Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says – (2)

July 17, 2017

Alfred E Baldacchino

Monday 17th July, 2017

Following the publication of my comments in the press and on my blog on the destruction of indigenous old Holm oaks at Lija, the Hon. Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Jose Herrera, felt the need of a right of reply to correct some comments which he said are  “baseless and malicious”, at least directed to the heading .

The Ministers reply at least had one positive comment saying that he is: “not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard.”

I feel, as many others also do, that the destruction of such old trees is an insult to any biodiversity protection authorities, and when there is no effort or feeling to control such biodiversity loss, on the grounds that these were not protected, makes the insult more hurting.

The following is the reply by the Hon Minster for the Environment the Hon. Jose Herrera, which was published in the newspaper MaltaToday, beneath yesterday’s article.

And my reply sent to the newspaper follows.

Right of reply:

I take strong objection to this heading, where it will be shown that allegations made against me and my Ministry are totally baseless and malicious. In fact, one should take note of my persistent effort in favour of tree planting and aforestation, a process which I am determined to accelerate.​

The site in question is within scheme, and is not an Urban Conservation Area (UCA) nor a protected area. Thereby, given that the species of the trees (Quercus ilex) are listed in Schedule II, these specimens are not protected through the Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations, 2011 (Legal Notice 200 of 2011, S.L. 549.64) and no permit from ERA is required for their removal from this site. 

Nonetheless, as a good practice, as part of ERA’s no objection issued, Transport Malta (TM) were made to compensate for the removal through donation of a number of trees to the local council.

However, I must state that I am not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard. Therefore, I will also explore the possibility of landscaping these new roads with the planting of new trees.

My reply:

What a sorry, puerile, statement by the Hon. Minster for the Environment Jose Herrera. What we, and especially me, were expecting was to hear about the efforts made by the Minister to save these historical old, indigenous Maltese trees, when there were more than one solution. None.

How can one accept the fact that a close to a hundred-year old indigenous tree, which was protected before the tree protection regulations were revoked, and which was suggested for total protection, was approved for destruction with no efforts to save it at all.

Anybody who has the protection of biodiversity at heart, in the national interest,  would be heart broken to see such destruction of indigenous old trees. The more so, one would also expect, the Minister responsible for the environment with the responsibility to see and stop biodiversity loss. But… it seems, not in Malta.

In my opinion this is complete failure. And I repeat it. It is a complete failure by the environment authorities that be. The more so when the Hon, Minister speaks about replacing the old Holm Oaks by a score of sapling, unless he would have to rely on imported stuff.

And we were also expecting that the Hon. Minister would have immediately set the ball rolling for the publication of the much promised and awaited tree protection regulations which would save so many indigenous trees. But no word about this either. There is no mention to his “determination and acceleration” efforts towards the publishing of these regulations.

May I ask what is keeping the Hon Minister from publishing these regulations, despite the fact that these were on his his desk from day one he took over from his predecessor, and despite all his public statements that he will soon be publishing them? Are his hands tied? Does he have a real will to publish them? Or is he under pressure from any individual or entity for specific commercial reasons?

That is what we expected to hear. We all know how much he is involved in paper talk, with no resulting positive environmental protection actions. His statement confirms this.

The Hon Minister’s statement really confirms and gives more strength to my comments. Everybody knows about the loop holes the present tree protection regulations have, drafted to the music of his predecessor from the other side of the political fence.

It is positive to read that the Hon Minister for the Environment is “not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard.” When the Hon Minister decides, and if he want to discuss the matter further, I am ready and willing to discuss the real protection, education, and technical regulations to reach such aims in the national and biodiversity interest.

It is up to the Hon Minister to decide. We have had enough of paper talk seeing indigenous trees falling down to the chainsaw, and replaced by imported invasive species. 

see also:   Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says – (1)