Yet another toothless dog

times of malta

Yet another toothless dog

Friday. August 26, 2016

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The way in which the new Planning Authority handled the applications for high rise buildings is a harbinger of things to come with regard to the complete destruction of these islands socially, environmentally and economically. Without any policy on the matter, without any public consultations, without any respect for anything or anyone but with urgency to please the selected few while the sun shines, the PA decided to approve the applications with absolutely no sign of professionality at all.

The fact that the new Environment and Resources Authority was absent from such an important decision is also very worrying.

A new era seems to be dawning on the environment, which, we have been told, ” … will be given the priority it deserves…”

The ERA chairman was indisposed and sent an explanatory letter. If I were the ERA chairman and I were sick, I would have crawled to the meeting, if only to make my presence felt. It would have been important to vote and make ERA’s position known. If medical reasons did not allow me to crawl, I would have sent a letter to the PA chairman stressing the need for it to be read before the vote was taken and highlighting ERA’s vote.

I would also have entrusted one of the ERA board members with the task to substantiate ERA’s official position. I would certainly not have sent the letter to a PA board member to use as he deems fit.

Such unprofessional behaviour simply shows that the government’s intentions to split Mepa into two authorities was just a sham. It wanted to make things easier for the selected few, weakening national and EU environmental obligations and responsibilities, giving a blank cheque to development applications having a hidden political blessing.

This was evident when the environment protection directorate was kept in limbo by Mepa when they were supposed to be in the same bed. Unconcerned, Mepa presented the Parliamentary standing committee on the environment with an impact assessment on Żonqor Point, confirming that the directorate was not consulted and drafters of the assessment had to remain anonymous.

The Environment and
Resources Authority, still so
young, has signed its own
death warrant


The new ERA, the promised champion of the environment, failed at its first hurdle. ERA, still so young, has signed its own death warrant through its impotency. The subsequent news that the ERA chairman described the EIA of the Sliema skyscraper as a “sham” confirms that ERA is another toothless authority.

I am indeed sorry for the ERA chairman. I had high hopes and honestly believed he would go far towards the protection of our environment – the basis of life as professionally he fully well knows.

The Sliema parish priests and the Church Environment Commission were constrained to voice their concerns. One cannot run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. The leadership of the Church is emerging to be a solid promoter of the social and environmental responsibilities in the country, in line with Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. Yet, it is already being hounded by the square-circled political mentality.

Considering the local conditions, the high rises approved and others being proposed are anti-social, anti-environmental and anti-economical. Unfortunately, the powers that be, despite claiming they hail from the socialist camp, are dead set to accommodate the selected few at the expense of the exploited many, who sooner rather than later will have to pay through their noses, financially, socially and environmentally.

Such an official blinded vision is an extreme capitalist mentality rather than a moderate socialist commitment. But this is of no concern to those involved in these decisions. Greed, materialism and the exploitation of everything, at everyone’s expense, seem to be the order of the day.

As a past chairman of the Church Environment Commission once wrote: ” … Mepa, which should be our national watchdog on environmental protection and good management, has been turned into an old toothless dog often receiving merciless battering from all directions, including from the authorities, the public at large, NGOs and also from environmental speculators. And, let us all be aware, this state of affairs mostly satisfies the hidden agenda of the latter!”

He had also said: “What we need is a national watchdog called MEA: the Malta Environment Autlority. This should be able to act as a strong regulatory body in environmental matters, with all the required resources, including a well-trained and motivated staff. And, as a national watchdog, it should be able to act independently of all other govemment entities and authorities. Our MEA should play second fiddle to none” (Times of Malta, January 1, 2010).

Bold and noble words indeed when said with conviction.

cartoonThe old toothless dog is still running the show. And it is not only the old toothless dog that is still receiving such criticism. It has now been joined by a seemingly toothlless ERA.

One has to be aware that scientific decisions are arrived at in a very, very different way from political decisions. “And let us all be aware, this state of affairs mostly satisfies the hidden agenda of the latter”.

Who has let down whom?

Alfled Baldacchino served as assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.


11 Responses to Yet another toothless dog

  1. gaucivincent says:

    I was never convinced that splitting MEPA into a PA and an Environment Authority would result in a better Environment. It is the attitude of the policy maker, viz. Government, that should change, not the administrative structure.

    • Agree with you Vince. But the way we were treated and marginalised when we were at MEPA is also another factor. The people who run the administrative aspect, despite mostly being academics, is also important. They seem to me more like rubber stamps than academics. And it is very obvious that some only want to please their political master than implementing anything they have ‘learnt’ during their professional studies. You might say that politicians are also professionals. I know that this is also said to prostitution, another noble profession, as I have heard all along. Seems that my interpretation of professionalism is completely different.

      While before during MEPA’s dictatorship, the Environment Directorship was almost out of the picture, at least today there is another Environment Board made up also of professionals, as they say, who have to carry their social and environmental responsibilities, even if their place on the Planning Authority is there just to enable someone to say that they have a voice.

      But Vince, you know as much as I do how things are administered in this country of ours where everything is possible.

      When wrong becomes right, as we seem to be heading for very fast, there is no place for righteous people in society. The place for such people seems to be behind bars, as history shows after all.

      I hate to say it but it is becoming very obvious to me that most of the politicians regard politics as a business concern. And I cannot help not thinking that respecting some of these politicians is insulting myself. One does not have to be an academic to reach such a conclusion.

  2. victor says:

    Never has politics been so much cheap and satanic . However the people in their majority seem to care the least . Who is to blame? the people themselves who has never reached any maturity .

  3. Maturity needs some help to be acquired. It is one of politicians main responsibilities. But some of these prefer the status quo so that they can show a circle to such people and convince them it is a square.

  4. anthony abela says:

    Your reply to gaucivincent could not have been written any better. His reply is equally more terse and yet right on the mark. We are where we are because we are what the maltese nation has always been. My advice to you; enjoy the last few gasps of life and go fishing; talk to the fish and the rocks and watch the sun going down.
    At the end of it all, things will work out for the better. You cannot have an ‘up’ without a ‘down’, and whether you like it or not, after 1 follows number 2 and so on. Come on give us a smile.

    • Tony, while thanking you for your interest and comments, I am afraid that I won’t be taking your advice.
      Unfortunately ‘the Maltese nation has always been’ one which prefers to bury its head in the sand and convince itself that everything is fine and rosy. It is because of such thinking that the Maltese nation always finds itself in the gutters.
      “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter.” as said by Martin Luther King.
      I prefer to be silenced by a bullet while fighting for the truth in the name of society and the environment, than die a natural death while fishing. I consider the latter to be a wasted life, and a burden to society.

  5. victor says:

    Looking around while not acting makes one an accomplice. If anything need be done, all must be involved. We are the change this Earth is crying for. We barely understand that the same environment is actually us. Going fishing is mere a selfish thought. We as part of nature itself need to give back something to mother Earth. It is a wisely thought cycle that will see one generation to another make progress. Tony, things will never work out for the best by themselves, nothing will. Please think again as your advise is somewhat unwise.

    • Victor, I am sure Tony was only joking.

      • victor says:

        I love jokes but I am also aware of the calamities that awaits us if we continue to disrespect our around. We tend to pray for rain when actually we are rotten to the core regards nature. PRO business management seems to take over while the repercussions are enormous. The saying is right – that what we reap what we sow.

  6. anthony abela says:

    I had a great conflict with myself while reading the comments; to answer or disregard: fishing in the proper sense of the word has nothing to do with the matter being discussed.It goes deeper than that. But, then it might be out of reach for some to dive so deep to retrieve what’s in the bottom. A good general always has a plan to attack and a better one to retreat if the need arises; If the odds are overwhelming great, it is better to postpone until the odds become somewhat even, Bravado does not win fights; it produces casualties. To end this essay I wish to point out the clever art of JUDO. Yes, it is akin to MY ‘fishing’. In judo you do not use your strength to down your opponent but, rather you use your opponent’s strength and weight to crush him to the floor by putting him off balance. The bigger he is, the harder the fall. If he pushes you, you are not to push back but, rather following his push….and then disable him by actually helping him to follow in his line of movement. This will shock him and put him off balance. That is where you make your move to help him achieve his undesired aim.
    I think I have made my point. I do not need to go further on this subject.


    • victor says:

      Tony you are speaking in parables. We as idealists take advantage of the wind and arrange our sails as otherwise we may find ourselves adrift. The problem regards environment has got out of hand and it is very serious. We cannot tolerate more hniezrijiet. Selfishness has made us believe all is well. Jekk il-vuci tal-Poplu mhix ser tirreagixxi ser niltaqaw ma ghawg kbir. Malta diga kellha esperjenza tal-pesta. Qed nabbuzaw ruhna minn natura ghad dannu ta’ uliedna. Jekk thares lejn Malta min fuq ajruplan jaqbdek il-biki. Hawn ma jidholx kuluri ta’ politika filwaqt li l-politikanti fallew bil-kbir f’dan ir-rigward.

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