Wednesday, 11th June 2016
National hobby of butchering trees
Alfred E. Baldacchino
Since the first day when the tree protection regulations of 2001 were amended in 2011, the future of trees in Malta was open to the whims and fancies of developers and so called ‘landscapers’ who butcher them to their hearts’ content.
Through these years, the environmental NGOs, or some of them, have protested and protested against such butchering of trees paid out of public funds. And the conscientious and intelligent general public also kept on protesting ad nauseam. But nobody seems to care. Nobody seems to hear and nobody seems to listen. Nobody is conscious about the environmental and social damage. And the butchering goes on and on and on.
It would do no harm if one is reminded of the Government’s ‘Malta Tagħna lkoll’ electoral manifesto with regards to trees and woodland:
We will constantly protect existing trees in the Maltese towns and villages, and we will encourage the planting of more trees, especially indigenous trees. page 101, article 56.
The government has been involved in a Private Public Partnership for the last 14 years. The total amount paid for this so called landscaping, for which there is no official regulator from the biodiversity and social aspects, is approximately €112 million, or €8 million each year. And what has the country got to show for it. Invasive species and exotic trees, imported species for such landscaping, even imported indigenous specimens, to the detriment of Maltese biodiversity and to society, and planting of annual flowers which are ploughed and uprooted after a couple of weeks.
Despite the number of national and international obligations including EU obligations, with regards to the control of invasive species, such ‘landscaping’ goes on without any consideration for them.
Furthermore, the use of expanses of turf gulping the scare resource of water with the use of added herbicides seems to be the cherry on the commercial cake of this private public agreement. To the extent that the Minister responsible for landscaping still persists in keeping this public agreement confidential, and endorses €8 million annually.
Why? What is there to be ashamed of, unless of course this mismanagement is not in line with the public contract?
In the meantime the Minster for Environment looks as if environment is not his responsibility.
Such gross mismanagement and waste of public resources lacking any scientific and professional basis, ignoring international and EU obligations, to the detriment of society and the environment, now seems to have also infected, penetrated and hijacked the University of Malta.
The Times of Malta (May 7) produced photos of butchered trees in the precincts of the University of Malta – 66 mature olive trees. The institution, one would presume, is aware of the public outcry regarding the mismanagement of trees in the Maltese Islands for the last decade or so.
Who has given the green light for such butchering? And what has happened to the timber from the chopped trees?
There are qualified professional staff at University who, I am sure, if they had been consulted would have strongly objected to such nonsensical, unprofessional butchering of trees.
The more so since during this time of the year the trees are in flower and are beneficial to pollinators, including bees. So who has given the green light for such butchering? And what has happened to the timber from the chopped trees, especially when olive tree wood is so much in demand? Who is paying whom for such mismanagement? Who is going to pay for the damages done?
One wonders why such butchering was allowed on the University campus. Has it been an internal decision or was it an imposed decision from outside?
Civil society looks at University as the source from where trained professionals find their place in society and be involved in the professional running of the country. Civil society also pays to achieve this too. But the butchering of trees on the campus does not reflect any success of trained professionals in the field.
On the contrary such mismanagement officially approved on the campus, look more like a failure on the part of the University. One can add that lack of qualifications of self-proclaimed landscapers in the management of trees, has completely taken over any professional management one would expect from a University.
Could this be the result that the educational system where each and every faculty is just concerned only in its narrow specialties, not caring a finger on the externalities or responsibilities that the decisions taken by their eventually qualified students on the wider social and environmental fabric of the island?
One can only hope and wait that one day, possibly yesterday, Malta too would have qualified professionals having a wider vision of social and environmental responsibilities, who are also accepted and involved in the governance of the country. The butchering of mature trees on the campus if anything, has severely dented the professionalism at University in this field. And everyone expects a strong reaction to address this mediocrity which now has been going on for far too long without anybody taking any responsibility for it.
further reading on this national hobby of butchering trrees