It never rains, it pours

March 26, 2016

times of malta

Saturday, 26th March 2016

It never rains, it pours
Alfred E. Baldacchino

The lack of rain this winter has become a great concern for many social leaders. Parched valleys, dried cisterns, empty wells, wilted vegetation, worried farmers, are just a harbinger of things to come during the coming hottest months of the year. This acute drought is making some leaders, whether political or religious, feel a little bit wet under the collar.

Seemingly as a last resort, I would say more for convenience sake to appease their faithful, these social leaders are either reverting to PR exercises instead of working on the long overdue water management plans, or praying the Creator, asking Him for His intervention to send us some of the much needed rain. What an embarrassment!

TOM photo

Efforts were made to catch every drop and save it as a priceless resource without the help of any financial institution. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier – Times of Malta.

The Lord has always given us rain water for free during the years. He has also given us intelligence. One can see the results of such intelligence in past engineering works with regards to water harvesting. One can find and see the professional management of such a rare natural resource dating back to the times before Christ. Efforts were made to catch every drop and save it as a priceless resource without the help of any financial institution. In fact the

bell shaped water cistern in Valletta photo Keith Buhagiar

bell shaped water cistern in Valletta. photo Keith Buhagiar

Maltese islands are dotted with historical professional engineering projects with the sole aim that not a drop of water is wasted. This has seen the population of these islands go through two world wars without having any problems with water, which the Lord sends us for free.

But in the last 50 years, when we took over the management of our Country, we became affluent, like affluent rats, and we boast about it. This has led us to put a price to everything, and discard natural resources which are given to us for free. We are convinced that we have complete control over the ecosystem. Free assets, such as water, are regarded as having no commercial, economic, social or environmental value, and these can be exploited whenever and however we want to.

Today we live for the day, and exploit everything that we lay our eyes and hands on. Mainly, with endemic political intelligence, we ruined, and are still in the process of doing, whole historical engineering networks which contribute to the storing of such a rare natural resource.

LN-376-of-2012

How the professional management of water was adulterated for political reasons

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Professional legislation with regards to the management and conservation of water was adulterated, to accommodate speculators, with an eye on votes. We lost sight of this natural resource to the extent that official entities, like MEPA, that notorious environmental watchdog, prefers planning to store cars instead of planning to catch and store every drop of the rare resource of free rain water.

In our desperate greed, we contributed to the flooding of inhabited areas where the relatively poor reside, besides neglecting the water table with regards to its replenishment, its conservation, its abuse, and the enforcement of legal protection.

But the endemic political acumen, came out with a solution. This led to the asking for help from the new milking cow. Approximately €57 million were used to dig an underground tunnel so that all the free rain water which we are gifted with, could be swept to the sea. Such a scenario emerged from the uncontrolled development and lack of planning as a result of which water could not seep into the aquifer. A pain in the neck when rain water floods our street because of such mismanagement.

If we made use of the intelligence the Almighty gave us, as our ancestors did, we would have restored all the historic cisterns and wells, build new ones to capture and collect all the water, and not ask school children to catch a drop, and throw millions of gallons out to sea. Imagine if the historic professional water management systems were appreciated, cared for, renovated and kept in a good shape. There would not be any reason to pray for rain. Imagine if large cisterns were built in all the school yards, of which there are so many.

Wouldn’t the €57 million have been well spent and such harvested natural resource be so beneficial in this time of drought? But such common sense was not so common with the planning authority, or else these were regarded as whitebait not palatable and attractive enough to the sharks!

2012.10.00 - works in progress while the appeal keeps being postponed

The cemetery built in Nadur Gozo, disrupted and ruined the natural hydrological system and the professional engineering built by the Knights of Malta.

The religious authorities did not bat an eyelid for such waste of resources either. Not only so, but some had also a finger in the pie in the mismanagement of such a natural scarce resource. With MEPA’s blessing, they chose the largest water catchment area in Gozo where to build a cemetery. Yes, a cemetery consisting of 600 graves for the dead at the expense of the living. An appropriate adequate grave for present day intelligence.

In the process, a historical engineering system, which was used to catch free rain water and harvest it in various cisterns, was ruined. This system used to ensure enough adequate water for agricultural needs of the farmers along Wied il-Qasab during the long hot summer months. But because of such mismanagement and lack of professional planning, today when it rains, not only is the water not collected for agricultural use, it now floods the fields further down the valley. The result of the approved plans, by you know who, which interfered with the flow of water through the geological strata. And the cemetery was blessed too!

eco-1This is why I feel embarrassed to pray for rain. I am surprised at the audacity some have, especially those who believe that they are closer to the Lord than any other. Why should the Lord listen to us when a great percentage of such free rain water would be swept to the sea as unwanted, undesired and useless water. And it also floods agricultural land because of land mismanagement and land abuse. What an embarrassment to man’s intelligence. How shameful!

And in the meantime, despite such a drought, large expanses of turf are still being sprinkled (during the darkness of night) with the Minister for Landscaping’s blessings.

If I had to pen a tentative reply to such prayers, I would say: “Be blessed, go and repent.” And remember that “Water is the driving force of all nature” (Leonardo da Vinci).

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Additional reading:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/dezert-niexef-nixfa-ta-ideat/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/l-immaniggar-tal-ilma-fmalta/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/in-nixfa-tax-xitwa-u-s-sigra-tal-lewz/

 https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/the-nadur-cemetery-%e2%80%93-where-the-dead-will-haunt-and-curse-the-living/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/an-official-water-policy/

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A splitting image of Mepa

August 3, 2015

times of malta

Monday, 3rd August, 2015

A splitting image of MEPA 

Alfred E Baldacchino

mepa logo-1

MEPA’s failure in its environmental responsibility started from day one. Barely a week from the ‘merger’ with the Environment Department, in 2001, I was told in a joking vein: “forget about environment; it is development which dictates here.”

And so it was to be. And so it is today. Honouring national and international environmental obligations, which were never understood or wanted to be understood by MEPA, seemed like trying to swim up the Niagara falls. Eventually, environment became MEPA’s Cinderella, leading to its present headless mummified state in limbo.

After two years in government, it has now been thought appropriate to resuscitate such a mummy. Despite being an electoral promise, the move is accompanied by a lot of fanfare and publicity, and this raises more questions than answers. Is it to hide past failures and the procrastination in making such move? Is it to detract from the fact that environment has been kept out of the portfolio of the Minster for the Environment but is in that of the Prime Minster? Is it to make up for the environmental degradation which also saw the Environment Directorate degenerate into a mummified orphaned headless Cinderella? Is it just meant for that part of the electorate who can be convinced that a circle is square?

To consolidate MEPA complete disregard for the environment, on its death bed MEPA, forwarded a report to the Prime Minister, a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that Żonqor was the best site for the university development. The report completely ignored the Environment Directorate, it’s acting Director (no Director since change of government) and the MEPA board too.

MEPA has stooped so low, with such farcical unprofessional behaviour along the years, that it has lost all credibility. It is in need of new image to “secure better planning”!  Is the colourful publicity and change of name merely dressing the old wolf in new sheep’s clothing? Many already see the Executive Council referred to in the new Bills, as already set up and running, as evidenced by the Żonqor report. It seems that the rape will go on, till there is nothing left to rape.

As advertised, MEPA will be no more, and will only be remembered in the books of history especially for its complete environmental failures. Few would shed a tear.

 

trophy

Future generations have a right to know who was responsible for the protection of the Maltese environment, which they have lent us.

I won’t. I have gone through the new environment bill. An exercise undertaken by a parliamentary secretary in the office of the prime minister. The new bill transposes all the environmental provisions from the MEPA Act (except for some ‘overlooked touches’): a cut and paste exercise to ensure that the EU Environment Aquis obligations are all there.

If the new Environment Act is to put the environment high on the agenda, why was it not possible to achieve such aims, with the same legal provisions, when it was under the responsibility of the Prime Minister? Is all this fanfare a confirmation of failure? MEPA has been declared a monster, without any political control, when as everybody knows it functions by political nods, as one concludes from a rationalised  żonqor point.

I honestly believe that the Minster for the Environment, Leo Brincat, can administer the environment on professional lines. Perhaps this is why he has been kept away from environmental responsibility, and MEPA, environment and all, are still not in his portfolio after two years. It is nice to have someone to shield the blows though!

One now hopes the Minster for the environment won’t be given a ‘promotion’ and be replaced by someone whose main qualification will be to convince us that he is ‘balancing’ environment and planning, naturally in the ‘national’ interest. This would only result in handing over of a mummified headless Cinderella from limbo, nicely adorned as a skeleton on a string, controlled by the Executive Council.

 

 

cartoon

What trust can one have in the headless skeleton, resuscitated and dressed as an Environmental Authority? In the absence of such trust, which is not easy to re-establish, it is very difficult to believe everything that is being said.

Those who yearn for a better future, better social wellbeing, a better environmental home, have to fasten their seatbelts. We are all in for a rough ride.

I sincerely wish all the good luck to the Environment Minister who will need all the help he can from genuine individuals and social entities, especially from the political field.

Unfortunately though he will have a lot of bones to pick with.

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PS – graphics were added to the original article.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Blinded by a pro-business vision – Alfred Baldacchino

June 21, 2015
 malta-todaySunday, 21 June 2015

Environment policy has been sacrificed in the name of short-sighted greed. Alfred E. Baldacchino, a former assistant director at the Environment Protection Directorate, outlines how this was achieved

interviewed by Raphael Vassallo
 

Evidence for this was provided by none other than the CEO of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) at a parliamentary committee meeting last Monday: when he candidly admitted that the report authorising the selection of Zonqor Point for this project did not include any input from the environment Protection Directorate (EPD).

Alfred E. Baldacchino was present for that meeting, as he has been present for practically every environmental challenge to face Malta in recent years. I meet the former EPD assistant director at his Attard residence, and find him still re-living the arguments of Monday’s animated meeting.

Before turning to his complaints about the site-selection process, let’s talk a little about the site itself. Zonqor Point. Protestors were indignant to hear the place referred to by defenders of the project as a ‘wasteland’ and ‘dumpsite’. What is the significance of this area for people like Baldacchino?

alfred_baldacchino

Alfred E. Baldacchino (Photo: Ray Attard)

“My comments on the use – or rather, abuse – of this area are mainly based on the negative social and environmental aspects of this project. Because you cannot focus only on the social or environmental aspects; they go hand in hand. One might also add commercial aspects… but not on their own. Unfortunately, however, during last Monday’s discussion the project was being looked at just from a commercial point of view. And this is an official view of the project, by the competent authority: MEPA, which is still the authority responsible for the environment. And although the commercial returns, on their own, may be good, one cannot just ignore the social and environmental aspects. Because obviously, such a project will have externalities: hidden costs which eventually society and the environment will have to pay. Both socially, and ecologically…

This “greed”, he adds, has completely eliminated all social and environmental considerations from a decision which was taken almost as an obsession to develop this area.

“I like to base my arguments on the electoral manifesto of ‘the movement’. I won’t call it a ‘party’, because in my opinion, presently, it would be an insult to the Labour Party and to the concept of socialism. This is not a socialist party. It is a movement… in fact, the government never refers to itself as socialist. To use an environmentalist analogy: this is a socialist party genetically modified into a far right, capitalist movement. This is shown by the various decisions being taken, and also by the help it gets from official entities which are supposed to be qualified and responsible for the management of social and environmental matters…”

continued in part 2 on: http://wp.me/pL6Mk-T1

or

Read the full interview in MaltaToday

2015.06.21---zonqor-point

Żonqor Point which spurred civil society to make an environmental and social point in the national interest.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

IR-RAPPORT TAL-MEPA DWAR IŻ-ŻONQOR

June 16, 2015

IR-RAPPORT TAL-MEPA DWAR IŻ-ŻONQOR

Alfred E. Baldacchino

It-Tnejn 15 ta’ Ġunju, 2015.

Nhar it-Tnejn, 15 ta’ Ġunju 2015, iltaqa’ l-Kumitat Permanenti tal-Kamra tad-Deputati dwar l-ambjent u l-ippjanar tal-iżvilupp. L-għan tal-laqgħa kien sabiex jiġi diskuss il-Preliminary Site Evaluation Report bid-data ta’ November 2014, dwar l-iżvilupp f’Ta’ Żonqor, li ġie mħejji mill-Uffiċjal Eżekuttiv Prinċipali tal-Awtorità Maltija għall-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar. Dan ir-rapport kien ġie mqiegħed fuq il-mejda tal-Kamra tad-deputati fis-25 ta’ Mejju 2015 mill-Prim Ministru.

Jiena kont mistieden għal din il-laqgħa fejn tkellimt fuq in-nuqqas ta’ tagħrif li ma kienx hemm fir-rapport u li mingħajru ma setgħetx tittieħed l-ebda deċiżjoni fl-interess soċjali u ambjentali. Il-punti ewlenin li tkellimt fuqhom huma dawn:

  1.  Dan ir-rapport fejn il-MEPA qed tagħti ħjiel li ż-Żonqor huwa tajjeb għall-bini tal-Università Amerikana, ma jgħid xejn dwar l-impatt negattiv kif il-wesgħa miftuha tal-inħawi (open spaces) sejra taffettwa b’mod negattiv is-saħħa tal-popolazzjoni, kemm tal-madwar kif ukoll tal-pajjiż. Dan l-iżvilupp mingħajr dubju jkollu kemm impatti mill-aspett fiżiku kif ukoll minn dak psikoloġiku, rekreattiv, xjentiku, edukattiv. Ir-rapport iqis biss l-aspett kummeċjali li fir-rapport ma jgħid xejn kontrih.
  2.  L-impatt tat-traffiku kemm fuq ir-residenti tal-post kif ukoll fuq l-inħawi tal-madwar lanqas mhu ta’ importanza milli jidher; ma jissemma xejn.
  3. Il-parti tar-rapport dwar l-ekosistema insejjaħlu miskin. Possibbli li fiż-żona msemmija fir-rapport ma tezizti l-ebda fawna xejn: molluski, rettili, insetti, u invertebratri oħra, kif ukoll għasafar, mammiferi, xejn. Minkejja li wħud minn dawn huma msemmija fid-direttivi tal-ambjent tal-Ewropa. Għal MEPA dawn ma jidhrux li huma ta’ xi importanza nazzjonali.
  4. Fir-rapport hemm referenza għall-kaċċa u l-nsib, u nqis il-kumment fuq dawn hu magħmul b’mod dispreġġattiv (para. 4.7). Hawn jingħad li minħabba l-kaċċa u l-insib il-post iddegrada aktar. Mingħajr ma nidhol fil-mertu ta’ dan il-kumment, jekk xejn dan juri li l-post huwa importanti għall-avifawna: għasafaar kemm residenti, tal-passa kemm fir-rebbiegħa kif ukoll fil-ħarifa, kif ukoll dawk li jqattgħu x-xitwa fil-post li juri kemm-il post huwa sinjur ekoloġikament.
  5. Imma fir-rapport tal-MEPA dan mhux importanti, ħlief id-degrazzjoni li għamlu l-kaċċaturi u n-nassab li qed tintuża biex tiġġustifika li l-post ma għandux valur ekoloġiku u hekk jista’ jinbena.
  6. In-nuqqas ta’ professjonalità tar-rapport. l-aktar fil-parti tal-biodiviersità, toħrog mill-fatt li l-ħaxixa Ngliża, tant invażiva li tikber anki wara tlett xhur fuq is-swar restawrati, tingħad li tikber biss iż-Żonqor u mkien f’Fort San Leonard. Dan inqisu li ntqal biex jiġġustifika li ż-Żonqor ma jimpurtax jekk jiġi żviluppat.
  7. In-nuqqas tal-għarfien tal-importanza tal-MEPA dwar il-biodiversità tal-post toħroġ minn Tabella 1, Stampa 2, f’paġna 6, fejn din turi l-klassifikazzjoni tal-għatja tal-art. Din ġiet inkluża biex turi l-faqar tal-post. Imma din turi biċ-ċar l-importaza tal-biodiversità tal-post, naturalemnt jekk wieħed ikun jaf jinterpreta. U dan minkejja li fir-rapport jingħad li dan il-post huwa mmirat għall-ħarsien minħabba raġunijiet ekoloġiċi (para 4.9). U ma ssemmew l-ebda speċi li jinstabu f’dan il-post li jagħmluh ta’ importanza ekoloġika. Ma naħsebx li kien jaqbel.
  8. Il-MEPA semmi ukoll xi passaġġi fiż-Żonqor li huma mimlija skart u materjal. Is-soluzzjoni ta’ dan huwa li dan il-post jiġi restawrat u mhux jintuża biex jiġġustifika li dan il-post għandu jiġi żviluppat. Anżi jekk dan jitħalla waħdu jirrestawra ruhu waħdu mingħajr ħtieġa ta’ ebda għajnuna mill-MEPA, jew minn xi żvilupp!
  9.  Jiddispjaċini ngħid li dan ir-rapport huwa miktub tant dilettantesk li jiżvija kemm il-Gvern, kif ukoll lil dawk li għandhom għal qalhom l-interess nazzjonali, dak ekoloġiku, u dak soċjali, kif ukoll dak kummerċjali. Inħoss li aktar qiegħed magħmul biex iġib il-boċċa ħdejn il-likk, kif wara kollox jixhed il-para 1.3.
  10. Fl-aħħarnett nixtieq niġbed l-attenzjoni tal-MEPA, għall-Programm Eelettorali tal-Gvern fuq l-Ambjent, Taqsima 9, paġna 93, fejn fost oħrajn jgħid:

Il-mira tagħna (tal-Gvern) hija cara: irridu nkunu ma’ ta’ quddiem nett għax hekk jixirqilna. Irridu nħallu wirt san lil ta’ warajna biex huma jkunu ahjar minna.

U jkompli f’paġna 100: “Nimplimentaw strategija cara  bbazata fuq best practices Ewropej li tpoggi l-ambjent fil-qalba tad-decizjonijiet, filwaqt li nimmiraw biex it-tkabbir ekonomiku jaghti kunsiderazzjoni xierqa lill-izvilupp sostenibbli u ambjentali.”

Wieħed hawn jistaqsi kif jista’ jintlaħaq dan il-għan mingħajr ma jkun hemm il-kontribut tad-Direttorat tal-Ambjent li, skont l-uffiċjal tal-MEPA, kif qal waqt il-laqgħa, kien hu li ma riedx jikkonsultah, għax ikkonsulta dawk li kienu jgawdu l-fiduċja tiegħu, u li xtaq li ma jsemmihomx!  U forsi għalhekk li d-Direttorat tal-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent għadu fil-limbo, u issa nafu uffiċjalment li dan mhux biss ma jistax jitkellem, imma lanqas biss jiġi kkonsultat.

Dan ir-rapport imur kontra din il-wegħda tal-Gvern.  Tant huwa fqir u dilettantesk li ma jagħmel l-ebda ġieh la lil minn kitbu, u lanqas lil ebda Awtorità li hija fdata biex tħares l-interessi soċjali u ambjentali ta’ dan il-pajjiż. Għalkemm illum mill-MEPA jiddispjaċini ngħid li wieħed jistenna kollox

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


Alien invasive species – animation film

May 5, 2015

Alien invasive species – animation film

4th May, 2015

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Invasive alien species are causing havoc the world over, not least in our island. Little attention is being given to them locally. The price being paid by society and the environment is on the increase with little help from the official entities who are responsible to control such invasive species before they establish themselves in our ecosystem. The commercial and financial gain of the importation of species and their derivatives takes priority over the negatives financial impact borne by society and the environment.

Great Britain spends £3 billion annually to control three invasive fresh water species.  The EU, spends €16 billion annually to control the negative impacts of invasive alien species. The official vision of the prevention and control of local invasive species seems to be heading that way too for Malta.

Il-Bumunqar Aħmar tal-Palm

The Red-palm weevil devastating palm trees on the island, introduced by infected palm trees imported from infected areas, to be used for landscaping, despite advice to the contrary.

The recent locally introduced invasive alien species and the damages caused are known by one and all. These include the Red Palm Weevil which has to date destroyed about 1400 palm trees including a great percentage of mature and historical trees; the African brown mulberry long horn beetle which has decimated the great percentage of old mulberry trees in Malta, and now seemingly turning its attention to the fig trees and possibly citrus trees; a new beetle which is killing carob trees and other indigenous trees; and the geranium bronze butterfly which as yet is only impacting cultivated geraniums and has not as yet attacked the indigenous wild species of related geranium species.

Il-Ħanfusa-tl-Qrun-Twil-tat-Tut

The Brown mulberry longhorn beetle (Phryneta leprosa) introduced with the importation unfumigated of timber

As yet the disease (Xylella fastidiosa bacteria) which is spreading in Italy and attacking and destroying olive trees has not been recorded in Malta, as far as one is aware.  Italy may have to destroy about one million olive trees to control such disease and is under pressure by the EU to do so. But what is being done  to prevent the introduction of this disease with the olive trees still being imported from Italy despite such imminent danger?

The general public has been informed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, that all imported olive trees have to have a phytosanitary certificate, and olive trees are being monitored. This naïve statement shows the poor awareness of the dangers of such destruction of local olive trees, citrus trees and vines, and the industry they support. No proactive measure are being implemented, let  alone considered. Then when the horses bolt, a study will be commissioned on how to close the stable doors.

The species which carried the above recently introduced alien invasive species were all accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. It seems that the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Agriculture is following the footsteps of his predecessor under whose ‘reign’ the above invasive species were introduced. Unfortunately he seems to be more interested in finding a loop hole to ensure the shooting of birds during their spring migration than taking professional steps to protect local agriculture and the ecosystem of the Maltese Islands.

According to the EU, the disease affecting the olive trees in Italy, can also attack citrus trees and vines by the insect-transmitted bacteria, which causes the trees to wither and for which there is no remedy. Would be very interesting to see the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary if, God forbid, such a disease would establish itself also in Malta. Money talks and the people and the environment pays.

Platform Stop invasieve exoten, from the Netherlands has produced the following animation film on invasive species which one hopes will help politicians understand the negative impacts and the financial, social and ecological damages these can do. This animation film can be seen by clicking the following link, which also gives other links on data on invasive alien species:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFaQLShW0Zc

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Cooing, wooing and cackling

April 29, 2015

times of malta

Saturday, 2nd May, 2015

Cooing, wooing and cackling

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The spring hunting referendum has come and gone. Not so for the migrating turtle doves and quails on their way to their breeding grounds to ensure the survival of the species. No cooing, no going for them.

During the first three days of the spring open season for the killing of mature birds going to breed, I was tending my various wild plants that I propagate, appreciating and learning more about the miracles of nature, and to help with Malta’s biodiversity. Some were sprouting while others were strongly developing and striving to achieve their aims, in buds patiently waiting to flower and subsequently seed. Spring is in the air.

Sardinian Warblr by Aron Tanti

Male Sardinian Warbler – Photo by Aaron Tanti

Close by on an open perch, a male Sardinian Warbler in full breeding plumage, and in courtship display, sang its heart out. A male Spanish Sparrow was singing nearby too, proud that its mate was safely sitting on the nest brooding the eggs: shortly a proud father to be.

All of a sudden the sound of gun fire rang from across the nearby valley and adjacent fields shattering the scene: “die, die, die. This is the way I derive my pleasure… die, die, die.”

The Sardinian Warbler and the Spanish Sparrow stopped dead. I could almost feel them eyeing me out of the corner of their eyes. An exclamatory fearful look, as if asking: “is this the best that you humans can do to give a helping hand to the ecosystem? Is this the way to quench your pleasure by taking lives? Do you realise the difficulties birds face on their way to breed? Surely not the result of the reputed intelligence?”

Spanish Sparrow - Michael Sammut

Malta Spanish Sparrow – Photo Michael Sammut

I felt ashamed and ridiculed by two living species which many look upon as being inferior. But after a while both the male Sardinian Warbler and the Spanish Sparrow once again burst out in song. A song of thanksgiving to the Creator for helping them to live another day. Not like the turtle doves and the quails which fell victims to an uncontrolled urge. The harsh cries “die, die, die” rang again a number of times. The Spanish Sparrow and the Sardinian Warbler did not take any chances and disappeared in the bushes. True they were not turtle doves and quails but it did happen to cuckoos, a lapwing, kestrels and a Dutch teenager.

I could not but plunge in a pensive mood. Half of the electorate had understood the miracles of nature. They wanted to do their utmost to support nature and all its wonders. Not just for themselves but also for our children who lent the ecosystem to us. They wanted to protect, guard, enjoy and share nature with others, not through plundering it for personal reasons.

Turtle dove - Aron Tanti

The Maltese Government has taken a derogation from the EU Birds Directive to allow the spring shooting of 11,000 turtle doves on their way to their breeding grounds. Photo Aaron Tanti.

The other half were dead keen to continue taking lives for their personal pleasure. And the most worrying part of it all was that this half of the electorate were supported by the leaders of the two main political parties!

What for? Definitely not for the sake of birds, nor for the sake of bird-shooters themselves, neither for the sake of the environment or for the sake of the people. As soon as the battle cry was over (it was just a battle, and certainly not war), the Prime Minster immediately called upon the leaders of those who wanted to continue taking lives for pleasure during the breeding season. In no uncertain terms, these ‘yes’ crowd, were told that the electorate had given them the ‘last chance’ to behave, and if not it would be the end of their spring birds-shooting spree!

The naive voters admired such a noble stand. The non-gullible felt that this Pontius Pilate move, was more like the rubbing of backs and the sharing of spoils: one bagging the dead turtles doves and quails in spring; the other the votes in the referendum and the Local Council election. The number of shot turtle doves and quails will be given in the obligatory report to be forwarded to the EU according to the derogation taken by Government. The wooing had been consummated, like the lives of turtle doves and quails! That is what I call politics. The people and the environment will as usual be footing the cost of their losses.

Claude Pepper (1900-1989), US senator and Member of the U.S. House of Representatives said: “If more politicians in this country were thinking about the next generation instead of the next election, it might be better for the United States and the world.” The latest spring hunting referendum confirms this without a shadow of a doubt.

The cackling started as I was finalising this article. Following the shooting of a kestrel which fell in the middle of a school yard during the students’ break, the Prime Minister, as he previously warned, closed the spring shooting season three days before its official closure. Whether this is through conviction or through convenience, one has to wait the advent of next spring to see whether this was really the ‘last chance’.

aebaldacchion@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com


Let’s help the birds breed

April 2, 2015

times of malta

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let’s help the birds breed

Alfred E. Baldacchino

I was introduced to birds before I could even speak. As a toddler, I used to frequent our house garden, observing the hens, rabbits and pigeons we kept for the occasional special lunch. But there was a rule for harvesting: the selected food for the table was not chosen haphazardly.

The brooding hens, nesting pigeons and rabbits with litters were spared and when they were harvested, they were not let loose and chased for the thrill of the kill.

juvenile-turtle-doves-in-malta---2012.07.01---Natalino-Fenech

If the parents did not escape the greed for the kill in spring, these juveniles would not have seen the light of day. Photo: Natalino Fenech 2012.07.01

Coming from Rabat, it was, at the time, almost impossible not to join relatives on trapping and shooting sprees, even at a tender age. I can still remember cycling, two hours before sunrise, to Dingli or Raba’ Nemel, to lay the nets for trapping finches or turtle doves. That was the way we were taught then. I also learnt to appreciate nature without the need to destroy it.

At the age of 12, we went to live in Cospicua. At first I thought I had lost the birds and the wildlife forever, though they were only a couple of kilometres away. My love for nature made me look for alternative ways. I used to go out for country walks on weekends and holidays, and I remember, in my early teens, buying magazines about nature. This opened the way for positive appreciation. I also bought a sophisticated ‘gun’, aiming at and shooting to my heart’s content, without the birds or other wildlife being harmed or even knowing about it. It was my first SLR camera.

quail-in-Malta-by-Natalino-Fenech

Quail – another breeding bird of the Maltese Islands, despite the urge to kill it. Photo: Natalino Fenech

Living in Cospicua, I experienced that sense of loss and anguish when birds were decimated and killed just for the fun of it, more so when this was claimed to be out of a love for birds.

The more I grew in years, knowledge and experience, the more satisfaction and pleasure did wildlife bring to me. The road was not an easy one: it was full of ups and downs. I often remind myself one is not paid to uphold one’s principles but one has to pay for them.

But I was determined to continue sharing my experience and knowledge with those who, though they really loved birds, unfortunately were never taught to express their appreciation in a positive way. Indeed, they were prevented from doing so because their love for birds was used or abused for political gain in exchange for their vote, irrespective of the negative psychological impact it had on them.

They formed part of a ‘minority’ that, instead of being encouraged to give their share, considering their knowledge, eagerness and enthusiasm, were abused for political gain.

What a wonderful place it would be if all those who love birds would work together to safeguard them so they could be positively appreciated and enjoyed by one and all, even by the shooters, for the benefit of the birds, the ecosystem and the country as a whole.

turtle-dove

How can one say that one loves birds and to show one’s appreciation one shoots to kill the bird one says one loves.

 

That is why I shall be voting No, to stop the hunting of birds during their breeding season. During their delicate time of reproduction, birds deserve the utmost care and protection. This is the basic concept of any true conservationist.

Voting No to spring shooting when the birds are on their way to breed will make us proud to be Maltese, at par with the best in the European Union. And only this will make birds and nature lovers unite.

I trust common sense will prevail.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com