The impact of coronavirus

May 4, 2020

Monday, 4th May, 2020
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Coronavirus is lesson that the Earth does not need us

Hello coronavirus, or should one say COVID-19? You have spread and conquered the planet! Indeed you have outclassed SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola, all linked to animal food sources or wet markets.

You have infected over three million people and claimed over a quarter of a million victims.

Without a doubt you are familiar with wet markets, where animals are traded in unsanitary conditions, an adequate habitat enabling viruses to undergo fast mutations. The damp floors constantly hosed by vendors to clean food scraps of species they sell: from fresh vegetables and processed meats to live animals, consisting of fish, poultry, and also crocodiles, snakes, lizards, bats, turtles, dogs, pigs, civets, birds, badgers, pangolins, toads and more, all waiting to be slaughtered. It was pointed out, since 2007, that: “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.” At that time, you were still within your natural confines.

You must be thankful to mankind’s intelligence and to his cultural pride for your existence. Many of the animals on sale at wet markets never have had the possibility to come in contact with each other in the wild where viruses would coexist. The ecosystem does not allow this.

You must be thankful to mankind’s intelligence and to his cultural pride for your existence

But to satisfy an urge (mainly commercial), man brought them over from everywhere to be sold and eaten. Crammed in small cages, together or near each other, the unlikely transmission of inter species disease became possible, more so in such an unsanitary and unhygienic environment. A perfect place for viruses to jump on to other animals as intermediates, or directly to humans who crowd the stalls in such close contacts, in search of food?

It is documented that vendors often slaughter animals in front of customers, skinning them in front of shoppers, aerosolising things in the process. You know pretty well how popular beliefs of the use of animals to cure common ailments is heavily capitalised upon, mainly for commercial reasons.

One would assume that you will not tell us about your origin. Some assume that bats and their faeces could have been your parental source considering that your virus type share 96 per cent of genetic code found commonly in Chinese bat populations. Incidentally even SARS has, as a point of origin, direct relations to bats, also sold for food in such wet markets.

You have incredibly reached heights which mankind, because of invested interests, can never reach. In the few months of your existence you have rendered sophisticated military warfare to children’s toys. You have grounded almost all airplanes, garaged most of transport vehicles to the extent that this has had a significant effect on climate and the environment.

Such is your invisible strength that you have also succeeded in isolating man indoors, making him experience the fearful feeling of stressed animals in circuses and in zoos, caged for commercial purposes.

You have also echoed, and proved correct, the words of one religious leader on our planet, Pope Francis, who emphasised that: “Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain. As a result, what is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of the deified market, which becomes the only rule”.

The mentality that man is not part of the ecosystem is making him pay through his nose. This mentality has given rise to your presence.

The message that you are delivering with every victim you take, is very clear: Mother Earth does not have any need for anybody to save her, not even the self-proclaimed most intelligent being. If this message is heeded or not is still too early to bet upon.

Alfred Baldacchino is former MEPA assistant director

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 


A tree, a Minister and the EU

January 25, 2020

Alfred E Baldacchino

Sunday, 2 February, 2020

Civil society lodged an appeal in the Courts of Justice after the Planning Authority approved (with the help of Environment and Resources Authority)  the Attard Central Link project in July 2019. The development is being funded by national and EU funds.

The court decision is expected on February 14, but Infrastructure Malta, also in the portfolio of Ian Borg, defied everyone and decided to start with the works.

They are demolishing everything in their path: trees, biodiversity, cultivated fields, farmhouses… anything as long as they get things done their own way.

The excavations along the route have almost been completed, irrespective of the fact that the court’s decision has not been taken.

Would one be wrong in saying that this is putting the courts in an embarrassing position, having to decide on something which has almost been completed?

Is this the way that public and European funds are managed to get things done?

Does this ministry believe that there is no-one in government or from civil society who can object to such a dictatorial fashion of getting things done? Does this not give the impression that Infrastructure Malta believes it has more power than a prime minister?

Getting thing done by Infrastructure Malta: unprofessionally uprooting a protected tree

The environmental impact assessment regarding the works – an assessment which was challenged in court – gives an indication of the richness of the biodiversity that would be destroyed by the works.

A call was received on January 21, regarding a rare tree – an elderberry tree – which had been uprooted days previously. This tree is protected by Legal Notice 258 of 2018.

But for Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta this is just another piece of paper they can ignore in getting things done, like they did at Wied Qirda, with many rubble walls, and all those concreted country paths in valleys, naturally using national and EU funds.

Such barbaric ways of getting things done also reflects on the new prime minister

Considering the complete disregard the Ministry of Infrastructure has for the protection of biodiversity – and considering the impotence of ERA, especially when confronted by this ministry – accompanied by a friend of mine, we decided to save this tree: voluntarily, using our own time and expenses.

So, on January 22, we went on site equipped with two secateurs and took all the possible cuttings from the almost dead tree, thrown and tied by the side of an adjacent field not to interfere with Infrastructure works. It took us two and a half hours to take all cuttings, which once cleaned and processed, would easily contribute to approximately 2,000 cuttings ready for propagation.

.

All possible cuttings taken from Infrastructure Malta’s massacre of the protected elderberry tree

Using our own personal car, we filled it with this precious propagation stock and drove to Ambjent Malta, seeking their help to preserve this rare protected species. They willingly obliged, but more help was needed.

The root ball could not be transported in our private car, so we asked for help to transport it for propagation too.

Some telephone calls had to be made to the so-called ‘higher authorities’ to save this important protected tree.

But the effort did save some red faces too, and Ambjent Malta was accompanied to the place where the half-dead tree was lying. It was transported and professionally replanted by Ambjent Malta within a couple of minutes.

Job done. Following the timely, intervention of two volunteers, the protected tree is given a good chance to survive with the help of Ambjent Malta.

Now if two individuals on their own voluntary initiative wanted to save a rare protected tree, why couldn’t Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta do this, considering the millions of public and EU funds they boast they have? They don’t simply because they do not care and do not want to.

Were ERA not so impotent when it comes to Infrastructure Malta, among others, it could easily have saved the tree.

The political, legal and administrative strength of ERA, one would assume, is much stronger than that of two private individuals. So why did they not take any action to save the tree in question? ERA would probably learn about all this destruction of biodiversity from the press.

Cabinet’s responsibility is collective. This means that such barbaric ways of getting things done also reflects on the new prime minister. Everybody who is not politically convinced that a circle is square is deeply concerned, because the way the Central Link Project is being managed – getting things done irrespective of everything, be it legal, be it administrative, be it the EU, or ignoring all stakeholders – makes a mockery of the new prime minister’s assurances and efforts to address the rule of law and the environment. How is this possible? Strange bedfellows, one would assume.

Good governance relies on the rule of law. There are many who really have the true, unselfish, good of the country at heart, and who are not imbibed with partisan politics. It is just political garbage that is getting things done without any professionalism and bereft of any good governance, using public and EU funds for such environmental destruction.

Getting things done because I say so can easily mean ‘I came, I saw, I destroyed’.

The European Union should make it a point that when it gives funds to any country, not least Malta, it should ensure that this is not used to destroy biodiversity in violation of its very own environment acquis.

Indeed, some do need to have wings clipped.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Mark Anthony Falzon is not appearing this week.

related articles:

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-architect-the-judge-the-house-and-the-illegal-driveway.686056

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/workers-at-wied-qirda-ignore-regulators-orders-to-stop.750328

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment Landscaping Conundrum

Environment hit by EU funds

“For our trees”

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

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


The public landscaping mistakes experts say need fixing

October 18, 2019

Monday, 14th October, 2019

As an old contract comes to an end, we asked experts what we’ve done wrong

Jessica Arena

   photo: Times of Malta

Public landscaping practices in Malta have been plagued by poor practices which should not be repeated once a contract with the old consortium comes to an end, experts have said.

The public-private partnership deal between Environmental Landscapes Consortium and the government expires at the end of the year and a process for a new call for tenders is in the works.

In 2017, the National Audit Office published a report that found that the partnership with ELC should have long been dissolved due to a series of contract breaches on the part of the consortium.

The government has spent over €100 million since the start of the agreement in 2002, where neither the original partnership agreement nor the two subsequent contract extensions were awarded through a competitive tendering process.

The report, however, does not address the environmental critiques leveled at ELC, particularly when it comes to taking a more biodiversity-conscious approach to landscaping works.

Planting invasive species

“The consortium’s most insidious environmental impact has been the indiscriminate use of non-indigenous species during a number of landscaping projects,” marine biologist and environmentalist Alan Deidun told Times of Malta.

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In its early days, the consortium was responsible for the widespread planting of the hottentot fig (Carpobrotus edulis), a highly invasive species of South African succulent, he said.

Using water-guzzling turf

Additionally, ELC was often criticised for its use of water-guzzling turfs and the planting of non-local stocks of native species.

Millions of euros were literally wasted, including the scarce resource of water used

Landscaper and garden expert Fernando Mifsud said: “Although aesthetically beautiful, lawns need a lot of water to keep them looking green and also need a lot of fertilisers and chemicals to keep them looking healthy.”

Such pesticides leach into the ground, killing the biodiversity in the soil. They are also washed in the water course through water runoff when it rains, therefore negatively affecting water creatures like frog populations, he said.

Removing local ‘weeds’

Additionally, the overuse of pesticides and the culling of local flora considered to be ‘weeds’ were also critiques leveled at the landscaping consortium.

Local flora is often culled from landscaping projects to maintain “neatness” – however, these species are closely linked to local fauna such as native butterfly or bird species, and their elimination contributes to the scarce propagation of local fauna.

Environmentalist Alfred Baldacchino maintains that had the funds invested in the consortium in the past 15 years been utilised professionally, Malta would be covered with indigenous trees grown from local stock.

“From a biodiversity point of view, taking into consideration national and international obligation, millions of euros were literally wasted, including the scarce resource of water used,” Mr Baldacchino said.

What should a new contract stipulate?

Mr Baldacchino, who has been petitioning the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure for a copy of the public agreement since 2015, believes a new agreement should regard contractors solely as operators and a regulatory role should fall within the Environment Ministry.

“Contractors should not be allowed any monopoly on landscaping. Emphasis should be entrenched in the contract that all trees and shrubs used for landscaping purposes should be propagated from local stock, so that a new local industry can be established for centres providing indigenous plants,” Mr Baldacchino said.

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This will also ensure the local gene pool of the indigenous species is not polluted, thus contributing towards better protection of indigenous species also from diseases and invasive alien species, having more educational input for the benefit of the public, and contributing to a multiplier effect from the funds allocated for landscaping.

Prof. Deidun stressed that future operators should ensure that only native or indigenous species fully adapted to the semi-arid conditions of the Mediterranean Basin are planted in landscaping projects.

“Additionally, plants which represent year-round important food resources for pollinators (e.g. bees) should be favoured, despite their status as ‘weeds’ by the public,” he added.

Mr Mifsud also says there should be an obligation to focus on the planting of indigenous species that propagate better in the region.

“These trees and plants need less care and are resistant to drought and pests. Over the years, they have evolved and adapted to our climate. This would also reduce the maintenance cost on the long run,” Mr Mifsud said.

When contacted, ELC declined to comment.

other related articles on this blog

Trees hit headlines

Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating

Maltese trees – conserving and landscaping

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/

 


Environment Landscaping Conundrum

September 10, 2019

The environment landscaping problem

Tuesday, 10 September, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

 

One of the environmental legacies from such ‘landscaping’ “secret contract” – the ubiquitous invasive fountain grass.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO) report of September 2017, “landscaping maintenance through a Public-Private Partnership” was a matter for which an agreement was entered into on October 31, 2002 between the government (Ministry of Finance) and the Environment Landscaping Consortium (ELC) “for managing government resources, which were made at its disposal to deliver the landscaping projects in accordance with the terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement.”

This agreement “was not derived through competitive tendering procedures” but awarded “through direct negotiations with ELC following a call for an expression of interest.”

The government further opted to extend this contract twice, namely in 2007 and 2012 through two direct orders which “also deviate from the spirit of competition promoted by the Public Procurement Regulations where it is stipulated that material contacts are to be subject to a European Union wide call for tenders”.

According to the NAO, “the contractual rates negotiated are not favourable to the government” because of such procedures.

This contract expires at the end of 2019, having to date received from the government approximately €8 million per year (that is, €136 million in total).

The NAO report goes into detail about the contractual deficiencies of this agreement. Amongst these, the report outlined how the parties’ documents did not reconcile on various aspects of service delivery. It noted that the Project Management Committee was non-functioning and that there was non-receipt of a number of reports, particularly the quarterly management accounts, which “constitutes a contractual breach”.

The report noted the use of pesticides at Buskett Gardens’ orchards despite the restrictions within an EU Natura 2000 site, and also how documentation relating to a detailed survey of the sites could not be traced by the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority.

The NAO also outlined how work was carried out without any authorisation and that work on four projects, which had to be completed by 2017 and which were to be carried out by the contractor at no additional cost to the government, had not yet commenced.

There was mention of how the government had not kept abreast on the status of the contractual clause needing to be fulfilled whereby the government had agreed to finance an in-house training course for students following horticulture studies at MCAST. There was also mention of the government’s lack of knowledge of the contractor’s financial input, which was not conducive to a balanced partnership.

The report noted how the contract rates higher than other landscaping agreements signed by governmental entities and that the operational and financial information gaps were not appropriately safeguarding the government’s position as a partner within this agreement. It went on to note: “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 the government’s direct and broader interests.”

Bad planning, wrong use and waste of scarce water resources.                    Photo A E Baldacchino 2011.07.01.

The NAO report refers only to the financial and commercial aspects of this PPP contract. The national and EU obligations with regards to biodiversity are not entered into.

A copy of this public agreement was requested on June 23, 2015. This request was vehemently refused by the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, as was the subsequent appeal dated August 13, 2015.A request was filed with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner on August 19, 2015. The Commissioner’s decision of January 19, 2016 considered “that the public interest is better served by providing the applicant with a copy of the requested document” and “that there are no impediments to release a copy of the agreement.”

 

I cannot help but wonder whether there is any hidden political hand in this environment landscaping conundrum

 

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

Following this ruling, an appeal was lodged by the said Ministry to the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.

The Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal (14.09.2107) waived the appeal made by the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, confirming the Commissioner of Information and Data Protection ruling (19.01.2016), and ordered that a copy of the agreement signed between the government and ELC on October 31, 2002 should be given to the applicant.

The Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal in its ruling (27/2016) concluded, amongst other things, that “in the said agreement, there is no information of a commercial nature that cannot be made public and that in terms of article 35(2) of the said Act, it is in the public interest that such an agreement be made public.”

The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure was unhappy with this ruling. An email from the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government in October 2017 subsequently explained: “The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure had appealed the Tribunal’s decision and filed a court case (45/2017) against the Commissioner for Information and Data Protection, 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”.

maintenance of public gardens –  pruning agony.

Judgement had to be reached by December 2017, but the sitting has been postponed and postponed again. The decision is still pending.

Considering the Freedom of Information Act (Chap. 496 of the Laws of Malta) and considering that, 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 after four years from the initial request for a copy of this agreement, such a contract is still not publicly available.

One would have thought that the ELC – the government’s private partner – would be proud to inform everyone how they utilised the €136 million from public funds in relation to their contractual obligations.

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

 

The Fountain grass will long be remembered after the demise of the ELC.  It will be up top the social, financial and ecological expenses to control and manage such an EU listed invasive species used in local ‘landscaping’.

The Ministry for Finance has opted for the second position and continued to vote €8 million per annum. What will be the stand taken by the Ministry of Finance vis-à-vis the coming budget with regards to this ‘secret agreement’? Hopefully the Ministry for the Environment, who is now responsible for this ‘secret contract’, will put its foot down.

I cannot help but wonder whether there is any hidden political hand in this environment landscaping conundrum.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

Related articles

Trees hit headlines

Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating

Maltese trees – conserving and landscaping

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/

 


Il-Knisja u l-ambjent

August 17, 2019

Soċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija Mosta – Awwissu 2019

Il-knisja u l-ambjent

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Il-Ġenesis jgħidilna kif Alla ħalaq id-dinja u s-smewiet. Ħalaq id-dawl, is-sema, l-ibħra, l-istillel, l-art, il-pjanti u s-siġar, u l-annimali bħall-bhejjem u l-għasafar. U Alla fl-aħħar ħalaq il-bniedem biex ikun fuq il-ħut fil-baħar, fuq l-għasafar fl-ajru, fuq il-bhejjem u l-annimali l-oħra u fuq kull ħolqien ieħor li jimxi fuq l-art. U Alla ra lil dak li kien ħalaq kien tajjeb.

Imma l-bniedem jaħseb u jemmen li bħala l-aktar ħolqien intelliġenti fuq din id-dinja għandu dritt mingħajr limitu mingħand Alla biex jaħkem lin-natura. U dan anki kif kien jiġi mgħallem.

Papa-Gwann Pawlu II

Kien il-Papa Ġwann Pawlu II meta f’Nairobi kellem lill-ġemgħa msejħa mill-Programm Ambjentali tal-Ġnus Magħquda (UNEP) fejn qal li Alla ħalaq kollox u għabba l-bniedem bir-responsabbiltà biex jieħu ħsiebhom u mhux biex jagħmilhom tiegħu u jeqred kemm jiflaħ. Il-Papa għallem li huwa meħtieġ għad-dinjità tal-bniedem, u għalhekk huwa ta’ responsabbiltà kbira biex il-bniedem jsaltan fuq il-ħolqien b’governanza għaqlija. L-esplojtazzjoni tal-rikkezzi tan-natura irid isir bil-għan mhux biss tal-bżonnijiet tal-ġenerazzjonijiet tal-lum, imma anki għall-bżonnijiet ta’ dawk ta’ għada. B’din il-direzzjoni li tana Alla mbiegħdu kull tmexxija ta’ kilba u ta’ gwadan personali, u twassalna biex nifhmu li dak maħluq minn Alla huwa għall-ġid tal-umanità kollha. Il-bniedem għandu r-responsabbiltà li jħares lin-natura.

Fil-kliemu, li llum huwa magħruf sewwa, li kien għamel fl-1 ta’ Jannar 1990, il-ġurnata dinjija għall-paċi, il-Papa Ġwann Pawlu II kien tkellem fuq ir-responsabbiltà tal-bniedem għall-ambjent. Tkellem fuq ir-rispett tan-natura, fuq l-egoiżmu kollettiv, fuq in-nuqqas ta’ rispett għall-ġirien, fuq id-diżonestà, fuq il-kriżi ekoloġika li tikxef in-nuqqas ta’ karattru morali u ta’ valuri etiċi tal-bniedem, fuq it-tbagħbis fl-ekosistema, fuq il-qerda bla kontroll tal-annimali u tal-ħajja tal-pjanti, u fuq ħtif u l-użu bla rażan tar-riżorsi naturali.

Il-Papa kompla jgħid li l-paċi fid-dinja hija mhedda, mhux biss bil-ġirja għall-armi, l-gwerrer u l-inġustizzji, imma anki bin-nuqqas ta’ rispett lejn in-natura, il-ħtif tar-riżorsi naturali, u bit-telf dejjem jiżdied tal-kwalità tal-ħajja. Dan l-istil ta’ ħajja jħaddan fih sens ta’ nuqqas ta’ kontrol u nuqqas ta’ serħan il-moħħ u, kif qal il-Papa huwa “ġuf ta’ egoiżmu kollettiv, nuqqas ta’ stima għall-oħrajn, u diżonestà.” Hawn il-Papa jgħid u jerġa jgħid u jwissi li l-kriżi ekoloġika “hija kriżi morali”.

Papa-Frangisku

Fuq dan il-pedament li firex il-Papa Ġwann Pawlu II, komplew bnew il-Papiet li ġew warajh. Tant li l-Papa Franġisku fl-24 ta’ Mejju 2015, ippubblika ittra pastorali Laudato Si li wieħed jista’ jsib fuq il-ħolqa http://thechurchinmalta.org/files/article/Enciklika_LaudatoSi.143514750116.pdf

Din tispjega, tgħallem, u twissi dwar ir-responsabbiltà li aħna bħala Nsara għandna lejna nfusna, lejn il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada, lejn id-dinja u l-aktar lejn Alla li ħalaqna.   L-Enċiklika tiftaħ bil-kliem mill-għanja ta’ San Franġisk t’Assisi lill-ħolqien: Tifhir lilek Mulej, (Laudato Si’) liema kliem ifakkarna li d-dar tagħna lkoll hija bħal oħtna li magħha naqsmu din il-ħajja. Jfakkarna wkoll fl-omm ħelwa tagħna li tiftaħ idejha biex tħaddanna magħha, li titmagħna bi frott, bi fjuri mlewna u bi ħwawar.

L-Enċiklika ta’ Papa Franġisku tgħallem kemm l-ekoloġija hija importanti u meħtieġa. Hija importanti bħala nisġa li għandha tkun il-mera tagħna f’kollox, l-aktar biex turina r-relazzjonital-persuna tagħna ma’ Alla, mas-sistema ekoloġika, magħna nfusna, ma’ persuni oħrajn, u mal-ħolqien.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

Ara wkoll

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/l-enciklika-laudato-si-u-l-kummerc/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/it-taghlim-tar-religjonijiet-u-l-ambjent-9/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/a-prayer-for-our-earth-pope-francis/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/the-biblical-apple-tree/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/mother-earth-brother-sun-sister-moon-some-spiritual-teachings/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/458/

 


Environment hit by EU funds

July 27, 2019

Saturday, 27th July, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

On July 18, the Planning Authority approved the Attard Central Link Project for which the EU is going to contribute €55 million.

There were a lot of questions and doubts on this project which everybody hoped a meeting would iron out. Not only were these not answered but even more doubts were cast.

The meeting was opened by the Infrastructure Malta CEO, Engineer Fredrick Azzopardi, representing the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure. He tried to convince those present that this Central Link project has many benefits. Stakeholders subsequently expressed more doubts and asked more questions, confirming the lack of public consultations.

Here is a résumé of the questions:

Those present for the meeting asked how such a project would be beneficial for full-time or part-time farmers, and those involved in animal husbandry.

There were also questions about the loss of 22,000 square metres of agricultural land and the subsequent loss of jobs due to this land being destroyed.

There were concerns about the fruit and crops in the area since these would be covered with additional emissions that would disperse across the adjacent fields.

The biodiversity of the area was also a point of concern seeing as this was facing the destruction of more than 550 trees, many of which are protected, and the loss of their contribution to climate change and the ecological niches of which they form part.

Questions were asked about the hydrological system feeding Wied is-Sewda, along with the farmers’ cisterns and the disruption of natural water flow destroyed by the project (which was unbelievably referred to as “flood water”).

Not to mention the concerns about the psychological and physical health of residents in the vicinity and beyond Attard, including those residing in Siġġiewi and Qormi, given the increase in noise pollution and toxic chemicals that the project is sure to cause.

There was also the question about the cultural heritage of the area and the number of historical constructions that would be threatened, some dating back to the times of the Knights of Malta.

Will the towers being built close to the Malta Financial Services Authority, nonchalantly approved by the lack-of-vision, commercially minded PA – definitely be­yond the carrying capacity of the area – be the main beneficiaries of the public land being taken up and the EU funds being spent?

None of the social and environmental elements mentioned above is going to bene­fit from this EU-funded project.

None of the questions were answered by the CEO of Infrastructure Malta. None of the concerns put forward were even addressed. The Environment Im­pact Assessment presented gave a very superficial indication of the project’s negative impacts.

The chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, as silent as a grave, in a later interview in the press (July 19) was quoted as saying that “he had nothing to add” because none of the comments raised by stakeholders during the meeting changed anything from the ERA’s report.

He called most interventions against the project “emotional”! He also justified the project “on the basis of national interest”.

In yet another section of the press (July 19), Environment Minister José Herrera said that “the authority (ERA) would be vigilant and in a consistent way, [fulfil] its duties to offer the greatest elements of protection to our natural capital, and this with the means and parameters established by law”.

This trophy was first awarded to MEPA in 2015. Despite the fact that the year 2019 is not yet out, this has been awarded to the Planning Authority and the Infrastructure Malta for the environmental devastation that they are involved in.

 

So long as there are EU funds, then they have to be spent irrespective of the foreseen environmental destruction

The Infrastructure Malta CEO said that this project, according to his economist’s report, will “give back” €16 savings for every €1 spent without even saying how. His economist did not refer to any externalities or the hidden costs that would be borne by the public and the environment. No wonder all the above questions asked were ignored by the CEO.

With regard to the uprooting of trees, he told the press, with hand on heart, “they are using the ERA compensation system of planting trees for those uprooted”, and that the “trees to be planted as compensation will have to be at least three metres tall”. This implies they will all be imported irrespective of the possible dangers of diseases and other invasive species they may bring with them, contrary to EU recommendations as administered by ERA.

Farmers were up in arms when they heard the Infrastructure Malta CEO say that they had been consulted, and could not keep from emphasising that this was a blatant lie.

This is how decisions are taken in Malta – a final late meeting on decision day without the stakeholders being properly consulted, despite this being a requirement whenever EU funds are involved.

All stakeholders and the public have to be involved and consulted so that they are part of the decision rather than just being informed of the decision after it has been taken. Consultation does not mean planting political individuals amidst the public and stakeholders and having them clap every time their minister’s wishes are supported.

The bottleneck at the roundabout beneath Saqqajja Hill will not only remain as it is but will become worse because of the heavier and faster volume of traffic that will be introduced, as advertised by the Ministry’s billboard in Attard.

How on earth can one imagine that the bulk of this traffic has to make its way up Saqqajja Hill where there are only two carriageways? No explanation whatsoever was given by the Infrastructure engineer.

Unbelievably, the EU is dishing out €55 million to the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure for this particular project, while stakeholders and the public have to depend on voluntary contributions to protect the country from environmental and social destruction.

If there were no EU funds, there would not be such useless environmental destruction taking place. The impression one gets is that, so long as there are EU funds, then they have to be spent irrespective of the foreseen environmental destruction.

ERA, the competent authority recognised by the EU for the protection of the environment, gave its endorsement of this environmental destruction because most of the questions asked, according to the ERA chairman, were “emotional”.

On its website, the ERA says that it is committed “to safeguard the environment for a sustainable quality of life”. There was no confirmation of this whatsoever from the ERA chairman during the meeting, which took place on a very black Thursday for the Maltese environment, with the blessing of ERA.

Can anybody with a real national, social and environmental conscience, and without any political influence, be blamed for losing all confidence in ERA?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 


Where have all the butterflies gone?

July 21, 2019

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Landscaping works contributing to further biodiversity loss

Jessica Arena

 

A few decades ago, butterflies of every shape and colour would take off in swarms as you walked under carob trees. Nowadays, the decline of butterflies is occurring at such a high rate that when naturalists spot a particularly uncommon species, they do not disclose its location; to protect the insects from harm.

While migratory butterflies can still be spotted with some frequency, local butterflies have all but disappeared from view. Landscaping works being carried out without consideration for local fauna and flora are having a devastating effect of the state of Maltese biodiversity, according to experts.

Jake Farrugia, an earth systems student and amateur lepidopterist, recounts how just earlier this month, while collecting fennel for his own larvae, he spotted a large number of swallowtail butterfly larvae nestled in the fennel bushes. Returning to the site a few days later, Mr Farrugia says that during landscaping works in Triq il-Buskett, Rabat, the native fennel bushes on the side of the road were all removed, taking the butterfly larvae with them.

“Plants growing under country walls and other walls are essential in providing micro habitats for all sorts of flora and fauna,” Mr Farrugia says.

“A butterfly looking to deposit eggs, such as the swallowtail, would have gladly chosen this spot since it is sheltered from the sun and wind as well as potential predators.”

The removal of fennel bushes and other local flora constitutes as habitat loss… We are shooting ourselves in the foot,” Mr Farrugia says, adding that the desire to ’embellish’ public spaces is not allowing nature to adapt .

Alfred Baldacchino, an environmentalist and former assistant director at the Mepa Environmental Directorate, describes the conservation of biodiversity as pitiful.                   ,

“Despite the fact that the Environment and Resources Authority is responsible for biodiversity protection and conservation through the enforcement of EU legislation, they  are incompetent, ignorant of the situation and failing to take any proactive measures,” Mr Baldacchino says.

Biodiversity loss can be attributed to an intersecting number of external situations, the most pressing of which, according to Mr Baldacchino, is climate change. Rapid changes in temperature, the use of fossil fuels and pesticides are compounded upon flora and fauna, giving the environment very little time to adjust.

“ERA is incompetent and ignorant of the situation”

“This year alone we have seen temperatures in France soar to 45’C, several fires in Europe, the destruction of Miżieb,” says Mr Baldacchino.

“There is a complete lack of interest, lack of tangible effort, lack of any help at all from the Ministry responsible for climate change and the environment.”

According to Mr Baldacchino, the ERA and Ambjent Malta are not doing enough to mitigate  the   effects  of   climate change and prevent further biodiversity loss through adequate conservation plans.

“Mizieb is a case in point,” he says,”first there’s a disaster and afterwards we run a study about how it could have been prevented.”

When it comes to landscaping, Mr Baldacchino says the authorities and entities concerned demonstrate a pattern of disinterest and wilful ignorance with respect the havoc being wreaked on native flora.

“The Environmental Landscapes Consortium is the worst enemy of biodiversity,” Mr Baldacchino says. “Their only interest is.monetary profit. Despite the fact that they have been paid €8 million a year for the past 15 years from public funds, all they have to show for it is the destruction of biodiversity, use of chemicals and water-thirsty turfs which compete with local flora.”

There is a public perception of biodiversity that regards the majority of wayside flora as ‘ħaxix ħażin’ (weeds) and that its removal causes only superficial damage. This position is something Mr Baldacchino calls “professional ignorance” as even school children are taught that flora is an integral part of the ecosystem.

Wayside flora are unique ecological niches and  often serve as breeding grounds for insects and other fauna, as well as being highly attractive to pollinators, such as bees and even butterflies.

The careless removal of these niches could spell doom not just for our butterflies but for the long term health of the environment itself, Mr Baldacchino stresses.

“When ELC act like they derive pleasure from removing every blade of grass that grows, we only have a recipe for disaster.”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Dwejra: Tribunal dazzled by delight

July 8, 2019

 

Monday, 8th July 2019

Alfred Baldacchino

A recent decision by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has overturned a Planning Authority decision, ordering it to approve a permit for the extension of a restaurant, the installation of light and increasing the number of tables and chairs in an EU Natura 2000 site in Dwejra.

Without any doubt, this throws a lot of light on the official political disrespect, disinterest, exploitation and disregard for the environment as well as national and international legislation.

Dwejra is a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation with regard to biodiversity, in line with the Birds and Habitat Directives. It is part of the EU Natura 2000 network because of its importance to the EU.

The Malta Environment and Resources Authority is the responsible competent authority recognised by the EU. Competent national authorities are those entitled to give authorisation or consent to a plan or project in Natura 2000 sites.

 

Dwejra is the best remaining site on the islands for astronomical observations. Photo provided by the Physics Department and the Institute for Astronomy and Space Sciences

Dwejra is also designated as a ‘dark sky heritage area’ in the Gozo and Comino Local Plan.

Article 6 of the EU Habitat Directive can be regarded as a key framework for giving effect to the principle of integration with regard to the management of the protected areas in a sustainable way and sets the limits of activities that can impact negatively on protected areas.

In an international context, Article 6 also helps to achieve the aims of relevant international nature conservation conventions such as the Berne Convention and the Biodiversity Convention (Malta is a party to both), while at the same time creating a more detailed framework for site conservation and protection than these conventions themselves do.

Where assessment is required by Article 6 (3) it takes the form of an assessment under Directive 85/337/EEC (on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment), where public consultation is necessary.

In this context, it is worth mentioning the possible longer-term implications of the Aarhus Convention, which emphasises the importance of public consultation in relation to environmental decision-making.

According to Habitat Directive’s article 6 (2) “any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives”.

The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has completely undermined Malta’s obligations at EU level

“In the light of the conclusions of the assessment of the implications for the site and subject to the provisions of the Habitat Directive (para 4), the competent national authorities shall agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and, if appropriate, after having obtained the opinion of the general public.”

An EU Commission publication dated 2000, Managing Natura 2000 Sites – The provisions of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive 92/43/CEE, explains that “member states shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, (like Dwejra) the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbances of the species for which the areas have been designated, in so far as such disturbance could be significant in relation to the objectives of this directive”.

The article also states that “member states shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration… as well as disturbances…” of species and habitats for which the sites have been designated and should also be implemented if necessary outside the sites. (Article 6 (2)).

Disturbances include, among others, noise and source of light.

The intensity, duration and frequency of repetition of disturbance are, therefore, important parameters and can be regarded as a significant disturbance.

Even a plan or project that includes conservation management among its objectives may still require assessment.

Although the management plan for Dwejra has long been drawn up with the help of EU funds, and approved by the EU, it is still gathering dust on the ministry’s bookshelf.

There is still no administrative set-up for its implementation, enforcement, management, administration, education and no stakeholders are involved, as obliged by the management plan.

The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has completely undermined Malta’s obligations at EU level. Can the ERA contest such a decision in court, especially when the Minister for the Environment has publicly stated that he does not agree with this permit? If not, does this decision mean the ERA is impotent as a competent authority responsible for EU obligations when confronted by such a tribunal?

Do the citizens have to refer the matter to the EU to achieve what the ERA should be on the front line defending on their behalf?

This is definitely another decision reached by hand-picked political academics,whose short-sighted decision embarrassed Malta with regard to its international obligations.

If such a tribunal is independent, then the responsibility has to be carried by those people involved in such a decision and who have completely ignored and defied the decision made by two national competent authorities and also the public with great political and environmental consequences.

It is high time the EU DG Environment investigates how Natura 2000 sites in Malta are being brought to disrepute.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

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

related articles:

Dwejra: Gone with the wind

A window pain for sure

Sifting solidified sand at Dwejra

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com


Crossing the cross

May 14, 2019
Alfred E Baldacchino
Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier   

The Gozo permanent link discussion has now been politically sealed by the House of Representatives, though not the relevant scientific studies. From the horse’s mouth we now know that it is up to the official agencies to decide how to go crossing this cross with the least possible damages: presumably damages with regard to social, ecological and financial impacts.

One can never vouch for what is said and written, much less for what is not said and not written.

Now this cross is on the lap of the hand-picked academics to decide (or blindly endorse) and shoulder responsibility. One hopes that work will not start, and when problems are encountered, a study is initiated when there is no reversing the damage done, and the necessary permits have been issued. We have seen this a number of times, lately with the widening of country paths by the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The present fleet of Gozo ferries was adequate when they were launched because the demand was adequately met then. But today, the demand has increased while the ferry service has not.

“Surely a fourth ferry can extend the 12-year expiration date… but delaying the problem is not good enough” a young engineer wrote (May 2). Seems waiting for 12 to 15 years for the tunnel to be completed is better than waiting for the fourth ferry which can be in service before one can say Jack Robinson. This student engineer concluded that the fourth ferry is not “economically possible”.

Drivers from Mġarr still have to drive through bottlenecks and traffic congestions from Xemxija, to Sliema, Mater Dei, University, airport, and Valletta: dispersing emissions through towns and villages to the detriment of society and the environment, if these are of any relevance today.

It has also been implied and said that a fast ferry service should be for passengers only. Why? Is there a monopoly which needs protection?  Is this in the interest of commuters or traffic management?

“Congestion is not removed by restricting it. What better ways are there to eliminate traffic congestion other than to facilitate its mobility?” and do away with monopolies. “The idea of a permanent link is not to cut down on the 25-minute ferry trip, but to remove the queues. The engineer caters for the target user first and foremost.” (May 2).

Only? Those who used the ferry service from Mġarr to San Maison know what I mean, before the area was taken for a yacht marina.

Political mongering warns that if northern winds hit the island a fast ferry cannot operate at all. How many times did the fast ferry service from Malta to Sicily (more than 27-kilometre distance) not operated because of inclement weather? Besides, even aeroplanes are occasionally grounded either because of inclement weather, terrorism threats, and volcano emissions! And what about accidents half way through the tunnel?

Saying that the fast ferry service will create a parking issue in Gozo, is trying to convince that a circle is square

Political tears maintain that there is no room in Mġarr for the berthing of fast ferries, not even for a fourth ferry because of the yacht marina. What is more important for commuters: a quay for fast ferries or a yacht marina for the selected few?  One cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Saying that the fast ferry service will create a parking issue in Gozo, is trying to convince that a circle is square. Will there be a selective quota for the number of cars entering the tunnel so that “they will not create a parking problem”?

The political mentality dictates that fast ferry services pollute more than all the cars. Why is this of concern only to ferry services to Gozo and not to the number of cruise liners, which all work on heavy fuel oil even when they are berthed in Grand Harbour?

Young University students are all computer literate. I hope none of these have been imprinted by a ministerial political comment that “environmentalists are not those who stay on the computer writing about everything that passes over the country”!

Students should be proactive and become familiar with modern technology, and not just look at an old ferry fleet to the sound of political idiosyncrasies as if nothing is related to the environment. Student engineers should be at the top of the list on such modern approach as other academic students are doing.

Surfing the internet, getting one’s feet wet, can enlighten one on the modern way of solar-powered ferry services. Sitting near and hearing politicians can lead one to a tunnel vision. There are solar powered ferries working in Scandinavia, where the sun does not shine as strong and as long as it does in Malta and Gozo.

“Engineers are a separate species from the rest of the broader Homo sapiens. Engineers act, socialise and think like engineers; they think laterally. Also, engineering is non-democratic” (May 2) does not reflect well at all on the profession, unless of course this comment is relevant only to those engineers with such a vision, who are building highways in country paths guided by a ministerial mentality of “ħaxix ħażin”.

There are many professional engineers who incorporate the findings of other professions, like economists, ecologists, physicists, chemists, psychologists, geologists, sociologists, planners, legal and medical professions, and also public consultations.

Unfortunately, hand-picked politically faithful academics, some engineers not excluded, fear to tread or consult other professional studies, even if it is just an exercise to “…to remove the queues”, and might I add “ħaxix ħażin”.

Political comments do imprint some hand-picked academics, mercenaries, and the square circled mentality, to whom such political comments are directed.

An appropriate title for this parody would be: “Of guinea pigs, parrots and carrots.”

An appropriate title for this parody would be: “Of guinea pigs, parrots and carrots.”

“Regardless of which career you have, you are going to think like an engineer.” (May 2). A dangerous statement, which can only put engineers in a very bad light, and isolate and lead one into tunnel vision, professionally, physically and morally.  And to say the least, it is not expected from a budding university student, unless of course this is the axiom on which students are taught.

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

Related articles:

To Gozo with love

Efficient link to Gozo

Wirt Għawdex tunnel debate

Tunnelling the cross

 


Credit where credit is due

April 18, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Following concerns expressed by members of the public, eNGOs, and individuals, on the destruction of biodiversity in country paths which were being widened and covered with concrete, Environment Resources Authority (ERA) ordered Infrastructure Malta to halt the works, and issued a stop and compliance order. Furthermore, according to press reporting, ERA ordered Infrastructure Malta to reinstate the country paths to their original state.

One hopes that all country paths mismanaged by Infrastructure Malta will be reinstated to their original state. One also hopes that this is the end of an era where biodiversity is regarded as ‘ħaxix ħażin’ (good-for-nothing-vegetation) and that such mentality will be put to rest.

One cannot but applaud the stand ERA has taken and look out to more similar decisions in the near future to protect biodiversity.

The following is one of the article which appeared in the media.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rabat country roads being reinstated after controversial widening

Recent concrete works encroached adjacent land

Keith Micallef

 

Country roads at Wied l-Isqof in Rabat are being reinstated to their original state. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Country roads at Wied l-Isqof in Rabat are being reinstated to their original state. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Some of the concrete controversially laid on country roads in a Rabat valley is being pulled up again by Infrastructure Malta on orders from the environment watchdog, which wants the roads to be reinstated to their original footprint.

The controversy erupted last month when it transpired that a number of narrow country roads used primarily by farmers at Wied l-Isqof were being widened, as part of a government project to “reconstruct” rural roads.

Faced by this outrage, the Environment Resources Authority ordered Infrastructure Malta to halt the works, through what it called a stop and compliance order. The measure was taken because the project was resulting in “biodiversity destruction”, ERA had said.

Infrastructure Malta argued that the roads in question were not being widened beyond their original footprint – even though evidence on the ground suggested otherwise.

However, an ERA spokeswoman confirmed that Infrastructure Malta had, in fact, encroached on adjacent land. She said that concreting beyond the original footprint was being removed by the roads agency’s contractors through the use of appropriate heavy machinery.

Several truckloads of material have been removed and dispatched for appropriate disposal to enable the area’s habitat to regenerate even in the area previously concreted, she said.

An onsite visit confirmed that the roads had been narrowed, with a stretch of soil replacing the concrete along the perimeter.

In its reply, ERA said it had intervened because the roadworks were degrading the ecosystem of the area beyond the asphalted area.

Among other things, the interventions had altered the physical profile of the valley and the natural course of the freshwater stream to the detriment of the biodiversity and the natural characteristics of the site, the spokeswoman said.

Environmentalists had denounced the works, saying vegetation was being obliterated as concrete was being poured beyond the existing footprint, damaging flora and fauna on both sides of the road.

Biodiversity expert and former assistant director of the environment protection directorate at the now defunct Malta environment and planning authority, Alfred Baldacchino, had warned that turning these roads into “highways” could have a detrimental effect on farmers due to the increase in traffic.

He also criticised the project, saying the concrete was blocking the percolation of rainwater to the water table.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

related articles:

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

 

 

 


Wirt Għawdex tunnel debate

March 22, 2019

A debate on the Gozo-Malta Tunnel

Wirt Għawdex – Oratory Don Bosco Hall, Victoria, Gozo.

Monday, 18th March, 2019

Wirt Għawdex organised this debate so that the general public would be more informed of the pros and cons of the Gozo-Malta proposed tunnel.

The list of speakers is being attached.

Furthermore, a questionnaire which was distributed to those present, is also being attached.  Those who are interested can also forward the filled in questionnaire to Wirt Għawdex at: http://www.wirtghawdex.org or: Triq L-Imġarr, Ir-Rabat Għawdex VCT 9010.

The recording of the debate can be seen on this link.

List of speakers:

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

related articles:

To Gozo with love

Tunnelling the cross

Efficient link to Gozo

 


More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

March 10, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Sunday, 10th March, 2019

Following my latest blog of 4th March 2019, regarding the destruction of Maltese biodiversity by the Ministry for Transport, with the use of EU funds,  Infrastructure Malta, in the portfolio of Dr Ian Borg, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, have issued a statement saying that the works being carried out are being done “within existing road footprint” and ” “in line with applicable road works permits”.

On the other hand, the Environment and Resource Authority in its press statement  dated Tuesday 5th March, 2019, confirmed that the government road agency’s work had been carried out without the necessary permits, resulting in “environmental destruction”.

ERA’s press release confirmed that: Because of these works, it resulted that there is the destruction of the natural habitat suffered from the laying of construction material on the land which before was colonised by natural vegetation; leading to a physical change of the valley and the water course’s profile.

Besides, these works are all taking place without the necessary permits from the Authority (ERA).

For ease of reference to those who want to see for themselves, this is the link of the ERA press release.

I am sure that the Ministry for Transport officials have brought this ERA statement to their Minster.

Minister Ian Borg knows the site very well because it is in his constituency. A visit to the site, would at once reveal that the Ministry for Transport agency Infrastructure Malta’s press-release is totally incorrect, not only scientifically, factually, but also politically.

The gutter on the right shows to what extent the rich valley bed has been reduced to. And according to Ministry for Transport, this is a footprint of the once farmer’s country path. 

By all means let the farmers be given a helping hand, but not by widening a country path to two or three lanes. And certainly not by obliterating a valley bed, so rich in indigenous Maltese biodiversity, and disrupting the hydrology of the area, impeding the contribution to the water table and the farmers’ wells, if this is of any importance to the Minster’s experts in road widening.

Neither is it in the farmers’ interest in having their rubble walls destabilised, which eventually will be so detrimental to them.

Which professional architect, (unless of course over-ruled), would plan, and approve such damaging works which will lead to the eventual destruction of the rubble wall, and say it is in the interest of the farmers.

Renowned botanists friends of mine have confirmed that a rare indigenous protected tree was destroyed and annihilated, in the parts where the works were carried out by the Ministry for Transport.

A number of environmental NGOs and individuals have also all expressed their concern, dismay and anger against such damaging works by this Ministry.

I am sure Minister’s Borg ‘experts’ have drawn his attention to a number of EU Directives all of which have obligations, even with regards to the works in valleys. Just in case they did not, I would like to draw the Minster’s attention to the following:

  • Valleys are all subject to the EU Water Framework Directive. The local Competent Authority recognised by the EU for surface water in the Maltese Islands is The Energy and Water Agency, in the portfolio of the Ministry for Energy and Water Management, Joe Mizzi. Has the Ministry for Transport discussed the hydrological impacts of their works with this Ministry?
  • Biodiversity management, protection and enforcement is under the responsibility of the Environment and Resources Authority – ERA, in the portfolio of the Minister for Environment, Dr José Herrera, mainly through the EU Habitat Directive, and other International Conventions. Has the Ministry for Transport discussed the impact of their works with this Ministry. Definitely not, according to ERA itself.
  • Wied l-isqof is adjacent to the Natura 2000 site of Buskett and Girgenti. This means, according to the EU Habitats Directive, that any works even outside the boundary of the Natura 2000 site which can have an impact on the Natura 2000 site has to be discussed with the Competent Authority recognised by the EU, that is, ERA. Has Transport Malta discussed the negative biodiversity impacts of their works with this Ministry? Definitely not.
  • The newly appointed AmbjentMalta, is also responsible for valley management. It is also in the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment. Has Transport Malta discussed the impact of their works with this Ministry. Again definitely not as also confirmed by The Ministry for the Environment itself.
  • I would not like to mention the Planning Authority because as far as I am concerned, this authority, coincidentally in the portfolio of Dr Ian Borg Ministry, is more of a rubber stamp than anything else, with only paper professionalism not reflected in decisions taken.
  • The question is: from whom did the Ministry for Transport obtain the necessary permits as stated in their press statement?

I cannot image that the Energy and Water Agency responsible in Malta for honouring the obligations of the EU Water Framework Directive, agreed to render the valley at Wied l-Isqof to a gutter. Perhaps the Ministry for Transport can explain.

I have known Dr Ian Borg since he was a Mayor at Dingli Local Council. We had long discussions regarding the environment. I was convinced that he would be in the front line to protect our natural and international heritage for the good of our country Malta. I still do believe this, unless of course I am corrected by Dr Borg himself.

That is why I ask myself, how is it possible that such biodiversity damaging works are being carried out under his political responsibility, which are far from being environmental friendly in any way.

This make me think that the Minster is not being kept up to date and made aware of the damages being done by his Ministry’s, funded  by the EU.

I am sure that his biodiversity ‘experts’ cannot distinguish between a Sonchus and a Sambucus, and are completely unaware of environmental obligations Malta has, both nationally and internationally.

The damages being done is not just environmentally. It also reflects lack of good governance. It highlights the degradation of the biodiversity of Malta, who as a member of the EU, is obliged to safeguard biodiversity by 2020, according to the EU biodiversity Strategy 2020, This is not done by using EU funds to destroy biodiversity in the name of ‘help to farmers’.

Such works are also embarrassing those Ministries responsible for EU Directives above mentioned, who were not even consulted, not to include the whole country vis-a-vis the EU, if this is of any concern to the Ministry for Transport.

Infrastructure Malta has issued tenders for resurfacing works of various rural roads (IM001/2019). Can the Minister, who has the ultimate responsibility, ensure the Maltese people that such works will not continue to destroy more biodiversity with EU funds, but will be undertaken in line with Malta’s national and international obligations? Can he also take action to restore the damages done in country paths by his Ministry?

Photos have already appeared on the social media with regards to biological diversity massacre at il-Lunzjata.

More biodiversity destruction in il-Lunzjata Malta (subject to correction this is also in the Minister for Transport constituency). One can see the old footprint, and the additional widening resulting in the destruction of biodiversity, presumably with EU funds also. One can also see the butchering of trees undertaken. Can ERA please note and take necessary action. (photos Courtesy of V Abela Facebook/09.03.2019)

https://www.etenders.gov.mt/epps/cft/viewContractNotices.do?resourceId=5258763&fbclid=IwAR2YqL7wX72IATtkm_AVXFwVR0ik-heisQtCZ45fbTzjdAQ6WIYZdFboVgA

If the Minister can bring this electoral poster to the attention of his officials, perhaps they can remember this electoral promise.

One thing is very very obvious. Infrastructure Malta are carrying out works in the name of the Minister, without any professional expertise in biodiversity, or hydrology, no awareness of national and international obligations, and no consultations whatsoever, either with official entities, like ERA, and the Energy and Water Agency, or with individuals and NGOs. The fact that they are undertaking road works with EU funds, does not justify the bulldozing of biodiversity as is being done.

I will still be following the development of such works, not only in the farmers’ interest, but also in the interest of the protection of our national natural heritage, in line with national and international obligations, for the benefit of this and future generations who have lent it to us. And knowing Dr Ian Borg, I do expect his help in achieving this.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related article:

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity


Maltese indigenous trees and their propagation – A two session course

January 26, 2019

published by Josmar Azzopardi on 2019.01.22

A 6 hour course, including a practical session, where one can learn about Maltese indigenous trees, the need for their protection, the negative impact of invasive aliens species, and how to propagate them.

The first session will take place – 7th February at 5:30pm -8:00pm – Scout Island Head Quarters Congreve-Bernard Memorial Hall, E.S. Tonna Square, Floriana.

The second session will take place 16th February at 8:30am – 12.00pm – Ghajn Tuffieha International Scout Campsite

The sessions will be presented and facilitated by Mr Alfred E Baldacchino and the course will be delivered in Maltese/English.

Maximum number of participants is limited to 20. If you are interested to attend this training course please complete the application form below.

The course is open to active member of the Scout Association of Malta and the General Public.

Course Fee is 10 euros for Scouts and 15 euros for non Scout participants.

REGISTRATION can be done online via https://bit.ly/2Dtkufx by  Tuesday 5th February 2019.

Brief cv of trainer: Alfred E. Baldacchino D.P.A.; D.E.S.; P.G.D. Env. Managt.; M.Sc. Env. Mangt & Plan. 
Born in Rabat, Malta in 1946. Studied at the Malta College or Arts, Science and Technology; Teachers Training College; and the University of Malta. General secretary of the Malta Ornithological Society (MOS) from 1974 to 1986. Assistant Director at the Environment Protection Directorate from 2002 till retirement in 2007. Author of a number of books on Maltese biodiversity.

This Training course is being undertaken as a TSAM Ltd initiative to create a better understanding of the wealth of biodiversity available at the Ghajn Tuffieha Campsite.

For more info please send an email to chairman@tsam.com.mt

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


Valley – check with likes

January 23, 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

The news of the restoration of Wied il-Qlejgħa, alias Chadwick lakes, is good news. Not least because the ‘cleaning of valleys’ has been put to bed.

The largest dam at Wied il-Qlejgħa in all its glory

The measures highlighted in the media for such restoration are also something to look forward to, namely: restoration of dilapidated rubble walls; removal of the playing area; removal of invasive alien species of flora and fauna; removal of accumulated sediment behind dams; restoration and utilisation of the Fiddien pumping station; and the planning of walking trails.

Dilapidated rubble walls – not an uncommon site after some heavy rainfall

Valleys in the Maltese islands are a sensitive ecological areas – much ignored, unappreciated and abused. These have been abandoned and mismanaged for years, making their restoration more delicate. They are dried river beds, once adorned with dwarf hippopotamus and endemic swan. Climate change reduced these rich fresh water habitats to what they are today.

30+ year old gabbjuni still uncolonised by indigenous flora.

 

Dilapidated rubble walls is the first item that should be addressed, thus stopping soil erosion, one of the main culprits for the filling up of the dams.

The use of gabbjuni (big cages) to repair/replace rubble walls should not even be considered. A look at the 30-year-old gabbjuni installed along the valley, shows how barren they are. Not even the tenacious invasive cape sorell (l-ingliża) has managed to colonise any of them.

The play area in the midst of willow trees. Now who would have thought of this?

The removal of the playing area in the midst of the valley is a sine qua non. I wonder who was the architect who conceived this idea in the middle of one of the largest valley in the Maltese Islands!

Alien invasive eucalyptus trees dominate the valley. One might have to tread careful here because these can be protected by the latest tree protection regulations issued by ERA.

The removal of invasive alien species of flora and  fauna is another step in the right direction.

No need to say that this is a sensitive and delicate endeavour. It is not just bulldozing them on the lines of how the Ministry of Transport bulldozes trees. The invasive species of flora have to be gradually removed  in some areas, while being replaced by indigenous species.

Invasive species growing in Wied il-Qlejgħa include: she oak (less than a dozen), castor oil trees (less than 100), acacias and eucalyptus (more than a score and twenty of each species).

Their removal has to be professional so as not to contribute further to their dispersal. This applies mainly to the castor oil tree which has to be uprooted, and burned on site thus eliminating the possibility of giving it a free ride and opportunity to its seeds to germinate on new reclaimed grounds.

Furthermore, indigenous species which grow in the valley, such as poplar trees, willows, almond trees, lentisks, olive trees, chaste trees,  should not be mistaken for invasive species and removed. Not a far-fetched concern.

The removal of invasive alien species of flora and fauna is another step in the right direction. No need to say that this is a sensitive and delicate endeavour

On the other hand, the notorious lately introduced red swamp crayfish also abounds in the valley, detrimental to any fresh aquatic life such as indigenous painted frog and its tadpole, dragonflies and water beetles larvae. The person who introduced such alien species, should be chained to a poplar tree until the last crayfish is collected.

The indigenous poplar tree – adorns its natural habitat. No it is not dead.

On the other hand indigenous trees adapted to such a riverine habitat include the poplar tree, already established in the valley, willow (two species also established), chaste tree (of which there is half a dozen) and rare species of ash and elm.

AmbjentMalta can start propagating them immediately so that they will be readily available for planting as standard trees as soon as a parcel of the valley has been restored.

There are also a number of indigenous flora, some  rare and scarce aquatic species, such as water cress, sanicle-leaved water crowfoot, and bulbous buttercup. Others not so rare are greater plantain, creeping cinquefoil, rushes and sedges.

Rare and scarce aquatic plants whose seeds aestivate in the sediment. (Photos by Stephen Mifsud).

 

Another delicate exercise is the removal of debris, and sediment accumulated behind the two main water dams. Presumably, one would think, this would be undertaken during the hot summer months when the cisterns are dry. This means that the top layer of the sediment will be full of seeds and ova of species frequenting the aquatic habitat. The collecting of approximately 15 cm of scraped surface sediment to be redeposited in the restored parts, would contribute to the survival of these rare species.

motor bike tracks in the main footpaths 

The valley bottom is constantly being abused by off-roading motorbikes as one can see from the erosion of footpaths and fresh tyre marks.

One of the shallow dams closest to Fiddien has also been damaged to make easier access.

Modern environment friendly public access gate

So the suggestions for walking trails is another positive approach, especially if these are somewhat raised from the ground, for the convenience of wild fauna.

Furthermore, public access gates can be installed along the way, as a measure for controlling bikes – motor or manual.

I know that if Dr Daniel Micallef, one of the few politicians with environment at heart, could see this, I am sure he would send some people to hell.

The Fiddien box, which was restored during the time when Daniel Micallef was Minister for Education and Environment, has long been vandalised and the heavy water pump has seemingly disappeared – hopefully taken by the Water Services Corporation for safe keeping?

The plans for their restoration and educational use is also another positive step.

The second dam, needing some structural repairs, still contributes its best for the storage of water, before it passes it to Wied tal-Isperanza.

Once restoration works are completed, the valley has to be monitored and managed. Traffic management tops the list.

This will ensure that the number of vehicles frequently jamming the area on public holidays and Sundays will not bring such restoration to naught by their haphazard parking. So it would be beneficial to one and all if the road through the valley is made one way: from Imtarfa to Mosta.

The farming community can have an identification permit displayed on car windscreens, to allow them to use it both ways during working days.

The proof of this EU funded pudding is in the eating.

I will be watching grastis et amoris patria, naturally.

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

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles on this blog:

Jappella biex Chadwick lakes jigi mmaniġġat aħjar

In-nixfa tax-xitwa u s-siġra tal-lewż

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/xqed-naghmlu-bl-ilma-tax-xita/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/water-harvesting-culture/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/aghmel-xita-aghmel-2/

 

 

 


To Gozo with love

January 8, 2019

The proposed Gozo tunnel has resurfaced once again. No surprise. The MEP elections are round the corner. It is normal that white elephants are driven in the political arena during such times.

Their main aim is to try to get on board the blindfolded followers who can be convinced that a circle is square, especially if this comes from the political leaders, no matter from which side.

This time a new step in this regard has been made. An international call for tenders for the construction of the 10km underwater tunnel, plus additional inland excavation – approximately an additional 5km – was announced.

The information was revealed by the Minister for Transport, who regrettably, is already associated with the destruction of any tree which dares stand in the way of spending EU millions to widen roads – the latest to bite the dust are national trees at Buqana.

Suggested socially and environmentally friendly alternative connections between the two islands.

Suggested socially and environmentally friendly alternative connections between the two islands.

Does the public have a right to know what were the findings of the social, environmental and financial impacts of this tunnel? After all, our country belongs to all of us and not just to politicians and entrepreneurs.

Has consideration been given to the negative impacts of such works on the only remaining unadulterated water catchment area at l-Imbordin?  How will this affect the water table? And how will this affect the livelihood of  those involved in agriculture in the area?

What about the Gozitan farmers on the other side of the tunnel exit? Is this of importance? Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists? Have such studies been undertaken despite the official tender calls? Has the general public a right to know of these negative impacts or are these confidential too? Would any professional firm tender for such works without such important scientific studies?

How much deeper under the 35 m of sea-depth will the tunnel be excavated? What kind of geological strata grace such depths? What is the position of the ERA?

Who will be giving the assurance and take responsibility for any loss of human life and limb in meddling with such dangerous large and deep sea bottom faults the area is full of, as has been pointed out by geologist Peter Gatt?

Will the responsible minister and the Planning Authority, which incidentally is in his portfolio, be shouldering all responsibility for loss of human life and ecological and social destruction and disasters, both on the site in question and also, directly or indirectly, in the affected areas? Somebody has to.

The answer to these and other questions raised by sociologist Godfrey Baldacchino ‘What purpose should tunnel serve?’ (January 4) have never been addressed, much more answered.

In the background of this political circus, one can hear the artificial, shameless pleadings that this is all in the interest of the general public, especially Gozitans, who deserve to have better crossing facilities between the two islands. No doubt about it.

Everybody agrees that Gozitans and Maltese deserve better crossing facilities. But not with such destructive decisions bereft of any technical and scientific studies, solely based on local arbitrary political acumen and agendas.

There is an ever-increasing momentum among the public, not least Gozitans, that the best environmental, social and financially friendly approach is the fast ferry service between the two islands. These can run not just from Mġarr to Ċirkewwa, but also to St Paul’s Bay or Qawra, to Sliema and also to Valletta.

And if found that there is the appropriate economically feasible demand, also to the Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk.

This would help commuters from getting caught in traffic jams along the way in St Paul’s Bay, Mosta, Birkirkara, Msida, Ħamrun, Floriana or everywhere along their journey across the island, something the tunnel can never achieve. The sea routes are already available at no cost at all. And these do not need any widening.

Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists?

If the Ministry of Transport is open to suggestions, unless they believe that the people out there can all be convinced that a circle is square, they can plan a holistically better managed public transport system on both islands, in connection with the stops of these fast ferries service. The present service between the two islands should also form part of this national transport management plan.

Such holistic public transport management can include, among others, a shuttle service from the Valletta ferry stop to the Valletta bus terminus to cut down on private transport and help commuters reach their destination easier.

Another shuttle service can take commuters to the Blata l-Bajda park-and-ride to reach a parked car which, if one wishes, can be left there. Such facilities can also be available at every fast-ferry stop.

This would be far less expensive and more socially and environmentally friendly than the proposed tunnel, in all aspects. It would also help commuters to cut down on expenses, both in the consumption of petrol, and also in the wear and tear of their cars. It would also help to further reduce pollution from the urban and rural environment, with all its negative impacts on the people’s physical and psychological health.

Furthermore this would also help to lessen the stress in crossing from one island to the other, especially through the 15 km+ tunnel, where all the psychological impact studies seem to have been completely ignored. Unless of course these negative social impacts are also officially regarded as further contributing to the economy.

It would also be interesting to know the toll commuters will have to pay to use the tunnel. It seems that this is not in the public interest either, possibly because it might scare some of the ‘faithful’ who may have concluded that driving through the tunnel would be free, like driving through any other road.

From past experience, I am convinced that the minister responsible for transport has a positive environmental awareness and would positively study any alternative suggestions. However, I have my doubts how much power he has to decide himself because of directions from upstairs.

From the way the social and environmental fabric of these islands is being officially exploited and destroyed, without any scientific studies or regard for their negative impacts, it is very difficult not to conclude that their destruction is part of an official political agenda supported by the square-circled mentality, and endorsed by some academics paid to decide politically and not to think professionally.

The Minister for Transport, nonetheless, is both personally and collectively responsible for the future sanity and well-being of the people of these islands and their environment with regards to the tunnel and transport management.

The crossing to Gozo and back can be made easier for the benefit of the people of these islands, with love and not with co-ordinated politically motivated destruction.

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

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece


To Gozo with love

January 8, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The proposed Gozo tunnel has resurfaced once again. No surprise. The MEP elections are round the corner. It is normal that white elephants are driven in the political arena during such times.

Their main aim is to try to get on board the blindfolded followers who can be convinced that a circle is square, especially if this comes from the political leaders, no matter from which side.

This time a new step in this regard has been made. An international call for tenders for the construction of the 10 km underwater tunnel, plus additional inland excavation – approximately an additional 5 km – was announced.

The information was revealed by the Minister for Transport, who regrettably, is already associated with the destruction of any tree which dares stand in the way of spending EU millions to widen roads – the latest to bite the dust are national trees at Buqana.

Suggested socially and environmentally friendly alternative connections between the two islands.

Does the public have a right to know what were the findings of the social, environmental and financial impacts of this tunnel? After all, our country belongs to all of us and not just to politicians and entrepreneurs.

Has consideration been given to the negative impacts of such works on the only remaining unadulterated water catchment area at l-Imbordin?  How will this affect the water table? And how will this affect the livelihood of  those involved in agriculture in the area?

What about the Gozitan farmers on the other side of the tunnel exit? Is this of importance? Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists? Have such studies been undertaken despite the official tender calls? Has the general public a right to know of these negative impacts or are these confidential too? Would any professional firm tender for such works without such important scientific studies?

How much deeper under the 35 m of sea-depth will the tunnel be excavated? What kind of geological strata grace such depths? What is the position of the ERA?

Who will be giving the assurance and take responsibility for any loss of human life and limb in meddling with such dangerous large and deep sea bottom faults the area is full of, as has been pointed out by geologist Peter Gatt?

Will the responsible minister and the Planning Authority, which incidentally is in his portfolio, be shouldering all responsibility for loss of human life and ecological and social destruction and disasters, both on the site in question and also, directly or indirectly, in the affected areas? Somebody has to.

The answer to these and other questions raised by sociologist Godfrey Baldacchino ‘What purpose should tunnel serve?’ (January 4) have never been addressed, much more answered.

In the background of this political circus, one can hear the artificial, shameless pleadings that this is all in the interest of the general public, especially Gozitans, who deserve to have better crossing facilities between the two islands. No doubt about it.

Everybody agrees that Gozitans and Maltese deserve better crossing facilities. But not with such destructive decisions bereft of any technical and scientific studies, solely based on local arbitrary political acumen and agendas.

There is an ever-increasing momentum among the public, not least Gozitans, that the best environmental, social and financially friendly approach is the fast ferry service between the two islands. These can run not just from Mġarr to Ċirkewwa, but also to St Paul’s Bay or Qawra, to Sliema and also to Valletta.

And if found that there is the appropriate economically feasible demand, also to the Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk.

This would help commuters from getting caught in traffic jams along the way in St Paul’s Bay, Mosta, Birkirkara, Msida, Ħamrun, Floriana or everywhere along their journey across the island, something the tunnel can never achieve. The sea routes are already available at no cost at all. And these do not need any widening.

Who will benefit most from the tunnel, the people or the capitalists?

If the Ministry of Transport is open to suggestions, unless they believe that the people out there can all be convinced that a circle is square, they can plan a holistically better managed public transport system on both islands, in connection with the stops of these fast ferries service. The present service between the two islands should also form part of this national transport management plan.

Such holistic public transport management can include, among others, a shuttle service from the Valletta ferry stop to the Valletta bus terminus to cut down on private transport and help commuters reach their destination easier.

Another shuttle service can take commuters to the Blata l-Bajda park-and-ride to reach a parked car which, if one wishes, can be left there. Such facilities can also be available at every fast-ferry stop.

This would be far less expensive and more socially and environmentally friendly than the proposed tunnel, in all aspects. It would also help commuters to cut down on expenses, both in the consumption of petrol, and also in the wear and tear of their cars. It would also help to further reduce pollution from the urban and rural environment, with all its negative impacts on the people’s physical and psychological health.

Furthermore this would also help to lessen the stress in crossing from one island to the other, especially through the 15 km+ tunnel, where all the psychological impact studies seem to have been completely ignored. Unless of course these negative social impacts are also officially regarded as further contributing to the economy.

It would also be interesting to know the toll commuters will have to pay to use the tunnel. It seems that this is not in the public interest either, possibly because it might scare some of the ‘faithful’ who may have concluded that driving through the tunnel would be free, like driving through any other road.

From past experience, I am convinced that the minister responsible for transport has a positive environmental awareness and would positively study any alternative suggestions. However, I have my doubts how much power he has to decide himself because of directions from upstairs.

From the way the social and environmental fabric of these islands is being officially exploited and destroyed, without any scientific studies or regard for their negative impacts, it is very difficult not to conclude that their destruction is part of an official political agenda supported by the square-circled mentality, and endorsed by some academics paid to decide politically and not to think professionally.

The Minister for Transport, nonetheless, is both personally and collectively responsible for the future sanity and well-being of the people of these islands and their environment with regards to the tunnel and transport management.

The crossing to Gozo and back can be made easier for the benefit of the people of these islands, with love and not with co-ordinated politically motivated destruction.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

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

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

other related articles:

Tunnelling the cross

Efficient link to Gozo

 

 


Il-Milied u s-sena t-tajba / Happy Christmas & happy new year

December 16, 2018

Lil dawk kollha li matul din is-sena għoġobhom jaraw il-kitbiet fuq dan il-blog, u dawk li żiedu l-kummenti tagħhom, jew inkella għenu biex ixerrdu l-messaġġ biex dejjem titqajjem kuxjenza pubblika aktar b’saħħitha dwar l-ambjent ta’ pajjiżna, u lill-ħbieb kollha tagħna nixtieq, flimkien ma’ Mary Rose, nawguralkom Milied hieni u sena ġdida mimlija paċi u barka biex flimkien ilkoll naqsmu u ngħixu f’dan il-pajjiż li ġie misluf lilna mill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. J’Alla jkun hemm oħrajn li jingħaqdu magħna għal dan il-għan.

————

To all those who during the current year had the pleasure of going through my blog, and those who contributed by adding their comments or else helped to share the message to further increase public awareness on the environment of our Country, and to all our friends, together with Mary Rose, we would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a new peaceful and blessed new year, so that together we can share and live in this Country which was lent to use by future generations. May others join us in doing so.

 

 


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


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

 


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/


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


Planting on illegal deposits

January 26, 2018

Friday 26th January 2018

Planting on illegal deposits

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

The published regulations on the illegal deposit of material on land and illegal reclamation of land, being proposed by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, can be a very good exercise contributing to the conservation of biodiversity. Yes they can. But will they?

A closer look at the English and Maltese versions, reveals the need of dotting a number of i’s and crossing a number of t’s.

The definition of ‘alien’ and ‘invasive alien species’, is conspicuous by its absence. Such definitions are neither found in the local empowering Acts referred to in the regulations. These are defined in the latest EU Regulation 1143 of 2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. Notwithstanding that the Minister for the Environment has not yet published (despite promising) these regulations as part of local legislation, EU regulations are enforceable in toto from date of publication by the EU, November 4, 2014.

Article 8 (ii) of the proposed regulations deals with the expropriation of land. If the owner does not comply with the provisions, his land can be expropriated “to protect the land from further illegal deposit of material”. So far so good, but if the land is expropriated it should be clear that it would be afforested according to these regulations, something which is not expressed.

Schedule 1 outlines requirements and terms of references for the method statement for afforestation. Schedule 1 presumably has been drafted by the Ministry for the Environment, with the input from the Environment and Resource Authority, unless this is negated.

Article 1.1 (a) of the schedule explains that “the trees and shrubs used for the rehabilitation shall be indigenous species which are native to the area/site concerned and compatible and appropriate to the adjacent habitats”. But there is no indication from where the trees are to be obtained. Why?

The Convention of Biological Diversity (article 8) also adopted by an EU Decision, states that “members states to this Convention (Malta is a Member State) should… prevent the introduction, control and eliminate, those alien species which are a threat to biodiversity”.

The Convention for the Conservation of Wildlife and its Natural Habitat, the Bern Convention (Malta is a Member State) in one of its recommendations (14/1984) urges its Members States to take the necessary steps to control the introduction of alien species because of their negative social, ecological and economic impacts, something which cannot be easily known before it is too late.

Furthermore the Bern Convention resolution (57/1997) urges Members States not to let the intentional introduction of alien invasive species in their country. It emphasises that if indigenous species are imported, these specimens are regarded as invasive alien species.

Another Bern Convention Resolution (58/1997), regards the indigenous extinct, rare or indigenous species whose numbers needs to be strengthened. This resolution urges members states to regulate these activates even where the planting of trees is involved. It urges member states to draft regulations to control introduced species which are indigenous to the country, intended to be used for such aims. What a better place to include such obligation than in these regulations.

All these obligations are completely missing from the proposed regulations. Article 1.1 (a) in the Schedule should oblige that “All the trees and shrubs used for afforestation should be propagated from local stock so as not to pollute the gene pool of local species.”

The lack of understanding of scientific and technical terms in the Maltese version does not do any honour to the drafter.

Schedule article 1.1 (b) obliges that the choice of species are to be guided by policy documents and guidelines re non-native plants invaders, “together with the list laid down in the appendix to this schedule.” The documents which were published for public consultation do not have such an Appendix attached. Whether this is a lapsus or not, it cannot be negated that the public couldn’t comment on it.

Was it a lapsus to omit the definition of “alien invasive species” or was it a measure of convenience? Landscapers would not like it for sure!

The above-mentioned article obliges that: “If any alien invasive species are already growing on site, these must be uprooted and destroyed as part of the rehabilitation procedures.” This is a good measure, but the destruction of such alien invasive species should be destroyed according to and under the supervisor of ERA, so that these would not be dumped somewhere helping in the further dispersal of the invasive species itself.

Therefore a sub-article to this article 1.1 (b) is to be inserted accordingly: “The method of destruction of invasive alien species should be approved by ERA so that these are destroyed in a safe way and do not contribute in any way to help the dispersal of the invasive species.” That is, if it is desired to control invasive species as nationally and internationally obliged.

The lack of understanding of scientific and technical terms in the Maltese version does not do any honour to the drafter. These are mostly in the Schedule 1 drafted by the Ministry for the Environment and ERA, unless it was some ‘landscaper’! It is indeed unbelievable that the drafter does not make any difference between indigenous and endemic. It also hurts to see that the national biodiversity protectors refer to “weeds” as “ħaxix ħazin”. Weeds are part of biodiversity, forming part of an ecological habitat, which the government has to take in consideration in national obligations regarding biodiversity loss by 2020.

It is such a howler that makes me very sceptic about these regulations with regards to the implementation, enforcement and biodiversity conservation. Furthermore these badly need Maltese proof reading by a qualified person, not only to correct orthographic and grammatical mistakes, but also to correct the translation of technical words.

Can one perhaps regard all these as lapsus by the drafters? ERA should know better, I believe. Yes these regulations can be beneficial, only if ERA professionally intervenes. But will they?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related readings:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/masters-in-eco-destruction/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/trees-and-invasive-species/

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


Happy Christmas & a Happy New year 2018

December 14, 2017

Nixtiequ l-Milied hieni u s-sena l-ġdida 2018 mimlija risq u barka lil dawk kollha li taw l-għajnuna tagħhom, b’xi mod jew ieħor, għall-ħarsien u l-apprezzament aħjar għall-ambjent naturali tagħna lkoll, kif ukoll li dawk li għadhom xettiċi dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ aktar responsabbiltà għal-ħarsien tal-ekosistema li aħna lkoll niddependu minnha.

J’Alla s-sena l-ġdida 2018 issibna naħdmu aktar flimkien id f’id għal dan il-għan biex inserħu moħħna li l-ispeċi tagħna l-bnedmin tkun tista’ tkompli toktor fuq din l-unika u mirakolużi pjaneta tagħna lkoll.

_________________________________

We would like to wish a very happy Christmas and a blessed and peaceful to new year 2018 to all those who gave their support, and helped in their own way for the protection and better appreciation of our natural environment, and also for those who are still a bit skeptic about such responsibility and the need for more responsibility to protect and conserve the ecosystem on which we all depend.

May the new year 2018  see everybody working more hand in hand towards efforts which will ensure the survival of our own species on this unique and wonderful planet Earth.


Masters in eco destruction

November 20, 2017

Monday, 20 September, 2017

Masters in eco destruction

Alfred E Baldacchino

One of the many activities at the Majjistral History and Nature Park: educational walk for schools.

The Majjistral Park has been struck, not by blows from prevailing north-westerly winds, but by the Minister for the Environment, who succumbed to pressure and increased the time for the decimation of biodiversity at the park, and diminished the park’s educational potential.

Added to this is the tacit approval and the clearing of all obstacles for off-roading in the park, despite it being illegal.

It was during Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee that I first met Herrera. His outburst, completely unrelated to the subject under discussion, was of promises of invasive species and tree protection regulations, which never materialised, and I do not have any inkling that they ever will.

The first environmental hurdle sent the Ministry flat on its face and the second one nailed it for keeps. ERA, the Authority responsible for our environment, was silent and absent from the PA decision on the power station and from the decision related to environmental permits, because of divine intervention and conflicts of interest! I can almost understand this better today. The sound of silence reigns supreme at ERA and the Ministry when confronted with anti-environment decisions.

It was very evident from day one that under this tenure, the Maltese people and our environment had to fasten our seat belts for a very rough ride.

60 olive trees on the university campus were so ‘pruned’ because their leaves were dropping on car parked below.

And so it was to be. Months later 60 mature olive trees on the university campus were chopped down, because the leaves of the trees were falling on cars parked below! And down went the trees with the order from university and the blessing of ERA.

Another feather in the Minister’s cap – half a dozen old indigenous oak trees eliminated to widen the road, barely half a metre.

More recently, half a score of old indigenous majestic oak trees at Lija, some centenarians, were also chopped down with the blessing of Herr-ERA, without any consideration of any tree protection order.

Instead, the minister boasted that they were not protected, confirming his failure to do so. Down they went too with ministry blessing. Rubbing salt in the wound, the strip where they grew is still there, and the only invasive tree which grew in the area is still there too. Who can understand endemic political intelligence, backed by top cream University academics?

The University saw no harm in chopping 60 old olive trees on its campus, so why should they worry about chopping down half a score of old oaks on public land?

Buskett, a Natura 2000 site, has a Cabinet-approved management plan sitting somewhere on the ministry’s shelves. (photo: Times of Malta)

The strange environmental (or anti-environmental) mentality within this ministry is also evident at Buskett, a Natura 2000 site, which has a Cabinet-approved management plan sitting somewhere on the ministry’s shelves. Works are being undertaken by the ministry’s employees with funds from the EU, in a LIFE Saving Buskett project.

environmental massacre taking place makes one wonder if the University is academically competent to prepare professional, scientific non-partisan qualified citizens

A stretch of maquis in this Natura 2000 site was bulldozed to accommodate machinery to build rubble walls. Two rare, strictly protected trees were chopped down to enable machinery manoeuvring. Adjacent trees were ‘pruned’ not to scratch machinery. Terrain was dumped on rare species of flora: thanks to EU funds and ERA.

Two mature hawthorn strictly protected tress in Buskett a Natura 2000 site chopped down to make way for vehicles! And not a whisper from the Ministry for the Environment.

From my understanding, University professional personnel are monitoring such works at Buskett. If true, what kind of qualifications is the University dishing out?  Undoubtedly “one will find something more in woods than in books. The trees and stones teach what one never learns from the masters” (Bernard De Clairvaux).

University professors abound on the board of ERA, including the rector of the University himself. The environmental massacre taking place under the watch of this ministry makes one wonder if the University is academically competent to prepare professional, scientific non-partisan qualified citizens.

Their tacit stand (or direct or indirect involvement) on environmental matter can only lead one to start asking if they are hand in glove in such official environment loss. And one cannot help but ask if partisan politics are having their toll on university academics too?

The invasive fountain grass used in landscaping by the Government’s landscaper, has invaded valleys, fields, roads, and urban areas without any action from the Ministry for the Environment.

Herrera’s ministry is more renowned for chopping and killing trees and biodiversity than anything else, despite the fact that it should be “planting a tree in the name of every new-born or adopted child in Malta”, as the electorate had been assured and promised.

Besides, this ministry, tacitly or not, has never taken any stand on the control of invasive species planted by its now official landscaper, contrary to national and international obligations, and with negative impacts on the social and biological detriment of our islands.

His vote in the EU on the complete ban of glyphosate, which is decimating pollinators, is now awaited.

Herrera knows that these decisions are diametrically opposite to his government’s electoral promise where all the people were assured that “environmental protection will be given priority and strength in all major decisions of the government”.

Why can’t we have a real ministry for the environment? Why cannot we have an environmental minister on the side of biodiversity protection and conservation, in the national interest?

My country, its people and our environment come first and foremost, above any blinkered partisan mentality. This is what prevents me from keeping silent. What is wrong in yearning for my country to excel socially, ecologically, spiritually, ethically, and financially?

Is it anti-good governance to hope that the less fortunate, educationally, financially and socially, are not exploited for the benefit of a selected few? Is there anything wrong to expect that such aims and social justice are encouraged, and help given to those involved trying to achieve such noble aims? Shouldn’t these aims be upheld by all those who have true Maltese blood running in their veins?

Unfortunately it seems that it is becoming unsafe to even dare have such a dream. Some are being labelled ‘traitors’, and may also be exposed to danger of life and limb, as has indeed happened.

Has local partisan politics eroded, for sectarian benefits, even our strong character which has seen us Maltese win over every evil since we set foot on these islands? Have we reached a state where “it is dangerous to be right when the established authorities are wrong”, as the French enlightenment writer Voltaire said.

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles

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

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

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

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/eu-funds-endanger-buskett-n2k-site/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/herr-era-and-glyphosate/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/glyphosate-il-prezz-gholi-li-qed-inhallsu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/glyphosate-you-with-addenda/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/another-buskett-onslaught/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/trees-and-invasive-species/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/butchered-olive-trees/

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

 

 


Propagating Maltese trees

September 19, 2017

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Are you interested in trees? Do you love trees? Do you want to know more on the Maltese indigenous trees which have been adorning our Country before man set foot on these islands? Do you want to start propagating these trees yourself and contribute to their conservation? Do you want to give a helping hand towards their protection?

If yes, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. Your benefit will also be the trees benefit.

See you there.

 


Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet

August 13, 2017

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet

Alfred E Baldacchino

is-Sibt, 12 ta’ Awwissu 2017

 

Il-bebbuxu li nistgħu nsejħulu l-bebbux żgħir imlembet minħabba l-għamla tiegħu, huwa speċi ta’ mollusk fil-klassi Gastropoda, kelma Griega li tfisser stonku u sieq. Il-Gastropoda tiġbor fiha l-bebbux u l-bugħeriewen ta’ kull daqs u ta’ kull għamla: minn mikroskopiċi sa mdaqqsin. F’din il-klassi nsibu eluf ta’ speċi: kemm bebbux u bugħeriewen tal-art u tal-ilma. Fost dawk tal-ilma nsibu l-imħar.

Madwar 24,000 speci ta’ Gastropoda huma magħrufa li jgħixu fuq l-art.

Waħda mill-familji f’din il-klassi hija dik tal-Cochlicellidae: familja li tigbor fiha bebbux żgħir tal-art. Dawn il-bebbux għandhom qoxra tawwalija u ġejja għall-ponta; tixbaħ lembut dejjaq ġej għall-ponta rqiqa.

Mijiet ta’ bebbux żgħir imlembet reqdin għax-xhur sħan tas-sajf.

Il-qoxra imlembta tal-bebbuxu, biż-żokra fil-parti l-wiesgħa tagħha.

Il-qoxra tal-bebbux żgħir imlembet li jkun għadu żgħir ikollha din il-ponta tniggeż.  Il-qoxra tkun minn 8 sa 13.7 mm tul b’diametru ta’ minn 4 sa 5 mm. Din tkun iddur imkebba għal minn 8 sa 11-il darba, ta’ lewn isfar bajdani, ta’ spiss b’sinjali, tikek jew dbabar kannella kemmxejn ileqqu, madwarha. L-aħħar dawra fil-qoxra tkun aktar wiesgħa mill-oħrajn u tkun xi minn daqqiet kważi nofs it-tul tal-qoxra kollha. Taħt dan it-tarf il-wiesa’ jkollha forma ta’ żokra ovali li kważi hija mgħottija b’xoffa. Minn din iż-żokra joħrog il-bebbuxu li jkun ġewwa mħares minna.

Fil-gżejjer Maltin, il-bebbuxu li jgħix ġol-qoxra huwa ta’ lewn ħamrani ċar. Fuq dahru l-bebbuxu għandu sinjal iswed matulu, bi dbajja kannella fl-iswed u numru ta’ tikek żgħar suwed.

Il-bebbuxu żgħir tal-art imlembet barra mill-qoxra tiegħu.

Dan il-bebbux żgħir tal-art imlembet huwa indiġenu għan-nofsinhar u l-punent tal-Mediterran. Imma ġie mdaħħal f’numru ta’ pajjiżi, bħal ngħidu aħna fil-lvant tal-Mediterran, bħall-Greċja, it-Turkija, l-Iżrael, u l-Eġittu. Iddaħħal ukoll fil-Gżejjer Brittaniċi u l-Irlanda. Saħansitra anki fl-Awstralja, fejn kif jiġri bi speċi imdaħħlin f’ambjent fejn ma jkunux jinstabu b’mod naturali, sar invażiv, jiġifieri beda joktor fis-selvaġġ b’impatti negattivi fuq l-ambjent naturali u l-fawna u l-flora tal-post.

Il-bebbux żgħir tal-art imlembet jgħix fuq ħamrija kalkarja ramlija, u jħobb inħawi niexfa qrib il-kosta miftuħa u għax-xemx, bħal għaram ramel, għalkemm jinstab f’numri akbar taħt arbuxelli u sġajjar u f’mergħat li ma jżommux ilma. Minħabba s-sħana tas-sajf huwa jorqod matul dawn ix-xhur billi jitla’ ma’ puntali, zkuk niexfa, friegħi tas-siġar u oġġetti oħrajn bil-ponta.

Fost il-fawna u l-flora li jqattgħu ix-xhur sħan tas-sajf reqdin, il-bebbux żgħir tal-art imlembet qatt ma jista’ jeħlisa min-nirien ta’ madwaru.

Hemm minn jaħseb li dan il-bebbux jagħmel xi ħsara lill-agrikultura. Dan għaliex meta huwa jkun rieqed u jinqala’ iħalli warajh bħal ġerha. Iżda din ma tagħmel l-ebda ħsara lill-pjanta li jkun rieqed fuqha.

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet huwa komuni fil-gżejjer Maltin. Iżda dan ma jfissirx li ma għandniex nieħdu ħsiebu. Dan jiddependi mill-ambjent li jgħix fih. U nafu kif l-ambjent sejjer lura u qed jinqereda kuljum. Bħal dawn il-ġranet qed ikollna ħafna ħruq ta’ ambjenti naturali, kemm minħabba s-sħana naturali, kif ukoll minħabba nirien li jitqabbu u jaħarbu bla ħsieb, kif ukoll sfortunatament minn dawk li jitqabbu bil-ħsieb, li kollha kemm huma jqabbdu minn kull fejn jgħaddu jiġru u jsibu ħaxix niexef.

Dan l-aħħar xahar kellna ħafna minn dawn. Rajna nirien jaħkmu Binġemma, il-Mosta fil-parti tal-Wied tal-Isperanza, għelieqi f’Ħaż-Żebbug, u fil-ġimgħat li ġejjien bil-ħafna ħruq tan-nar marbut mal-festi, wieħed ma jeħodhiex bi kbira li jkun hemm aktar nirien.

Meta jkollna dawn in-nirien mhux la wieħed jgħid li l-ħsara mhux kbira daqs kemm wieħed stenna minħabba dak li jara, għaliex il-ħlejjaq ta’ flora u ta’ fawna li jgħixu qalb il-ħaxix niexef jew fil-ġnub tiegħu, jew inkella li jkunu reqdin għall-ġranet sħan tas-sajf, ma jkunx possibbli għalihom li jaħarbu jew li jeħilsu minn dawn in-nirien. Il-lembut żgħir tal-art huwa wieħed minn dawn l-annimali li ma jeħilsuhiex u dawk kollha li jkunu qed jistennew ix-xhur tax-xita biex jerġgħu jqumu u jkomplu joktru, kollha jinqerdu f’ħakka t’għajn. U magħhom jinqerdu wkoll fawna u flora oħra.

Għalhekk wieħed għandu jagħmel minn kollox biex dawn il-ħlejjaq li jaqsmu din l-art magħna ma jiġux meqruda minn pajjiżna aktar u aktar b’nuqqas ta’ ħsieb.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Ismijet xjentifkċi

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet  – Cochlicella acuta – Pointed Snail

 


Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says – (2)

July 17, 2017

Alfred E Baldacchino

Monday 17th July, 2017

Following the publication of my comments in the press and on my blog on the destruction of indigenous old Holm oaks at Lija, the Hon. Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Jose Herrera, felt the need of a right of reply to correct some comments which he said are  “baseless and malicious”, at least directed to the heading .

The Ministers reply at least had one positive comment saying that he is: “not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard.”

I feel, as many others also do, that the destruction of such old trees is an insult to any biodiversity protection authorities, and when there is no effort or feeling to control such biodiversity loss, on the grounds that these were not protected, makes the insult more hurting.

The following is the reply by the Hon Minster for the Environment the Hon. Jose Herrera, which was published in the newspaper MaltaToday, beneath yesterday’s article.

And my reply sent to the newspaper follows.

Right of reply:

I take strong objection to this heading, where it will be shown that allegations made against me and my Ministry are totally baseless and malicious. In fact, one should take note of my persistent effort in favour of tree planting and aforestation, a process which I am determined to accelerate.​

The site in question is within scheme, and is not an Urban Conservation Area (UCA) nor a protected area. Thereby, given that the species of the trees (Quercus ilex) are listed in Schedule II, these specimens are not protected through the Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations, 2011 (Legal Notice 200 of 2011, S.L. 549.64) and no permit from ERA is required for their removal from this site. 

Nonetheless, as a good practice, as part of ERA’s no objection issued, Transport Malta (TM) were made to compensate for the removal through donation of a number of trees to the local council.

However, I must state that I am not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard. Therefore, I will also explore the possibility of landscaping these new roads with the planting of new trees.

My reply:

What a sorry, puerile, statement by the Hon. Minster for the Environment Jose Herrera. What we, and especially me, were expecting was to hear about the efforts made by the Minister to save these historical old, indigenous Maltese trees, when there were more than one solution. None.

How can one accept the fact that a close to a hundred-year old indigenous tree, which was protected before the tree protection regulations were revoked, and which was suggested for total protection, was approved for destruction with no efforts to save it at all.

Anybody who has the protection of biodiversity at heart, in the national interest,  would be heart broken to see such destruction of indigenous old trees. The more so, one would also expect, the Minister responsible for the environment with the responsibility to see and stop biodiversity loss. But… it seems, not in Malta.

In my opinion this is complete failure. And I repeat it. It is a complete failure by the environment authorities that be. The more so when the Hon, Minister speaks about replacing the old Holm Oaks by a score of sapling, unless he would have to rely on imported stuff.

And we were also expecting that the Hon. Minister would have immediately set the ball rolling for the publication of the much promised and awaited tree protection regulations which would save so many indigenous trees. But no word about this either. There is no mention to his “determination and acceleration” efforts towards the publishing of these regulations.

May I ask what is keeping the Hon Minister from publishing these regulations, despite the fact that these were on his his desk from day one he took over from his predecessor, and despite all his public statements that he will soon be publishing them? Are his hands tied? Does he have a real will to publish them? Or is he under pressure from any individual or entity for specific commercial reasons?

That is what we expected to hear. We all know how much he is involved in paper talk, with no resulting positive environmental protection actions. His statement confirms this.

The Hon Minister’s statement really confirms and gives more strength to my comments. Everybody knows about the loop holes the present tree protection regulations have, drafted to the music of his predecessor from the other side of the political fence.

It is positive to read that the Hon Minister for the Environment is “not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard.” When the Hon Minister decides, and if he want to discuss the matter further, I am ready and willing to discuss the real protection, education, and technical regulations to reach such aims in the national and biodiversity interest.

It is up to the Hon Minister to decide. We have had enough of paper talk seeing indigenous trees falling down to the chainsaw, and replaced by imported invasive species.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

see also:

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-1a4   Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says – (1)

 

 


Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says

July 16, 2017

16 July 2017

Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure,    environmentalist says

Paul Cocks 

Environmentalist Alfred Baldacchino bemoans the felling of a number of mature holm oak trees in Lija and says that environment minister Jose Herrera had failed to deliver on his promise to reinstate in law the protection of indigenous trees.

The holm oak trees were cut off by chainsaw 30cm from the ground.

The environment minister was to be held personally responsible for the felling of a number of old indigenous holm oak trees in Lija, environmentalist Alfred Baldacchino has claimed.

In comments to MaltaToday, Baldacchino said that it was beyond belief that the trees – some of them 100 years old – were summarily cut down when there were other alternatives that would have resulted in the trees being saved.

“This all comes to the fact that minister Jose’ Herrera has failed to deliver on his promise to reinstate into law the protection of a number of indigenous trees,” he said.

“When he took over the ministry from Leo Brincat in April last year, Herrera told Parliament’s Planning and Environment Committee that the protection of trees would be reintroduced into law shortly thereafter.”

Baldacchino said that has not happened yet, leading him to blame Herrera for the felling of the holm oak trees in Lija.

The trees were cut down to make way for an additional south-bound carriageway, aimed at easing the traffic flow – and traffic jams – in the area leading to the Lija roundabout and on to the Birkirkara bypass and Naxxar Road.

But Baldacchino insisted that the transport ministry could have developed an inner service lane into a full carriageway without damaging or cutting down the trees.

“There was already the inner service lane that would have been enough as an extra lane, there was no need to remove the trees as well,” he said.

The trees were removed to expand the south-bound carriageway in Lija

Baldacchino said that when he learnt the trees were being cut down he went immediately on site where he was brusquely challenged by the workers when he attempted to take some photos of what they were doing.

“They were felling those trees with a chainsaw in what appeared to be an orgasmic expression of glee and euphoria,” he said. “They cut the trees about 30cm off the ground, including one that was over two storeys high and must have been over 100 years old.”

Baldacchino said that the lack of foresight by the environment minister, coupled with the failure of the Environment Resources Authority to take a stand on the matter, were appalling.

The ERA, he claimed, had as yet to take a stand to protect Malta’s bio-diversity.

“It is not enough to justify what happened by saying that the trees are not protected,” he said. “They are not protected because Minister Herrera has failed to put into law the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee that was constituted to consider the situation and which recommended that the protection of trees be reinstituted.”

Baldacchino said he was not sure if the transport ministry had also considered the heavy waters that flowed through the area after every heavy bout of rain.

He said that the trees – and the 1.5m-wide strip they were on – served to slow down the water that inadvertently accumulates in the area from Iklin, Mosta and Lija during heavy rainfall.

“What will happen now that the strip has been removed and the area cleared?” Baldacchino said. “Has anyone thought of that?”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


Siġar indiġeni Maltin -laqgħa

June 2, 2017

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Wara l-interess qawwi li jidher li hawn dwar is-siġar indiġeni Maltin, u l-għatx għall-aktar tagħrif dwarhom u dwar kif dawn jistgħu jitnisslu, ħsibt li ntella’ laqgħa bir-ritratti, fejn dawk li jixtiequ jkunu jafu aktar jistgħu jilħqu dan il-għan.

Kif jidher fil-poster mehmuż, din il-laqgħa sejra ssir nhar il-Ħamis 22 ta’ Ġunju 2017, fis-6.30 ta’ filgħaxija, fis-Sala Antoine de Paule fil-Palazz ta’ Sant’ Anton. Matula naraw xi siġar indiġeni Maltin, u wara waqfa għall-kafe naraw ftit kif nistgħu innisslu wħud minn dawn is-siġar.

Din hija miftuha għal kulħadd, u d-dħul huwa b’xejn.

Niltaqgħu biex insiru nafu aktar dwar is-siġar indiġeni Maltin biex inkunu nistgħu nqajjmu aktar kuxjenza pubblika b’saħħitha ħalli s-siġar indiġeni Maltin jistgħu jerġgħu iħaddru lill-pajjiżna.

Inkun grat jekk minn jixtieq jiġi jibgħatli tagħrif meħtieġ kif jidher fil-poster.

Nixtieq nirringrazzja llil E.T. il-President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca tal-għajnuna kollha.

Niltaqgħu.

 


EU funds endanger Buskett N2K site

May 13, 2017

Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Endangering Buskett 
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Buskett is a Tree Protection Area, with some trees protected for their antiquity, a scheduled woodland, an Area of Ecological Importance, a Site of Scientific Importance, a Site of European Importance, a Special Area of Conservation, a Bird Protection Area, and above all an EU Natura 2000 site.

The remains of an Ash Tree, after being handled by a Landscaper, in the Natura 2000 Buskett.

Yet, to date Buskett has never been professionally managed, especially on the lines of EU obligations. Never. There is absolutely no will, no vision, and no professional commitment. To the extent that a past environment minister was made to believe that Buskett is a garden. There were plans to transform this important ecological habitat into a ‘quality garden’ on the lines eventually implemented at the Mdina Ditch.

One would have thought that this was just a political flash in the pan by a gullible politician who was taken in by those with commercial interests. But to this day, professional environmental responsibilities still have not reached the level of Cabinet’s political acumen.

The only type of management approved by the Authority for the Protection of the Environment is the chopping down of protected trees, such as this one in Buskett – A Natura 2000 site.

As an EU member, Malta had to have management plans implemented for all Natura 2000 sites by six years after accession. This deadline was not met.

Following public consultations, later approved by the government, and boasted about by the incumbent Minister for the Environment, management plans are not yet implemented, and it seems they will never be.

A recent visit to Buskett revealed the complete political failure, lack of professionalism and irresponsibility with regards to the management of this important EU Natura 2000 site.

Clearance of important natural habitat in a Natura 2000 site to restore of a rubble wall.

An extensive area of maquis was recklessly bulldozed and obliterated to enable the restoration of a rubble wall. While the restoration of rubble walls is necessary, and those in hand are being professionally built, this can never justify the massacre of flora and fauna: habitat and species of European importance.

The rich maquis habitat as it was before it was bulldozed with the blessing of the Ministry for the Environment.

I wandered around Buskett and I could see piles of earth and stones dumped on sensitive habitats: habitats important for rare and endangered species, all listed in the data sheets sent to the EU to justify the importance of such a Special Area of Conservation of European Interest.

A butchered Ash Tree where, a couple of weeks before, I was photographing its new seeds.

Piles of stones and earth dumped on sensitive habitat in this EU Natura 2000 site.

It is heartbreaking to see two protected and rare hawthorn trees that were chopped from ground level to make way for machinery, earth and stone dumping. A rare protected ash tree was heavily butchered.

Unfortunately European Union funds are being mismanaged, endangering an important sensitive habitat which according to EU legislation, the Minister for the Environment is obliged to protect on behalf of Malta and the EU.

According to the EU Habitats Directive (article 6.3), an appropriate assessment has to be drawn up for any plan or project not directly connected with, or necessary to the management of a Natura 2000 site, but which is likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects. Such an appropriate assessment is needed to highlight the implications for the site in view of its conservation objective.

The national competent authority for the EU Habitats Directive (the Environment and Resource Authority – ERA) shall eventually endorse the plan or project only after having ascertained that the conclusions of such assessment regarding the implications for the SAC will not adversely affect the integrity of the SAC concerned. ERA is also obliged, if appropriate, to obtain the opinion of the general public.

Two mature protected hawthorn trees in this Natura 2000 site, 2.5 metres high, were raised to the ground seemingly by the approval of the Ministry for the Environment and ERA 

Can the minister publish the appropriate assessment made (naturally if it has been done), which enabled the ERA board to approve such works in this important Natura 2000 site?

If not available, then ERA approved such works blindfolded, which is very irresponsible, or else the ministry is in complete darkness of its responsibility, and its personnel is on a wild unmonitored spree to obliterate a delicate natural habitat just to restore a rubble wall. Ironically, posters at Buskett advertise these works as an EU-funded Life Saving Project.

It seems that following the acquiring of EU funds, the most important thing is to nail a poster acknowledging EU. How these funds are spent, and whether they are in line with the obligations of the EU Environment Acquis, is not important, not even to the Ministry.

Considering the fact that the minister’s Environment and Resource Authority board is made up of the cream of the crop of Maltese academics, such officially approved ecological damage with EU funds is worse than one can image, both from a professional, an administrative and a political point of view.

60 mature olive trees were chopped down by the approval and financing of the University of Malta, following populist demands. So if it can be done on the University campus, why not on public land?

It reminds me of the massacre of 60 established olive trees on the university campus, where no one batted an eye. We now have to suffer this ecological destruction in a Special Area of Conservation of national and European importance. Seems that academic qualifications today at best are of secondary importance when one sits on a political board.

Have we reached a stage where the destruction of the environment and the ecosystem has achieved virtual academic qualifications, approved not only by politicians but also by the top academic institution of this unfortunate country that seems to sit and tacitly approve?

This is a glaring declaration of total failure of the ministry’s obligations with regards to the protection of the environment. It seems that the latest environment ministers, one from either side of the local political hegemony, are competing among themselves as to who is the most committed to the destruction of biodiversity.

It would do no harm to remind, once again, the environmental promise contained in the 2013 electoral manifesto:

“The Environment and Resources Authority… will focus more specifically on the conservation, protection and amelioration of the environment and resources while undertaking also the responsibility of the important role of an environmental regulator, which presently our country does not have.”

A visit to Buskett where this EU Natura 2000 site is being endangered by EU funds, shows not only how an environmental regulator did never exist in the past, but also how the present one is working diametrically opposite to what has been promised and contrary to national and international obligations. Not only is it not functioning, but it is officially involved in such ecological damage.

Have we reached a stage where the destruction of the environment and the ecosystem has achieved virtual academic qualifications?

The minister has gone on record as saying that he has a “sound environmental policy”. Buskett Natura 2000 site, shows the lack of a will to protect biodiversity, as promised, all the result of such a “sound environmental policy”.

 

The result of the ‘sound environmental policy’ with which some are very proud.  Seeing all the above official ecological damage, this is the best diplomacy I could manage. And I am sure there are many others who feel the way I do.

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

see also:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/another-buskett-onslaught/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/buskett-%e2%80%93-a-special-area-of-conservation-in-the-eu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/il-buskett/

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

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/a-cash-cow-in-the-ditch/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/the-garden-at-mdina-ditch-officially-inaugurated/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/qerda-tal-biodiversita-fil-foss-tal-imdina-biex-isir-gnien-ta-kwalita/


Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating

March 2, 2017

univ-of-faith

Thursday, 2nd March, 2017

Universe of Faith talks to Alfred E. Baldacchino, an environmental expert who is highly concerned about the fact that in Malta, we keep repeating the same mistakes detrimental to human health, the environment and the economy.

Fountain grass, Penisetum at Dingli. Photo: Alfred E. Baldacchino

Fountain grass, Penisetum sp. at Dingli. Photo: Alfred E. Baldacchino

“In the 1970s the government introduced Acacias trees which are detrimental to some people suffering from asthma, allergies, sinusitis etc. This alien species was introduced in Malta after a donation to the government of the time. Today, landscapers are doing the same mistakes by introducing alien species in our roundabouts, streets and other urban areas. One such example is the fountain grass, Penisetum, which following its planting in major roads, has now escaped and is growing uncontrolled along streets, in fields and also in valleys, competing with indigenous flora.” He explained that while there are also indigenous plants which can cause allergies these grow in small quantities and not invasively like the alien species.

Alfred believes that landscaping our streets needs to be combined with respect for the local wildlife and ecosystem. “Australia and New Zealand spray each plane that lands to control the introduction of alien insects from being accidentally introduced in their country. They have learned their lesson hard after Europeans introduced foreign species which brought havoc to their indigenous biodiversity. England is spending billions to control the negative impacts of invasive species. What can we learn from them?”

Carob brownies. Carob can be used as an alternative to choclate, it is also used as syryp, powder in both human and animal nutrition

Carob brownies. Carob can be used as an alternative to choclate, it is also used as syryp, powder in both human and animal nutrition

He insists that our approach needs to change and that things can be done more professionally. “We can use many of our indigenous flora, which are so easy to propagate. We have so many beautiful wildflowers. Israel uses indigenous trees, such as the carob, to landscape its streets. We can do the same. Indigenous flora should be propagated locally and not imported for commercial reasons. This would help economically, ecologically and socially. We have to put our priorities right. Environmental landscaping needs to move hand in hand socially and ecologically.”

He also warns about the dangers of importing olive trees which are suffering from a deadly disease causing great economical and ecological damages. “Do we have to go through such negative ecological and economical experience to make us aware of the actions that needed to be taken?” he asks.

Honeywort, Qniepen, Cerinthe Major. Photo: Stephen Mifsud www.maltawildplants.com

Honeywort, Qniepen, Cerinthe major. Photo: Stephen Mifsud http://www.maltawildplants.com

Alfred calls for the appreciation of our indigenous plants, those which have been adorning our country before the arrival of man, as well as implementing clear policies concerning alien invasive species which are destroying our ecosystems.

Pope Francis, in his recent letter On Care for Our Common Home also echoes this thinking when he said that some profits cause “terrible injustices, much greater than the economic benefit to be obtained,”. He also dedicates thirteen paragraphs (24, 32-42, 169, 190) of this letter on the value and protection of biodiversity.

Published: March 2017

Further Reading:
How can I become a “Green Catholic”?


EU to vote on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

February 22, 2017

EU to vote on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2017

The European Commission’s legal act (fourth update) on the draft EDC (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) criteria proposal is to be discussed on the 28th of February by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF), section phytopharmaceuticals.

Human exposure to EDCs occurs via ingestion of food, dust and water, via inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and through the skin. EDCs can also be transferred from the pregnant woman to the developing fetus or child through the placenta and breast milk. Pregnant mothers and children are the most vulnerable populations to be affected by developmental exposures, and the effect of exposures to EDCs may not become evident until later in life. Research also shows that it may increase the susceptibility to non-communicable diseases.

maxresdefaultEndocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that, can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed by hormone disruptors.

The Endocrine Society has issued a press release dated 14th February, 2017, expressing disappointment in the European Commission’s revised proposal on defining and identifying endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), citing unnecessarily narrow criteria for identifying EDCs that will make it nearly impossible for regulatory agencies to meet the unrealistically high burden of proof and protect the public from dangerous chemicals.

The Society opposes this European Commission’s proposal because it includes broad exemptions that ignore the ability of a chemical to interfere with the endocrine system. The Commission has only presented the criteria amendment for discussion. Since the “negligible risk” derogation amendment will have significant impact on how many endocrine disrupting pesticides will be banned, the two proposals should be discussed together.

More than 1,300 studies have found connections between endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure and serious health conditions such as infertility, diabetes, obesity, hormone-related cancers and neurological disorders, according to the Endocrine Society’s 2015 Scientific Statement.

Enforcement of these regulations requires the European Commission to propose criteria to identify EDCs. The latest proposal from the European Commission does not include categories for identifying EDCs.

facebook_edcsFailure to effectively regulate EDCs comes with a high price tag. Recent studies have found that adverse health effects from EDC exposure cost the European Union more than €163 billion each year in healthcare expenses and lost productivity.

It’s in your hands to select a set of criteria that will provide a high level of protection for humans, animals and the environment, from the harmful effects that pesticides can cause.

The next Standing Committee has this proposal on its desk so that Member States can vote on on the 28th of February.

Please make your voice heard and show that you want Malta to vote NO at this meeting (Malta will be represented by MCCAA), and should ask for more improvements in the C omission’s proposal. Please find useful contact details below.

The responsible Ministers are:  

Hon. Christopher Fearne, Minister for Health (responsible for Environmental Healthchris@chrisfearne.com

Hon. Helena Dalli – Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties – (responsible for MCCAA)  helena.dalli@gov.mt

Hon. José Herrera – Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (responsible for Environment and Resources Authorityjose.herrera@gov.mt

The Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) (The statutory Authority to promote, maintain and encourage competition, to safeguard the interests of consumers.info@mccaa.org.mt

 

related readings:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/herr-era-and-glyphosate/


Wied il-Qlejgħa

February 20, 2017

Wied il-Qlejgħa

Alfred E. Baldacchino

mistieden fil-programm Għalina lkol ta’ Sonia Young 

16 ta’ Frar, 2017

isma l-programm billi tagħfas fuq il-vleġġa.

2017-02-12-wied-il-qlejgha

2017-02-12-sigar-tal-luq

Il-luq – siġra indiġena Maltija li tikber matul in-nixxigħat

08-01-08-sigra-tar-rignu

Is-siġra tar-riġnu, siġra oħra invażiva li tikber matul il-Wied. U dejjem tifrex u tiżdied.

2008-01-15-eucalypus

Is-siġra tal-ewkalyptus, siġra Awstraljana li tnixxef kull fejn tikber, tiddomina Wied il-Qlejgħa.

2008-01-15-aliens-sp-acacia

Siġra invażiva oħra Awstraljana li hija r-reġina ta’ Wied il-Qlejgħa

2016,02,12 - in-nixfa tax-xitwa 2016

L-lqugħ ta’ fuq, niexef wara xitwa ming’ajr xita. Juri wkoll in-nuqqas ta’ immaniġġar professjonali li għandu bżonn il-wied.

01-12-2011-wied-i-qlejgha

Wied il-Qlejgħa fis-sbuħija kollha tiegħu meta tagħmel ix-xita. Imma ftit li xejn huwa apprezzat.

2017-02-12-skartGħemejjel il-bniedem, li kif jgħidu huwa fost l-aktar intelliġenti mill-ħlejjaq kollha fuq din l-art.

 

2017-02-12-papri-2

Papri invażivi tal-irziezet mitluqa hemm mill-bniedem.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Glyphosate debate goes on – 2

February 19, 2017

times of malta

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

bumble bee photo

A bumble bee pollinating white mignonette in spring. The EU is mulling on a ban on a chemical found in herbicides knows as glyphosate which is threatening this species (pollinators). Photo Alfred E. Baldacchino

Further related readings:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/glyphosate-debate-goes-on/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/departments-passing-buck-over-pesticide-regulations/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/use-and-overuse-of-pesticides-2/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/il-bexx-kimiku-is-sahha-tal-bniedem-u-tal-ambjent-1/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/il-bexx-kimiku-is-sahha-tal-bniedem-u-tal-ambjent-2/


Herr-ERA and glyphosate

February 17, 2017

times of malta

Friday, February 17, 2017

Herr-ERA and glyphosate

Alfred E. Baldacchino

glyphosate-monographGlyphosate’s main aim is to kill. A Glyphosate monograph published by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) highlights its negative impacts.

Its residues are so widespread in foods, particularly those containing cereals or GM corn or soy-derived products. Detected in drinking water, wine and beer, and even in non-food products derived from GM cotton, it was also found in human urine in Europe (and Malta), and in the USA, where it was also found in breast milk.

Acute symptoms include abdominal pain, gastrointestinal infections, itchy or burning skin, skin infections, blisters, burning or weeping eyes, blurred vision, conjunctivitis, headaches, fever, rapid heartbeat, palpitations, raised blood pressure, dizziness, chest pains, numbness, insomnia, depression, debilitation, difficulty in breathing, respiratory infections, dry cough, sore throat, and unpleasant taste in the mouth. Doctors in Argentina reported vomiting, diarrhoea, respiratory problems and skin rashes in association with aerial spraying of glyphosate.

glyphosate-health-impactsOther effects include balance disorder, reduced cognitive capacity, seizures, impaired vision, smell, hearing and taste, drop in blood pressure, twitches and tics, muscle paralysis, peripheral neuropathy, loss of gross and fine motor skills, excessive sweating, and severe fatigue.

Exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides, even at very low doses, may result in reproductive problems including miscarriages, pre-term deliveries, low birth weights, and birth defects.

Other adverse effects are in sexual and other cell differentiation, bone metabolism, liver metabolism, reproduction, development and behaviour, and hormone-dependent diseases such as breast and prostate cancer (Gasnier et al. 2009).

monsanto-eat-with-mask-on1Laboratory studies show that very low levels of glyphosate, Roundup, POEA, and the metabolite AMPA all kill human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells. Roundup can kill testicular cells, reduce sperm numbers, increase abnormal sperm, and retard skeletal development.

Kidney and liver are the main target organs for glyphosate, as reported from laboratory studies, including cell damage and death, DNA damage and tumours. It is regarded as a Highly Hazardous Pesticide as defined by PAN (PAN International 2016b) and by FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Management as implemented by FAO in Mozambique (Come et al. 2013).

Emerging evidence shows that glyphosate can affect brain areas associated with Parkinson’s disease. Its exposure is also related with parkinsonian, Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism.

The placing on the market of glyphosate is the role of the minister responsible for the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority

Several studies indicate that glyphosate formulations may interfere with the immune system resulting in adverse respiratory effects including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune skin and mucous membrane effects.

Glyphosate has direct and indirect eco-toxicological effects especially the bexx-f'mater-deiunprecedented elimination of flora termed weeds, which are essential to most beneficial species. Direct and indirect effects have cascading impacts on the food chain and on biodiversity.

Earthworms and a number of beneficial insects useful in biological control, particularly predatory mites, carabid beetles, ladybirds, and green lacewings all dead bee 13are negatively effected by lady-birdglyphosate. At levels commonly found in agricultural settings, it impairs honeybees’ cognitive capacities affecting their navigation with potential long-term negative consequences for colony foraging success.

Its subtle effects cause disruption of the ecosystem that are of greatest concern, particularly effects on the agroecosystem.

lacewingThe Minister for the Environment was quoted (January 2017) saying that “the government would continue to oppose glyphosate in EU discussions, but could not implement a unilateral ban due to European single market rules.” Malta’s voting on related matters at EU discussions are all abstentions.

An EU Commission Fact sheet on glyphosate, dated 29 June 2016, says the authorisation of placing pesticides on the market is the role of the Member States. “Once an active substance has been approved or renewed at EU level, the safety evaluation of every pesticides formulation is done at a later stage by individual Members States before they grant, refuse or restrict its use at national level.”

The placing on the market of glyphosate is role of the minister responsible for the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) – the regulator. The environmental health impacts of glyphosate is the responsibility of the Minister for Health.

Herrera is only the operator. His main responsibility is the protection of biodiversity, as explained above. Herrera’s ERA should be in the front line on preventing glyphosate impacts on biodiversity to prevent biodiversity loss. ERA is also the Competent Authority for the EU Water Framework Directive, thus responsible for the vulnerable areas of Malta’s groundwater.

herr-era-cartoon

ERA should advice the Minster on Malta’s international responsibilities. It is not right that Herrera is left alone without any help from other authorities involved. Unless of course he has direction to walk it alone.

Malta Taghna lkoll is also clear on this. “The Environment and Resource Authority will be more proactive and strategic and will focus in a more specific way, on the conservation, protection and the amelioration of the environment and resources…” (p. 94);

“We will strengthen the monitoring of the market to see that products which will be on the market will not be of any health detriment, especially for children.” (p. 133); malta-taghna-lkolland

“We believe that Malta should be in the front line on environmental standards. Not because of obligation of any EU Directive, but because this is what our children deserve” (p 92).

Unless of course Herr-ERA and co believe that these are now past their best by date.

What a high price we are paying for such ‘cheap food’.

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

further reading:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/glyphosate-il-prezz-gholi-li-qed-inhallsu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/glyphosate-you-with-addenda/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/glyphosate/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/sena-dizastru-ghan-nahal/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/glyphosate-debate-goes-on/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/il-bexx-kimiku-is-sahha-tal-bniedem-u-tal-ambjent-1/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/il-bexx-kimiku-is-sahha-tal-bniedem-u-tal-ambjent-2/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/bees-alert-its-goodbye-honey/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/use-and-overuse-of-pesticides-2/

 


Jappella biex Chadwick lakes jigi mmaniġġat aħjar

February 12, 2017

tvm-logo

Il-Ħadd, 12 ta’ Frar, 2017

http://www.tvm.com.mt/mt/news/jappella-biex-chadwick-lakes-jigi-mmaniggjat-ahjar/

 

Intervista ma’ Melvic Zammit dwar il-bżonn li Wied il-Qlejgħa jkun immaniġġat u mħares aħjar.

2017-02-12-wied-il-qlejgha

Is-seher tal-ilma: fejn hemm l-ilma hemm il-ħajja; fejn ma hemmx ilma ma hemmx ħajja.

2017-02-12-sigar-tal-luq

Siġar ħorfija tal-luq reqdin għax-xitwa jistennew it-tmellisa tar-rebbiegħa biex tlibbishom bil-weraq.


Susa perikoluża għatba ‘l bogħod minn Malta

February 9, 2017

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Il-Ġimgħa, 9 ta’ Frar, 2017

Ħabib tiegħi poġġa l-ħolqa fuq il-facebook ta’ artiklu li deher fuq in-Newsbook dwar susa perikoluża, għatba ‘l bogħod minn Malta, li qed teqred is-siġar tal-ħarrub,

Skont Newsbook, id-Direttorat għas-Saħħa tal-Pjanti qal fi stqarrija li s-susa bl-isem xjentifiku ta’ Xylosandrus compactus ġiet innutata f’Ragusa Sqallija fir-rebbiegħa tas-sena l-oħra, fejn qerdet ħafna friegħi mis-siġra tal-ħarruba.

Filwaqt li l-awtoritajiet Taljani nedew miżuri sabiex dan l-insett jiġi kkontrollat, dan infirex matul is-sajf u l-ħarifa.

Id-Direttorat bħalissa jinsab għaddej b’kollaborazzjoni mal-Università sabiex jiġbor aktar dettalji u jkun armat jekk din il-ħanfusa titfaċċa Malta. Sa issa għadhom ma ġewx rappurtati każi ta’ dan l-insett f’Malta.

Il-kobor ta’ dan l-insett ivarja bejn il-1.4mm u l-1.9mm, u għandu forma kemxejn tonda u ċilindrika, u huwa ta’ lewn kannelli jew sewdieni.

Il-vittmi ta’ dan l-insett bosta drabi huma siġar u arbuxelli li jkunu diġa ddgħajfu minn qabel, iżda ġew rappurtati każi ta’ siġar friski li nqerdu mis-susa.

Id-Direttorat irrimarka li din hija waħda mill-ftit susi li jinfestaw u jeqirdu pjanti b’saħħithom, u tappartjeni għal familja ta’ susa li hi differenti mill-familji l-oħra minħabba l-mod kif tħaffer fiz-zokk.

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Christian Borg fuq il-facebook kiteb hekk:

“Id-Direttorat bħalissa jinsab għaddej b’kollaborazzjoni mal-Università sabiex jiġbor aktar dettalji u jkun armat jekk din il-ħanfusa titfaċċa Malta. Sa issa għadhom ma ġewx rappurtati każi ta’ dan l-insett f’Malta.”

Tajjeb li jsiru studji, imma f’dak l-istadju ma jidrilniex li jkun daqxejn tard wisq?? Espert zgur li minix, imma cert li jistghu jittiehdu iktar mizuri biex nevitaw milli jidhol dan l-insett.

X’tahseb Alfred E. Baldacchino?!

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Nirringrazzja lil Christian Borg li ġibidli l-attenzjoni u staqsini x’naħseb.

Xi tridni naħseb Christian? In-nies ta’ dan il-pajjiż jidhru determinati li jagħmluh deżert mingħajr ebda siġra. Naraw l-importazzjoni ta’ speċi invażivi bl-addoċċ u mingħajr kontrol, xi kultant ukoll imħallsa minn flus pubbliċi; nfiq ta’ €57 miljun minn flus pubbliċi u tal-EU wkoll biex l-ilma tax-xita narmuh il-baħar, waqt li dak tal-pjan jitella’ kif ġie ġie, bla kontrol ta’ xejn. Meta ħadd ma għandu l-ebda ħjiel, jew xi xewqa li jkun jaf bid-diżastru li qed inġubu fuqna, anzi nonfqu l-flus biex inġubuh b’idejna, x’tistenna?

Mill-esperjenza li għandi ta’ dan il-pajjiż, issa nistennew u nitolbu biex din is-susa ma ssibx ruħha hawn Malta. U meta tidħol imbagħad ngħidu li daħlet u nibku ftit ukoll u ngħidu ara x’ġaralna! Imbagħad inwaqqfu l-importazzjoni ta’ dawk is-siġar li din is-susa tista’ tiġi magħhom. Jew inkella nivvintaw xi bexx biex inbigħuh lil dawk li għandhom xi siġra tal-ħarrub biex inkomplu ngħinu lil dawk li l-għan tagħhom huwa li jagħmlu l-qliegħ mill-injuranza ta’ dawk li jmexxu.

Din il-ħanfusa hija indiġena għall-pajjiżi mill-orient, u nfirxet permezz tal-kummerċ. Hija tattakka madwar 200 speċi ta’ pjanta.
U jekk tgħidli li qed nesaġera, infakkret f’meta daħal il-Bumunqar Aħmar tal-Palm – ir-red palm weevil. Minkejja li kien hemm pariri biex ma jiġux importati siġar tal-palm minħabba dan il-bumunqar, xorta ġew importati. U minn fejn? Minn dawk il-pajjiżi fejn dan kien qed jagħmel ħerba bla rażan. Sallum inqerdu ‘l fuq minn 5000 siġra tal-palm.
U hekk naħseb li sejjer jiġri minn dan il-susa sewda tal-friegħi (black twig borer).
Ir-responsabbiltà biex jittieħdu passi hija tal-ERA – l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u tar-Riżorsi). Din għanda l-għodda legali kollha biex twaqqaf id-dħul ta’ din il-ħanfusa. U magħha hemm ukoll is-Segretarjat tal-Agrikultura. Dawn it-tnejn qegħdin fil-Ministeru tal-Ambjent.
Issemma wkoll li “Id-Direttorat bħalissa jinsab għaddej b’kollaborazzjoni mal-Università sabiex jiġbor aktar dettalji u jkun armat jekk din il-ħanfusa titfaċċa Malta. Sa issa għadhom ma ġewx rappurtati każi ta’ dan l-insett f’Malta.”
Dan jgħati ‘l wieħed x’jifhem li d-Direttorat diġa qata’ qalbu li jwaqqaf id-dħul ta’ din il-ħanfusa f’pajjiżna, u qed jagħmel studju biex jikkontrollaha meta tidħol. Imma ma hemm l-ebda viżjoni, ħeġġa jew determinazzjoni biex din il-ħanfusa ma titħallhiex tidħol. L-istess kif ġara meta daħal il-Bumunqar Aħmar tal-Palm.
U ngħid jien, meta l-Università ħallset biex 60 siġra taż-żebbuġ inħasdu metru ‘l fuq mill-art, għax kif intqal kienu qed iwaqqgħu ftit weraq fuq il-karozzi, u qisu ma ġara xejn, taħseb li l-Università ta’ Malta, għandha xi viżjoni, ħeġġa jew interess fil-ħarsien tas-siġar u kif sejra titwaqqaf din is-susa sewda tal-friegħi milli tidħol hawn Malta?
Kull ma nista’ nagħmel jien, Christian, huwa li nitlob ‘l Alla biex jgħinna ftit ħalli nużaw imqar niskata intelliġenza minn dak li tagħna, forsi nbexxqu ftit għajnejna mill-għamad tal-kilba tal-flus li qed jaħkimna, jagħmina u li sejjer jeqridna.
aebaldacchino@gmail.com
ara wkoll:

Environmentalists and the PN’s green agenda

January 29, 2017

A page from the PN’s environment document ‘A Better Quality of Life’

A page from the PN’s environment document ‘A Better Quality of Life’

A page from the PN’s environment document ‘A Better Quality of Life’

The Nationalist Party’s new environment policy is “thorough and promising”, stakeholders believe, however clear environmental timelines would help the electorate trust it to deliver where successive governments have failed.

PN leader Simon Busuttil last week launched a list of environmental proposals, hedging his bets on a green agenda, along with good governance, to try and upstage the Labour Party at the next election.

2017-01-29-pn-environment-documentThe document, ‘A Better Quality of Life’, puts forward 16 key focus areas and 171 green proposals, mapping out a plan as far forward as 2050. Among the ideas to come out of the document are a new skyline policy, the exclusion of land-reclamation for speculative purposes and an increased emphasis on solar rights.

Perhaps the most talked about suggestion, a promise to enshrine environmental protection in the Constitution, has been hailed by the experts contacted by this newspaper as a sign of “real action”.

If the same people who brought about the 2006 expansion in building zones make up a future PN government, then I most certainly do not trust it

Veteran conservationist Alfred Baldacchino said this commitment could finally see parties take a stand against long-time abuse.

“The commitment to include the protection of the environment in the Constitution contributes to making hot potatoes easier to handle,” he said.

Marlene Farrugia, the former chair of Parliament’s Environment Committee, felt, however, that “quite a few sizzling potatoes were spared a mention!” She did not elaborate.

Environmental lobbyist and The Sunday Times of Malta columnist Claire Bonello also praised the constitutional move. She hopes it could mean that the environment will no longer be wiped off the statute books by MPs at the swipe of a pen.

But can the PN be trusted to deliver when it comes to the environment? Many remember the position taken by previous Nationalist administrations not so long ago.

In 2006, much to the dismay of environmental groups, the PN government revised the development boundaries in all localities. The result? An area roughly the size of Siġġiewi was turned into developable land.

During the same period, the government facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the conditions and increasing height limitations in localities such as Swieqi and Marsascala, intensifying development in already built-up areas.

Sociologist and former Alternattiva Demokratika leader Michael Briguglio said the PN would have to provide clearer pledges in the run-up to the next election.

“The PN document already proposes clear commitments on issues such as major ODZ development [the PN has pledged to renegotiate a controversial deal granting virgin land at Żonqor Point to a private developer]. In other areas, such as water management, the PN can offer clearer commitments,” he said.

Dr Bonello shared Dr Briguglio’s sentiment. The PN, she said, had to find a way to convince the electorate that it would “walk the walk when in power”.

“How can it do so? The one thing that springs to mind is by declaring set dates for the implantation of certain measures and by demoting whoever had a hand in the country’s sad environmental state to the dark, dank cellar under Stamperija [the party headquarters]. We all know who I’m referring to,” she said.

How would you judge the PN’s environment document?

Alfred Baldacchino, conservationist: This document is comprehensive. It provides a proper definition of the word ‘environment’, binding the biological and the physical, making it as comprehensive as possible. The commitments allow stakeholders to be involved in decision making, so decisions in the national interest will not be decisions against the environment.

Michael Briguglio, former Alternattiva Demokratika (Green Party) leader: It is evident the PN embarked on a wide-ranging consultation exercise coordinated by experts in the field. The result is a text which proposes a better policy framework than that put in place by the current Labour government.

Claire Bonello, green lobbyist: The document looks thorough and promising. I especially like the proposal to entrench environmental protection rights in the Constitution. The commitment to revise SPED is commendable. In its current format, it’s a ridiculous non-policy which is as stretchy as knicker elastic.

Marlene Farrugia, former chair of Parliament’s Environment Committee: It is an excellent working document which implies that the PN have learnt from their mistakes and the mistakes of the PL. Simon Busuttil is leading his damaged party into cleaner, favourable territory where the environment is concerned.

Can the PN be trusted to deliver on its green agenda?

AB: I cannot imagine any political party riding roughshod over the environment anymore.

MB: The commitments the PN is making are clearer than those coming from the current administration, but some could still be made clearer. It should provide clearer pledges in the run-up to the election.

CB: It has to convince the electorate it will walk the walk. It should set dates for the implementation of certain measures.

MF: I do not know what a future PN government will be made of, therefore I cannot gauge whether it will keep its promises on the environment or not. If the same people who brought about the 2006 expansion in building zones make up a future PN government, then I most certainly do not trust it, in spite of Simon Busuttil’s honest intentions. If, on the other hand, there is a coalition government made up of a significant number of tried-and-tested environmentalists, then yes, what is left of our environment will be safe.