Wednesday, 2nd December 2020
Alfred E Baldacchino
The Planning Authority (in the portfolio of the Ministry for the Environment) asked Infrastructure Malta (IM) to proceed with the construction of a schemed road at Dingli. Before one could say Jack Robinson, IM applied for a permit to chop down the carob trees in its way. ERA (also in the portfolio of the Ministry for the Environment) willingly complied and issued the necessary tree destruction permit. Immediately trees started to be destroyed by IM, until Graffiti appealed against the tree destruction permits issued by ERA.
What a shocking statement! What a let-down to biodiversity conservation principles! What a populist approach by this supposedly scientific authority! What a self-defeating statement! What a self inflicted blow below the belt to an authority which everyone looks upon to protect the natural environment and resources of our country! What an embarrassment to the academics who sit on ERA’s board!
ERA was also asked about the procedures for the issuing of such permits. Seems that the Environment Resource Directorate forwards its recommendations to the ERA Board who approves the issuing of the permit. ERA does not even bother of any self-inflicted embarrassment!
Such is the pitiful state of this official scientific authority. The value of old, healthy urban carob trees is priceless. If ERA was worth its mettle, and could understand the ecological, economic, social, aesthetically and hydrological value of these carob trees it has endorsed for destruction, it would have immediately issued a Tree Protection Order, and possibly declared a Tree Protection Area where they grow. Instead it issued a permit for their destruction.
The vigour and strength of this official scientific Authority are conspicuous by their absence: no consideration to protect biodiversity, not only on behalf of this generation, but also for the coming generations who have lent us these natural treasures.
ERA has lost its vision, its direction, and abducted from its responsibilities as shown by approving the destruction of so many mature protected trees across the island.
The appeal by NGO Graffiti against ERA permits for the destruction of carob trees in Dingli is a make or break for ERA’s image and reputation.
The farcical compensatory planting measures for the destruction of such magnificent priceless trees is another measure how ERA fools itself. No amount of trees planted in place of the magnificent mature carob trees at Dingli can compensate for the destruction of the carob trees in question. And ERA has asked for the replanting of 30 trees as a compensation for those destructed. ERA may fool itself, but it cannot fool the intelligence of the majority of the people by its circus calculator.
While visiting the carob trees in question, I met some residents who together with those who cultivate the adjacent fields are against such road, which they have been told, is a very ‘important’ road. I asked if they had asked for help from the home grown Minister from Dingli. The look in their eyes explained it all.
Unfortunately the residents and farmers do not have the fortune, the means or the opportunity to go and live at the pricey Dingli outskirts in Simblija. They will have to be exposed to the emissions of vehicular traffic as this manoeuvres round the bends and corners in the neighbourhood, when the ‘important road’ leads to the development it is meant to accommodate.
ERA turned a blind eye to all this. But what can one expect from politically handpicked academics who cannot stand on their own two professional feet?
The Tribunal’s decision will without doubt decide ERA’s future image. It can confirm that ERA is an Authority in shambles, unworthy and incapable of rising to the occasion to protect Maltese biodiversity in the name of the Maltese people, acting as a circus facade for political decisions.
With such a circus image in the biodiversity conservation field, the Minister in whose portfolio these entities sit, might just as well go fishing.