastions from Greek’s gate to Xara Palace including the area below the main gate, is being turned into a recreational space which will be open to the public”. There is a great difference between ‘rehabilitation of the ditch’ and changing its use to a recreational area, especially when the tennis court, the basketball pitch, and the football pitch, which formed part of the ditch to be rehabilitated have been removed.
Somebody is surely trying to take the people for a ride despite the fact that the Prime Minister has promised that he will come closer to the people to listen to what they have to say………… I understand that heeding it is another matter!