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.

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.

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.

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


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?


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.

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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.


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”.


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