A tree, a Minister and the EU

January 25, 2020

Alfred E Baldacchino

Sunday, 2 February, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, some do need to have wings clipped.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Mark Anthony Falzon is not appearing this week.

related articles:

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

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

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment Landscaping Conundrum

Environment hit by EU funds

“For our trees”

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

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


The environmental destruction of Malta

November 19, 2019

Tuesday, 19th November 2019

The environmental destruction of Malta

Alfred E. Baldacchino

How to destroy a valley with EU funds.

The recent destruction at Wied Qirda by Infrastructure Malta is no surprise at all. Environment destruction has become synonymous with the agency in the ministry of Ian Borg.

This long wave of destruction is endless. Thousands of public trees (even the ministry has lost count of numbers) and the destruction of national biodiversity seem to be part of their interpretation of their mission statement, “to ensure [public   infrastructure] can sustainably and dynamically support the country’s current and future economic, environmental and social development”.

Concreting a valley bottom at Wied l-Isqof by Infrastructure Malta

Destruction of trees by Infrastructure Malta at Wied l-Isqof.

The covering with concrete/tarmac of valley paths at Wied l-Isqof, Rabat, Wied Ħesri, il-Lunzjata limits of Rabat, Imselliet, Wied is-Sewda, Wied Qirda and a number of valleys in Gozo, among others, means all have suffered extensive environmental damage.

Destroying old traditional rubble walls, replacing them with large franka stone blocks cladded with used building stones to give the impression that they are ħitan tax-xulliel is another contribution, while covering such new walls with concrete further renders them useless as an ecological habitat.

These can be seen at Buqana l/o Rabat, San Ġwann, Bir id-Deheb, Żejtun, everywhere where one can see a bulldozer paid for by the ministry with EU funds.

Such environmental destruction does not help any minister, especially one who is aspiring to climb the hierarchy in his political party.

Destruction of biodiversity at il-Lunzjata by Infrastructure Malta “in the name of farmers”.

Large franka blocks, cladded with used building stone, with a concrete top layer. Infrastructure Malta refer to these as ‘new rubble walls’.

Standard replies from Infrastructure Malta are nothing but puerile, devoid of any biodiversity protection and sustainability concepts. Who can believe IM today except those who are politically convinced that a circle is square? Even the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) is not always consulted.

One cannot help but think that this is the dictatorial fashion in which IM are spending EU funds, ignoring any suggestions, criticism and appeals by stakeholders.

The Central Link Project is another case where stakeholders are going to court regarding the way decisions have been taken without adequate consultation.

It is only natural that one asks the European Union if it can stop such destruction of priceless biodiversity in our small island, which is being financed by their funds.

It would also be helpful if European Union representatives come to see the works being done and not only meet officials behind closed doors but also meet the stakeholders, who are  ignored and not consulted.

Those who feel responsible for the country and its natural environment cannot stand by and stare at such destruction

Butchered trees at Santa Lucia where a journalist was threatened – 04.08.2019. 

The usual lame excuse by the ministry, that such destruction in valleys and country paths is to accommodate farmers, is indeed hilarious. To the extent that such valley roads are being tarmacked in lieu of potholed secondary streets in towns and villages, unless of course IM believes that there are no such roads to address.

The desperate position of Infrastructure Malta reached culmination point when it stated Wied Qirda was being tarmacked in an area which has for the last two years been earmarked for expropriation.

Works by Infrastructure Malta at Wied l-Isqof concreting valley paths and dislodging rubble walls “in the interest of farmers”.

Are we expected to applaud such ‘good governance’: tarmacking a private valley path which has as yet to be expropriated?

The news that the ministry of Ian Borg will also take over Ta’ Qali to transform it into a national park makes many hold their breath.

The mentality, lack of vision on biodiversity and approach of destroying the natural environment by this ministry’s agency cannot but lead to another environmental disaster, funded by the EU.

About 8 indigenous Holm Oak trees eradicated from Balzan valley, near Lija Cemetery, to widen the road. Works done by Infrastructure Malta.

The importation of trees grown in different habitats overseas, even if they are indigenous, to be planted as new trees or to replace mature ones would only please the chosen ‘landscaper’ or his representative.

For the record, “The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure had appealed a tribunal’s (The Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal) decision and filed a court case (45/2017) against the Commissioner for Information and Data Protection, before the first hall of the Civil Court” for ordering the ministry to make available the public contract between government and ELC. Another official stand by this ministry against freedom of information on environmental matters.

One would be justified to ask what minister Borg is trying to achieve?

With his Infrastructure Malta at the helm of such destructive projects, he stands to lose not only his environmental credibility, if there is anything left to lose, but also his approach at handling, implementing and ensuring “sustainably and dynamically support the ongoing optimisation of the road network”.

Work is being executed by unprofessional personnel, who cannot see any light towards the need of the professional use, management and protection of biodiversity in a sustainable way, but blindfoldedly bulldoze over all stakeholders.

Those who feel responsible for the country and its natural environment, which has been loaned to us by future generations, cannot stand by and stare at such destruction.

Not everybody has a square-circled mentality in this country, and there are many conscientious people too in the party to which Minister Borg belongs.

Who would have thought that an old friend of mine with whom environmental matters were discussed would today be opposing such noble environmental principles?

It is important that future generations will know who was at the helm of such environmental destruction with the help of EU funds. Funds which could have been better used in a sustainable way for the benefit of society and the environment.

The legacy of environmental devastation, left by Infrastructure Malta, is there for one and all to see. Wied Qirda is another such legacy in their long list.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles:

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

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

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment Landscaping Conundrum

Environment hit by EU funds

“For our trees”

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

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

 


The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 

April 12, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019,

Alfred E. Baldacchino

A click on the keyboard leads one to the obligations of the EBUS 2020. No need to get muddy boots to arrive at such data. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/info/pubs/docs/brochures/2020%20Biod%20brochure%20final%20lowres.pdf 

Conscious of the need to avert global biodiversity loss, on May 3, 2011, the European Commission adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity, known as EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (EUBS).

This was a response to two important strong political mandates adopted by the 27 European heads of state in March 2010. Furthermore, such a biodiversity strategy is in line with international commitments adopted by 193 countries (including EU member states in the conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan in 2010). Malta is a party to both.

The EU is obliged to establish its own biodiversity policy in line with these international commitments, improving the state of Europe’s species, natural habitats and ecosystems, aware of the services biodiversity provides. The immense value of ecosystem services and the urgent need to maintain and restore these for the benefit of both nature and society are highlighted.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet, essential for our economy and for our well-being. It is about maintaining nature’s capacity to deliver the goods and services that we all need, and whose loss comes at a high price. Life on this planet – we call home – depends completely on biodiversity, a natural capital to be managed sustainably for the benefit of future generations.

The EU Commission co-financed a study on ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’. Findings include: the cost of biodiversity loss due to the current over-exploitation of global fisheries estimated at $50 billion; global business opportunities from investing in biodiversity could be worth up to $6 trillion by 2050; the €15 billion a year estimated economic value of insect pollination within the EU.

If one does not understand the economic and social value of ecosystem services and the need to restore them for the benefit of the economy, one can never honour the principles outlined in the EUBS. The economic benefits of biodiversity is not just protecting species and their habitats for their own sake.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet, essential for our economy and for our well-being

It is not ħaxix ħażin (unwanted good-for-nothing vegetation) as unfortunately some Maltese politicians believe, or are made to believe.

For the effective implementation of the EBUS, the main policies need to be integrated to sectoral policies and be taken into account in wider policy concerns, something the Planning Authority is adamantly refusing to accept.

The EUBS lays down six major targets each with actions to be taken:

A full and swift implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. On paper Malta is in line, but implementation and enforcement – well, well, well, anything but; to establish green infrastructure and to restore degraded ecosystems. Definitely not on the radar of Infrastructure Malta and the Planning Authority (both in the same ministry); to reform the Common Agricultural Policy so that it increases its contribution to biodiversity conservation on farmland and to improve forest management (see below);

To reform the Common Fisheries Policy so that it reduces its ecological impacts, including its impacts on marine ecosystems. The political entity responsible for this is more concerned with animal rights and bird shooting. Perhaps biodiversity is not regarded as including fisheries and agriculture;

To combat invasive alien species including through preventing the establishment of these species and through control and eradication. Such a concept has not yet been conceived by some local politicians; and to step up its contribution to combating global biodiversity loss.

There are separate ministries responsible, directly or indirectly, to combat global biodiversity loss. But how are these contributing to such obligations?

Official ‘landscaping’ with Invasive Alien Species.

Millions are budgeted per annum and used substantially, to import alien invasive species, some serving as carriers for other alien species and diseases; spray herbicide and pesticides on indigenous wild species, uproot indigenous mature trees and bulldoze other indigenous vegetation. Other funds pay official entities to ‘clean’ vegetation, from country lanes and rural areas. These funds are literally a waste of resources, when biodiversity is crying out loud to be managed, monitored, legally protected and discerned to honour such EBUS obligations.

Besides, the Public Authority involved in ‘planning’ regards biodiversity as the main enemy of the State, to be exploited to the fullest as long as commercial considerations are met.

Government projects with a ‘ħaxix ħażin’ mentality, subsidised with EU funds, completely ignoring EBUS targets.

 

Since the inception of the EUBS, two outstanding official government projects stand out: a quality garden of excellence at the Mdina Ditch; and the present widening of valley paths to ‘highways’ in Malta and Gozo.

Il-Lunzjata, at Rabat, cleared from, its ‘ħaxix ħażin’

 

 

The cherry on the cake is that these are subsidised by EU funds. And none of the EBUS targets and activities outlined in the EUBS are taken in consideration, but all managed and executed with a ħaxix ħażin mentality.

These two projects, besides others, cannot but show the complete resistance and ignorance of the concept that biodiversity loss is one of the main environmental challenges facing the planet (if we regard ourselves as forming part of the planet), despite the ‘economic value of ecosystem services and the need to restore them for the benefit of the economy’.

And if this is not enough, some politician/s, tongue in cheek claim, that Malta is the best in the EU. Would be a perfect statement if intended to mean that nobody ignores the obligations of EUBS as we do.

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com 

related articles

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

The ‘garden’ at Mdina Ditch officially inaugurated

MASSACRE OF MDINA DITCH TREES – IS THE EU REALLY INVOLVED?

Cash cow in the ditch

Qerda tal-biodiversità fil-foss tal-Imdina… biex isir ġnien ta’ kwalità!