Question time

October 22, 2016

times of malta

Saturday, 22nd October, 1946

cleaner-and-greener-header

Alfred E Baldacchino

Afforestation is beneficial to society, to the ecosystem and also economically if this is undertaken in a professional way. The economic, ecological, and social benefits are priceless. It contributes to better health conditions, reduces stress, contributes to storage of water, and reduces erosion. In some countries afforestation is included in their gross national product.

buskett-h-004-16-05-14

What everybody is wishing, and hoping and waiting for, but…

Afforestation contributes to the control of carbon dioxide in the atmospheres and gives back the indispensable life bearing oxygen, thus also addressing Climate Change which is having such a tremendous social, economic and ecological negative impacts on life on this planet.

But to be able to plan with determination and achieve such noble aims these benefits have got to be appreciated and understood.

The fact that a report on afforestation has remained on the shelf for two long years clearly shows that there is no political will, no political desire or determination, no political appreciation, no political understanding, no political awareness of the responsibility in taking any action towards the achievement of such benefits.

Not only so but the decimation of trees and the planting of exotics and invasive species going on unchecked, with political blessings also leads one to conclude that there is an official hate for indigenous trees in Malta.

No public consultation has been held on such a report. The only thing that has been done is the usual ‘animated cartoons’ showing where such afforestation projects can take place.

Furthermore, the much promised tree protection regulations, which go hand in hand with such afforestation projects, and which have been drafted three years ago under the previous Minister Leo Brincat, are still ‘being studied’ after being initially shot down by some technocrats. The new Minister during the House of Representatives Permanent Committee on Environment and Development Planning, some months ago promised that they will soon be out for public consultation.

What is holding the implementation of such an afforestation report and the accompanying regulations for the protection of trees and afforestation?

Without doubt the highest hurdle towards achieving such benefits in the national interest is the lack of political will. This is further extended to the many political advisers who are not au courant on related national and international obligations, if they are even aware of the government’s electoral manifesto.

From past experience, one can see how MEPA handled such biodiversity obligations, before it shed its “Malta and Environment” responsibilities and changed its clothing to a PA. One can also see the decisions being hurriedly taken by this PA, blindfoldedly approving developmental permits without any concerns for anyone or anything, except developers.

It also seems that ERA, after three years in limbo, has been so blinded by the light of day that it cannot even find its own two feet and seems to be still under the beck and call of its past bedfellow. Could the implementation of such an afforestation report be seen as a stumbling block to the PA?

Sometimes I honestly hope that such an afforestation report is kept on the shelf and postponed sine die by the Minister for the Environment.  I believe that if it were to be implement with the political expertise he is dependent on, it would be another brick in the wall towards the further massacre of the environment, both with regards to the choice of species, and also with the now institutionalised pro-business vision, leading to the importation of indigenous trees used for such project because of pressure from ‘landscapers’. All contrary to international obligations such as the EU Environment Acquis, the Berne Convention, its recommendations and decisions, and also the Biodiversity Convention.

sleeping-dog-cartoon

… unfortunately

Where there is a will there is a way. Naturally where there is NO will there is NO way, afforestation or not. So the best step forward is to let sleeping dogs lie.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

For the views of the Dr Josè Herrera, Minister for sustainable development, the Environment and Climate Change see the following link:

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161022/opinion/Cleaner-and-greener.628708#.WAtVEVbhyoc.email

See also the following articles on my blog:

Another buskett onslaught

Trees butchered at university

Yet another toothless dog

Trees and invasive species

There is no respite for trees

The national wonders of tree pruning in Malta

Alien invasive species animation film

 

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Climate change and the Pope

December 7, 2015

times of malta

Monday, 7th December 2015

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE POPE

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Following the terrorism against humanity, Paris is now hosting the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The main objective is to get a legally binding universal agreement for all nations, on climate: a measure in the name of humanity.

logo-cop21-webAfter past failures and procrastinations, world leaders will be trying to agree on a new model of growth that is safe, durable and beneficial to all. This is not only possible, but now necessary and urgent. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and president-designate of COP21, Mr Laurent Fabius, said that the whole planet is expecting such a global agreement; the citizens of the world know that later will be too late.

Climate change is so devastating that even Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ dwelt on this matter. Prof Schellnhuber expanded on climate change during the launch of Laudato Si’. Prof Schellnhuber is the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, a German government-funded research institute addressing crucial scientific question in the field of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development.

Prof. Schellnhuber spoke on the urgency of taking immediate actions on the solid scientific evidence of global warming driven by greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Failure to strongly reduce such emissions will expose the present world populations and their future generations to intolerable risks. He added that the Encyclical Laudato Si’ mirrors these scientific findings, endorsed by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Pope-francis-deified-market

Laudato Si’ looks at the large scale production of fossil fuel energy towards human development, but benefitting a minority. Such a resource is privately owned by large corporations or controlled by governments. Access largely depends on the financial resources of the individuals, generating extreme wealth as compared to the poor and the poorest of the poor. This is seen to be a violence of development which predetermines the lives of the latter thus leading to disparities  and to wasteful over-usage of resources, to the extent of exploitation of the carbon history of humankind.

This development by the few affects everyone, with the greatest consequences borne by the poor, as compared to the consumption by the rich who are contributing to the deeply wounding of the planet. And the devastation of this is borne by the weakest in society.  This is why Laudato Si’ emphasises that it is indispensable to confront climate change and poverty simultaneously. Not only so, but climate impacts will disproportionately affect many of the developing countries.

Development as it is being carried out is like walking the plank. Not only will it not bring prosperity for all, but it will bring disaster for most of humanity. Science teaches us that climate is a fragile and delicate web of interwoven components. It embraces the atmosphere, the oceans, the frozen water part of the Earth system, the soils and the ecosystems. These interact through complex physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Just the pull or breaking of one single thread of this web can possibly lead to permanent damage of the whole web.

   Development as it is being carried out

is like walking the plank.

Such a delicate natural web started to be tampered with at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, by a small ‘privileged group’.  This has led to the present crisis of climate change.

A pro-business vision, bereft of any social and ecological considerations, has already led to expansion of sea water as it warms, and also through the melting glaciers and ice caps, leading to sea-level rise. These can lead to about 1.2 meters of sea-level rise, all due to human interference through short-sited egoistic development.

Excess of carbon dioxide emissions, which is contributing to climate change can cause sudden, irreversible and large-scale disruption in the natural web interwoven by physical and ecological systems. Business as usual will lead greenhouse gas emission to an increase in temperature by 4°C.

Prof. Schellnhuber  while addressing the congregation on the launching of the encyclical Laudato Si’ compared climate change to a human being having a body temperature of 37°C. A 2°C rise in temperature will lead to fever. A 5°C rise will result in a dead body through heat and the collapse of vital organs of the body. Our planet is the body which embraces humanity.

Pope-Francis-golden-calf

What will be the outcome of the Paris Summit? Will the pro-business vision rule the day? Will there be dragging of feet by those who put unlimited development before the survival of humanity? Will business acumen look at such a global problem through a Volkswagen approach? Will the past sceptics and opponents of such measures join the chorus for a binding agreement? Will man endorse the fact that he is his worst enemy?

Pope Francis emphasises that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all”. Prof. Schellnhuber adds that now is the time to form alliances, find common ground and act together as humankind – but also to take on individual responsibility and change what is in our power to change.” Our planet does not need anybody to save it. It can take care of itself. It is humanity which needs to save itself.

Sir David Attenborough sums it all up when he said that “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist.”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

See also:

Il-Knisja Ortodossa u l-Enċiklika Laudato Si’.

tifhir-lilek-mulej/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/il-knisja-ortodossa-u-l-enciklika-laudato-si/


U l-qerda tas-siġar tkompli bl-istess ritmu

October 23, 2013

U l-qerda tas-siġar tkompli bl-istess ritmu

Alfred E. Baldacchino

L-Erbgħa 24 ta’ Ottubru, 2013.

Wara kampanja twila kontra l-­qerda tas-­siġar f’pajjiżna, wieħed kien jistenna’ li bil-­bidla fil-­gvern kien ikun hemm xi ħjiel ta’ xi miżuri biex dan jibda’ jsir b’mod regolat u bi professjonalità. Imma b’dispjaċir wieħed jinnota li l­qerda, iż­-żbir bla rażan, in-­nuqqas ta’ apprezzament, id-­dilettantiżmu, in­-nuqqas ta’ rieda u interess, u l­isparpaljar ta’ fondi pubbliċi għadu għaddej bl-­istess ritmu li kien għaddej qabel l­-elezzjoni, minkejja xi wegħdiet.

Dan kollu sforz il­-fragmentazzjoni li hemm bħalissa f’dawn ir-­responsabbiltjiet li kulħad qe ifarfr u jgħid li mhux tiegħu.

Mela għandna l-­Ministru tat­-Transport u l-­Infrastruttura li huwa responsabbli mill-­landscaping. Is­-Segretarju Parlamentari fil­-Ministeru tal-­Prim Ministru responsabbli mill-­MEPA li hija l-­Awtorità Kompetenti għall­-Ħarsien tas-­siġar; u l­-Ministru tal-­Kunsilli Lokali li huwa responsabbli mill-­Kunsilli Lokali. Hemm ukoll il-­Ministru tal­-Ambjent li bnir-raġun ma għandu l­-ebda responsabbiltà fejn jidhlu s-­siġar minħabba din il-­fragmentazzjoni ta’ responsabbiltajiet.

Is-sura ta' dwn is-Siġar turi l-mentalita mikina u l-kultura kontemporanja taż dan il-pajjż

Is-sura ta’ dawn is-Siġar turi l-mentalita miskina u egoistika, l-kultura kontemporanja ta’ dan il-pajjż

Is-­sit eletroniku Rabti People who like or live in Rabat Malta poġġa ritratt ta’ dan il-massakru fuq is-­sit eletroniku permess ta’ Chris Farrugia fl-­interess tar­Rabat, tar-­Rabtin, u anki tal-­biodiversità Maltija, hekk kif beda dan il­-massakru fuq is­-siġar tas­-Saqqajja r-­Rabat. Skont kummenti fuq dan is-­sit ix-­xogħol ġie mqabbad mill­-Kunsill Lokali tar­Rabat u ma għandniex xi ngħidu sejjer jitħallas minn flus il­-poplu. In-­numru ta’ kummenti fuq dan is­-sit kienu mijiet, u l­-karba tal-­poplu Rabti għal din il­-qerda hija kbira. Wieħed jistenna’ biex jara kemm sejjer jismagħha l­-Gvern.

Qiegħed inpoġġi l-­kummenti li għamilt jien kemm fuq dan is­-sit kif ukoll fuq siti oħra li siltu xi ­kummenti minnu u tefgħuhom fuq siti tagħhom. Qiegħed ukoll inżid l­-indirizz eletroniku fejn dehru u xi ritatti biex wieħed jekk irid ikun jista’ jara l-­istampa kollha u l-­kummneti tagħna r-Rabtin, ma’ oħrajn li jaqblu magħna, saħansitra anki barra xtutna.

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­– 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

SIĠAR IMMASAKRATI 2013 – Is-Saqajja — 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

Christopoher Farrugia with Astrid Vella and 3 others– The latest attack on trees took place two days ago at Saqqajja, Rabat, reducing the former row of majestic trees to ugly, bare and leggy branches topped by a few leaves! Now MEPA is defending this Rabat Local Council action, saying that the trees can be ‘pruned’ savagely as they are not over 50 years old, when in fact elderly Rabat residents remember them already grown 75 years ago!

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ – 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

Alfred E. Baldacchino – Chris, prosit talli bdejt din it-thread fuq ir-Rabat u minn veru jħobbu speċjalment fuq dawn il-ħniżriet ta’ żbir li llum mhux ir-residenti tar-Rabat biss, imma l-Maltin u l-Għawdxin kollha qed jilmentaw minn dan in-nuqqas ta’ professjonalità. Il-Kunsill Lokali tar-Rabat imissu jistħi meta hawn din il-kritika kollha u jibqa’ għaddej qisu qed jgħix fiq xi pjanetà oħra. Imma l-Kunsilli Lokali li huma fformati mir-rapreżentanti tal-partiti politiċi, suppost għandhom il-barka kemm tal-Ministeri mill-Kunsilli Lokali kif ukoll mill-Ministeru responsabbli għall-MEPA biex setgħu jagħmlu dawn l-oxxenitajiet.

saqqajja trees3

Kif kienu jinżabru mill-ħġaddiema tal-Gvern is-siġar tas-Saqqajja fl-imgħoddi meta la kellhom cherry pickers u lanqas srieraq mekkaniċi. Dawn huma l-istess siġar li jidhru fir-ritratt ta’hawn fuq. wara li nżabru il-ġimgħa li għaddiet.

Nixtieq inkun naf min qed jgħati dawn il-pariri professjonali lill-Kunsill Rabti. Kif taf int Chris jiena llum għandi 67 sena. Niftakar meta kont għadni mbuttat fil-pushchair biex inmorru l-ġnien kont narahom hemm. U dan kellhom aktar minn 10 snin fil-wisa’. Forsi l-MEPA għadhom ma jafux jgħoddu… is- siġar. Imma il-MEPA la qatt kellhom u lanqas għandhom interess li jħarsu s-sigar u l-pjanti oħra indiġeni Maltin. Jekk tħares kif amendatw ir-regolamenti tal-Ħarisen tas-Siġar tal-2001 u kif dawn il-MEPA biddlithom fl-2012 biżżejjed biex wieħed jara kemnm il-MEPA hija interessata. Illum il-MEPA kważi kważi saret aġenżija tal-iżviluppaturi. Nixtieq inkun naf b’dan it-tqaċċit tas-siġar kollha għal kemm il-siġra il-MEPA oġġezzjonat. Bil-politika tal-MEPA, minkejja kemm bil-pjanijiet tal-gvern ta’ qabel (imfasswlin mill-MEPA stess) kemm b’dawk tal-gvern ta’ issa tidher li tiġi taqa’ u tqum. Ħares ftit lejn il-permess li tgħat fix-xogħol tal-foss tal-Imdina fejn inqerdu tant siġar biex il-foss inkesa bit-turf u ġabet is-swar tal-Imdina qishom Windsor Castle. Naturalment xi ħadd qala balla flus. Dan jidher aktar importanti minn xi 300 siġra (waħda minnhom żebbuġa li kellha viċin il-100 sena u li nqalgħet bil-barka tal-MEPA) kollha inqerdu.

Kien hemm suġġeriment aktar ‘l fuq biex fir-Rabat jitwaqqaf grupp jew kumitat dwar il-ħarsein tas-siġar u l-ambjent naturali Rabti. Jekk timxi din l-idea għidluli għax inkun minn ta’ quddiem bħala Rabti li noffri l-ħin biex inkun fuqu. Ma niflax nara aktar oxxenitajiet minn nies li jieħdu deċiżijoniet u ma jagħrfux siġra minn arblu tad-dawl. U mbgħad iwaħħlu f’ħadd ieħor. Ikun interessanti wkoll li l-politikant responsabbli mill-Kunsilli Lokali u dak mill-MEPA jgħidu kif jaħsbuha.

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ – 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

Kif ġabuhom is-siġar illum.  Imma kif dan il-pajjiż tilef kull sengħa, kull pġrofessjonalità, kull rispett, u tilef ruħhu għall-flus.

Kif ġabuhom is-siġar illum. Imma kif dan il-pajjiż tilef kull sengħa, kull professjonalità, kull rispett, u tilef  anki ruħhu għall-flus.

Alfred E. Baldacchino – Allura biex inkun naf x’gara irrid immur il-Kunsill tar-Rabat? Irrid nifhem li l-Kunsill kellu jdejh marbutin biex iwqqaf dawn l-oxxenitajiet? Sa fajn naf jien il-membri tal-Kunsill qegħdin hemm biex jaraw u jirrapreżentaw in-nies tar-Rabat. Ma naħsebx li dan il-pajjiż huwa xi wieħed minn dawk ta’ wara dik li darba kienet il-purtiera tal-ħadid. Jekk il-Kunsill għandu spjegazzjoni jgħidlna. Jekk qed jipproteġi lil xi hadd, jiddispjaċini ngħid li r-responsabbiltà hija xorta waħda tiegħu u tal-Ministeru lli jaqa’ taħtu. Imma ma rridx neħodha kontra l-Kunsill tar-Rabat. Jekk dan jitkellem u jafda man-nies Rabtin li tellgħuh, imexxi aħjar u mingħajr wisq problemi, speċjalment jekk ikollu xi pressjoni minn nies mhux mir-Rabat. Xi ħadd qal li dawn is-sigar hemm bżonn jinbidlu! Ma nagħmlux mod li hemm xi ħadd qed ifesfes f’widnejn xi ħadd biex dawn jinbidlu u minflokom jitħawlu siġar mill-Afrika t’isfel, mill-Amerika t’isfel u minn kull parti oħra tad-dinja, bħal dawk li ħawlu fil-Kottonera u kullimkien. Tgħid għalhekk din is-segretezza kollha? Hemm minn bi ħsiebu jaqla xi skoss flus minn fuq dahar il-poplu bil-bejgħ tas-sigar barranin?

Xi ħadd ieħor qal li lanqas tista’ tpoġġi fuq bank minħabba l-għasafar. Kumment fqir u tat-tfal. Mur daqsxejn sa’ Ħad Dingli (mhux ‘l bogħod) u ara kif il-Kunsill ta’ Ħad Dingli solva din il-problema bla wisq spejjes u bla wisq teatrin. Naħseb li n-nies tar-Rabat huma intelliġenti biżżejjed jekk iridu. Imma minn ċerti kummenti li qed jidhru qed nistenna għar.

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

Il-Bankijiet f'Ħad-Dingli

Il-Bankijiet f’Ħad-Dingli

Alfred E. Baldacchino – Bankijiet f’Ħad Dingli li jippermetti lilll-għasafar ikollhom kuxjenza safja kif ukoll lil minn ipoġġi fuq il-bankijiet biex ipoġġu b’rashom serħana. U ma nqatat l-ebda siġra u kellu jħallas għaliha l-kunsill kif sejjr jagħmel dak tar-Rabat.

iNEWS

Massakru minn sigar fis-Saqqajja

http://www.inewsmalta.com/dart/20131021-massakru-minn-sigar-fis-saqqajja

Alfred E., Baldacchino  – Hija ħaġa tal-­mistħija li sena wara sena, wieħed jara dan id-­dilettantiżmu u qerda ta’ siġar u ħadd ma jieħu responsabbiltà. Dan minkejja l-­kritika kontinwa taċ-­ċittadini li minn flushom qed iħallsu għal dan ix­-xogħol u qerda.

Dawn is­-siġar għandhom ’l fuq minn 70 sena minkejja dak li qalet il-­MEPA. Jiena Rabti u llum għandi 67. Dejjem hemm nafhom. Imma l­-MEPA…

Sfortuntament il-­MEPA la għandha u lanqas qatt kellha interess li tħares is-­­siġar, minkejja l­-obbligi legali u morali li għandha. U dan jispjega għaliex ir­­regolamenti tal-2001 ġew mibdula mill­­-MEPA fl’2012. Possibbli li lanqas is­­-Segretarju Parlamentari responsbbli mill-­MEPA ma jista’ jagħmel xejn fuq hekk?

Xi Kunsilli Lokali ukoll qishom lanqas qegħdin hemm. Fir­-Rabat is-sena l-­oħra ġara l-­istess u milli jidher ma tgħallem xejn. U dan minkejja li qed iħallas il­-poplu għal dan ix-­xogħol xejn professjonali approvat u mqabbad mill­-Kunsill Lokali. Possibbli li s-­Segretarju Parlamentari responsabbli mill-­Kunsilli Lokali dan kollu ma jinteressahx?

Dan il­-qerda u xogħol bla sens u bl-­ebda professjonalità kienet bla kontrol taħt il­­-Gvern ta’ qabel. Imma jiddispjaċini ngħid li mhux talli ma rranġa xejn talli għada kif kienet qabel minkejja l-­kritika tan-­nies. Forsi l-­­Prim Ministru jista’ jinterveni hu u jwissi lil min għandu jwissi, dejjem sakemm ma jaqbelx hu wkoll ma’ dan it-­tip ta’ xogħol!

L-­Orizzont

http://www.orizzont.com.mt/FullArticle.php?ID1=’Ahbarijiet’&ID2=112053

Alfrd E. Baldaahino (kumment għall-pubblikazzjoni) Din il-­qerda ta’ siġar f’pajjiżna li issa ilha għaddejja s­-snin hija qerda bla rażan, bla raġuni, u milli jidher bla ħadd ma hu lest li jerfa’ reponsabbiltà għalijha. Il­-fragmentazzjoni li teżisti fil-­ħarsien tas-­sigar mhu qed tgħin xejn biex is­-siġar li qed jikbru f’pajjiżna jkunu mħarsa kif suppost.

Ritratt meħud fl-01963 fejn is-=siġar jidhru li għandhom sewwa vi1in il-15-il sena dak iż-żmien. Imma il-MEPA li qalet li dawn ma għadhomx aktar minn 50 sena, issa qed twaħħal fl-Agrikultura wara li qalgħatha barra mir-regolamenti.

Ritratt meħud fl-1961 fejn dawn is-siġar jidhru li għandhom sewwa viċin il-15-il sena dak iż-żmien. Imma il-MEPA li qalet li dawn ma għadhomx aktar minn 50 sena, issa qed twaħħal fl-Agrikultura wara li qalgħatha barra mir-regolamenti u llum ma għandha x’taqsam xejn.

Ftit tal-­ħin ilu (it­-Tlieta 22 ta’ Ottubru) kont qed nara programm ta’ diskussjoni fuq ONE TV fejn is­-CEO tal-­MEPA qal li l-­ilqugħ u ż-­żbir tas-­siġar huma responsabbiltà tal­-Agrikultura.  Dan mhux korrett. Din ir-­responsabbiltà kienet hemm taħt ir-­regolamenti l-­qodma tal­-2001.  Imma dan ġew revokati u mibdula mill­-MEPA stess fil-­2012. Illum il­-MEPA hija l­-Awtorità Kompetenti għall-­ħarsien tas­-siġar skond ir-­regolamenti tal­-ħarsien tagħhom li għamet hi stess.

Naħseb li hemm bżonn immedjat li l-­Prim Ministru jindirizza din il-­fragmentazzjoni illum qabel għada biex ma tkompliex issir aktar qerda.

Is-sbuħija tas-siġar ta' fuq is-Saqqajja ir-Rabat kif darba kienu u kif ma jistgħu ikunu qatt sakemm tinbidl din il-mentalit.a pulitika ta' pajjiżna.

Is-sbuħija tas-siġar ta’ fuq is-Saqqajja r-Rabat kif darba kienu u kif ma jistgħu jkunu qatt aktar sakemm tinbidl din il-mentalità  pulitika  u kulturali ta’ pajjiżna.


When the rain sets in

September 19, 2013

times of malta

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When valuable rain sets in

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The faintest smell of rain tends to make some feel wet under the collar. This trauma automatically triggers the urge to swoop on valleys ‘to clean’ them, as if valleys are some kind of water closet.

Valleys are dried river beds, which have been transformed to this state by climate and environmental changes, but still harvest rain water. The Knights of Jerusalem reluctantly settled in these islands – one of the top 10 arid countries in the world. In 1530 they planned, engineered and managed such a rare resource to serve the islands and its people and to defend them in difficult times. Later the British enhanced, and continued to manage such a rare resource.

When the foreigners left, they took with them their acumen in planning and management, but they left behind a wealth of their works, without which Malta would not be what it is today.

The indigenous then took over the management and planning. Since that time, rain water management is close to nonexistent.

Old underground water cisterns and networks all over the islands lie cracked and dry, even in the capital city. Others were destroyed to make way for streets and roads. Old  bell­shaped water cisterns were bulldozed to make way for underground garages. An engineered network was obliterated so that the Gozo Church could build a monument for the dead in Nadur.

The MEPA approved development not only deprived the area from accumulating rain water, but also intercepted the undergreound veins which fed the Knight's engineed system to water the fields. Ironically the developer it is the Gozo Church which has build a momument for the dead at the expense of the living.

The MEPA approved development not only deprived the area from harvesting rain water in the aquifer, but also intercepted the undergreound veins which fed the Knight’s engineed system to water the fields.
Ironically the developer is the Gozo Church which has build a momument for the dead at the expense of the living. May the Lord forgive them.

An 1854 regulation obliging every dwelling to have a well to collect rain water was completely ignored and rain water collected by buildings was channelled, illegally, to the sewers or let loose in the streets.

In 2012 the gruesome political intelligence (GPI) repealed this regulation enabling rain water to be directed to the sewers, in the interest of development. Sewers used to empty their load out at sea, till treatment plants were built. Again the GPI saw that these were built close to the coast, to dispose treated water in the sea. Politicians boasted that Malta was the first EU Member State to do so.

Malta will remain the one and only country in this field because no sane political intelligence would throw treated water (which with a little bit of more planning and management could have even become potable water) in the sea, only for it to be pumped up again a couple of meter further away to be distilled by energy-intensive desalination plants and redirected back to households and industries.

New buildings mushroomed with increasing momentum, to the extent that today there are more than 70,000 vacant buildings (and still counting), equivalent to 9 times the number of all households at Birkirkara. Footprints of these buildings used to absorb rain water nourishing the water table.

Water is today managed either by letting it run in the streets or by connecting it with the sewers. Sewers have a limited carrying capacity and they show the first signs of stress when water fountains sprout from the inspection holes; a replica of the dancing water fountains in St. George’s Square Valletta, opposite Parliament House, as a gentile reminder perhaps.

Mismanagement par excellance - polluted street waters, mixed with overflowing sewer water, dumping the resource in the valleys.

Mismanagement par excellance – polluted street waters, mixed with overflowing sewer water carrying chemicals, dumped in the valleys. Some politician must have been accountable for this planning!

More water, added pressure, increased momentum, eventually lifts the sewer’s inspection hole covers, throwing up excess water in the streets, carrying solid and liquid wastes, some toxic. Such ‘rivulets’ combine with water running the streets, gather momentum, increase volume, and roar their way to the lowest part of the nearby land ­ – valleys.

“If the Grand Masters
were to judge
the management of rain water today,
they would impose
years of rowing on
the Order’s galleons
on those concerned.”

No wonder the water table needs protection from seeping chemicals. And the environmental watchdog, MEPA, and its predecessor, approve and endorse such plans and mismanagement, perhaps with some political help!

All along valleys were neglected, though always rising to their natural role to deal with rain water. But even valleys have their maximum carrying capacity. If they are fed excessive water the level rises more than they can handle. This will dislodge rubble walls, erode soil and uproot trees. When the GPI ‘clean’ valley

slehiet-2

A breach in a rubble wall at Chadwick Lakes immediately after the valley was ‘cleaned’ last year.

courses, water momentum can then play with cars and houses like toys. The GPI has invested millions, including EU funds, to dig tunnels to direct such rain water to the sea. Foreigners used to dig such tunnels to fill cisterns and recharge the water table.

The result of the 'cleaning' of vallyes, making it easier for an increase in momentum, and the destruction even of infrastucture.

The result of the ‘cleaning’ of vallyes, giving water additional momentum. One has now to clean or patchup the infrastructure.

If the Grand Masters were to assess, evaluate, examine, and judge the planning and management of rain water today, they would undoubtedly impose years of rowing on the Order’s galleons to those concerned. So different from today’s democracy where nobody seems to be accountable, and society and the environment pays for such life­-threatening mistakes.

When street become rivers, valleys become destructive.

When street become rivers,
valleys are rendered destructive.

Traffic signs of the future

Traffic signs of the future

Why not go and experience such mismanagement when it rains? Do not take any boots or umbrellas; they would be more of a hazard.

And if one can go with an amphibian it would be better than a car. Be careful too because traffic signs designed for future use have yet to be installed, drawing attention to crossing coffins, of all shapes and sizes, both literally and metaphorically. One will then understand how the GPI let loose its reins, such that when it rains, cats and dogs reign supreme.

The postponement and accumulation of mismanagement problems in this wet business make the people hot beneath the collar, though seemingly happy to swim with the current.

PS – Photos and graphics were inserted after the publication of the original article

see also:

http://wp.me/sL6Mk-water

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-sb

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-nw

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-62


Taking the big ‘E’ out of MEPA

February 4, 2013

Alfred E. Baldacchino

One of the issues presently being discussed by political parties in the run up to the general election is the environment. The discussion centers round whether the environment should still form part of MEPA or be given more importance and autonomy than it has now (if it really has any).

The Nationalist Party, which in 2002 masterminded the merger (some still refer to it as a ‘hijack’) of the Environment with the Planning Authority, had also promised that the environment would be one of its main three pillars. In its latest electoral manifesto it is now promising a new Nature Agency to be responsible for the protection of biodiversity and the managing and conservation of protected areas, parks and natural reserves.

The Labour Party is promising that it will separate again the Environment Directorate from the Planning Directorate and include it with the Malta Resource Authority.

Alternative Democratic too is not happy with the present MEPA setup and is also suggesting that the Environment Directorate and the Planning Directorate should both be accountable to the Malta Resource Authority, with the Environment Directorate having a more leading role than the other one.

All three parties basically are in agreement that as far as the environment is concerned MEPA has not delivered following the merger of  Environment and Planning.

Having, in the past, worked both with the former Environment Department since its inception, under the responsibility of five different Ministers and one Parliamentary Secretary (indeed those were the days), and later when Environment was ‘merged’ with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, I am more than convinced that such a ‘merger’ is more like a square peg in a round hole.

Given the Government’s ‘environmental pillar’ promise  and the justifications given for such a merger, one would have expected that the environment would be second to none and it would be an example on how to manage and administer the environment. But Environmental issues are today fragmented: biodiversity, water resources, climate change, air pollution, etc. Each political incumbent guards his little patch without any coordination, irrespective of national economical, social or ecological repercussions. On a  positive side a number of nicely coloured reports and guidelines have been published. On paper everything is nice and rosy. BUT some of these are simply being ignored by government itself. Tangible actions taken include: the endangering of Natura 2000 sites, such as Buskett, Dwejra, and Mistra; and Nadur Cemetery, to mention just a few. Refusal by the Environment arm of MEPA was recommended for such developments but all boasted or still boast a MEPA permit! Trees forming ecological niches have been, and still are,  uprooted to create “gardens”! The scarce resource of water, instead of being harvested as legally and conscientiously obliged, is being channeled to the sea,  while important  legal regulations for harvesting water have recently been revoked. There is not one single qualified environmentalist with voting powers on the MEPA 15-­member Board. The cherry on the cake was the disbanding of the National Commission for Sustainable Development. This is the vision and the attention the environment is being given today.

Most of what had been established and built over the years by the previous  Environment Department was literally dismantled when the environment became a directorate within MEPA.  I did point all this to the Prime Minister at one of the public discussions at Castile, but I was bluntly told that the merger of the Environment and Planning was a Cabinet decision.

Those environment entities and individuals who have or are involved in the communication, conservation and public awareness of the environment cannot be blamed for being disillusioned, angry, exploited, and emarginated, while being called names for their constructive  criticism and comments in the national interest. I cannot help feel that MEPA, despite national and interntional obligations,  is more a Maltese Exploiter of Public Assets: that is  the important national resources, whether biological (fauna and flora) or physical (land, water, air). It is high time that MEPA is professionally pruned down to size, though not as brutally as government prunes urban trees;  some of the middle management embraces some of the best qualified personnel on the island.  One of the necessary measures for the environment to flourish in the national interest is to graft the environment within the Malta Resource Authority.

Following the last election, MEPA has undergone the promised reform. In 2008  I did question whether such reform will  result in just a change in colour of the sheep’s clothing! No, it did not change the colour of the sheep’s clothing, but it did change the sheep into a lamb, and tethered it in the lion’s den.

Sadly, today the environment is like a ship without a rudder, and without a captain, exposed to brutal elements and high seas, wandering where the wind blows…  and the wind is always blowing from the direction of the development- orientated Planning Directorate. Undoubtedly there is no place for the  in MEPA. It has made a mess of it.

All such thoughts were expressed in one of my articles in the Times dated 22 April 2008, which is attached below.

times

Tuesday, 22nd April 2008

Mepa: The missing link
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Without any doubt, Malta needs an authority, better still authorities, responsible for environment and planning so that the interests of the Maltese community are safeguarded from exploitation and Malta’s international responsibilities are honoured.

A professional authority will also help Malta to mature and to find its rightful place with other nations in the international sphere. However, such an entity has to have a vision, a direction and an understanding of its obligations. It has to have a will to achieve these aims. From the ever-increasing public criticism and the irregularities that are continuously being uncovered, it seems that Mepa is not exactly in line with such a vision, such understanding and such accountability to the Maltese community. It lacks such fervour.

Ironically enough, such a blot on Mepa’s image started with the “merger” of the minuscule Department of the Environment and the mammoth Planning Authority in 2002. Such a “merger”, which carried with it heavy international environmental responsibilities, mainly as a member state of the European Union, was an onus which the top brass at the Planning Authority were never au courant with. They were not equipped with the technical and scientific background to handle it. And I am afraid to say that the majority of Mepa boards still aren’t. Nonetheless, Mepa is the competent authority for the EU
environmental acquis.

The cracks became chasms as time passed by, especially when the new Environment Protection Directorate was left without a director for about four years, leaving the headless directorate to wander in a rather hostile environment. Words, which still reverberate in my ears (for example: Forget the environment, it is development which dictates the environment here; we do not need scientists, we need geographers; why worry if an endemic lizard becomes extinct, it is just a lizard), uttered in the corridors of Mepa do not do any credit to a supposedly competent authority on the environment. To this day I still cherish with increasing satisfaction the names that were bestowed on the Environment Protection Directorate: “environmentalists”, “fundamentalists” and “officials who lose precious time playing with marine turtles, dolphins and wild flowers”. These are all responsibilities and obligations arising out of Malta’s accession to the European Union, and other international legal treaties, for which this blessed Mepa is the competent authority, and the non-adherence to which amounts to EU and other
international infringements.

This “us and them” complex within Mepa is resulting in a rift that contributes to discontent and loss of motivation in the dedicated staff who do not feel that they belong to such an important but divided organisation. Some have left because of this syndrome. This has rendered the authority much weaker in the face of the ever-increasing and more specialised international obligations, not least those of the EU. Stephen Farrugia, a former director of planning at Mepa, wrote (The Times, April 10): “It is pertinent to point out that the previous Environment Protection Department and the Planning Authority
empires have always been to a greater or lesser extent in continual turf wars with each other. This situation, that still persists within Mepa, is to me one of the great demotivators in sustaining healthy working relationships between the two directorates”.

The “merging” of the Environment Protection Department with the Planning Authority was a mistake: the two are not compatible and those who argue in favour of such “merger” do so because it is easier to manipulate the scientific reports of those who are considered as an appendix. When the mentality of such a competent authority stoops so low in its environmental “lack of knowledge” (and the above are just a few simple examples) then it is no wonder that the Environmental Protection Directorate has been reduced to the Cinderella of Mepa, dictated by Planning Authority officials who have no scientific or environmental management and planning qualifications, with the exception of the odd one or two. If it weren’t for, or what is left of, the hard work of the dedicated professional and scientific staff previously forming the backbone of the Environment Protection Department, the list of eventual infractions of the EU environmental acquis would be much, much longer.

This unfortunate situation was recently validated in a concrete way (pardon the pun). The lack of awareness of Mepa’s obligations, both national and international, led to the approval by Mepa of development applications in Special Areas of Conservation for which Mepa itself is the competent authority on an international level. These permits infringe the EU Habitats Directive, which lays down clear obligations with regard to developments in Special Areas of Conservation, such as those in Dwejra, Gozo and Mistra Bay.
Mepa may have the best qualified middle management personnel in the country. But the lack of an equivalent qualified professional and scientific top brass sitting in the top echelons of Mepa boards and committees reinforces Bjorn Bonello’s (another ex-Mepa employee) comments on Mepa (The Times, March 27) and “displays blatant mockery of the planning system and the people’s intelligence” besides frustrating the technical and scientific staff. Furthermore, if Mepa still regards itself as the competent authority of the EU environmental acquis, its top echelons have to be closely familiar with Malta’s
international obligations and responsibilities, the more so when their decisions carry with them financial and political implications at EU level. Hijacking the Environment Protection Directorate makes the crisis more acute and can only benefit one or two individuals before the community is asked to dig deep into its pocket.

I feel morally obliged to write this, not only to distance myself from such obscenities, which are having an irreversible negative impact on the environment and on dedicated technical and scientific officials within Mepa, but also to give weight to the Prime Minister’s declaration on the need to reform Mepa, which declaration is also one of the Nationalist Party’s electoral
pledges. The Mepa reform has to take in consideration the engagement of scientific professionals among its top brass. The Environment Planning Directorate’s voice has got to be heard and be equally as strong as that of the Planning Directorate and not be stifled, silenced or ignored. It will then be possible for the professionals and scientists sitting on Mepa’s boards
and committees to be able to conscientiously evaluate and pass judgement, instead of branding the scientific input as “the work of fundamentalists”.
Everybody who has the good of the country at heart eagerly awaits such an urgent reform in the hope that, when all the comments have been taken on board, it will not result in just a change in colour of the sheep’s clothing.

Mr Baldacchino has been involved in the protection of biodiversity since 1970, both with local and foreign NGOs and also as a civil servant for more than 30 years, mainly occupying managerial positions within the Department of Environment. For the last five years before retirement he was assistant director at the Environment Protection Directorate, Mepa.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Comments

B Agius (9 hours,  39 minutes ago)
It is not enough to have professional people as top brass in any Government institution if they can also perform functions outside the public service as consultants and/or in their own private practice.To the extent this is allowed to happen in Malta it will always contribute to a Public Service open to corruption or at least conflict of interest. Any Government job should be paid
highly enough for the Government to expect, by law, that those on its books don’t do anything else! This should also apply to all elected politicians.

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20080422/opinion/mepa-the-missing-link.205125


Green dream and black nightmare

August 10, 2012

Friday,  August 10, 2012

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Green dream and black nightmare

During his short term responsible for the environment, both as junior minister and later, as minister, Mario de Marco has published a number of laws and policies.

Some he moved through Parliament, such as the National Environment Policy (NEP) and the Sustainable Development Act. Other guidelines and policies were published by his environmental watchdog, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

These included the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the new guidelines for the management of invasive plants. These supplemented the guidelines on trees, shrubs and plants for planting and landscaping and the tree protection regulations.

The above are some of the Government’s publications: all official administrative and legislative tools which can definitely make any green dream a reality. But why are they ignored by Government itself? I cannot image that these have been published just for the attention of  the EU and its Member States. Or that these publications are meant to take the public for a ride? Then why are these ignored and not enforced?

Unfortunately, the enforcement and implementation of these laws and regulations leave much to be desired.

The three pillars for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services as defined in the NEP are all addressed in the above. These provide direction to all players in this field, ensure policy integration and enable stakeholders to work in a coordinated manner to achieve the national objectives and key priorities.

All aim at improving the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity as well as easing pressures on biodiversity and promoting sustainable use.

Furthermore, these guidelines and regulations highlight the collaboration and commitment of all relevant stakeholders to achieve the strategic goals of the NEP and to empower people to actively participate in environmental management and take action on environmental issues.

An important policy in the NEP is that the government, in promoting environmentally-friendly actions, should lead by example.

Definitely not according to the guidelines and regulations referred to above!

Notwithstanding the above, the wave of criticism on the mismanagement of trees and the misuse of public funds in “landscaping” is gaining momentum.

Facebook groups have been set up, initiatives promoting the protection of trees have been taken and articles and letters in the press express the disappointment of such mismanagement. Yet, the government, through one, or at best, two of its ministers, still bulldozes on, irrespective of the people’s comments, criticism and suggestions. If, before the last election, the Prime Minster did not declare that the environment was one of the government’s three main pillars and if he did not lately say that he was ready to listen to the people in the national interest (even in the kitchen, if necessary, as I am told) one could comfortably say that the government does not have any special interest in the environment.

But, the way environment is being mismanaged makes one conclude that there is no such real interest and no such will. The social and ecological values are completely gobbled up by commercial interests with political blessing.

The Times (September 6, 2011) titled a report on the launching of the national environment policy thus: PM Launches Green Dream. There are many, many in this country who have such a green dream. Great things were conceived as little dreams. If Martin Luther King did not have a dream and persisted with determination there would not be a Barack Obama today. But to achieve a dream, one has to persist with determination in one’s vision and not ignore, or endorse, activities that are diametrically opposite to it.

The latest “landscaping projects” financed by the government are those of Mdina ditch, where about 400 trees were uprooted, surprisingly to make way for a garden. Trees at the Mellieħa old bus-terminus were all uprooted for others to be planted instead. Lately, the destruction of trees in part of Triq Diċembru 13, Marsa, hit the headlines. Some of the trees were removed on grounds that they are invasive!

Surprisingly, at the same time, another minister is endorsing plans and funds for the planting of Fountain Grass, Brazilian pepper tree, the Australian Pine tree (Casuarina) and the Hottentot fig – all aliens and invasive species.

Once again, the BSS (Bisazza Street Syndrome, which was conceived in Bisazza Street, Sliema) is again raising its ugly head with the same political players, leaving the Minster for the Environment speechless.

BSS did strike again with regard to the Rabat Road rubble walls (which now have been replaced by iron railings against all policies and regulations – Mepa please note). Now, BSS has infected the government’s so-called landscaping projects, defying, ignoring and ridiculing the above national regulations and policies, suppressing and pushing aside all active participation of the people.

What is very worrying is the fact that such “landscaping” is being done with public funds, some even with EU funds. And some are also completely against mitigation strategies regarding the government’s stand on climate change and water policy, which, incidentally, fall within the same ministerial portfolio.

The Prime Minister may have an admirable green dream. The majority of the people yearn for the fulfilment of such a conceived green dream. But, the government’s plans and projects are rendering the Prime Minister’s green dream a bizarre black nightmare, a nightmare that will haunt the political players all their lives and beyond. Not that anybody of them cares, I presume! But can the Prime Minister please intervene to achieve his and our collective green dream?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

PS  – Photos were added to this post and do not appear in the original article in The Times

See also:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentalists-vs-government-over-trees/


Siġar, Biodiversità u l-Unjoni Ewropea

May 9, 2012

07 Mejju, 2012

Saviour Balzan jintervista lil Alfred E. Baldacchino
fuq il-Programm Reporter

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