Unkept green pledges

times of malta

Saturday, 17th January, 2015

Unkept green pledges

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

Public awareness on environmental matters has never been so strong. Yet, the environment is still being decimated and abused with the blessing of government entities.

MEPA, the competent authority for environment, is under the responsibility of a parliamentary secretary, and falls within the Prime Minister’s portfolio. Projecting colourful fireworks’ toxic smoke, killing of species, and ODZ ‘tweeting’ are higher on the agenda than any tangible national policies for the good of society and the environment at large.

Once there was a party in government who in 1980 initiated regulations for the protection of biodiversity, and had a vision to green Malta and push afforestation. Surprisingly, that same party is in government today, albeit with different faces, different visions, and different principles. It seems that the complete exploitation of the environment, despite its social, ecological, economical, educational, scientific, psychological, and quality of life contributions, is a new principle. As are the dismantling of environmental regulations. Times change not only names, faces and logos, but also basic principles it would appear.

photo - unkept green promise

It seems that the complete exploitation of the environment is a new policy. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

An authority that is funded by the public turns a blind eye on social and ecological negative impacts. No finger is turned to stop the decimation and butchering of biodiversity. Spraying of chemicals to kill every living species growing for free goes uncontrolled. Millions of euros are spent to dump free natural sources in the sea. A directorate which once was responsible to see that these do not happen is in deep freeze. The mentality of pecuniary and materialistic greed at the expense of society and the environment rules the day.

EU funds are still used and spent without any ecological consideration. Commercial banks still sponsor without ensuring that some of the funds do not go toward the loss or destruction of biodiversity. Politicians are not concerned about loss of biodiversity with the funds provided.

The Environment Directorate is abused, gagged, and hijacked till hopefully it gives up its ghost. Mepa has become more of an environmental hazard than environmental protector. Can anyone be blamed for believing that government does not have any vision or interest in collective social and environmental gain?

The government’s manifesto, if electoral manifestos are anything to go by, clearly explains that a well-protected environment leads to a better quality of life. The new government had to seriously administer and be greatly committed to the environmental sector. It had to work with determination to make up for lost time, aware that there are a number of difficult decisions to be made, amongst them the upheaval of MEPA. It had to take this measure in the interest of our national environment so that it will be in a better position to address the challenge (electoral manifesto p. 93).

“Times change not only names, faces and logos

but also basic principles, it seems”

The separation of the environment and planning directorates within Mepa, was intended “to strengthen the environment’s autonomy” and “to give more importance to the strategic aspect and long term vision”, “to reach a better balance between conservation and the protection of the environment and responsible development.” (electoral manifesto p. 94).

Yet after 21 months in government, Mepa remains responsible for environment protection, playing havoc in this sector, not wanting to have anything to do with environmental protection. Mepa’s environmental management is far from the elected commitments made by the party in government. The procrastination in bringing about the promised demerger does not help to convince anyone that government is keen on immediately honouring its electoral manifesto even on such a delicate matter which will affect the future of the islands. Such a vacuum and delay is undoubtedly being capitalised, to the detriment of society and the environment. It is very clear that the official pro-business vision is sucking Malta’s resources dry. The Minister, who on paper is responsible for the environment, will eventually be handed a dead skeleton of environmental structures, impossible to resuscitate, if at all.

The ‘not-my-fault’ syndrome has unfortunately undermined any sense of good governance. Sometimes I ask myself whether the environmental remit has been politically omitted from the Environment’s Minister portfolio and divided and fragmented among other Cabinet ministries so that it would be easy to say that no one is responsible when environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility?

In the run up to the election, the Prime Minister said that if any voters were not happy with the way ministers were handling their responsibilities according to the manifesto, they should refer the matter to him directly. The letter signed by present and former presidents of Din l-Art Ħelwa regarding the pitiful state the environment was a first step. It was followed by a group of other environmental NGOs.

I would also like to bring to the Prime Minister’s attention, the manner the environment is being mismanaged and exploited. There is no doubt that the legacy this government will be leaving to future generations is indeed shameful and does not do any honour to any politician, if honour is valued any more these days. Ironically, the environment falls within the portfolio of the author of the electoral manifesto. He is definitely being advised by the wrong people, some say conveniently, though I do not agree with this.

The latest comments by the Prime Minister can possibly shows that he is not happy with this sad state of affairs. And rightly so, because there will definitely not be much hope for the environment in the future with the big irreparable negative impacts this will have on society, which will eventually have to pay the price for such political mismanagement.

Mepa playing havoc with environmental matters is definitely not in line with the electoral manifesto’s commitments. Not only will lost time not be recovered (electoral manifesto p 93) but such lost time is being extended and extended until there will be nothing left to recover.

Having hijacked the planning authority, the pro-business mentality driving force is holding society and the environment to ransom.

Environmentalists who have the real national interest at heart, consider 2014 as a very bad omen for the future of Maltese environment. Will this new year offer new hopes, new visions, new sustainable life for the benefit of society and the environment? The momentum of environmental degradation through the vision of exploitation at all costs raises serious doubts amongst those having the well-being of the country at heart.

I only hope 2015 will prove me wrong, not through political blah-blah but by genuine social and environmental tangible measures.



8 Responses to Unkept green pledges

  1. lou. says:

    Sincerely hope you are incorrect about your predictions concerning a carcass, in terms of an environmental directorate set-up, being passed on to the Environment Ministry by MEPA. If that were indeed the case, I am still confident that, given a positive attitude I sense, coupled by the numerous professionals and recent young graduates in the field of environmental science and management, things will turn around pretty fast. Malta can ill-afford to continue urbanizing the country, while degrading swathes of countryside.

    Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost!

    • Lou, I hope that you are right. But considering the lost time, the psychological state of the professionals within what is left of the environment directorate, the departure of experienced officials from such a sinking ship, and the political dragging of feet to unwillingly correct all these, is not something to shout about or to make one optimistic. Despite the availability of new graduates, it will take them some time to have the necessary experience to be able to persist in swimming up the Niagara falls and not be carried by the currents.
      And at the moment, I cannot ‘sense’ any collective positive political attitude despite what they promised.
      We can see when, as you say, the chickens come home to roost, without doubt shot, tattered, decimated and maimed even during the period when they could deliver.

  2. gaucivincent says:

    I am still confident about the technical capabilities of MEPA and Environment Directorate staff. MEPA was set up in the ’80’s to be an autonomous body that takes at hand land-use planning. Eventually, however, MEPA was divested of this essential autonomy and became nothing more than a political ball to suit the whims of the party in Government. As for the Environment agency, no merger or de-merger would automatically ensure effective environment protection unless this is accompanied with true autonomy and well resourced. As long as autonomy remains a dirty word, I’m afraid that the future of environment protection remains bleak.

    • I do not have any doubt that the professional middle management at MEPA is the best on the islands. However, the political appointees are more intent to please their master than to take notice or implement professional advice.

  3. victor says:

    i hate being critical but throughout the political history time no party has instilled in the mind of its generations the real outcome of a poor environment and that is why we have our hospitals full of aches and pains . Ahjar indawru lira x’imkien iehor seems to be the way forward . Fitting flowers in a roundabout will get us nowhere . It has to start from each home . We tend to keep our homes clean but anything else is hardly tended to . Which other nation has its poplu not able to walk through its widien u xaghri ghax il- kaccatur irid jispara? How come a national park like Buskett is left unattended and dying? Concrete seems to be everywhere . We are not even envious of other countries’ beauties so we travel . Shame on all political parties . Politics will never solve our environmental problems but only increase them . This MEPA thing needs be privitised .

    • lou. says:

      The issue with MEPA, in my humble view, is that it is largely development-driven, with Politics (capital ‘P’ intended) in the pilot seat. Consequently, planning practice in Malta remains a matter of relative improvisation and constant conflict (due to the ‘two weights, two measures’ norm). Hence, as a result of this institutionalised neanderthalism, questions pertaining to environmental psychology and bioclimatic design, which relate directly to quality of life and well-being of the human population, and the state-of-health of the general environment (all interconnected), remain unaddressed.

      What MEPA needs is real autonomy, where policy formulation and implementation are concerned, but then, what would the politician do without a scapegoat?!

      • “What MEPA needs is real autonomy, where policy formulation and implementation are concerned, but then, what would the politician do without a scapegoat?!”
        I think it is easier and more possible to see a cow jump over the moon than such a suggestion taking shape. It was Adolf Hitler who said “what luck for rulers that men don’t think”.

  4. Brian says:

    Instead of aiming to become another Hong Kong or Singapore,
    we should be aiming to create the garden of the meditteranean.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: