No future for Maltese trees

June 23, 2020

Monday, 22nd June, 2020

No future for Maltese trees

Alfred E Baldacchino

The feeling that indigenous Maltese trees and biodiversity have no future is increasing from day to day, despite national and international obligations.

There are four ministers who are involved with trees and biodiversity: Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg; Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo, and Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia.

A 100 year old indigenous Holm Oak chopped by the Ministry. Could easily have been saved, but it is not an electricity pole.

The minister under whose watch biodiversity loss is increasing by leaps and bounds is without doubt Borg. To add insult to injury the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure is importing a number of ‘indigenous’ trees, only for political numerical reasons: planted, some in pots, or distributed to local councils.

No biodiversity vision of any sort, no concern for the possibility of viruses and diseases and the contamination of the local gene pool; just a waste of resources which could be used for the benefit of a new local industry propagating indigenous trees.

The tarmacking and concreting of valley paths, the cosmetic rubble walls, built with EU funds, further add to biodiversity loss.

If there was a reward for a politician who contributed so much to biodiversity loss, the transport minister would win it hands down. History will surely document this.

Ian Borg’s rubble walls: more concrete, iron netting and no ecological niches, so diametric opposite to Legal Notice 169 of 2004. And they are still not covered by a top concrete layering.

The 15-year-old notorious ELC, pocketing €8 million per year, introducing invasive species all over, ignoring the EU Environment Acquis, mutilating a number of street trees, is now under the auspices of the Minister for Tourism. This ministry’s vision on biodiversity is also based on the importation of more trees.

Agriculture Minister Refalo is responsible for the phytosanitary of trees and other flora. There is never a word to protect indigenous trees from risks by importation of so many foreign imports.

No biodivesity vision of any sort, no concern for the possibility of viruses and diseases

Environment Minister Farrugia has the utmost responsibility regarding protection and management of trees and biodiversity.

The protected Elderberry tree left for dying at the Central Link Project, Attard, by Ian Borg’s Ministry, irrispective of ERA conditions or not.

His Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) is the focal point and competent authority of the European Union with regard to biodiversity.

On paper, ERA is very professional and publishes regulations and guidelines on biodiversity to honour EU obligations, and declares Natura 2000 sites, though left unmanaged, such as Buskett. In practice it is almost non-existent. Nobody takes any notice of these. The tree protection regulations and guidelines, and the way trees are being decimated all over the islands, by ERA’s permits or not, are there for one and all to see..

The Environment Ministry dishes out €30,000 to local councils to plant trees. Not a bad idea, but not when lists of imported exotics, some invasive trees are given to choose from, and conditions imposed to plant some in pots, as if to accommodate somebody.

During summer months these can be seen either parched dry, or on the verge of kissing their roots goodbye. In Attard the potted trees have been changed once or more.  The roots and soil in the pots become so hot that it would be a miracle if trees survive.

Ambjent Malta, once in the portfolio of the Environment Ministry, was short-lived.  These had the foresight to start a nursery to propagate Maltese biodiversity. But the change of hands at Castille saw that this was disbanded. The only remnant is the livery on vehicles they used. Ambjent Malta was also supposed to manage Natura 2000 sites.

If the government has the will to honour its electoral manifesto and the European Union Environment Acquis, it would not have fragmented such responsibilities in a way to make nobody accountable.

There is no will, no intention, no desire, no vision, no plan, no sensitivity to rise to such a national socioecological responsibility. Only the dictatorial urge to destroy, for political commercial purposes, some with EU funds.

Financial resources, managed by the environment minister, can contribute to a professional set up to see to the conservation of local biodiversity.

We need to do away with the present scenario where ministers compete with one another on who imports most trees, destroying Maltese indigenous ones in the process.

What future does all this offer to Maltese indigenous trees? No wonder that many are concluding that the government has a road map to make Malta the Easter Island in the Mediterranean!

Alfred Baldacchino, former MEPA Assistant director


related articles: 

A tree, a Minister and the EU

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment hit by EU funds

The environmental destruction of Malta

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity


Credit where credit is due

April 18, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Following concerns expressed by members of the public, eNGOs, and individuals, on the destruction of biodiversity in country paths which were being widened and covered with concrete, Environment Resources Authority (ERA) ordered Infrastructure Malta to halt the works, and issued a stop and compliance order. Furthermore, according to press reporting, ERA ordered Infrastructure Malta to reinstate the country paths to their original state.

One hopes that all country paths mismanaged by Infrastructure Malta will be reinstated to their original state. One also hopes that this is the end of an era where biodiversity is regarded as ‘ħaxix ħażin’ (good-for-nothing-vegetation) and that such mentality will be put to rest.

One cannot but applaud the stand ERA has taken and look out to more similar decisions in the near future to protect biodiversity.

The following is one of the article which appeared in the media.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rabat country roads being reinstated after controversial widening

Recent concrete works encroached adjacent land

Keith Micallef


Country roads at Wied l-Isqof in Rabat are being reinstated to their original state. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Country roads at Wied l-Isqof in Rabat are being reinstated to their original state. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Some of the concrete controversially laid on country roads in a Rabat valley is being pulled up again by Infrastructure Malta on orders from the environment watchdog, which wants the roads to be reinstated to their original footprint.

The controversy erupted last month when it transpired that a number of narrow country roads used primarily by farmers at Wied l-Isqof were being widened, as part of a government project to “reconstruct” rural roads.

Faced by this outrage, the Environment Resources Authority ordered Infrastructure Malta to halt the works, through what it called a stop and compliance order. The measure was taken because the project was resulting in “biodiversity destruction”, ERA had said.

Infrastructure Malta argued that the roads in question were not being widened beyond their original footprint – even though evidence on the ground suggested otherwise.

However, an ERA spokeswoman confirmed that Infrastructure Malta had, in fact, encroached on adjacent land. She said that concreting beyond the original footprint was being removed by the roads agency’s contractors through the use of appropriate heavy machinery.

Several truckloads of material have been removed and dispatched for appropriate disposal to enable the area’s habitat to regenerate even in the area previously concreted, she said.

An onsite visit confirmed that the roads had been narrowed, with a stretch of soil replacing the concrete along the perimeter.

In its reply, ERA said it had intervened because the roadworks were degrading the ecosystem of the area beyond the asphalted area.

Among other things, the interventions had altered the physical profile of the valley and the natural course of the freshwater stream to the detriment of the biodiversity and the natural characteristics of the site, the spokeswoman said.

Environmentalists had denounced the works, saying vegetation was being obliterated as concrete was being poured beyond the existing footprint, damaging flora and fauna on both sides of the road.

Biodiversity expert and former assistant director of the environment protection directorate at the now defunct Malta environment and planning authority, Alfred Baldacchino, had warned that turning these roads into “highways” could have a detrimental effect on farmers due to the increase in traffic.

He also criticised the project, saying the concrete was blocking the percolation of rainwater to the water table. 

related articles:

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity





October 16, 2018

Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Local mass media daily carry news of an alarming increase in traffic accidents, some with loss of life; injuries and deaths in the neck-breaking rush of the construction industry; the alarming increase in criminal activities, some leading to manslaughter and even murder; already seven in less than nine months.

Not necessarily hitting the headlines are the number of physical and psychological impacts on both the old and young population, especially children.

“A new government will put the environmental health as a focal point in the decisions taken,” said one of the government’s last two electoral manifestos. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Unless the socio-ecological fabric of our country walks hand in hand with the economic factor, the former will have to pay externalities – the hidden costs – of short-sighted commercial decisions. The latter are putting the carrying capacity of our country under heavy pressure.

The overshooting of the carrying capacity was emphatically stressed by a pro-rector at the University, jokingly or not, saying that the government should consider buying Pantalleria.

Any sociologist qualified in population dynamics and population ecology can easily expound on the naturally occurring negative impacts of an over-populated affluent society, now rumoured to double.

The carrying capacity of a country is the number of people, animals or crops, which a region can support without environmental (social and ecological) degradation. When population exceeds the long-term carrying capacity of its environment, it leads to an ‘overshoot’. The environment usually has mechanisms in place to prevent such overshoot – often referred to as ‘overshoot-and-collapse’.

A country’s biocapacity deficit increases as either its population or its per capita consumption grows: faster if both grow. Decline is then faster than growth leading to social and ecological dysfunction.

The biocapacity or biological capacity of an ecosystem is an estimate of its production of certain biological materials, such as natural resources, and its absorption and filtering of other materials such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the ecological footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the environment it lives in, this can be called an ‘ecological overshoot’.

I tend to believe that this is not the government’s intention, though I am afraid I cannot see any official measures in place to prevent this – not even from the handpicked Planning Authority or the Environment and Resources Authority. It would be a great injustice to our younger and future generations if they find themselves in this cul de sac.

The accelerating mismanagement of the socio-ecological fabric is contributing to such overshoot-and-collapse. This can be gathered from the decimation, with official consent, of biodiversity: land, ecosystem, air and water resources. The lack of enforcement of the national and international obligations, including those of the EU, make it seem as if these, as well as official authorities referred to, exist only on paper.

Past promised commitments as outlined in the government’s last two electoral manifestos led one to hope for a better future through good governance in the light of such principles; but it gives me great heartaches when I remember such signed commitments. Allow me to quote some:

“Social justice also means environmental justice. It means clean air. It means that everybody has a right to live without fear in our country and feel safe. Social justice means the creation of a society which thinks about everybody. These are the foundation of what we believe in” (forward to Labour Electoral Manifesto 2017).

“Environmental protection will be given priority and weight in all major Government decisions” (page 117).

“Protection of outside development zones will be strengthened. A new government led by Joseph Muscat will be committed that no major public project will be constructed in ODZ” (page 117).

“We believe that Malta should be in the front line in environmental standards. Not because of the obligations of European directives, but because this is what our children deserve” (2013, page 93).

“A new government will take more seriously and with greater commitment environmental matters. We are going to work with determination so that the lost time will be regained, aware that there are difficult decisions to be taken, among which is the reform of Mepa, from its roots. We are going to take this measure in the environmental interest of our country so that we will be in a better position to address the challenges” (2013, page 93).

“A better environment leads to better health. A new government will put the environmental health as a focal point in the decisions taken. Our aim is that we will make our country one of the best in air quality; water conservation; waste management; drainage treatment; and other related fields. Therefore, a new government commits itself to better considerably these fields, to ensure a better environmental heritage to our children” (2013, page 96).

“We will focus with more professionality on the protection of biodiversity and natural species in our country, while we will ensure honouring all the obligations of our country for the protection of biodiversity” (2013, page 100).

“A new government acknowledges and recognises the professional work and the professionals in the environmental field. Therefore, we will create a structure which recognises and better leads the professions in this field, while encouraging more professional specialisation (2013, page 101).

“Environment will be given the priority it deserves and this will be incorporated with that of the present Resource Authority and so establish the Environment and Resource Authority, which will be more proactive and strategic and which will focus more specifically on the conservation, protection of the environment and resources, while also assuming the important role of an environmental regulator which presently our country does not have” (2013, page 94).

Past promised commitments as outlined in the government’s last two electoral manifestos led one to hope for a better future

These are all commendable, noble commitments, with which I fully agree. I have been working for the best part of my life towards such aims, because I love my country, its people and its environment. So, I feel it is my obligation and my responsibility to say that the way official decisions are presently being taken and implemented are diametrically opposite to such commitments – commitments which our country not only deserves, but also demands. The government is responsible to implement such commitments. Unfortunately, I cannot see any, not even in their embryonic stage.

I also remember a circular e-mail (February 20, 2013) titled “Your priorities are our priorities” from Joseph Muscat, now Prime Minister, confirming that: “I will be personally accountable for delivery.”

Regrettably, with hindsight, I would not be surprised if I am laughed off, or told that these are now past the best-before date.

The people of Malta, irrespective of their political beliefs, deserve to feel confident of a better, safer, peaceful, healthier, common future, living in a healthy environment, as after all has been officially promised.

Science never lies. So would I be expecting too much if I say that I am eagerly looking forward to immediate action, in the interest of the young and future generation, who have lent this country to us? I am sure that anybody with a genuine socialist background not only would agree with these principles and commitments, but would also take immediate measures to implement them. Not so if one is blinded by the capitalist system. Unless of course, I am corrected again.

“The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave,”  said Tavis Smiley, the American talk-show host, author, political commentator, entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist.



The higher we go…

December 5, 2016


 November 2016 – Issue 38

The higher we go…

What will be the impact of high-rise buildings on Malta’s urban and natural environment, Jamie Iain Genovese asks Alfred E. Baldacchino

Does the MEPA demerger into PA and ERA guarantee greater protection to the environment? 

The only guarantee for greater protection to the environment is the will and determination for such protection by politicians and official entities. Neither MEPA nor the present PA have any interest or intent for such environment protection.

This was evident when MEPA’s CEO presented an impact study on Żonqor Point with regards to the development of the American University of Malta. Addressing the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Environment and Development Planning, MEPA officially declared that the Environment Protection Directorate was not consulted. And the drafters of the report had to remain anonymous.

Following the demerger, the new Environment Resource Authority (ERA) sits on the Planning Authority (PA) Board and have a vote. During the decision taking on the high-rises, the ERA’s representative was indisposed because of medical reasons. The PA grabbed such a golden opportunity and continued with its decisions. A letter sent by the ERA representative to one of the PA Board members was not read in toto.

One cannot conclude that there is any will or environmental conscience within the PA who still have the final say in environmental matters. Despite that environmental matters is the responsibility of ERA, such a responsibility is also shared by all Government Ministries, and other social entities whether financial or religious.

With regards to the new ERA, the Ombudsman has remarked that this demerger has resulted in a “powerless, toothless” Authority. Cannot find any fault with such a statement.

How exactly does your research show high-rise development will impact their respective environments during their construction? 

Considering that the decision in favour of high-rise development was taken without much social, environmental and even economic in-depth considerations, such negative impacts will be irreversible.

High-rise development will only have a political and economic benefit in the very short-run. The externalities of such mammoth development, will be borne by the economic, social and environmental fabric of these islands in the long-run.

This is also emphasised by the Environment and Resources Authority Chairman who, after the vote by the PA was taken, publicly described the environment impact assessment for the planned skyscraper in Sliema as a “sham”.

The footprint of the said development is in a very busy business area in Sliema, which is already heavily impacted with traffic. The long construction period, will add to such congestions with added heavy machinery, noise, dust, construction spills, and other inconveniences. This will surely impact on the business outlets with a possible decrease of patrons. And it would also impact the residents of the surrounding area.

Unfortunately the PA did not see anything wrong with this.

And after? 

Such a mammoth development cannot but depend on much more transport: patrons’ cars, services vehicles, during a possible 24/7 activities. It has been estimated that the project will generate approximately 4000+ vehicles. Leaving the parking problems aside, vehicular transport emissions of hazardous particulate matter will also be of concerns both to residents and business outlets and their patrons.

The aesthetic impacts will dwarf both the immediate surroundings and the not so immediate surroundings. It would be interesting to know the results of the interplay between the high-rise buildings and the wind and sun.

Inhabitants can be deprived of the free solar energy. The characteristic narrow streets will also respond, in a negative way to higher humidity because of lack of sunshine.

Unfortunately quickly approved decisions without any social and environmental professional input, can only increase the costs of externalities, which the PA does not seem to find any objection to.

What would need to be different to make high-rise development be welcomed? 

Decisions on high-rise cannot be taken haphazardly, short-sightedly, in isolation without taking in consideration externalities arising out of such decisions. All stake holders have to be part of the decision.

Stakeholders are not only entities within the environs of the development.  One has also to take in consideration the carrying capacity of the whole island, something which the present planners and decision makes are completely oblivious of.  The short-term financial profit of a project can contribute not only to its own destruction, but, in the long run, also to the failure of the business network and community surrounding it.

Is most of the ire down to ‘development fatigue’ or is it a conceptual issue, with high-rises being a no-go for many?

While development can contribute to the well-being of the Country, it can also contribute to its destruction. Presently development is being carried out without any real regard to the negative impacts it has, not only presently but also in the long run. Planners and decision makers must take in consideration the carrying capacity of the country, the overall business network: both services and industrial; the health of the community: physically and psychologically; the depletion of natural resources, the protection of the environment in its widest sense, including biodiversity, and the well-being of life on these islands. High-rises can only accentuate the social and environmnetal problems.

These externalities are not being taken in full consideration, and development is being run and approved mostly for its short-term returns only, or as has officially been said, to make hay while the sun shines. It is indeed irresponsible to ignore such externalities and let future generations pay the high costs for such a grab-and-go vision.

See also


Il-masterplan għal Paceville

December 4, 2016


Il-Ħadd 4 ta’ Diċembru 2016

Amy Borg

Masterplan orkestrat mill-qiegħ

F’intervista ma’ il-mument, Alfred E. Baldacchino jitkellem dwar il-konflitti ta’ interess fix-xogħol biex sar il-masterplan għal Paceville, fuq min taqa’ r-responsabbiltà u x’għandha tkun it-triq ‘il quddiem hekk kif ħamest ijiem oħra jagħlaq il-periodu tal-konsultazzjoni pubblika li kellha tiġġedded minħabba l-protesti u l-ilmenti tar-residenti u sidien ta’ negozji.

Kif għandu jsir masterplan għal Paceville? 

Paceville kiber mingħajr ebda pjan, għalhekk hemm bżonn wieħed illum qabel għada. Dan ma jfissirx li għandu jsir fuq xewqat dojoq kummerċjali mingħajr ħjiel ta’ risponsabbiltajiet soċjali, kummerċjali, saħħa fiżika u psikoloġika, ambjentali fis-sens wiesa’ kollha tal-kelma, kif ukoll għajxien ħieni u anki obbligi, kemm nazzjonali u internazzjonali, li l-pajjiż għandu.

Waqt laqgħa ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika tal-Kumitat Parlamentari għall-Ambjent, l-Awtorita’ għall-Ippjanar stiednet lill-konsulenti barranin li għamlu l-masterplan. Ma taħsibx li dawn kellhom jiltaqgħu mal-pubbliku qabel fassluh?

Fi kliem il-konsulenti barranin stess, dawn għamlu dak li ġew mitluba jagħmlu u xejn iżjed. Qalu li ma ħadux inkonsiderazzjoni ebda studju jew risponsabbiltà tal-carrying capacity tal-pajjiż, tal-externalities, jiġifieri dawk il-piżijiet u l-prezzijiet ekonomiċi moħbija; u ma taw l-ebda kas tal-ħsibijet, suġġerimenti, xewqat tal-istakeholders, lanqas tar-residenti.

F’kelma waħda dawn ma għamlu l-ebda konsiderazzjoni socioambjentali. Dan juri n-nuqqas ta’ responsabbilta’ u l-faqar tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar f’dan il-qasam, minkejja li hija mħallsa minn flus pubbliċi u mmexxija minn akkademiċi li suppost jifhmu u jafu li huma għandhom responsabbiltà lejn il-poplu Malti li qed iħallashom.

Taħseb li l-politiku għandu jerfa responsabbilità wara li ħareġ li jista’ jkun hemm konflitt ta interess għall-kumpanija li ntagħżlet mill-Gvern?

F’pajjiż demokratiku, il-politiċi magħżula mill-poplu jmexxu f’isem il-poplu li fdalhom ir-responsabbiltà. Dawn għandhom jagħmluh b’diskuzzjonijiet wiesgħa biex il-poplu kollu jħossu li huwa parti mid-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu. Hekk dawn ikunu magħġuna biex ikunu ta’ ġid ekonomiku, soċjali u ambjentali, għall-ġid ta’ kulħadd.

Għandhom jaraw ukoll li dawk li jmexxu entitajiet uffiċjali f’isem il-poplu, jimxu fuq dan il-prinċipju. Għalhekk, il-politiku li fi ħdan il-portfolio tiegħu taqa’ l-entità li tieħu dawn id-deċiżjonijiet, huwa l-bniedem responsabbli politikament. Barra minn hekk, jekk dan il-politikant ma jerfax ir-responsabbiltà tiegħu, allura l-Kabinett huwa kollettivament responsabbli.

Allura x’kellu jkun l-irwol tal-Awtorità għall-Ippjanar fit-tħejjija għall-masterplan ta Paceville? 


Il-viżjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar Maltija, imneżża minn kull viżjoni ambjentali u soċjali.

L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar hija magħmula minn nies akkademiċi u b’esperjenza f’dan il-qasam, imħallsa minn flus pubbliċi, bir-responsabbiltà individwalment u kollettivament, li jaraw li deċiżjonijiet li jittieħu minnhom ikunu fl-interess nazzjonali, jiġifieri, fl-interess kollettiv wiesa’ soċjali, ekonomiku u ambjentali.

L-Awtorità għandha l-obbligu li tisma’, u tagħmilha ħafif u xejn diffiċli biex dawk l-istakeholders kollha li għandhom xi interess fuq is-suġġett, ikunu jistgħu jwasslu s-suġġerimenti u l-kummenti tagħhom, il-biżgħat u l-ħsibijiet tagħhom biex minn imexxi jkun jista’ jieħu deċiżjoni fl-interess ta’ poplu.

Milli wieħed jista’ jara, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar aktar ixxaqleb lejn idejat kummerċjali milli għandha xi interess minimu dwar l-ambjent jew li tagħti xi widen lill-leħen tal-poplu.

X’taħseb dwar il-high rise buildings f’dan il-masterplan?

Dan il-viżjoni tal-high rise buildings saret qisha ossessjoni, bħal ta’ dak it-tifel li ma joqgħodx kwiet sakemm bis-sewwa jew bid-dnewwa jaħtaf dak li jrid. Il-ftit studju li sar juri li dawn ma humiex adattati għal Malta mill-aspett soċjoekonomiku. Ma nafux x’effett sejrin ikollhom fuq il-carrying capacity tal-pajjiż, fuq is-saħħa fiżika u psikoloġika tal-poplu u fuq il-kummerċ taż-żgħir, fuq ir-riżorsi naturali tal-pajjiż, u anki fuq il-biodiversità.

Dan it-tip ta’ żvilupp, dejjem bl-għerf tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar fit-tmun, inħoss li aktar huwa bħal xi ħadd li jrid jimla’ vażett li jesa’ litru b’għaxar litri. Il-ħela ta’ riżorsi wkoll iddgħajjef l-istruttura ekonomika, soċjali u ambjentali li diġà teżisti.

Minn dik il-laqgħa l-pubbliku qajjem diversi kwistjonijiet u rabja wkoll. X’tikkumenta?

Veru li matul il-laqgħa tal-Kumitat Parlamentari msemmija kien hemm rabja li wasslet ukoll għall-ibbujjar. Din l-imġieba jien ma naqbelx magħha. Imma mill-banda l-oħra meta wħud iħossuhom marsusa f’rokna, imżebilha, iffrustati, ikkalpestati, inġurjati, u jaraw ħwejjiġhom li jistgħu jittieħdu għar-rejba tal-ftit, f’rapport uffiċjali li sewa €300,000, din hija r-reazzjoni li wieħed jistenna’ b’mod naturali. Aktar u aktar meta dan ir-rapport huwa mħallas minn flus pubbliċi li anki l-istakeholders mingħajr ma kienu jafu minn qabel, ħallsu għalih mingħajr ma kellhom l-iċken kontribut.

X’tikkumenta dwar kif wieġbu l-konsulenti barranin għall-mistoqsijiet tal-pubbliku?

Wieħed seta’ jara li l-konsulenti barranin kienu imbarazzati sewwa. Tant hu hekk, li meta kienu ssikkati bil-mistoqsijiet, qalu li huma għamlu dikjarazzjoni verbali lill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li kien hemm studji li l-kumpanija tagħhom għamlet għal xi żviluppatur li x-xewqat tiegħu dehru fil-masterplan.

Qalu wkoll b’mod ċar li kull masterplan ma jistax jirnexxi jekk ma jkunx hemm studji dwar l-externalities. Komplew żiedu li huma għamlu dak li ġew mitluba biss. Ma għamlu l-ebda studji li juru l-externalities tal-masterplan. Lanqas ma ngħatalhom xi rapport jew ħjiel tal-biżgħat tal-istakeholdres.

Dawn iwasslu biex ir-rapport xejn ma jidher profesjonali. L-istess bħal dak taż-Żonqor f’Marsaskala. Ħadmu fuq tagħrif mogħoddi lilhom mill-klient, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, u tawh ftit kulur, dehra sabiħa u firma.

X’nuqqasijiet fih il-masterplan?


Fir-rigward tal-qasam kummerċjali goff, ma hemm xejn nieqes: perfett. Ma nstema’ l-ebda kumment kontra dan il-masterplan minn dan is-settur. Minn naħa tal-istakeholders (mhux qed ninkludi lil ERA bħala stakeholder) mhux talli ma kienx hemm nuqqasijiet, talli ma kien hemm xejn li jitkellem fuq l-impatti negattivi ekonomiċi, soċjali u ambjentali: kemm fuq ġewwa tal-masterplan, kemm tal-madwar, kif ukoll tal-pajjiż kollu. Bil-PA fit-tmun ma niskanta xejn. Anżi nistennihom.

L-ERA għada ma tidherx u bla vuċi. U qed jingħad li ma tistax tappella għax l-ERA qiegħda fuq il-board tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar!

Li kieku kelli niddeskrivi dan il-masterplan, kont ngħidlu Masterplan orkestrat mill-qiegħ.

Taħseb li l-ħsibijiet ta kulħadd jistgħu jkunu inkorporati fil-masterplan bla ma jkun hemm kunflitti bejn parti jew oħra?

Kif qalu l-konsulenti barranin, l-ebda masterplan ma jista’ jirnexxi mingħajr studji dwar l-externalities tiegħu. U kif qalu wkoll, ma kien hemm l-ebda talba minn għand il-klient tagħhom, il-Planning Authority, li suppost tippreżenta l-interessi tal-poplu, biex huma jagħmlu dan. Jekk il-mastserplan, bħal kull deċiżjoni oħra, ma jkollux, ma jiħux u ma jkunx irid jieħu l-kummenti ta’ kull stakeholder, din tkun deċiżjoni imposta fuq kulħadd.

Mingħajr dubju, il-kummenti, is-suġġerimenti u l-ħsibijiet tal-istakeholders jwassalu biex ikollhom sehem fid-deċiżjoni biex ikunu jistgħu jgħidu li huma parti mid-deċiżjoni li tkun fl-interess ta’ kulħadd. Dan ma tantx jidher li huwa l-interess tal-Planning Authority.

Il-Gvern qed jisħaq li qed joffri lill-pubbliku politika dwar l-ambjent b’saħħitha. Taqbel?

Dan smajtu. U anki qrajtu. Imma ma nista’ naraħ imkien, la fid-deċiżjonijet u lanqas fi proġetti.

Meta niftakar fiż-Żonqor f’Marsascala; fi pjani mressqa mill-MEPA li dgħajfu jew ħattew kull pjan li kien hemm u li fuqu setgħet kompliet tinbena l-politika ambjentali; fil-landscaping imsejjes fuq siġar eżotiċi importati bi dħul ta’ mard u speċi invażivi, ma nistax ma ngħidx li din hija aktar politika ta’ konvenjenża milli politika ta’ konvinżjoni.

Meta nqis li ħafna minn dawn l-attivitajiet huma mħallsa minn flus pubblici u bi ftehimiet sigrieti, ma nafx kif xi ħadd serju jista’ jsejjah din bħala politika ambjentali b’saħħitha.  Aktar naraha bħala waħda msewwsa b’deċiżjonijiet ta’ viżjoni kummerċjali mgħammda bil-barka uffiċjali.

X’għandha tkun il-politika dwar l-ambjent għall-pajjiżna?

Politika ambjentali b’saħħitha hija msejjsa fuq qafas li jiġbor fih id-direttivi, ir-regolamenti, u d-deċiżjonijiet kollha tal-Unjoni Ewropa. Qatt ma jista’ jkun hemm politika ambjentali li tinjora dan il-qafas.

Lanqas ma jista’ jkun hemm politika ambjentali b’saħħitha fejn l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent tkun maħkuma mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, u fejn anki  tlaqqa’ l-poplu għall-konsultazzjoni meta d-deċiżjoni tkun diġà meħuda, u xi kultant il-bidu tal-iżvilupp ikun diġà beda.

Dawn iż-żewġ awtoritajiet għandhom ikunu awtonomi u jaħdmu f’isem il-poplu u l-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri mingħajr ebda indħil. Qatt ma jista’ jkun hemm politika ambjentali b’saħħitha fejn dawn l-awtoritajiet aktar ikunu lesti biex jogħġbu lill-politikant milli biex jaqdu dmirhom lejn il-poplu u l-pajjiż.

Ara ukoll

Paceville’s hide and seek –

Question time

October 22, 2016

times of malta

Saturday, 22nd October, 1946


Alfred E Baldacchino

Afforestation is beneficial to society, to the ecosystem and also economically if this is undertaken in a professional way. The economic, ecological, and social benefits are priceless. It contributes to better health conditions, reduces stress, contributes to storage of water, and reduces erosion. In some countries afforestation is included in their gross national product.


What everybody is wishing, and hoping and waiting for, but…

Afforestation contributes to the control of carbon dioxide in the atmospheres and gives back the indispensable life bearing oxygen, thus also addressing Climate Change which is having such a tremendous social, economic and ecological negative impacts on life on this planet.

But to be able to plan with determination and achieve such noble aims these benefits have got to be appreciated and understood.

The fact that a report on afforestation has remained on the shelf for two long years clearly shows that there is no political will, no political desire or determination, no political appreciation, no political understanding, no political awareness of the responsibility in taking any action towards the achievement of such benefits.

Not only so but the decimation of trees and the planting of exotics and invasive species going on unchecked, with political blessings also leads one to conclude that there is an official hate for indigenous trees in Malta.

No public consultation has been held on such a report. The only thing that has been done is the usual ‘animated cartoons’ showing where such afforestation projects can take place.

Furthermore, the much promised tree protection regulations, which go hand in hand with such afforestation projects, and which have been drafted three years ago under the previous Minister Leo Brincat, are still ‘being studied’ after being initially shot down by some technocrats. The new Minister during the House of Representatives Permanent Committee on Environment and Development Planning, some months ago promised that they will soon be out for public consultation.

What is holding the implementation of such an afforestation report and the accompanying regulations for the protection of trees and afforestation?

Without doubt the highest hurdle towards achieving such benefits in the national interest is the lack of political will. This is further extended to the many political advisers who are not au courant on related national and international obligations, if they are even aware of the government’s electoral manifesto.

From past experience, one can see how MEPA handled such biodiversity obligations, before it shed its “Malta and Environment” responsibilities and changed its clothing to a PA. One can also see the decisions being hurriedly taken by this PA, blindfoldedly approving developmental permits without any concerns for anyone or anything, except developers.

It also seems that ERA, after three years in limbo, has been so blinded by the light of day that it cannot even find its own two feet and seems to be still under the beck and call of its past bedfellow. Could the implementation of such an afforestation report be seen as a stumbling block to the PA?

Sometimes I honestly hope that such an afforestation report is kept on the shelf and postponed sine die by the Minister for the Environment.  I believe that if it were to be implement with the political expertise he is dependent on, it would be another brick in the wall towards the further massacre of the environment, both with regards to the choice of species, and also with the now institutionalised pro-business vision, leading to the importation of indigenous trees used for such project because of pressure from ‘landscapers’. All contrary to international obligations such as the EU Environment Acquis, the Berne Convention, its recommendations and decisions, and also the Biodiversity Convention.


… unfortunately

Where there is a will there is a way. Naturally where there is NO will there is NO way, afforestation or not. So the best step forward is to let sleeping dogs lie.

For the views of the Dr Josè Herrera, Minister for sustainable development, the Environment and Climate Change see the following link:

See also the following articles on my blog:

Another buskett onslaught

Trees butchered at university

Yet another toothless dog

Trees and invasive species

There is no respite for trees

The national wonders of tree pruning in Malta

Alien invasive species animation film


Yet another toothless dog

August 26, 2016

times of malta

Yet another toothless dog

Friday. August 26, 2016

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The way in which the new Planning Authority handled the applications for high rise buildings is a harbinger of things to come with regard to the complete destruction of these islands socially, environmentally and economically. Without any policy on the matter, without any public consultations, without any respect for anything or anyone but with urgency to please the selected few while the sun shines, the PA decided to approve the applications with absolutely no sign of professionality at all.

The fact that the new Environment and Resources Authority was absent from such an important decision is also very worrying.

A new era seems to be dawning on the environment, which, we have been told, ” … will be given the priority it deserves…”

The ERA chairman was indisposed and sent an explanatory letter. If I were the ERA chairman and I were sick, I would have crawled to the meeting, if only to make my presence felt. It would have been important to vote and make ERA’s position known. If medical reasons did not allow me to crawl, I would have sent a letter to the PA chairman stressing the need for it to be read before the vote was taken and highlighting ERA’s vote.

I would also have entrusted one of the ERA board members with the task to substantiate ERA’s official position. I would certainly not have sent the letter to a PA board member to use as he deems fit.

Such unprofessional behaviour simply shows that the government’s intentions to split Mepa into two authorities was just a sham. It wanted to make things easier for the selected few, weakening national and EU environmental obligations and responsibilities, giving a blank cheque to development applications having a hidden political blessing.

This was evident when the environment protection directorate was kept in limbo by Mepa when they were supposed to be in the same bed. Unconcerned, Mepa presented the Parliamentary standing committee on the environment with an impact assessment on Żonqor Point, confirming that the directorate was not consulted and drafters of the assessment had to remain anonymous.

The Environment and
Resources Authority, still so
young, has signed its own
death warrant


The new ERA, the promised champion of the environment, failed at its first hurdle. ERA, still so young, has signed its own death warrant through its impotency. The subsequent news that the ERA chairman described the EIA of the Sliema skyscraper as a “sham” confirms that ERA is another toothless authority.

I am indeed sorry for the ERA chairman. I had high hopes and honestly believed he would go far towards the protection of our environment – the basis of life as professionally he fully well knows.

The Sliema parish priests and the Church Environment Commission were constrained to voice their concerns. One cannot run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. The leadership of the Church is emerging to be a solid promoter of the social and environmental responsibilities in the country, in line with Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. Yet, it is already being hounded by the square-circled political mentality.

Considering the local conditions, the high rises approved and others being proposed are anti-social, anti-environmental and anti-economical. Unfortunately, the powers that be, despite claiming they hail from the socialist camp, are dead set to accommodate the selected few at the expense of the exploited many, who sooner rather than later will have to pay through their noses, financially, socially and environmentally.

Such an official blinded vision is an extreme capitalist mentality rather than a moderate socialist commitment. But this is of no concern to those involved in these decisions. Greed, materialism and the exploitation of everything, at everyone’s expense, seem to be the order of the day.

As a past chairman of the Church Environment Commission once wrote: ” … Mepa, which should be our national watchdog on environmental protection and good management, has been turned into an old toothless dog often receiving merciless battering from all directions, including from the authorities, the public at large, NGOs and also from environmental speculators. And, let us all be aware, this state of affairs mostly satisfies the hidden agenda of the latter!”

He had also said: “What we need is a national watchdog called MEA: the Malta Environment Autlority. This should be able to act as a strong regulatory body in environmental matters, with all the required resources, including a well-trained and motivated staff. And, as a national watchdog, it should be able to act independently of all other govemment entities and authorities. Our MEA should play second fiddle to none” (Times of Malta, January 1, 2010).

Bold and noble words indeed when said with conviction.

cartoonThe old toothless dog is still running the show. And it is not only the old toothless dog that is still receiving such criticism. It has now been joined by a seemingly toothlless ERA.

One has to be aware that scientific decisions are arrived at in a very, very different way from political decisions. “And let us all be aware, this state of affairs mostly satisfies the hidden agenda of the latter”.

Who has let down whom?

Alfled Baldacchino served as assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.


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.


How the professional management of water was adulterated for political reasons


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).

Additional reading:

Effects of Ta’ Ċenċ development on Flora and Fauna

March 1, 2016


Effects of Ta’ Ċenċ development on Flora and Fauna

ALFRED E. BALDACCHINO, a noted environmental lobbyist and keen writer has been working hard on the envronmental protection front since the early 1970s. Following the proposed Ta’ Ċenċ development The Malta Independent contacted Mr Baldacchino to see what the avid blogger and environmentalist had to say about the new proposal, the effects it will have on the flora and fauna of the area, and the role of NGOs.                 ___________________________________________________

Q. What flora will be affected by the development?

natura-2000-logo_2_fs.jpeg (800×600)Ta’ Ċenċ is an EU Natura 2000 site. This embraces a Special Area of Conservation with regards to flora and fauna (except birds) according to the Habitats Directive and also a Special Protection Area with regards to birds according to the Birds Directive.

Ta’ Ċenċ was accepted by the EU Commission after Malta forwarded a list of flora and fauna which were of importance to the EU according to the habitat types and species listed in the Habitats and Birds Directives. This was accepted by the EU Commission, and these NATURA 2000 Standard Data Forms (MT0000034) are referred to in the report on an appropriate assessment based on terrestrial ecological resources and on avifauna published by Ecoserve in December 2015.

These EU Directives do not only protect the species per se but also protect the habitats important for certain species within the delineated boundary. The site is important as one holistic ecosystem. These EU Directives oblige Member States to see that all activities, within the delineated boundary, are to be either aimed towards the management of the site or else they, and even those immediately outside, do not impact any habitats and any species of the Natura 2000 site.

endemic-sub endemic flowers

Photos courtesy of Stephen Mifsud

The proposed development, will have a negative impact on most of the flora, whether  common, vulnerable, endemic or endangered. These will be somehow affected both during and after works, and also during the increased human activities, mainly commercial, subsequent to the works not relevant to the management of the site. Some of the important flora found in this EU Natura 2000 are the sub endemic Maltese waterwort, the sub endemic Maltese toadflax, the endemic Maltese cliff orache, the endemic Maltese hyoseris, and the endemic Maltese rock centaury. These besides other important threatened vegetative communities such a those dominated by the endemic Maltese salt tree, and others including garigue and rock pools all of EU Community Importance.

The Appropriate Assessment 2015, besides highlighting the above, also states that: “More accurate prediction of environmental impact would necessitate extensive experimental work on the ecological responses of the species concerned and establishment of a mathematical model linking cause with effect.” A proper Environment Impact Assessment as obliged by the Directive, will have to be undertaken if the development is to proceed.

Q. What fauna will be affected by the development?

All the fauna will also be affected both during and also after the completion of the works. The proposed development will greatly affect and damage the ecological set-up and the conservation of this EU Natura 2000 Site.

short toed lark - michael sammut

Ta’ Ċenċ is the stronghold of the short-toed lark, which is a summer resident to the Maltese Islands where it nests.

The Appropriate Assessment 2015 states that not only the sedentary fauna within this EU Natura 2000 will be affected, but also those which can visit and can leave the area. All the breeding birds in this EU Natura 2000 site will be affected, not only the sea birds colonies breeding on the cliffs but also those which breed or use the plateau for foraging, whether residents or migratory.

blue rock thrush - michael sammut

The blue rock thrush (the national bird of Malta) also breeds at Ta’ Ċenċ and besides the sea cliffs it uses the garigue plateau as its feeding grounds.

The Appropriate Assessment 2015 mentions 24 species of breeding or potential breeding birds recorded at Ta’ Ċenċ. These are either species of global conservation concern, or unfavourable conservation status whether concentrated or not in Europe. Eleven of these are all protected and either vulnerable or endangered and listed in the Maltese Red Data Book such as the corn bunting the short-toed lark, the blue rock thrush, and the barn owl, among others.  This is also confirmed in the Appropriate Assessment 2015.

Short-toed Lark nest at Ta' Ċenċ - Michael Sammut May 2015

The nest of the short-toed lark at Ta’ Ċenċ.  

The Appropriate Assessment 2015 stresses that “Development within these two zones (the hotel area including the interpretation centre, and the villa area) is likely to generate environmental impact that may affect significant resources within Ta’ Ċenċ SAC and this assessment accordingly focuses on processes in these zones.”

Q. How valid are the impact assessments which have been performed and what could they have done better?

The assessment which has been published in 2015 is just an Appropriate Assessment. It is not a proper Environment Impact Assessment which is required before every development in an EU Natura 2000 site, as obliged by the Habitats Directive and as also indicated in the Appropriate Assessment.

The Appropriate Assessment also states that the proposed footprints of the Hotel area, the villa area and the interpretation centre “will obliterate plant assemblages and sedentary or slow moving fauna, and displace more vagile (free moving) fauna from the habitat”.

An earlier Environment Impact Assessment on Ta’ Ċenċ was by made by John Azzopardi in 2005. John Azzopardi is a past Assistant Secretary of the then Malta Ornithological Society with over 35 years experience in field ornithology, and also a past chairman of the International Council for Bird Preservation (Malta Section) – today Birdlife International. In his study John Azzopardi  elaborates “that nocturnal seabirds may be disoriented by artificial lighting whilst travelling from feeding grounds to nesting sites. Possible effects of artificial lighting on nocturnal seabirds, include abandonment of nest sites and burrows (with subsequent vulnerability of chick to starvation or depredation), collision with structures during flight, reduction of reproductive rate and of recruitment rate, interference with navigation and direction-finding and interference with the food sources of the birds.”

According to the EU Habitats Directive, each EU Natura 2000 site has to have a management plan not later than six years after accession, in our case, 2004. Malta did not reach this deadline and was given additional time up to December 2015. By that time, the management plans for all EU Natura 2000 sites were finalised by Epsilon-Adi Consortium, and discussed at public meetings. These had to be approved by Government and sent by MEPA to be approved by the EU Commission.

The Appropriate Assessment 2015 mentions these EU obligatory Management Plans for the EU Natura 2000 sites, but indicates that no reference was made to them despite that these are public. One can either conclude that these have not been sent to the EU, or else that they have not been approved by the EU Commisison. I just cannot image how such a development can be considered by MEPA, when it failed to consolidate and get EU approval for the management plans, now overdue as obliged by the EU Commission. But MEPA is MEPA – no real concern for biodiversity and no interest in EU environmental obligations despite being the official Competent Authority for environmental matters.

Q. What is the role of the NGOs in all of this, and do you think they are acting accordingly?

I believe that every NGO convinced and proud of its statuary aims for the protection of biodiversity, in whole or in part, have to make its stand publicly known on this unique important EU Natura 2000 site. To the time of writing, only Din l-Art Ħelwa has publicly declared its disagreement with this proposed development so damaging to this EU Natura 2000 site.

Sometimes environmental NGOs do surprise me by the stand they take or by their complete silence. The Malta Independent (25.02.16) carried a back page article with a declaration that “Proposed Ta’ Ċenċ development will not interfere with nesting habits – BirdLife Malta”.

Having been the Hon. General Secretary of the MOS (now BirdLife Malta) from 1974 to 1986 when bird protection principles were established with great sacrifices by many, I find it very difficult to believe this. IF this is correct, this is a stab in the back to all those who have and are still contributing to biodiversity and bird protection in Malta, and an insult to all the personal sacrifices by  many who contributed or are contributing, in one way or other towards bird protection.

GuideOne has only to take in consideration the various official publication of BirdLife Malta on the area. Ta’ Ċenc is regarded as the stronghold of the breeding Short-toed Lark, and important for a number of potential breeding species referred to in the Appropriate Assessment 2015, all listed as vulnerable or endangered in the Malta Red Data Book.

An international seabird conference was hosted by BirdLife Malta on 22 November, 2015, and attended by an international delegation of marine scientists, government authorities, and the European Commission representatives, (incidentally, though not much publicised, held at the Hotel Ta’ Ċenċ, Gozo). There it was agreed that “Important Bird Areas (IBAs) (such as Ta’ Ċenċ) represent the largest global network of important sites for biodiversity”.

The Maltese Environment EU Commissioner, Karmenu Vella who addressed the conference by video link is reported as having said that: “Natura 2000 sites (such as Ta’ Ċenċ) are the centrepiece of European nature legislation, helping in our efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

IBA booklet2In July 2004, Birdlife Malta produced a booklet, printed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB): Important Bird Areas of EU Importance in Malta. This is compiled by John J Borg and Joe Sultana, (the former one of the authors of the Appropriate Assessment 2015). Under the Important Bird Area of Ta’ Ċenċ, the authors list the following as threats for this IBA, now an EU Natura 2000 site: “A tourist complex is situated about 100 m from the cliffs with plans of extension. Uncontrolled recreation, mainly trekking and rock climbing, unsustainable exploitation (e.g. illegal bird shooting and trapping).”

RDBTaking the above, besides many others, in consideration, I find it very very difficult to believe Birdlife Malta statement regarding the non negative impact of development at Ta’ Ċenċ. Of course, one expects an official declaration by Birdlife Malta if this is not correct and is contrary to what Birdlife Malta have been working for, through popular and scientific literature, and publicly campaigning for bird protection since the birth of the society’s in 1962 when it was the Malta Ornithological Society –  MOS.

If such an official declaration is not forthcoming, then I have to regrettably believe it. However, I would then also expect a clarification by Birdlife International for this change of position regarding bird protection in Malta from their local partner, whom they support morally and financially.

I have to strongly disassociate myself from this declaration from Birdlife Malta that the proposed Ta’ Ċenċ development will not interfere with nesting habits, as reported in your paper, and hope that this is a very grave lapsus.

Do you think it is possible to have any sort of compromise with the developers where they can go ahead with development while safeguarding the natural surroundings?

Compromise is not a word in my vocabulary, especially when it comes to eliminating ecosystems, the more so when there are international obligations with regards to the protection of biodiversity of an EU Natura 2000 site. As stated in the Appropriate Assessment 2015 with regards to the obliteration of habitats: “No mitigation measures can be proposed for the actual area obliterated, since this impact is irreversible.”

Where biodiversity is concerned, there can be no compromises: in an EU Natura 2000 site, impacts are either wrong or not wrong. Compromises are reached only by those who have a pro-business vision willing and ready to accept the elimination of a living ecosystems, which after all also sustain us all. And such a compromise is reached only for commercial personal gain, naturally at the expense of society and the living environment.

scientific names




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.



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.




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.


PS – graphics were added to the original article.

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 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:


Read the full interview in MaltaToday


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

Back from green Elba

June 20, 2015

times of malta

Saturday, 20th June, 2015

Back from green Elba

Alfred E. Baldacchino

 Elba is a Mediterranean island slightly smaller than Malta. The population of the latter is 14 times that of Elba, which is only 30,000. We found ourselves in Elba at the invitation of two great Italian naturalist friends of ours: Francesco and Franca, the latter the director of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park which includes the seven main islands namely Elba, Isola del Giglio, Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri, Gorgona, and some of the minor islands and rock outcrops.


The yellow flower of the Spanish broom could be seen everywhere

Every possible time, we roamed the national park, admiring the biodivesity, the organisation and the efforts being made to ensure its protection. Along the winding paths of the park, despite not yet being the peak touristic season, we met a number of tourists from Germany, United Kingdom, USA, France, Russia, and mainland Italy, walking or cycling, all admiring the biodiveristy, history and the scenary of the archipelago.


The wild flowers adorned the landscape; contrary to those in Malta which succumb to the officially approved and financed spraying with herbicides.

Elba is so green with vegetation. The bright yellow flowers of the Spanish broom were so beautiful against such a green background. The last wild specimen of Spanish broom which I can recall in the Maltese Islands in the vicinity of Girgenti, was burnt down to make way for a single vine. The wild flora on Elba is so familiar to ours: mallow bindweed, poppies, mullein, rock rose, mallow, myrtle, lentisk, buckthorn, evergreen oak, and others. The winding paths were dotted and adorned with the indigenous mallow bindweed: so beautiful.

In Elba, wild indigenous flowers are not sprayed by herbicides as happens in Malta, paid from public funds made available by the central and local governments.


The Aleppo Pine in all its splendour, as never seen in Malta due to the officially approved endemic ‘pruning’.

All around the trees looked so different from those growing at home. So green, so naturally shaped, so healthy, so beautiful, so beholding. These trees attract birds and their droppings but are not problematic to the residence; not a hindrance to the many restaurant tables laid out beneath them;  no problem to the adjacent buildings with their roots; in no way obscuring views of the horizon or the village fireworks,  or obscuring the vision of the papier mache statue of the patron saint during the village festa. These trees are professionally managed and not regarded as lamp posts, not butchered nor mutilated or decapitated or uprooted by public funds to politically accomodate somebody, despite political promises.

I had to constantly pinch myself into reality to  remind myself that I was not in Malta where such mismanagement of indigenous flora and decorative trees is approved by the Minister responsible for landscaping, or the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for local councils, all with the help or lack of action by the now notorious seemingly politically hijacked environmental watchdog, Mepa.

All around we could hear birds singing: goldfinches, greenfinches, siskins, and chaffinches. My first reaction was to search for the cages to see the birds. Again I forgot I wasn’t in Malta. The birds were in the trees above us, in the bushes in front of us or flying around us. All were busy with their nests.

During our walks we could also see and hear collared doves and turtle doves cooing, busy with their nests too. I held my breath hoping that no shotgun would blast the turtle doves during such a difficult and delicate time. Why did I have to constantly pull myself back to earth and adjust the imprinting from back home? A cultural shock perhaps! There was no politician trying to find loopholes to see how these could be shot or trapped!


The famous friendly swallows nesting in the rafters of the village bar

In Pomonte, a remote silent small picturesque village, in the small square opposite the village church, we stopped for a breather. In two small adjacent restaurants, the rafters of the roofed terraces, offered adequate habitat for three pairs of swallows which were busy brooding the eggs in their nest – two naturally built nests and an artificial one placed specifically to attract them. We were only a maximum of three meters away from the nests, but the parent swallows were not concerned at all. They carried on with their procreative business.

In 1981 two pairs of house martin did build a nest under a stone balcony in the square opposite the Rotunda in Mosta. And they were the talk of the town. Neither the continuous traffic nor other activities in the square bothered them; except for the ground fireworks and petards of the village festa. The two pairs with their young abandoned the nests! But who would dare think that measures could have been taken to ensure that the village festa would not disrupt two nesting pair of birds. Certainly not in Malta.


The determination and will for communication, education and public awareness, so conspicuous by it absence in Malta.

Can Malta ever rise to its environmental obligations, both national and international? Can the majority of the local politicians one day feel that it is their duty and responsibility to educate the people to appreciate, protect and be proud of what not only belong to all of us, but also to what we have been entrusted to protect? Can the majoirty of politicians one day realise the damage that they are doing, not only to the local society and environment, but also internationally, when they politically use such a natural heritage in exchange for political power? It has locally been said that together everything is possible. Is there a political consensus and a will to ensure that together we can achieve such positive energy with which we can make a difference?


Herring gull and chick. Can you image being so close to a bird in Malta that you have to take a step backward to be able to focus the camera.

Sometimes I feel that all this is wishful thinking, becasue unfortunately, the present political movement in government, is so blinded by a pro-business vision, without any concern for anything or anyone except speculators and investors, seemingly in the footsteps of a capitalist system. Not only so, but  it may take a generation or two to correct the damage and mistakes being committed – if ever, that is.  In the meantime, the Maltese society and the environment will have to pay the unsurmountable price.

Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of the new best seller, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets,” has for more than three decades been teaching why capitalism is undermining human morality … and why we keep denying this insanity. Why do we bargain away our moral soul?

Is Malta fast heading in this direction?

NAPOLEONElba and Malta both experienced the presence of Napoleon, albeit in different circumstances.  Borrowing  a leaf from this renowned experienced French politician, “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.”

And this is why I cherish my pen.


June 16, 2015


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



Unkept green pledges

January 17, 2015

times of malta

Saturday, 17th January, 2015

Unkept green pledges

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

Public awareness on environmental matters has never been so strong. Yet, the environment is still being decimated and abused with the blessing of government entities.

MEPA, the competent authority for environment, is under the responsibility of a parliamentary secretary, and falls within the Prime Minister’s portfolio. Projecting colourful fireworks’ toxic smoke, killing of species, and ODZ ‘tweeting’ are higher on the agenda than any tangible national policies for the good of society and the environment at large.

Once there was a party in government who in 1980 initiated regulations for the protection of biodiversity, and had a vision to green Malta and push afforestation. Surprisingly, that same party is in government today, albeit with different faces, different visions, and different principles. It seems that the complete exploitation of the environment, despite its social, ecological, economical, educational, scientific, psychological, and quality of life contributions, is a new principle. As are the dismantling of environmental regulations. Times change not only names, faces and logos, but also basic principles it would appear.

photo - unkept green promise

It seems that the complete exploitation of the environment is a new policy. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

An authority that is funded by the public turns a blind eye on social and ecological negative impacts. No finger is turned to stop the decimation and butchering of biodiversity. Spraying of chemicals to kill every living species growing for free goes uncontrolled. Millions of euros are spent to dump free natural sources in the sea. A directorate which once was responsible to see that these do not happen is in deep freeze. The mentality of pecuniary and materialistic greed at the expense of society and the environment rules the day.

EU funds are still used and spent without any ecological consideration. Commercial banks still sponsor without ensuring that some of the funds do not go toward the loss or destruction of biodiversity. Politicians are not concerned about loss of biodiversity with the funds provided.

The Environment Directorate is abused, gagged, and hijacked till hopefully it gives up its ghost. Mepa has become more of an environmental hazard than environmental protector. Can anyone be blamed for believing that government does not have any vision or interest in collective social and environmental gain?

The government’s manifesto, if electoral manifestos are anything to go by, clearly explains that a well-protected environment leads to a better quality of life. The new government had to seriously administer and be greatly committed to the environmental sector. It had to work with determination to make up for lost time, aware that there are a number of difficult decisions to be made, amongst them the upheaval of MEPA. It had to take this measure in the interest of our national environment so that it will be in a better position to address the challenge (electoral manifesto p. 93).

“Times change not only names, faces and logos

but also basic principles, it seems”

The separation of the environment and planning directorates within Mepa, was intended “to strengthen the environment’s autonomy” and “to give more importance to the strategic aspect and long term vision”, “to reach a better balance between conservation and the protection of the environment and responsible development.” (electoral manifesto p. 94).

Yet after 21 months in government, Mepa remains responsible for environment protection, playing havoc in this sector, not wanting to have anything to do with environmental protection. Mepa’s environmental management is far from the elected commitments made by the party in government. The procrastination in bringing about the promised demerger does not help to convince anyone that government is keen on immediately honouring its electoral manifesto even on such a delicate matter which will affect the future of the islands. Such a vacuum and delay is undoubtedly being capitalised, to the detriment of society and the environment. It is very clear that the official pro-business vision is sucking Malta’s resources dry. The Minister, who on paper is responsible for the environment, will eventually be handed a dead skeleton of environmental structures, impossible to resuscitate, if at all.

The ‘not-my-fault’ syndrome has unfortunately undermined any sense of good governance. Sometimes I ask myself whether the environmental remit has been politically omitted from the Environment’s Minister portfolio and divided and fragmented among other Cabinet ministries so that it would be easy to say that no one is responsible when environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility?

In the run up to the election, the Prime Minister said that if any voters were not happy with the way ministers were handling their responsibilities according to the manifesto, they should refer the matter to him directly. The letter signed by present and former presidents of Din l-Art Ħelwa regarding the pitiful state the environment was a first step. It was followed by a group of other environmental NGOs.

I would also like to bring to the Prime Minister’s attention, the manner the environment is being mismanaged and exploited. There is no doubt that the legacy this government will be leaving to future generations is indeed shameful and does not do any honour to any politician, if honour is valued any more these days. Ironically, the environment falls within the portfolio of the author of the electoral manifesto. He is definitely being advised by the wrong people, some say conveniently, though I do not agree with this.

The latest comments by the Prime Minister can possibly shows that he is not happy with this sad state of affairs. And rightly so, because there will definitely not be much hope for the environment in the future with the big irreparable negative impacts this will have on society, which will eventually have to pay the price for such political mismanagement.

Mepa playing havoc with environmental matters is definitely not in line with the electoral manifesto’s commitments. Not only will lost time not be recovered (electoral manifesto p 93) but such lost time is being extended and extended until there will be nothing left to recover.

Having hijacked the planning authority, the pro-business mentality driving force is holding society and the environment to ransom.

Environmentalists who have the real national interest at heart, consider 2014 as a very bad omen for the future of Maltese environment. Will this new year offer new hopes, new visions, new sustainable life for the benefit of society and the environment? The momentum of environmental degradation through the vision of exploitation at all costs raises serious doubts amongst those having the well-being of the country at heart.

I only hope 2015 will prove me wrong, not through political blah-blah but by genuine social and environmental tangible measures.

Ir-Rabat, ir-Rabtin u l-Kunsill Lokali

October 7, 2014


Ir-Rabat, ir-Rabtin u l-Kunsill Lokali

it-Tlieta, 7 ta’ Ottubru, 2014

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Dawn l-aħħar ġimgħat ir-Rabtin kienu mħassba u xi ftit inkwetati minħabba proġett li qed isir bil-għajnuna ta’ fondi mill-Unjoni Ewropea li l-Kunsill Lokali tar-Rabat ġab għall-proġett li fassal għat-triq Santa Rita fejn kull nhar ta’ Ħadd kien jarma l-monti.

Mhux minħabba l-proġett innifsu, għaliex kulħadd huwa favur li jara li dan isir. Imma minħabba l-mod kif dan ġie u qiegħed jiġi amministrat mingħajr mar-Rabtin għandhom it-tagħrif li jixtiequ jkunu jafu, u kif huma ma humiex parti minn dawn id-deċiżjonijiet meħuda. Uħud minnhom isiru jafu bihom meta dawn jitħabbru.

l-ewwel intopp faqqa’ fuq is-sit eletroniku Rabti People who like or live in Rabat Malta meta tħabbar li sakemm jitlesta’ x-xogħol, il-monti kellu jmur fi triq it-tiġrija taħt is-Saqqajja fejn fl-Imnarja jtellqu l-ħmir u ż-żwiemel.

Dan kellu impatt fuq ir-Rabtin, ix-xerrejja li kienu jżuru l-monti nhar ta’ Ħadd u anki fuq il-bejjiegħa nfushom. U dan wassal għal numru ta’ kummenti, suġġerimenti pożittivi, u kritika kostruttiva li dehret  fuq is-sit eletroniku Rabti.

Imma mhux talli dawn ma ġewx mismugħa mill-Kunsill Lokali, imma lanqas biss ingħata kas tagħhom. Uħud ukoll qalu li xi deċiżżjonijiet tal-kunsill xi kultant jidhru li ttieħdu wara bibien magħluqa jew mingħajr konsultazzjoni wiesgħa biżżejjed.

Wara li sit eletroniku Rabti far b’dawn il-kummenti, bdew ħerġin xi kummenti minn xi membri tal-Kunsill. Mhux ċar jekk dawn kienux qed jitkellmu għan-nom tal-Kunsill jew kienux personali biex forsi jttaffu l-weġgħat ta’ dawk ir-Rabtin li tellgħu lil dawn il-membri li jirrapreżentaw  il-partiti l-kbar, fuq il-kunsill.


Ritratti meħuda mis-sit eletroniku Rabti: siġar qabel ma nqalgħu.

Il-kobba kompliet titħabbel meta beda x-xogħol. Numru ta’ siġar tal-wirdien, jew difla jew kif jafuhom xi wħud, siġar tal-oleandru, ġew maqlugħa minkejja li mhux kollha jidhru fil-permess tal-MEPA. Siġra oħra mħarsa bil-liġi ġiet maqlugħa u skont kif kiteb membru tal-Kunsill fuq is-sit eletroniku, ġiet imħawla d-Dwejra. Siġar oħra fuq il-post, li jissemmew fil-peremess tal-MEPA huma siġar tal-wirdien, awrikarja, ballut, tin u żebbuġ. Dawn kellhom jiġu mħawla fi Triq Santa Rita fil-postijiet indikati. Uħud minn dawn imħarsa bil-ligi jidhru li huma lesti għal qlugħ.  Mhux talli hekk talli l-permess tal-MEPA, bid-data tas-27 ta’ Ottubru 2010,  jidher ċar li dawk is-siġar li kellhom jinqalgħu riedu jithawlu fuq il-post mill-ġdid u mhux id-Dwejra. Permess tal-MEPA aktar qarib ma jitkellem xejn fuq qlugħ ta’ siġar.


Ritratti meħuda mis-sit eletroniku Rabti: siġar li għebu għalkollox.

U hawn wara li l-Kunsill Lokali naqas bil-kbir li jagħti tagħrif lil dawk ir-Rabtin li tellgħuh u oħrajn, u naqas ukoll li jilqa’ l-ilmeti tagħhom, wieħed ma jistax ma jagħmelx xi mistoqsijiet:

  1. Għaliex il-MEPA, wara dawn l-ilmenti kollha pubbliċi li saru u għadhom qed isiru mir-Rabtin dwar dan ix-xogħol, tibqa’ siekta u ma tiħux passi biex tara li x-xogħol isir skont il-kondizzjonijiet li għamlet?
  2. Għaliex is-Segretarju Parlamentari responsabbli mill-Kunsilli Lokali ma għamel l-ebda kumment, pubbliku jew le, fuq il-mod kif il-Kunsill Lokali tar-Rabat mhux qed jagħti kas tal-ilmenti Rabtin u mhux qed jitkellem magħhom b’mod uffiċjali dwar dan ix-xogħol u l-permessi li għandu?
  3. Għaliex il-wegħda 56 fil-programm elettorali tal-Gvern, li tgħid “Inħarsu kontinwament is-sigar eżistenti fl-ibliet u l-irħula Maltin u ninċentivaw it-tħawwil ta’ aktar siġar, partikolarment dawk indigeni” qed tiġi mwarrba, aktar u aktar meta l-Kunsill tar-Rabat huwa fil-maggoranza tiegħu mill-partit fil-gvern?

Siġra oħra fi Triq Santa Rita, ir-Rabat, li l-futur tagħhom huwa mċajpar.

Dawn il-problemi setgħu ma nqagħlu xejn . U mhux xi ħaġa diffiċli biex wieħed jitkellem ma’ dawk kollha li għandhom interess fir-Rabat. Possibbli li f’dan il-pajjiż meta wieħed jikseb il-poter ma jara xejn ħażin meta ma jismax u jwarrab kompletament lil dawk li poġġewh hemm?




MEPA leaves no stone unturned

August 19, 2014


Mepa leaves no stone unturned

Alfred E. Baldacchino

 The illegally extended road on Comino. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The illegally extended road on Comino. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Times of Malta lately reported the construction of a dirt and concrete road on Comino, an island with barely half a dozen residents and an EU Natura 2000 site.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which is the Competent Authority for the EU environment acquis, thus also for Natura 2000 sites, was quick to show its surprise and lack of awareness of the matter.

It immediately issued an enforcement notice on the Commissioner of Land, on the grounds that Comino is government land. Pontius Pilate would have envied this. Incidentally, the Commissioner of Land falls within the portfolio of the Prime Minster.

Natura 2000 sites are sites listed according to important habitat types in the EU Habitats Directive. On accession, each member state has to declare such sites, and once approved by the EU Commission as Special Areas of Conservation, these form part of the EU Natura 2000 Network, all of European ecological importance.

Member states are obliged to draw up a management plan for each Natura 2000 site. Following agreement with the EU, Malta’s management plans were finalised by December 2013. What happened to these management plans: have these been shelved sine die?

According to the government’s electoral manifesto, the Environment Directorate had to be separated from the Planning Directorate. “The main aim of the separation will be to strengthen the respective autonomy of the two important parts”, “the environment will be given the priority it deserves” and “the environment and resources will be conserved, protected…” the new authority established “will assume the important role of a regulator which to date our country does not have”.

Furthermore, “a new government will be more seriously committed in the environmental field. We will work with determination so that we will recover the lost time, conscious that there are a number of difficult decisions to be taken, amongst them the Mepa reform. We will take these measures in the interest of the environment of our country so that we will be in a positon to address the challenge”. (Malta Tagħna Lkoll – Manifest Elettorali 2013 – section 9, pages 92 – 96)

Not only has the pitiful state of the environment under the previous administration not been addressed but today, I regret to say, it is worse than it was before. After 18 months, the environment is still in limbo, still hijacked by Mepa.

2014.08.17 - mepa reform

A cartoon which appeared in the Sunday Times of Malta – 17 August, 2014

The political responsiblility today rests with a Parliamentary Secretary within the Office of the Prime Minister. This can lead one to rightly conclude that the aim behind the separation of the directorates is more a measure of convenience than of conviction. The status quo has definitely not strengthened the environment. It is contributing to its destruction.

The fact that the environment does not fall within the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment, but is still in Mepa’s grip, also shows the lack of good governance of this social, national and international responsibility. The damage and rampage going on in the environment, endorsed by the Competent Authority paid to ensure that this does not happen, is unbelievable.

The feeling of those who honestly have the national interest of society and the environment at heart is that the environment is not a priority on the govenment’s agenda, despite the fine words in the electoral manifesto. In fact,the environment is not on the agenda at all.

Mepa is on the front line, as a Competent Authority, leaving no stone unturned to accomodate widespread and massive development and to sanction illegalities, with a hugely negative impact on society and the environment.

I fear there is much more to come. Such laissez-faire in environmetal protection leads one to ask if Mepa is finding it difficult to honour its obligations. It seems as if it wants to imply that one should ask any related questions and forward any complaints on the environment to the European Commission, because Mepa is not interested, not willing and perhaps not competent to deliver.

 The Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, responsible for this Competent Authority, is miles away from a basic awareness of professional environmental management and planning, judging by his comments and stands taken.

And with such an official political lack of vision of environmental matters, despite the electoral manifesto, one can understand the sorry state to which the environment is degenerating.


“Not only has the pitiful state of the environment under the previous administration not been addressed, but today, I regret to say, it is worse than it was before”

Aware of Mepa’s workings, I can almost see another Montekristo on Comino, with Mepa eventually boasting that it has issued scores of enforcement notices to stop the rape – and doing nothing about it.

One such note has already been issued. Mepa is morally bound (if this means anything to Mepa) to explain and advise politicians about the negative consequences that the generations of today and the future will be facing by the decisions being taken. And if the electoral manifesto is anything to go by, Mepa has ample directions, unless it has succumbed to a rubber stamp role.

“We believe that Malta should be in the forefront on environmental standards. Not because there is the obligation of European directions, but because our children deserves this.” Eloquent words in the manifesto, which every citizen of this country should applaud and look forward to achieve.

But with the Competent Authority finding it difficult to address a mere illegal dirt road in a Natura 2000 site, I very much doubt whether such an electoral promise can ever be achieved.

Mepa is morally bound (if this means anything to Mepa) to explain and advise politicians about the negative consequences that the generations of today and the future will be facing by the decisions being taken.

Mepa is morally bound (if this means anything to Mepa) to explain and advise politicians about the negative consequences that the generations of today and the future will be facing by the decisions being taken.

Imagine the stand Mepa will take with regard to the White Rocks development, extending into a Natura 2000 site, which will definitely be negatively impacted. The more so since the project cannot be regarded as a development related to the management of the site.

I believe that if the Prime Minister – who is responsible for Mepa, the Competent Authority for environmental matters – really wants to achieve the electoral promises made in the Labour Party’s manifesto, he has to seriously commit himself before it becomes almost impossible to achieve them.

“Our aim is clear: we want to be the best because this is what we deserve. We want to leave behind us a heritage to future generations so that these will be better than we are today.”

Too much time has already been wasted and much damage has been done.

With Mepa at the helm of environmental protection and management, there is no possibility at all for the government to achieve and honour its electoral promises.

Il-kappella f’tal-ħlas u t-tqala tal-irħam

July 28, 2014


It-Tnejn, 28 ta’  Lulju 2014

Il-kappella f’tal-ħlas u t-tqala tal-irħam

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Dan l-aħħar ħabib tiegħi ħadni nara l-kappella tal-Madonna mtella’ s-sema f’tal-Ħlas: fuq ir-riħ ta’ Wied is-Sewda, bejn Ħal Qormi u Ħaż-Żebbug. Qatt ma kont żort dawn l-inħawi. Kappella b’artkitettura klassika barokka, bil-karatteristiċi tal-kappellel li wieħed jista’ jsib imferxa madwar il-pajjiż. Aktar tagħrif fuq din il-kappella sibtu fil-ktieb ta’ Joseph Camilleri u Joseph Spiteri Is-Santwarju tal-Ħlas Ħal Qormi ippubblikat fl-2005.

Il-kappella f'Tal- Ħlas

Il-kappella f’Tal- Ħlas

Waħedha, qalb l-għelieqi sa mill-1465 qabel ġiet miżjuda bix-xogħol tal-perit Lorenzo Gafà, illum siekta u għadha maqtugħa mill-bini li qed jibla’ kull biċċa art li jsib quddiemu, dejjem bil-barka ta’ minn suppost jikkontrollah. Għadha hiemda f’misraħ quddiem palazz mibni fi żmien il-Kavallieri. Minn jaf x’raw u x’semgħu bejniethom. Żgur li kull nħar ta’ Ħadd u f’festi kmandati, kienu jinġemgħu raħħala u bdiewa bil-qorq, bis-sidrija u b’lobbja f’rashom, fuq iz-zuntier jew fil-loġġa mgħammra bil-bankijiet u l-imwejjed tal-ġebel, kollha jaqsmu l-ferħ u l-imrar ta’ matul il-ġimgħa li tkun għaddiet, waqt li jsaħħu r-rabta bejniethom f’dik il-laqgħa soċjali.

Iz-zuntier bil-loġġia biswit

Iz-zuntier bil-loġġia biswit

Ħassejtni miblugħ minn dawk iż-żminijiet mgħoddija, fejn it-tbatija fiżika kienet kbira, imma xejn anqas kienet ir-rabta man-natura. Bdejt bħal nisma’ l-prezzijiet li ġab id-dugħ ta’ rtajjel u qnatar li l-bdiewa ħadu l-pitkali bil-karettun: biċċa, nofs biċċa, skut, disgħa rbajja, jew salib. Kemm sejra ġġib il-bħajra bikrija, il-frott irqiq u l-patata. Ħassejtni nisma’ raħħal b’nofs tbissima, wiċċu jixgħel, jistqarr kif l-erħa tal-ewwel waslet biex tferrgħa, waqt li kien sejjer jiġi bżonn ta’ barri tar-razza biex jgħammarlu oħra. Tant kont mitluf fl-ħsibijiet ta’ dawk iż-żminijiet storiċi jidwu madwar il-ħitan taz-zuntier, li sieħbi kellu jiġbidni minn spalti meta ma weġibtux mill-ewwel.

Ġawhriet bħal din il-kappella għandna ħafna u hija ħasra li wħud minnhom huma kważi mitluqa. Għalhekk kien ħsieb tajjeb u għaqli tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħal Qormi li bil-għajnuna ta’ €247,000 mill-UE, nieda proġett tar- restawr tal-mgħodija storika li tiġbor fiha l-misraħ tal-kappella tal-Ħlas.

Tagħrif mogħti mill-Kunsill ta' Ħal Qormi

Tagħrif mogħti mill-Kunsill ta’ Ħal Qormi

Sfortunatament meta wieħed jara x-xogħol ma jistax’ jgħid li dan kollu jinfilsa b’mod naturali kif ukoll storiku mal-ambjent ta’ dak il-misraħ u l-Kappella tal-Ħlas.

Is-siġar li jħaddnu l-misraħ 'miżbura' bil-ħsieb tal-bankijiet

Is-siġar li jħaddnu l-misraħ  fi ħwat tal-irħam, ‘miżbura’ biex jaqdu l-bankijiet


L-akbar opra tixher fir-restawr ta’dan il-misraħ huma żewġt iħwat kbar madwar dawn iż-żewġ siġriet li b’intellilġenza endemika Maltija, inksew b’tip ta’ irħam! Jista’ wieħed jimmagina misraħ tal-kappella ta’ qabel l-1465 mibnija bil-ġebla Maltija f’nofs ir-raba’, jiġi restawrat b’żewġt iħwat madwar żewġ sigriet, miksija bl-irħam?

Kif qalli l-ħabib tiegħi meta ġibed l-attenzjoni lil xi ħadd mill-kunsill qalulu li dawn il-ħwat ġew aħjar minn kif riedet il-MEPA. Din riedet li l-konki oriġinali tas-siġar jiddawru bil-ferrobattuto, jaqblu mal-kanċel taz-zuntier. Numri oħra ta’ kondizzjonijiet kienu dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ. Possibli li l-MEPA waslet fi stat li tagħmel dak li jgħidulha u mhux dak li tordna hi? Qaluli wkoll li l-MEPA qed tistudja t-tqala ta’ dan l-irħam u ksur ieħor tal-kundizzjonijiet fil-permess.

Is-siġar li jħaddnu l-misraħ 'miżbura' bil-ħsieb tal-bankijiet

Irħama tat-tnedija tal-proġett

Fil-ġenb tal-kappella f’tal-Ħlas isseraħ fuq irħama wieqfa, tabella tagħti tgħarif dwar l-għajnuna mill-UE u t-tnedija tal-proġett mill-Prim Ministru fil-20 ta’ Mejju fl-2014. Sadanittant il-MEPA għadha qed tistudja x-xogħol li sar kontra l-kundizzjonijet tagħha. U naħseb ukoll li min fassal ix-xogħol ukoll mar jiżżi ħajr ’il-madonna tal-ħlas.

Minkejja l-kondizzjonijiet mill-MEPA dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ, siment u irħam mormija fuq wieħedmill-ħitan.

Minkejja l-kondizzjonijiet mill-MEPA dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ, siment u irħam mormija fuq wieħed mill-ħitan.


tagħrif fuq xi kliem

1. dugħ – mezzez mimlijin frott u ħaxix li l-bdiewa jieħdu l-pitkali.
2. biċċa – erba’ xelini u żewġ soldi (4s.2d.) jew 50 sold tal-flus qodma. Illum isarfu €0.48
3. nofs biċċa – żewġ xelini u sold (2s.1d.) jew 25 sold tal-flus qodma illum €0.24
4. skut – xelin u tmin soldi (1s 8d) jew għoxrin sold, illum €0.192
5. Disgħa rbajja’ – xelin u tlett soldi jew 15-il sold illum €0.144
6. salib – l-istess bħal skut
7. bħajra – bettieħ
8. erħa tal-ewwel – baqra żgħira ta’ aktar minn sena li diġà ferrgħet darba
9. erħa – baqra żgħira li għadha qatt ma kienet ħobla


Plight of livestock breeders

June 16, 2014

 times of malta

Monday, June 16, 2014

Plight of livestock breeders

Alfred E Baldacchino


The media recently reported on cases of spraying slurry on agriculture land. Some questions remain unanswered. Earlier this month, I attended  a conference on the infonitrates project funded by the EU Life+ to see for myself what is being and what is not being said on the matter.


The parliamentary secretary for agriculture, fisheries and animal rights welcomed participants, emphasising the importance of nitrate in agriculture,
the need to control such use and abuse and the need for the correct management, which can have an impact on water resources and
Information was given on the work done with regard to communication, education and awareness among farmers and livestock breeders. Very
important, much needed and beneficial efforts.

The Water Services Corporation representative, before leaving, dwelt on the importance of ground water, the fact that Malta has the lowest water supply accessibility, which makes the country face chronic water scarcity and suffering drought. The worst impact on groundwater are nitrates resulting from sewage, manure from animal husbandry, salinity and sea water seepage in sewers in coastal areas.


The obligations imposed by EU directives, control, legal measures and the establishment of a nitrate committee were also outlined. And this is how it should be, though it is not fair that conditions are only imposed on the ones who register.

An expert from the German Chamber of Agriculture and another from the Israeli Agriculture Research Organisation showed the professional way forward, something the local technocrats can digest within a couple of days but, unfortunately, this can take a generation to be politically accepted and implemented.

The best part of the conference was when the participants took the floor. If only the accountable political entities were all present. No politician from either side of the House was there. Admittedly, this was not the place for such comments but breeders saw this as an opportunity to make their point, expressing the desperate state they are in. Their frustrations were loud and clear: lack of adequate water for their fields and livestock while complaining that good water was taken for free and sold to swimming pools and hotels; pains regarding the lack of additional infrastructure to manage manure; worries about the bursting storage of solid and liquid manure because of lack of adequate disposal.

One of the breeders said they are not allowed to use slurry on their fields even during the dry season.

A comment from the head table that there are plans to install bio-digesters had a quick reaction from the floor, asking whether breeders were expected to stop feeding their livestock so that they will not excrete until the bio-digesters are in place. In short, it was all about bulls, woes and moos.


It has to be a pig to nonchalantly display the place from where processed undigested waste food is excreted out of the body. But this is only natural and it applies to all animals who have to eat. If not properly managed (and livestock cannot do it on their own) it can have a great negative impact on biodiversity.

Livestock manure is a resource that can generate enough energy to make the farm completely independent of fossil fuel. It can also contribute to the production of compost, thus decreasing overhead costs. Yet…





Other official stakeholders were conspicuous by their absence. Mepa, one of the regulators for the water framework and the nitrates directives was not present. No surprise, though. Neither was the ministry responsible for the conservation of water and now also for health.

The WSC was present only momentarily for the brief presentation on the precarious water situation and the negative impact of nitrates. Neither was there anybody from the health directorate to listen to problems raised.

Considering the lack of coordination and mismanagement of the subject since accession to the EU, it felt more like shooting the bull.

If only the accountable political entities

were all present

A breeder told me that they had been given a concession to empty liquid waste in the sewer despite problems caused to the treatment of sewage water and notwithstanding the fact that, in their area, the sewers were old, lacking any pipes but hewn in the bedrock. Problem solved, well, at least, no one can see it.


I pitied the agriculture official on the head table who not only was forsaken but was literally deserted. He could somehow manage technical questions but in no way could he give political answers or explain the duties of other government entities.

The lack of coordination hit one in the face. The absence of technocrats from other entities to help livestock breeders with their difficulties was an indication that these did not have any political backing or vision to do so.

Admittedly, this is not an easy task. The management of animal waste cannot be solved by one isolated government entity. Past mismanagement and lack of proper planning do not help either.

This community of legal livestock breeders does not seem to qualify as a minority deserving political backing despite the stiff competition from
overseas, the adverse economies of scale, its 24/7 commitment to the livestock, the adverse climatic conditions and the risks taken to make ends meet.

On the other hand, the fact that this community does not have any representative who can handle not only the technical aspects of their labour but also legal, social and ecological matters is not beneficial to breeders either.


Having heard cries of pain from those who aired their voice, I left the conference not convinced at all that there is a clear vision of how to take the bull by the horns.



June 9, 2014


It-Tnejn, 9 ta’ Ġunju, 2014


Alfred E. Baldachino

Kull darba li nitla’ nittawwal il-Ġnien Howard, dejjem niltaqa’ ma xi impatt negattiv ġdid. Xi kultant inħoss li f’dan il-pajjiż hawn xi direttiva jew xi politika uffiċjali biex l-ambjent naturali jew il-biodiversità ta’ pajjiżna tinqered, u minn jeqridha jitħallas minn flus pubbliċi.

Fit-2 ta’ Marzu 2014, tpoġġa ritratt fuq sit Rabti li wera ammont ta’ żrar li tferrex taħt is-siġar taż-żnuber fil-Ġnien Howard, ir-Rabat. Wara li tliet Rabtin marru l-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru, il-MEPA waqqfet dan ix-xogħol. Il-Kunsill Lokali (tal-Imdina) ġie ordnat li fi żmien xahar ineħħi dan iż-żrar li sar mingħajr permess. Il-K.L. Mdina appella minn din id-deċiżjoni. Issa għaddew tliet xhur u kollox għadu kif kien. Dan wassal biex inbdiet talba biex dan jitneħħa:

Il-MEPA għadha qed tistudju, taħsibha, tixtarr, twieżen din il-problema u għadha ma ħadet l-ebda passi. Nafu li l-MEPA tħalli deċiżjonijiet bħal dawn minn ġurnata għal oħra sakemm forsi ssib kif taħsel idejha u ma tieħu l-ebda deċiżjoni, bħalma ġara fil-­każ taċ-ċimiterju f’Wied il-Qasab fin-Nadur Għawdex. Wieħed ma jistax ma jgħidx li l-MEPA ssibha bi tqila biex turi  interess fil-ħarsien tal-ambjent, qasam fejn falliet bil-kbir, saħansitra anki fi kwistjonijiet żgħar.

Il-kisi ta' parti mill-Ġnien Howard biż-żrar

Il-kisi ta’ parti mill-Ġnien Howard biż-żrar

Fl-aħħar mawra tiegħi r-Rabat, bħas-soltu mxejt matul il-ġnien; bdejt mill-ġnien tas-Salib, dak iż-żgħir, u pass pass wasalt sa fuq it-Tomba, li għal dawk li ma humiex midħla tal-Ġnien Rabti, hija l-aktar parti ’l ġewwa li tħares lejn l-Imtarfa, fuq l-istazzjon tal-ferrovija l-antik.

Fil-ġnien is-siġar tal-palm, dawk tal-kanizzati u dawk tat-tamal, kollha kienu meqruda mill-bumunqar aħmar tal-palm. Baqa’ biss il-fdal taz-zokk tagħhom: momument għal dik il-politika li minkejja li kellha l-parir biex ma jiġux impurtati siġar mill-Eġittu u minn Sqallija, xorta tat il-barka biex dawn jidħlu Malta. Baqa’ waħda biss, fil-kantuniera tat-Tomba tħares lejn il-Domus Romana u konvint li meta nerġa nitla’ r-Rabat, tkun għebet mal-oħrajn.

L-aħħar siġra tal-palm li baqa' fil-Ġnien Howard. L-oħrajn kollha mietu u nqatgħu

L-aħħar siġra tal-palm li baqa’ fil-Ġnien Howard. L-oħrajn kollha mietu u nqatgħu

 Dort dawra mejt mat-Tomba fejn matul dawn l-aħħar ġranet fix-xfar tal-wesgħa kien ikun hemm numru ta’ fjuri slavaġġ, fosthom is-suffejra ta’ Malta, endemika għall-gżejjer Maltin (ara ritratt). Il-biċċa l-kbira tagħhom għebu, mqaxxrin, u ma niskantax jekk kienu anki mbexxin bil-kimika velenuża biex ma jerġgħux jitilgħu aktar. Lanqas naħla ma tista’ tirgħa u ddakkar il-fjuri slavaġġ, minkejja li din ittina’ l-għasel u ddakkar il-frott. U dan fi ġnien.

Suffejra tar-raba' li kienet tikber madwar it-tomba.

Suffejra ta’ Malta li kienet tikber madwar it-Tomba.

Jiena u ħiereġ lura mit-­Tomba għan-naħa tad-Domus Romana, inħsadt. Ftit ġimgħat ilu kien hemm numru ta’ pjanti slavaġġ bħal ngħidu aħna ġarġir abjad, ħarira ħamra, fjurdulis, u oħrajn li kollha, mingħajr ħlas, kienu jlibbsu l-inħawi bil-kuluri u jwieżnu insetti dakkara, fosthom in-naħal. Dawn għebu għax kollha ġew maħruta u ma kien baqa’ xejn minnhom. Imħallas mill-K.L. Mdina, bi flus pubbliċi, ma għadniex xi ngħidu. Imma l-isbaħ, u li vera turi l-mentalità miskina ta’ dan il-pajjiż, wara li qerdu kull fjura u werqa Maltija li kienet qed tikber f’dawn il-mixtliet, x’taħsbu li ħallew? Penisetum (Fountain Grass), pjanta invażiva li qed tintuża mill-kuntrattur tal-Gvern fit-toroq u li sabet ruħha fil-Ġnien Howard; minkejja li din hija invażiva u qed tinfirex madwar il-gżejjer Maltin kemm fit-toroq, kif ukoll fl-ambjent naturali. Din tħalliet hemm!

Ġarġir Abjad kien isebbaħ il-=mixtliet fil-ġnien. Inqered kollu.

Ġarġir Abjad kien isebbaħ il-mixtliet fil-ġnien. Inqered kollu.

U hawnhekk sfortunatament niddejjaq ngħid li dan il-pajjiz milli jidher ma jista’ jinfeda qatt. Il-valur li jingħata lill-biodiversità huwa valur ta’ flus biss. Jekk wieħed jixtri pjanta jew siġra, dan itiha valur. Imma jekk pjanta tikber waħeda, allura din ma għandiex valur u tista’ tinqered, u titbexx bil-kimika valenuża biex ma terġax titla’. U mhux talli hekk, talli din il-qerda għandha l-approvazzjoni uffiċjali u tithallas minn flus il-poplu.


It-Tomba, fil-Ġnien Ħoward, taħt ir-responsabbiltà tal-K.L. tal-Imdina
– Karozzi, siġar tal-palm qed imutu jew mietu. u pjanti invażivi tal-Penisetum.

 L-akbar xokk ta’ din il-metalità miskina ta’ dan il-pajjiż kien in-numru ta’ karozzi li bdew deħlin biex jistrieħu fuq it-Tomba. Tista’ timmaġina karozzi fi ġnien? Qaluli li kien hemm tieġ l-Imdina u hekk il-K.L.Mdina jħalli is-serħan tal-karozzi fil-Ġnien Howard. Jista’ wieħed jimmagina kieku l-K.L. Mdina jħalli karozzi fil-foss fil-passaġġi fejn sar ġnien għall-familja? Jew iħalli l-karozzi kollha tat-tieġ jidħlu l-Imdina u jitħallew quddiem il-Katidral? Jew aħjar jitqiegħdu fuq iz-zuntier tal-Katidral? U aktar u aktar jiddaħħlu ġewwa l-Katidral? Ara kieku kif ir-residenti tal­-Imdina u l-Maltin iqumu għal minn ikun ta dan il-permess. Mhux talli hekk talli l­-ebda karozza ma tista’ tidħol ġol­-Imdina, ħlief dawk tar-­residenti. Imma li l-karozzi jitqiegħdu ġo ġnien fir-Rabat, jidher li kollox sew għall-K.L. Mdina!

2014.05.23 - Calendula-suffruticosa-subsp.-fulgida3

L-anqas naħla ma tista’ ddakkar fjura u tagħmel l-għasel

Li jinkwetani huwa li milli jidher ma hemm l-ebda entità politika li hija responsabbli biex twaqqaf dawn l-oxxenitajiet. Suppost li hemm Ministeri li huma responsabbli mit-trasport; mill-ġonna; mill-Kunsilli Lokali, u anki mill-MEPA. Din tal-aħħar issa ħaditha drawwa li meta jkun hemm il-qerda tal-ambjenbt tħares in-naħa l-oħra sakemm xi ħadd minn fuqha jiġbdilha l­attenzjoni. Ara ż-żrar issa għadu hemm tliet xhur minkejja l-protesti tan-nies u nuqqas ta’ permessi. U la ma hemm l-ebda azzjoni ministerjali, allura wieħed jista’ jgħid li dawn għandhom il-barka ta’ min imexxi. Kont anki naħseb li r-Rabat hemm kunsill lokali wkoll, imma mid-dehra sejjer żball. Wara kollox kappell ma jmejjilx lill-ieħor.

Mill-esperjenza li għandi u mill-kuntatti li għandi mal-Kunsilli Lokali ma nsibhiex diffiċli biex ngħid li l-Kunsill tal-Imdina ma jħabbatha miegħu ħadd fuq in-nuqqas ta’ apprezzament tal-ambjent: il-foss tal-Imdina, il-Ġnien Howard, u issa smajt l-għajdut li qed ikun hemm xi ħsibijiet biex jinqalgħu dawk is-siġar ta’ taħt it-Tomba li jwasslu sa Għajn Ħamam biex din il-wesgħa tintuża għall-karozzi. Wieħed għad irid jara x’se jiġri imma, għalkemm jekk din tasal sa għand il­MEPA wieħed jista’ jgħid mill-ewwel x’se jiġri.

Il-fdalijiet tas-iġra tal-palm fil-ġnien Howard, ir-Rabat. Pedestal lest għal minn daħħal il-bumunqar aħmar f'dawn il-gżejjer.

Il-fdalijiet tas-siġar tal-palm fil-ġnien Howard, ir-Rabat. Pedestal lest għal minn daħħal il-bumunqar aħmar f’dawn il-gżejjer.

Kif jgħidu mhux il-flus u l-poter jagħmluk matur u konxju għall-weġgħat tas-soċjetà u tal-ambjent. Anzi ħafna drabi huma dawn li jwasslu għal dawn il-weġgħat, aktar u aktar meta wieħed isib ruħu jgħum fihom.



Is-siġra nazzjonali u l­-politikanti Maltin

May 12, 2014


Is-siġra nazzjonali u l­-politikanti Maltin

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Is­-siġra tal­-Għargħar darba kienet komuni ħafna fil-gżejjer Maltin. Kienet tiksi wesgħat kbar f’Birkirkara u l-inħawi ta’ madwarha. Illum hija meqjusa bħala siġra rari ħafna u tikber fis-selvaġġ f’xi ħames postijiet biss.

Minħabba l­-kuxjenza pubblika dejjem tikber, illum insibuha tikber f’numru ta’ postijiet. Ma għandiex dubju li dawn tnisslu minn żerriegħa miġbura mis-siġar Maltin. Mhix sigra diffiċli biex titnissel u wieħed jieħu gost jinnota li minn meta din is-sigra ġiet magħżula bħala s-siġra nazzjonali ta’ Malta, qed tintuża aktar u titħawwel aktar biex issebbah ’il pajjiżna.

Illum wieħed jista’ jara li din is­-siġra qed tiġi wkoll imħawwla fit­-toroq u dan huwa pass ’l quddiem. IMMA wieħed ma jistax ma jgħidx li l­-aspett kummerċjali qed jgħeleb dak soċjali u dak ekoloġiku, meta siġar bħal dawk li tħawlu fit­-triq Diċembru 13, ħdejn il­-momunemt tar­-repubblika, ma ġewx imnissla minn siġar Maltin imma ġew importati. Dan juri li:

1. Il-­fragmentazzjoni li hawn fir­-responsabbiltajiet tal­-ambjent qed iwasslu biex jagħmlu ħafna ħsara u wasalt biex naħseb li din il-fragmentazzjoni mhix b’kumbinazzjoni. Dawn is­-siġar importati sejrin inniġġsu l­-għaġna ġenetika tal-popolazzjoni tas­-siġra nazzjonali Maltija li ilha eluf ta’ snin mingħajr ebda kuntatt ma’ siġar oħra bħala barra minn pajjiżna.

2. Dawn setgħu wkoll ġabu magħhom mard u speċi oħra li jistgħu jagħmlu ħsara kemm lis­-siġar tal­-għargħar infushom kif ukoll lill-biodivertsità Maltija bħal ma għamel u qed jagħmel il­-Bumunqar Aħmar tal­-Palm.

3. Dan juri wkoll li l­-Ministru tat­-Trasport u l­-Infrastrutta li huwa responsabbli għat­-tħawwil ta’ siġar u pjanti fit­-toroq, huwa fqir wisq fit-tagħrif xjentifku u professjonali meħtieġ biex l­-attivitajiet li japprova ma jkunux ta’ ħsara soċjali u ambjentali.

4. Juri wkoll li anki l­-kuntrattur li qed juża l­-Ministru lanqas għandu idea ta’ din ir­-responsabbiltà ekoloġika u soċjali, minkejja l­-kritika kontinwa li għaddejja mill­-pubbliku. U hawnhekk wieħed ma jistax jingħata tort meta jingħad li l­-viżjoni approvata mill­-Ministru responsabbli hija nieqsa u fqira minn kull viżjoni soċjali u ekoloġika.

5. Il­-Mepa li hija mħallsa mill­-poplu biex tħares l­-ambjent tagħna lkoll mhux biss ħaslet idejha imma ilha li xxotathom ukoll u tħossha aktar komda tindihes man­-naħa li tagħmel ħsara ambjentali milli ma’ dawk li jitkellmu fl­-interess nazzjonali. Forsi għax qegħdha taħt ir­-resonponsabbiltà tal­-Prim Ministru?

Jista’ jgħati l­-każ li l­-Ministru responsabbli ma fetħulux għajnejh u ma jafx bil-ħsara li qed issir b’dan il­-miżimmaniġġar tal­-biodiversità. Dan faċilment jista’ jikkoordina mal­-Ministru tal­-Ambjent, li jista’ jgħidlu u jinformah b’mod xjentifiku u professjonali fuq kif dan ix­-xoghol għandu jsir. Barra minhekk il­Ministru tal­-Ambjent jista’ wkoll joffrilu siġar tal-Għargħar imkabbrin f’mixtliet hawn Malta. Imma forsi jekk jagħmel dan iħoss l­-oppożizzjoni qawwija minn dawk li jgħidulu li dan sejjer inaqqsilhom il­-qliegħ mill-importazzjoni ta’ dawn is­-sigar. Dan minkejja li dan il­-qliegħ qed iħallas għalih il­-poplu u l­-ambejnt Malti. Forsi wkoll illum dan mhux importanti għat-tmexxija politika?



1. ls-siġra ta l-għargħar fis-selvaġġ. 2 . Dehra tas-siġra mil­l-viċin. 3. il-weraq tas-siġra tal-għargħar. 4. il-weraq speċjalizzati nisa. 5. il-weraq speċjalizzati rġiel. 6. il-weraq bil-frott. 7. Dehra tal-fjuri tal-għargħar. 8. iż­-żerriegħa tal­-għargħar. 9. iz-zokk tas-siġra. Ritratti. Martin Psaila (1 & 8) Alfred E Baldacchino (2-7, 9)


Fis-16 ta’ Jannar tal-1992 l­-għargħar ġiet id-dikjarata s-siġra nazzjonali. Fl-1993 din is­-siġra ġiet imħarsa bil-liġi permezz tal-Avviż Legali 49 tal-1993. Hija wkoll imniżżla fil-lista tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa ta’ pjanti rari, mhedda u endemici tal-Ewropa. Tidher fil-lista ta’ pjanti mhedda ppublikata fl-1998 mill-Għaqda Internazzjonali tal-Ħarsien tan­-Natura. Hija wkoll meqjusa bħala siġra mhedda u b’firxa żgħira fil-gżejjer Maltin. Tgħid illum f’Malta dan ma għadux jagħmel sens politikament fejn jidħlu l­-interessi kummerċjali?

Qrib il­-31 ta’ Marzu 2014, jum ir­-repubblika, bil­-approvazzjoni tal-Minsiteru tat­-Trasnport u Infrastruttura, il­-popolazzjoni tas­-siġra tal-għargħar Maltin ġew mhedda bl­-importazzjoni ta’ siġar bħalhom li sejrin iniġġsu l­-għaġna ġenetika ta’ dawk Maltin. U l­-MEPA bħal dejjem ma titniffesx quddiem ħsara ambjentali u soċjali.

L-għargħar hija siġra li tista’ ssebbaħ pajjiżna, kemm bi msaġar li hija tista’ tinseġ, kif ukoll bil­-preżenza tagħha fl-irħula u fl-ibliet tagħna. Saħansitra t-tfal fl­-iskejjel ikabbru din is-­siġra bla wisq diffikultà. Imma milli jidher, minn jingħata 8 miljun euro fis­-sena minn flus il­-poplu mhux kapaċi jnissel minn dawn is­-siġar hawn Malta u juża siġar miġjubin minn barra minkejja l­-perilku ambjentali u l­-ħsara soċjali.

Il­-fragmentazzjoni u l­-politika liberali f’hekk twassal. Il­-politikanti mingħajr pariri xjentifiċi u professjonali malajr jaqgħu vittma f’idejn minn ma għandu l-ebda interess ambjentli. Aktar u aktar meta l­-operatur jagħmilha ta’ regolatur ukoll. U dawn jippermettu lil dawk il-ftit biex jistgħanaw u l-poplu u l­-ambjent iħallsu. Ħadd ma jisma’ minkejja l­-wegħdiet. Tgħid inkun ottimist iż-żejjed jekk forsi naħseb li l-Prim Ministru jista’ jwaqqaf din il­-ħsara ambjentali?


April 29, 2014


It-Tlieta, 29 ta’ April, 2014


 Alfred E. Baldacchino

 Għal dawn l­-aħħar 40 sena, numru ta’ għaqdiet voluntarji ħadmu bla heda biex qajmu kuxjenza soċjali favur il­-ħarsien tal­-ambjent. Din wasslet biex twaqqaf id­-Dipartiment għall­-Ħarsien tal­-Ambjent,

Meta fl­-2002 l­-Awtorità tal­-Ippjanar ħatfet f’idejha r­-responsabbiltajiet ambjentali bil­-għajnuna politika, wasslet biex id­-Direttorat tal­Ambjent kważi ġie eliminat. Il­-MEPA qatt ma fehmet u għada sal-lum ma tistax u ma tridx tifhem ir­-responsabbiltà ambjentali u soċjali, tant li l-Direttorat tal­-Ambjent sar is­-Sindirella fil­-MEPA, u llum huwa orfni u jinstab fil­-limbu. Saħansitra llum din l­-Awtorità tinjora mhux biss legislazzjoni u regolamenti li għamlet hija stess, imma anki l­-obbligi internazzjonali bħal dawk tal­-UE. Il­-MEPA falliet kompletament fir­-responsabbiltajiet tagħha lejn il­-poplu u lejn l­ambjent tagħna lkoll, mingħajr ebda mistħija jew rimors.

Il­-MEPA falliet kompletament fir­-responsabbiltajiet tagħha lejn il­-poplu u lejn l­ambjent tagħna lkoll, mingħajr ebda mistħija jew rimors.

Il­-MEPA falliet kompletament fir-responsabbiltajiet tagħha  lejn il-poplu u lejn l­-ambjent tagħna lkoll, mingħajr ebda mistħija jew rimors.

Mhux hekk biss imma dak li nbena bil­-kontribut ta’ kulhadd, qiegħed jiġi mmermer u mormi. Dan jidher minn numru ta’ dokumenti pubblikati mill-MEPA stess li sejrin iwasslu biex l­-ambjent ikun jista’ jinħataf, jiġi stuprat u abbużat minm min jixtieq, mingħajr wisq xkiel u bil­-barka tal-MEPA. U mhux sejjer ikun faċli għall-Ministru tal­-ambjent meta jieħu f’idejh id-Direttorat tal-Ambjent.

Ħarsa lejn id­-dokumenti li l­-MEPA poġġiet quddiem il­-poplu biex tisma’ l-fehmiet tiegħu, jinkludu:

  • Politika ġdida għall­-iżvilupp barra ż­-żona tal­-iżvilupp (ODZ) fejn bil-kemm hemm referenza għall­-biodiversità u obbligi internazzjonali, u mingħajr konsultazzjoni ta’ xejn lanqas mal­-Ministeru tal­-ambjent.
  • It­-twaqqif ta’ Awtorità għall­-Iżvilupp tal­-Ippjanar (DPA) li aktar tgħin lil min jixtieq jisfrutta l­-ambjent milli tgħin lil min irid iħarsu.
  • L­-iSPED (Structrure Plan for Environment and Planning) li wkoll juri nuqqas ta’ viżjoni għall­-ħarsien tal­-ambjent u jikkonferma li l­MEPA qatt ma kellha xi rieda biex tifhem din ir­-responsabbiltà.

Meta l­-MEPA qiegħda fil­-portfolio tal­-Prim Ministru, wieħed jistaqsi jekk il­MEPA qabdetx din il­-linja għax taħseb li għandha r­-riħ fil­-qala.

Kien hemm it-­tama u x­-xewqa li partit li għandu viżjoni soċjali u ambjentali seta’ jwaqqaf din il­-ħsara nazzjonali. Imma mhux talli l­-ġerħa ambjentali ma bdietx tfieq, iżda sfortunatament bdiet tikkankra, dejjem grazzi lill­-MEPA.

Huwa b’dispjacir ngħid li minn dak li qed jiġri, dak li qed jitfassal, u dak li mhux qed isir biex l­-ambjent jiġi mħares fuq bażi professjonali, l­-viżjoni soċjali u ambjentali qabdet it­-triq aktar mgħaġġla biex titlef ruħha wara t­tlellix tal­-mument u t­-tinbix kummerċjali. U min hu responsabbli?

Irrid nagħmila ċara li fil­-MEPA hemm uffiċjali kwalifikati serji u professjonali fil­qasam tal­-immanniġġar nofsani (middle management). Li kieku dawn tħallew ifasslu d­-dokumenti fuq imsemmija li qed tfassal il­MEPA, kien ikun hemm aktar serjetà f’din il­-viżjoni. U dan iwassal biex wieħed jgħid li jew dawn in-nies professjonali ma kinux involuti jew inkella l­-pariri professjonali tagħhom ġew imwarrba. Jidher li l­moħħ li fassal id­-dokumenti dwar il­-politika tal­-ODZ xtaq, jew ried jogħġob biss lill­-ispekulaturi.

Wieħed jittma li s-Segretarju Parlamentari l­-ġdid, l­-Onor. Dr Michael Falzon, jifhem, jiżen sewwa, jixtarr u jħoss ir­-responsabbiltà tal­-mod kif l-ambjent soċjali u dak ekoloġiku ta’ pajjiżna sejrin ikunu mneżża minn kull ħarsien professjonali b’din il­-politika l­-ġdida li qed tissuġġerixxi l­-MEPA.

Veru li hija r­-responsabbiltà tas­-Segretarju Parlamentari li jiddeċiedi hu l-politika soċjali u ambjentali. Imma dan irid isir bil­-għajnuna u bdil ta’ ideat bis­-serjetà u professjonali tal­-entitajiet soċjali kollha, wara kollox kif kien imwiegħed.

Veru wkoll li kemm l­-għaqdiet ambjentali mhux governattivi kif ukoll dawk kollha li għandhom għal qalbhom l­-interess ġenwin nazzjonali kemm fil-qasam soċjali kif ukoll f’dak ekoloġiku, huma mħassba bil-kbir fuq iż-żarmar jew dgħufija tal­-politika u legislazzjoni tal­-ħarsien u l-immaniġġar professjonali f’l­oqsma soċjali u ambjentali.

Din il­-biża tal­-qerda soċjali u ambjentali ma tistax ma tikberx meta l­-MEPA ­ l-awtorità mħallsa u fdata mill­-poplu Malti biex tħares il-qasam ambjentali u soċjali, kemm tal­-lum u kemm dak ta’ għada – qiegħda hi stess tfassal u tissuġġerixxi din it­-triq li sejra twassal għal ­aktar problemi u qerda f’dawn l-oqsma.

Veru wkoll li kemm il­-ġenerazzjoni tagħna u dawk ta’ għada għad jistmerru lil dawk li sejrin iwasslu għal dan l-impatt negattiv soċjali u ambjentali ta’ pajjizna. Li kieku jiddependi minni kont ngħajjat lura r-rapreżentant tal-għaqdiet mhux governattivi ambjentali minn fuq il-bord tal-MEPA, L-għaqdiet ma jixirqilhomx ikunu parti minn din il-farsa u din l-istraġi.

Mhux biżżejjed li wieħed jgħid li lest li jisma’ jekk dak li jingħad fl-interess soċjali u ambjentali nazzjonali ma jiġix infilsat fil-politika għal ġid tal-pajjiż kollu biex kulħadd ikun parti mid-deċżijoni, u mhux settur wieħed biss.

Jekk verament wieħed jixtieq futur sabiħ għall-­ambjent u s-soċjetà Maltija, u dan mhux bil-kliem imma bil-fatti, il-futur irid jiġi mfassal fuq il-mejda professjonali ma’ kulħadd, xi ħaġa li sfortunatament ħadd ma jista’ jgħid li qed issir.


April 14, 2014


It-Tnejn, 14 ta’ April, 2014


 Alfred E. Baldacchino

  F’kumment ieħor rajna kif is­-siġra tal­-Akaċja tal-Ħarir, jew Albizia tista’ jkollha impatt ferm negattiv fuq il­-biodiversità Maltija. Dan minkejja l-­linji gwida fil-­pubblikazzjonijiet kollha tal-MEPA. Pjanta oħra li ddaħħlet f’pajjiżna u qed tagħmel il-­ħsara hija l-­Pjuma, jew Peniżetum (Penisetum setaceum) li matul dawn l­-aħħar snin tħawlet bi kwantità fit-toroq wara li ġiet importata minn barra. Wieħed jista’ jaraha fid­-dwawar fit­-toroq (roundabouts ­- ftit hemm minnhom  fejn ma ssibhiex) u f’kull roqgħa art matul it-toroq prinċipali. Quddiem il-Knisja ta’ San Lawrenz fil-Birgu hemm medda twila mhux ħażin minnha.

Il-Peniżetum jikber fil-Birgu.

Il-Peniżetum jikber il-Birgu.

Din il-pjanta tikber f’pajjiżi li ma għandhomx xitwa kiefra, u ma tiddejjaq xejn tikber fid-dell. Tant hija b’saħħitha li anki jekk tinħaraq tikber b’aktar ħerqa. In­-nar jgħinha biex tikkompeti ma’ pjanti indiġeni u tbiddel l-ekoloġija tal-post, tfaqqar l-ambjent mill-ispeċi indiġeni, tbiddel l­-ekoloġija tal-ħamrija, u anki tbiddel il-kompożizzjoni tal­-fawna u n­-numru tagħhom. Il-Peniżetum jew il­-Pjuma tkun bil-fjuri kważi s-sena kollha. Hija tista’ tgħix għal madwar 20 sena. Iż­-żerriegħa tagħha tinfirex bir-riħ, bil­-karozzi, permess tal-bniedem, bl­-ilma, bl-annimali li jġorruha meta teħel mal-pil tagħhom, u anki bil-għajnuna tal-għasafar. Il-karozzi u l-annimali jistgħu jeħduha distanzi twal.

Il-karozzi jgħinu biex iż-żerriegħa tal-Peniżetum tinferrex 'l bogħod fil-madwar

Il-karozzi jgħinu biex iż-żerriegħa tal-Peniżetum titferrex ‘l bogħod fil-madwar

Iż-żerriegħa tal­-Peniżetum tikber fejn hemm biżżejjed umdità u b’hekk mill-ewwel tiksi nħawi imqallba fejn ma jkunx hemm xita spissa. Hija tadatta malajr għall-ambjenti differenti.

Il-Peniżetum tikber kull fejn issib ftit umdità

Il-Peniżetum tikber kull fejn issib ftit umdità.

Din hija pjanta indiġena tal-Afrika u l-Lvant Nofsani. Fil­-pajjiżi fejn hija indiġena tikber f’ambjent nieqes mill-ilma. Infatti f’pajjiżha hija aktar rari milli fil-partijiet oħra tad­-dinja fejn ġiet imdaħħla u fejn invadiet. L-inħawi li tinvadi, fost oħrajn, jinkludu ambjenti naturali u mħarbta, għaram ramel, mal-ġnub tat­-toroq, f’kull xaqq fil-blat jew taħt il­-bankini. Biex namluhiela aktar faċli hawn Malta, fid­-dwawar fit-toroq u partijiet oħra fit-toroq inbexxuha bl­-ilma. Naturalment iħallas il­-poplu u l-ambjent.

Il-viżjoni pollitika u uffiċjali tal-MEPA

Il-viżjoni politika u uffiċjali tal-MEPA. U l-poplu u l-ambjent iħallsu.

Kif rajna f’artikli oħra, il-MEPA hija l-Awtorità Kompetenti responsabbli, għall-anqas fuq il-karta, biex tara, fost oħrajn, li l­biodiversità ta’ pajjiżna tkun imħarsa. F’wieħed mill-pubblikazzjonijiet tagħha l­-MEPA tgħid litagħraf il-fatt li l­-pjanti ornamentali huma magħrufa bħala r-raġuni ewlenija tal-pjanti invażivi fil-gżejjer Maltin. U għalhekk wieħed għandu jara li qabel ma jintroduċi speċi ġodda fil­-villaggi, bliet jew inkella jħawwilhom fuq skala kbira, wieħed għandu jikkonsulta l-linja gwida tal­-MEPA. Il-pubblikazzjoni tal-MEPA jgħidu li l­-firxa ta’ dawn l-ispeċi nvażivi qed tkun ta’ tħassib ambjentali. Tant illi huwa aċċetat li l-ewwel pass huwa li titwaqqaf id-dħul ta’ speċi invażivi. Iżda hemm bżonn li tittieħed azzjoni minħabba li l­-firxa  u l-impatti ta’ dawn l-ispeċi invażivi qed timmina sforzi għaddejjin biex tiġi mħarsa l­-biodiversità tal-gżejjer Maltin, tgħid il-MEPA! Tgħid ukoll li speċi ġodda qed jagħmlu ħsara kbira fl­-ambjent tagħna, kif ukoll huma ta’ tħassib għal Malta.

Ir-riżultat tal-użu ta' pjanti invażivi mingħajr ebda ħsieb ħlief dak ta' qligħ ta' flus.

Ir-riżultat tal-użu ta’ pjanti invażivi mingħajr ebda ħsieb ħlief dak ta’ qligħ ta’ flus.

Mill-kliem għall-fatti hemm baħar jikkumbatti jgħid il­-Malti. Il-MEPA hija magħrufa li qatt ma kellha qalbha taħraq għall-ħarsien tal-ambjent. U wara li d-dipartiment tal­-ambjent fl­-2002 tqiegħed f’ħoġorha, mill-ewwel ħakmithu, libsithu sarima, u għamlithu s­-Sindirella tagħha. Illum dan jinstab orfni fil-limbu tal­-MEPA. U llum il­-MEPA qed tistenna bil­-ħerqa kollha biex l-ambjent jitneħha minn ħdanha għax taħseb li hekk ma tħossx aktar il-piż tal-qerda tal-ambjent tal-gżejjer Maltin li hija qed tħalli jsir. Jekk wieħed iħares lejn il-proposti tagħha għall­-bdil fil-politika tal-ODZ (Żvilupp fiż­-Żoni barra l-Iżvilupp), dawk tal-iSPED (Pjan Strutturali għall-Ambjent u l-Iżvilupp), il-proposti għat­-twaqqif tal-Awtorità għall­-Iżvilupp tal-Ippjanar, u deċiżjonijiet meħuda mill­-MEPA, bħal fost ħafna oħra, ngħidu aħna d­-deċiżjoni tal-bini taċ­-ċimiterju tan-Nadur f’Għawdex, u l­-permessi tal-bini mostruż fil­-Mistra bl­-impatt ta’ ħsara kbira soċjali u ambjentali, wieħed jara kif u kemm il­-MEPA falliet fil-qadi ta’ dmirijietha lejn il­-ħarsien tal­-ambjent ekoloġiku u lejn is-soċjetà Maltija. Dan minkejja li l-poplu qed iħallasha biex tħarislu l­-ambjent tiegħu. Ara x’ġej meta ssir Awtorità tal­-Ippjanar tal-Iżvilupp! Sfortunatament l­-ambjent xejn ma hu fuq quddiem fuq l­-agenda politika tal­-partiti. Dan jidher ukoll mill­-fatt li llum l-hekk imsejjaħ landscaping li hija attività b’impatt kbir fuq il-biodiversità, qiegħed taħt ir-responsabbiltà tal-Ministeru tat-Transport u l-Infrastruttura. U dan, mingħajr l­-għajnuna professjonali fil-qasam tal-biodiversità, u bil-MEPA ma tara, ma tisma’, u ma tgħid xejn, il-Ministeru japprova dan kollu, u l-poplu u l­-ambjent iħallsu.

Iż-żerriegħa tal-Peniżetum lesta biex tissiefaħ 'l bogħod u tikber fejn taqa' - dejjem bil-barka tal-MEPA

Iż-żerriegħa tal-Peniżetum lesta biex tissiefaħ ‘l bogħod u tikber fejn taqa’ – dejjem bil-barka tal-MEPA.

Huwa għalhekk li kull darba li ngħaddi mit-toroq fejn ikun hemm il­-Peniżetum tikber (fost pjanti invażivi oħrajn), kemm fid­-dwawar fit-toroq, kif ukoll taħt il-bankini, xagħri, wesgħat imqallba u postijiet oħra fejn ħarbet, inkompli nsaħħaħ il­-fehma tiegħi li l-MEPA falliet bis-sħiħ. U ma għandniex xi ngħidu l­-falliment tal-MEPA jkaxkar miegħu l­-falliment tal-politikanti responsabbli minnha. Dan minkejja liġijiet Maltin u dawk internazzjonali, inklużi dawk tal­-Unjoni Ewropea. Dan sejjer jagħmilna l­-aħjar fl-Ewropa għal mod kif niġu naqgħu u nqumu mill­-obbligj u viżjoni tal-ħarsien tal-ambjent u l-impatt soċjali. U filwaqt li kulħadd jgħajjat bid­-drittijiet tal-minoranzi, mid­-dehra il­-maġġoranza ma għandha l­-ebda dritt. Bla dubju Malta hija tagħna lkoll, imma nħoss li l­-viżjoni soċjali u ambjentali qiegħdin taħt muntanja ta’ flus. Illum naraw li huma l-ftit li qed jiddettaw u jistagħnaw għas-spejjeż tal-ħafna. Bħalma qed jagħmlu l­-ispeċi invażivi li qed jerdgħu kull roqgħa ta’ pajjiżna, bil-barka tal­-MEPA.  

Cash cow in the ditch

April 2, 2014

times of malta

Wednesday, 2nd April 2014

Cash cow in the ditch

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

On the anniversary of the official opening of the ‘quality garden’ at Mdina Ditch,  6th March 2013.  I thought of revisiting this jewel in the crown of bad planning and management.

A bird’s eye view of the ditch from Howard Gardens prepared me for the worst. A water tanker was busily engaged close to a newly excavated cistern adjacent to Greek gate, connected with its umbilical chord: filling the cistern to quench the thirsty turf?

Statistic regarding the planning and management of the site were indeed shocking. The original 300 plus citrus trees had been numbered before uprooting. Some still sport their number, one labelled 270.  Only 151

Tree number 270 managed to remain on site.citrus remain. 30 laurel bushes, seemingly imported, replaced the citrus trees which had given up the ghost. The total number of trees in the ditch is 198.

Past the place where the 80 year old protected olive tree was uprooted and carted away, without any approval from that toothless environmental watchdog, I could not but ask why Maltese authorities, especially those entrusted with tree protection, hate trees so much?

Part of the ditch was always under lock and key contributing to a rich biodiversity. When the doors were flung wide open, local entrepreneurs swooped on the EU funds and with political blessings and direction, destroyed and eliminated such natural habitat to create a ‘quality garden’.

The deepest end of the ditch offered new surprises. A historic low arch leads to a platform of deck timber, approximately 20 m by 15 m, raised on strong iron beams. Why such waste of resources? It was surrounded by membrane which was covered with white spalls, like those which recently were spread around part of Howard Gardens. The area previously embraced a rich meadow full of local wild flowers, similar to an adjacent area. Was such platform meant to obliterate any sign of wild flowers with determination and vengeance? Was it meant to spend every cent of EU funds, no mater how?

the ghost platform

  The ghost platform

Adjacent to the platform is a new low rubble wall built with the use of concrete. According to the Rubble Walls and Rural Structures (Conservation and Maintenance) Rubble Regulations, 1997, a rubble wall is a dry stone wall, built in loose, unhewn stones which stand by gravity and friction without the use of mortar.

Around such barren, jarring monster of architectural acumen, without any consideration for biodiversity, are a numbers of lamp holders. In this ‘quality garden’, lamp lights total 161: tall, short, ground and flood lightings. Good business, considering that for every 1.2 tree there is one lamp light. And one has to include the electric elevator in this ‘quality garden’.

Some of the different lighting on site

Some of the different lighting on site

Light pollution is impacting nocturnal life, as it does in any garden and its surroundings. The amount of energy and carbon emission used daily to light the whole area further expose unprofessional landscaping, the more so since the same ministry was also responsible for biodiversity, and for the reduction of carbon emissions thus cutting down on use of electricity, both according to EU obligations?

the triumphant caper

Capers raising their heads in victory

I was always under the impression that the bastions, badly needing restoration, were accomplished in a professional way. But my optimism was short lived. After barely twelve months of restoration, a line of capers dotting the cordon and facade of the bastions are triumphantly showing their heads in victory. The invasive cape sorrel is waving its bright yellow flowers in spite; while wall snapdragon sports white bed slippers for the planners and advisers.

The invasive cape sorrel waving in spite

The invasive cape sorrel waving in spite

These wild flowers have already reclaimed and won back their previous foothold on the bastions. In a couple of year’s time, say five or six years, the restored bastions would once again have surrender to this vegetation, notwithstanding the 6 million euro injected from EU funds.

white snapdragon

A good opportunity has been missed. Was it bad workmanship? Was it unprofessional advice? Was it lack of experience in such delicate works, or was it the urgency to officially open this ‘quality garden’ before the election which contributed to such a waste of resources?

In such a ‘quality garden’ the lack of professional planning and environment management is supreme. Yet those responsible had the audacity to etch their names in stone on the monstrous black plaque. It is a shame that MEPA’s contribution is not also acknowledged. Neither is the EU who footed the bill.

During my two hour visit, the ‘quality garden’ felt more like a cemetery. I must admit though I saw one cabbage white and one red admiral butterfly, about a score of sparrows, and half a dozen people!

Staring aimlessly, I could see a blue fat cow

Staring aimlessly, I could see a blue fat cow dotted with yellow stars

I looked at this ‘quality garden’ from the heavily frequented professionally planned, though miserably managed, Howard Gardens above. I stared aimlessly, and could see a blue fat cow dotted with yellow stars, in a grab, suck dry and go project. I can never come to terms with professionals claiming integrity who are on the wrong side of a decision. When wrong becomes right, nothing can be wrong anymore, and once this gathers momentum, nothing can stop it. Regrettably this mentality is gathering momentum at a very fast rate.

“The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second”. (John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968).

Il­-Qala, Għawdex… u s-­siġar

March 24, 2014


It-Tnejn, 24 ta’ Marzu, 2014

Il­-Qala, Għawdex… u s­-siġar

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

Ir-­Rabat, Ħaż-­Żebbuġ, il-­Mellieħa, Bormla, l-­Isla, Ħal ­Luqa, Santa Luċija, Ħaż-­Żabbar, il­-Foss tal-­Imdina, il­-Fgura, Ħ’Attard, Blata l-Bajda, tas-Sliema, il-­Mellieħa, il-­Ħamrun, il­-Belt, it-­Tokk  u n-­Nadur Għawdex, insomma jekk nibqa’ sejjer, insemmi l-­irħula u l­-ibliet ta’ Malta u ta’ Għawdex kollha. Imma forsi xi ħadd jistaqsi x’hemm komuni jew speċjali f’dawn il-­postijiet. Matul is­-snin li għaddew, numru ta’ siġar ġew maqlugħa jew imbiċċra f’dawn il­-postijiet. Saħansitra f’xi wħud minnhom inqalgħu toroq sħaħ ta’ siġar, bħal ngħidu aħna Ħaż-Żebbuġ, il­-Mellieħa, u anki l­-Fgura. F’inħawi oħra is­-siġar inżabru, kif jingħad, b’mod li aktar jixbħu arbli tad­-dawl jew sinjali tat-traffiku, milli siġra ħajja fil­-kobor, fis­-sbuħija, u fil-­hena kollha li din toffri.

U għal liema raġuni dawn is-­siġar sfaw hekk imżebilħa? Ir­-raġunijiet li jissemmew, xi kultant huma anki milqugħa minn mexxejja soċjali, anki poliltiċi u dawk ta’ Awtoritajiet pubbliċi, bħal ngħidu aħna l­-MEPA l-Awtorità li hija responsabbli għall-­ħarsien tagħhom. U wieħed hawn irid jirringrazzja lill-­MEPA tal­-permessi li tat biex dan seta’ jsir.

Fost dawn ir-­raġunijiet, nisimgħu li dawn jgħattu l­-veduta ta’ uħud, jew jiġbdu lejhom għasafar li mbagħad iħammġu taħthom, jew li jwaqqgħu l­-weraq u jħammġu t­-triq, jew li jagħmlu l­-ħsara lill-bankina, jew li jġibu n­-nemus, anki intqal li dawn jgħattu l-­veduta ta’ xi ħadd u dan ma jkunx jista’ jara l­-murtali tal-­kulur tal­-festa, jew xi preżentazzjoni bid-­dawl fuq is-­swar ta’ Sant’ Anġlu. Insomma, raġunijiet li juri n-­nuqqas ta’ apprezzament, nuqqas ta’ edukazzjoni, u egoiżmu bla qiegħ.

Kull waħda minn dawn is­-siġar darba kienet imħarsa mir­-regolamenti tal­-2001 sakemm il­-Mepa, li hija responsabbli mill-­ħarsein tal-­ambjent, dehrilha li dawn kellhom ħarsien żejjed u biddlet il­-liġijiet fl-­2011. Tgħid riedet togħġob lil xi ħadd, jew kienet imġiegħla minn xi ħadd biex jogħġob lil xi wħud?  Min jaf għaliex l-­Awtorità li qegħda hemm biex tħares l­-ambejnt f’isem il­-poplu li jħallasha, dgħajfet ir-­regolamenti għall­-ħarsien tas­-siġar biex dawn ikunu jistgħu jinqalgħu b’anqas inkwiet. U qed naraw ir­-riżultat ta’ din id­-deċiżjoni bil-­kbir.

Minkejja d-­diskors sabiħ li għandha l­-Mepa fil­-viżjoni tagħha dwar l-ambjent, il­-qerda tas­-siġar f’pajjizna għadha għaddejja b’ritmu mgħaġġel, kemm direttament kif ukoll indiretament, sa minn meta biddlet ir-regolamenti għall­-ħarsien tagħhom. Anki bl-­importazzjoni ta’ speċi barranin, bla kontrol ta’ xejn, uħud minnhom anki invażivi. U bejnietna (ma jmurx jismagħna l­-Ministru tal-­Finanzi) dan kollu qed isir u mħallas bi flus pubbliċi: jew mill­-Gvern ċentrali, jew mill­-Gvern lokali, kif kien isir qabel. U dan minkejja li l-­MEPA llum qiegħda taħt ir-­responsabbiltà tal-Prim Ministru.

Ftit huma dawk, u dawn minn fost il-­pubbliku, li jsemmu l­-għajnuna li jgħatu s­-siġar. L-­akbar għajnuna hija li dawn jgħatu l-­ossiġenu u jneħħu d-diossidu tal-­karbonju mill-­arja. U nafu kemm l­-arja hija mniġġsa l­-aktar bit-­tfigħ tad-­diossidu tal­-karbonju fl-­arja minn kull tip ta’ karozza u magna oħra li taħdem billi taħraq iż-­żejt. Dan ħafna ma japprezzawhx. Lanqas ma japprezzaw li dawn jilqgħu s-­sħana, jgħatu d-­dell, kemm lil min joqgħod taħthom, kif ukoll lil dawk id-­djar fil-­qrib tagħhom. U barra minhekk, jilqgħu l­-irjiħat u ­xita għad-djar ta’ warajhom u b’hekk tintuża anqas enerġija biex tkessah jew issaħħan id­-dar skont l-­istaġun.  Lanqas napprezzaw li dawn iżommu l-ħamrija f’postha u ma jħalluhiex titkaxkar max­-xita u tittajjar mir-­riħ. U anki jgħinu biex jinħażen l­-ilma tax-­xita u ma jħalluhx iżid fis-saħħa u jagħmel il­-ħsara fi triqtu għall­-baħar. U xi ngħidu għall­-fatt li l­-kulur ħadrani tagħhom, iż­-żifna tal-­weraq u l-­effett estetiku li jagħtu huma ta’ għajnuna wkoll biex iserraħ l­-imħuħ ta’ minn jarahom u japprezzahom. Sfortunatament issib li bil-barka ta’ minn suppost iħarishom, dawn is­-siġar mill-­urban, sena wara sena, jitbiċċru u jinqalgħu biex jissodisfaw il­-mentlità miskina ta’ xi wħud. Il­-prezz tal-­għibien tagħhom jħallsuh is-­soċjetà u l­-ambjent. U l­-awtoritajiet, x’jimportahom.

U mal-­lista’ ta’ postijiet ta’ bliet u rħula Maltin u Għawdxin fuq imsemmija, issa milli jidher sejjer jiżdied il­-Qala, f’Għawdex. Rajt il-­kummenti li hemm għaddejjin bħalissa fuq il-­Facebook dwar is­-siġar fil-pjazza tal-Qala, għall-raġunijiet bħal dawk imsemmija aktar ’l fuq biex dawn jinqalgħu, għalkemm kien hemm uħud li ma jaqblux ma’ dan. Skont is-Sindku tal-Qala, il-M­epa diġà ħarġet il-permess biex jinqalgħu s-siġar tal-palm.  Mingħand il­-Mepa ma nistenniex aħjar u llum wieħed isibha fuq quddiem nett biex tapprova jew tirregola xi attività li twassal għall-qerda tal-ambjent, kif wieħed jista’ jara u jisma’ kważi kuljum. Imma sa issa ma hemmx permess biex is­-siġar l-oħra tal-pjazza fil-Qala, jinqalgħu. Qed jintqal li xi ħadd, naħseb li dan ma jkunx interessat li juri ismu, beda jiġbor il-firem tal-Qalin biex dawn is­-siġar ikunu jistgħu jinqalgħu. U hekk il-Mepa tkun tista’ taħsel idejha u tgħid li la l­-gvern lokali u r-­residenti jridu hekk, allura hija ma tistax tagħmel mod ieħor! X’pajjiż miskin hux.


Is-siġar li jgħatu l-ħajja lill-pjazza tal-knisja fil-Qala Għawdex. Dawn hemm minn irid jeqridhom.

Wara dan il-manuvrar kollu biex is-siġar tal­-pjazza tal-Qala jinqalgħu, fuq sit ġdid Save Qala Trees fuq il­-Facebook intqal li Dun Sultana mill­-parroċċa tal-­Qala, qal li s-siġar huma propjetà tal-Knisja u din mhux sejra tgħati permess biex is­-siġar jinqalgħu.

Minn sena ’l hawn deherli li lmaħt xi dawl innemnem fit­-tarf ta’ mina twila mudlama li llum twassal għall-qerda tas-siġar minn pajjiżna. Il-fomm ta’ dan id­-dawl huwa l­-programm elettorali tal-partit fil-gvern illum. F’paġna 101, taqsima 56, jgħid hekk: Inħarsu kontinwament is­-siġar eżistenti fl-ibliet u l-irħula Maltin u ninċentivaw it-tħawwil ta’ aktar siġar, partikolarment dawk indiġeni.  Veru li kif jgħidu, bejn il-kliem u l-fatti hemm baħar jikkumbatti. Imma naħseb li l-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qala Għawdex jaf b’din il-wegħda aktar u aktar meta, kif nista’ nifhem jien, fil­-biċċa ’l kbira tiegħu huma jirrapreżentaw il­-partit fil-gvern.

Ikun interessanti wieħed jara kif is­-siġar tal-pjazza tal-Qala Għawdex sejrin jispiċċaw. Wieħed ikun jista’ jara jekk il­-kelb tal-għassa tal­-ambjent tiegħek u tiegħi, fadallux aktar snin; fejn sejjer ixaqleb il­-miżien tal-Kunsill Lokali tal-Qala, jekk il­-keffa tal-voti personali tkunx itqal minn dik tal-ħarsien tas­-siġar tagħna lkoll; u kemm hija b’saħħitha l-wegħda miktuba tal­-partit fil-gvern. Nistennew u naraw il­-viżjoni soċjali sa fejn twassal f’dan il-pajjiż miskin.

IR-RABJA TAR­-RABTIN… u bir-­raġun

March 10, 2014


It-Tnejn, 10 ta’ Marzu, 23014

IR­-RABTIN IRRABJATI… u bir-­raġun

Alfred E. Baldacchino


Ritratt: Joseph Sultana

Wieħed mill­-karatteristiċi tar-­Rabat huwa l­-ġnien Howard li hemm qabel ma tidħol l-Imdina. Dan il­-ġnien, kontra kif jaħsbu xi wħud, huwa msemmi għal Malti John Howard, li twieled il-­Belt fl­-1862. Kien Prim Ministru ta’ Malta bejn 1921 u 1923.


Joseph Howard
(1862 – 1925)

Il-­ġnien huwa maqsum fi tnejn: dak il­-kbir u dak iż­-żgħir jew kif jafuh xi wħud, il­-ġnien tas-­salib. Dawk li huma tal­-età tiegħi u huma mir­-Rabat, jiftakru ż-żgħożija tagħhom f’dan il-­ġnien mal­-ġenituri tagħhom jilgħabu b’xi ballun, jew bir­-rota jduru man­-numru ta’ ħammiela li madwarhom il-­ġnien huwa mfassal. Dawk akbar fl-età kont tarahom jippassiġġaw matul il­-mgħodija ewlenija li tħares għal fuq il-foss tal-Imdina. Ħafna b’għajnejhom mixgħulin iħarsu lejn xi ġuvni jew xi tfajla biex jisirqu xi tbissima jew jiġbdu xi ħarsa. Kienu ġranet sbieħ, b’dawk fuq l-għoxrin li jkun irnexxilhom jagħmlu ħbieb, fuq xi bank taħt xi siġra jitkellmu fil-widnejn, kif dawk żgħar kienu jaħsbu. Żmien ta’ innoċenza u żmien sabiħ li llum tar mar-­riħ.

Għalkemm issa ili nieqes mir-­Rabat aktar minn ħamsin sena, xorta nagħmel żjara lil dan il-­ġnien kull meta nista’ biex niftakar f’dawk il­­-ġranet sbieħ ta’ żgħożiti. Imma kull darba li nmur hemm nitlaq lura bi qsim il-­qalb. Spiċċaw dawk il­-ħammiliet kollha fjuri msoqqija u mnaqqija bi mħabba u b’għira. Spiċċaw dawk il-ħwat mimlijin ilma bil-­­ħut fihom. Saħansitra anki għebu dawk is-­siġar tal-palm xjuħ li nqerdu mill­-Bumunqar Aħmar tal­-Palm, wara deċiżjonijiet politiċi żbaljati li wittew it-­triq biex dan fl-­2007 daħal fil­-gżejjer Maltin.

Il-fdalijiet-ta'-siġra-tal-palm (A E Baldacchino)

Waħda mill-ħafna fdalijiet ta’ siġar tal-palm li llum wieħed jista’ jara fil-ġnien Howard (A E Baldacchino)

Bħallikieku dan mhux biżżejjed dan l-­aħħar dan il­-ġnien waqa’ vittma ta’ deċiżjonijiet, ma nistax ma nsejħilhomx stupidi, mingħajr ebda viżjoni ta’ tfassil u mmanniġar professjonali. Fit-­2 ta’ Marzu, ħarget  l-aħbar fuq il-blog Rabti   fejn r-Rabti Joseph Sultana,  poġġa ritratt ta’ kif dan il-­ġnien ġie mżeblaħ u abbużat. U r­Rabtin qamu f’daqqa u għajtu b’għajta f’rabja Rabtija, li ma ridux minn ikasbarhom u ma ridux min jgħaddi ż­-żmien bihom.


Żrar li ntefa’ fuq il-ħamrija minflok l-imlieqa biex il-Kunsill tal-Imdina jsebbaħ l-art (Ritratt: Joseph Sultana)

Ħaġa li la jiena u lanqas numru ta’ Rabtin oħra ma jistgħu jifhmu hija kif dan il­-ġnien huwa taħt ir­-responsabbiltà tal-­Kunsill Lokali tal-Imdina, meta dan huwa barra mis­-swar. U ħaga oħra li tweġġa ħafna lil Rabtin hija kif dan il­-Kunsill tal-Imdina, minn wara s­-swar jidher li huwa maqtugħ mill­-ħajja f’dawn l­-inħawi tar­-Rabat, qabad u ddeċieda, wara li ftiehem kif qal is­-segretarju eżekuttiv tal­-Kunsill, ma’ studenti minn Istitut tal-­agrikoltura Franċiż. Dawn iddeċiedew li jaqalgħu parti mill-imlieqa (jiġifieri l-­hedges) li jdawru l­-ġnien u li l­-Kunsill qal li huma ħajt, jgħattu l­-ħamrija bil­-plastik, jiksu dan il-­plastik biż­-żrar, u jħawwlu kaktus u sukkulenti oħra, li skont il­-kelliemi tal­-Kunsill Lokali tal­-Imdina, huma pjanti indiġeni, jiġifieri pjanti Maltin. Minn fejn ġab dan it-­tagħrif xjentifiku żbaljat il-kelliem għall­-Kunsill Lokali tal­-Imdina ma nafx. U ma naħsebx li ġabu minn Franza lanqas, għaliex kieku dawn kienu jifhmu fil­-biodiversità u mhux ċwieċ kif-intqal, kienu


Skont il-pariri li ngħata l-Kunsill Lokali tal-Imdina, dawn il-kaktus huma kollha speci indiġeni Maltin
(Ritratti: Joseph Sultana)

jgħidulu li dawn mhumiex pjanti Maltin. U kif il-­kelliem għall­-Kunsill Lokali tal­-­Imdina qal ukoll, hemm il­-ħsieb li dan jitkompla s-­sena d-dieħla biex il­­ġnien iż­-żgħir jiddawwar b’dan iż-­żrar, bil­-għajununa tal­-konsulenza barranija, bi flus Maltin, u bi pjanti barranin, u mingħajr bdil ta’ fehmiet mar-Rabtin.

Lili weġġgħani l­-kliem tar-­rapreżentant tal-­Kunsill tal-­Imdina fejn ġie allegat li qal li min ma jifhimx aħjar ma jitkellimx, għax dan ix­-xogħol mhux isir minn xi ċuċ. Imma min qal li l-­kaktus imħawwel huwa indiġenu, dan jifhem ħafna u ara wieħed ma jaħsebx li huwa xi ċuċ.

Li jweġġa’ lir­-Rabtin f’din l-­affari kollha huwa li l-­Kunsill tal-­Imdina ma kellux il-ħeġġa u l-għaqal biex jitkellem ma’ dawk li għandhom interess f’dan il­-ġnien skedat u jara x’jaħsbu, kemm b’mod ġenerali l-Maltin, kif ukoll aktar u aktar ir-­Rabtin li jqisu li dan il-­ġnien huwa tagħhom. Imma saru diskuzzjonijiet, ftehim u finanzjar ta’ dan il-progett ma’ studenti barranin, mingħajr ma ġew diskussi ma’ ħadd.

Aktar u aktar is-­skiet tal­-Kunsill tar-­Rabat, li meta ra u sema’ bir­-rabja tar-­Rabtin, li wara kollox kienu huma li poġġewhom hemm, huma ta’ liema partit huma, biex iħarsu l-­interessi tar-­Rabat, baqgħu friski bħal ħassa. Ma fethux ħalqhom, sallum għall-­anqas. U mid­-dehra l­-Kunsill tal-­Imdina u l-­Kunsill tar­-Rabat jimxu id f’id għaliex dak tal­-Imdina baqa’ sieket, wisq probabli b’idejn waħda fuq għajnejh u fuq widnejh u bl-­oħra fuq ħalqu, u ma tniffsux fuq l­-istragi li saret fil-­foss tal-­Imdina, minkejja l­-protesti tar­-Rabtin. U anki dak tar­-Rabat baqa’ sieket mhux biss fil­-proġett tal-­foss tal-Imdina, imma anki meta s­-siġar ta’ fuq is-Saqqajja ġabhuhom aktar jixbhu arbli tad-­dawl milli siġar. Issa wkoll qisu ma qed jiġri xejn minkejja r­-rabja Rabtija. Kunsilli Lokali bħal dawn ma naħsebx li jistgħu jkunu kburin bil­kisbiet tagħhom, aktar u aktar meta dawn ma jinżlux tajjeb ma’ minn poġġiehom hemm.  Il-Kunsilli, kif jixhdu oħrajn ħabrieka madwar Malta u Għawdex, mhux qegħdin hemm biex jingħalqu bejn erba’ ħitan, ġo kamra wara s-swar, jew biex jirritaw ir-­residenti tal­-lokal jew tal-­lokalitajiet ġirien.  Hemm bżonn li kunsilli bħal dawn joħorġu minn wara s-­swar, kemm dawk fiżiċi, kif ukoll dawk psikoloġiċi, u jimxu id f’id mar­-residienti u l­-ġirien jekk iridu għarfien tax-xogħol tagħhom.

Imma kull azzjoni għanda reazjzoni kif jgħidu, u din narawha anki fil-qasam soċiologiku. Dan ġara meta l­-mexxejja, f’dan il-­każ dawk tal-lokal, agħżlu li jinqatgħu minn nies. Naraw li minn qalb in­-nies nibtu dawk li ma kienux jistgħu jifiħu aktar għal din l-­apatija u xogħolijiet li ma jaqblux magħhom. U hekk ġara wkoll hawn. Tliet Rabtin, Joseph Sultana, Karistu Abela, u Chris Farrugia, haduha fuqhom biex ma jħallux din il-­ħsara ambjentali tkompli ssir, qisu ma kien qed jiġri xejn fir­-Rabat, u r-Rabtin irrabjati mingħajr għajnuna minn ħadd. Għamlu kumitat ta’ azzjoni u marru jippreżentaw ittra f’Kastilja nhar il­-Ħamis 7 ta’ Marzu.

Ma nistax ma nistaqsiex ukoll. Xi tgħid il­-MEPA li hija il­-kelb tal­-għassa dwar affarijiet ambjentali? Veru li kważi sa tagħlaq sena lid-Direttorat tal-­Ambjent għadu mhux taħt ir-­responsabbiltà tal-Minsteru responsabbli għall­-Ambjent u jidher li qishom qed iħossuhom  li r­responsabbiltà ambjentali mhux tagħhom. Imma r­-responabbiltà ambjentali għada tal­-MEPA kollha kemm hi. Xi kultant, b’dispjaċir kbir u kontra qalbi ngħid u nħoss li qisha ­kelb tal-­għassa bħal dawk li hemm biswit fil-kura tal-SPCA. Dawn ma jitniffsu xejn sakemm xi ħadd iħabbat fuq il-­bieb. Nispera li l-MEPA tieħu azzjoni wara dan it-­taħbit kollu fuq biebha dwar ir­-responsabbiltà tagħha għall-ħarsien tal-ambjent, li sa xħin qed nikteb għadha ma qalet xejn lanqas.

Jiena konvint li wara ż­-żjara tar­-Rabtin f’Kastillja, nisimgħu minn għand il-­MEPA. B’din it­-taħbita ma jistgħux ma jqumux mill­-apatija li għandhom lejn il-­ħarsien tal­-ambjent ta’ pajjiżna, li mingħajr dubju huwa tagħna lkoll.


L­-Akaċja tal­-Ħarir… ­ siġra invażiva

February 24, 2014


It-Tnejn, 24 ta’ Frar, 2014

L­-Akaċja tal­-Ħarir… ­ siġra invażiva

Alfred E. Baldacchino

 Kif rajna fl-­ewwel u fit­-tieni artiklu fuq is-­siġar, is-­siġar barranin jista’ jkollhom impatt negattiv ekoloġiku, soċjali u finanzjarju. Mhux biżżejjed li wieħed jgħid kemm huma sbieħ u kemm jagħmlu fjuri sbieħ, imma wieħed irid iqis jekk dawn hux sejjer ikollhom impatti, kemm diretti kif ukoll indiretti, liema ħsarat iħallsuhom l-­ambjent ekoloġiku u s-­soċjetà.

L-­Unjoni Ewropea għandha r-­regolamenti tagħha biex speċi invażivi jiġu kkontrollati, minħabba l-­impatt negattiv tagħhom. Kull sena l­-UE tħallas madwar €16 billion biex tikkontrolla speċi invażivi.

F’kull pajjiż imsieħeb fl-­UE hemm Awtorità Kompetenti biex tara li l-obbligi tal­-Unjoni Ewropea jkunu osservati u enforzati. Wieħed mill-aħjar kontrolli huwa li dawn ma jitħallewx jidħlu. F’pajjiżna din l­Awtorità Kompetenti hija l-­MEPA.

Mis-­sħubija tagħna mal­-Unjoni Ewropea fl­-2004 ’l hawn, il­-MEPA ħarġet numru ta’ pubblikazzjonijiet dwar dan is-­suġġett, bħal ngħidu aħna Malta’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2012-2020; Guidelines on managing non-native plant invaders and restoring native plant communities in terrestrial settings in the Maltese Islands; Major Plant Invaders and Possible Management Options Datasheets, fost oħrajn. Wieħed ma jistgħax jgħid li dawn ma humiex pubblikazzjonijiet kuluriti, sbieħ u b’kontenut mitqlu deheb, imma b’għafsa ta’ qalb wieħed jara li l-MEPA nnifisha ħafna drabi ma tagħtix każ ta’ dawn il­-pubblikazzjonijiet tagħha stess, b’deċiżjonijet jew nuqqas tagħhom, jew inkella b’nuqqas ta’ infurzar, minkejja numru ta’ kritika kontra dan id­-dħul f’pajjiżna ta’ speċi invażivi li wkoll qed iħallu l-impatt nagativ tagħhom.

Nagħtu ħarsa lejn xi speċi invażivi li qed jiddaħħlu f’pajjiżna minkejja obbligi nazzjonali u internazzjonali. Dan juri n-­nuqqas ta’ rieda fil-qasam politiku li jinjora l-­impatti negattivi soċjali u ekoloġiċi, filwaqt li jagħti appoġġ għami lill­-qasam kummerċjali. Dan juri wkoll li l-pubblikazzjonijiet tal­-MEPA ma jinħarġux b’konvinzjoni imma b’konvenjenza biex forsi jmewwtu xi ftit lil dawk li għandhom interess ġenwin nazzjonali u soċjali, u forsi jtaffu t­-toqol tal­-kuxjenza (dejjem jekk din għadha teżisti).


Il-fjuri tas-siġra tal-ħarir/albizia

Waħda minn dawn is-­siġar invażivi li qed tiddaħħal dan l-­aħħar, biex kif jingħad issebbaħ l-­art, hija l-­Akaċja tal­-Ħarir jew Albizia. Din hija indiġena għal­-lbiċ u lvant tal­-Asia. Tikber bejn ħamsa sa 12­-il metru għoli u tinża mill-­weraq fix­-xitwa. Tagħmel ħafna fjuri folti matul is-sajf kollu. U wieħed ma jistax jgħid li l-­fjuri ma humiex sbieħ. Imma ħafna fjuri jagħmlu ħafna żerriegħa, li jibqgħu tajbin anki f’perjodi ta’ nuqqas ta’ ilma. Kull fjura mdakkra tagħmel miżwed (jixbah lil dak tal-ħarrub). Kull wieħed ikollu madwar tmin żerriegħat. U s-­siġra tkun miksija b’dawn l-­imżiewed. Meta jsir il-­miżwed jispara ’l barra ż-żerriegħa ta’ ġo fih, biex l-ispeċi tkun tista’ tnissel siġar oħra. Din tinġarr distanzi twal. Dawk l-­imżiewed li ma jisparawx iż-­żerriegħa tagħhom, jaqgħu fl-­art u hekk iż­-żerriegħa tinfirex f’kull xaqq u rokna tal­madwar. Barra minn hekk iż-­żerriegħa tinġarr wkoll permezz tal-­ilma. Tista’ tinxtered ukoll minn dawk l-­annimali li jikluha.

Minħabba li tiflaħ għall-­mard u anki minħabba li hija aggressiva ħafna bħala siġra invażiva, fl-­Amerika ma għandhiex appoġġ biex tintuża bħala siġra ornamentali. Minbarra f’hekk l­-Albizia hija wkoll allepatika, jiġifieri minnha toħroġ kimika bioloġika li tgħakkes lill-biodiversità ta’ madwarha. Ukoll, minħabba d­-dell li tagħmel ma tħallix pjanti oħra jikbru taħtha.


Iż-żerriegħa tal-akaċja tal-ħarir/Albizia. Mur ikkontrollahom dawn!

L-­Albizia jew l-­Alkaċja tal-­Ħarir hija wkoll siġra opportunistika u tikber anki fuq ħamrija u art imqallba, tikber fil-­ġnub tat-­toroq u tista’ ukoll toħloq problemi fil­-widien fejn iż-­żerriegħa tagħha tinġarr mill-­ilma.

Dan l-­aħħar kont sejjer lura d­-dar minn Wied il­-Qlejgħa. Għaddejt mill-Imtarfa u fil­-ġnien ġdid għat-­tfal li għadu kemm fetaħ il­-Ministru tat-Trasport u l-­Landscaping, ilmaħt tlieta minn dawn is­-siġar, f’roqgħa li tiflaħ waħda. Huwa ferm faċli u probabbli li jekk din is­-siġra titħalla tikber hemm, fi ftit żmien tibda tikber f’Wied il­-Qlejgħa bi ħsara kbira ekoloġika, soċjali u anki ekonomika. U wieħed jista’ bla tlaqliq jgħid li dan ikun sar jew bil-­barka kollha tal-­MEPA, jew inkella bin-­nuqqas ta’ inforzar tal-­obbligi tagħha.

Hemm siġar oħra minn din l-­ispeċi mħawwla dan l-­aħħar madwar il-pajjiż, bħal ngħidu aħna wħud fil-­Kotonera, fejn tħawwlu numru ta’ siġar minn kull parti tad-­dinja li swew lill-­poplu madwar €30,000, bil-possibiltà tal-impatt dirett u indirett tagħhom. Ara x’wieħed setgħa jagħmel b’dawn il-­flus biex jgħallem, ikattar u joħloq apprezzament lejn il-­biodiversità Maltija. Imma…

Dan kollu minkejja l­-kliem sabiħ fil­-pubblikazzjonijiet kuluriti tal-MEPA. Wieħed mill-­għanijiet f’dawn il­-pubblikazzjoni huwa li l­-MEPA tgħid li trid tieħu miżuri biex ma tħallix l­-introduzzjoni u t-­tixrid ta’ speċi invażivi li jidħlu u jistabilxxu ruħhom fl­-ambjent Malti, filwaqt li dawk li diġà hemm jiġu identifikati u kkontrollati u meqruda, u theddida ta’ speċi invażivi f’pajjiżna tkun imxejna.

Id-­dħul ta’ din is-­siġra u oħrajn bħala, u mil-­mod kif qed jiġu mħawwla mal-­pajjiż ma tantx jidher li l-­MEPA qed timxi fuq il-­pariri  tagħha stess, u lanqas juri li għandha xi rieda li tilħaq dan il­-għan.

Illum il-­MEPA hija taħt ir­responsabbiltà ta’ Segretarju Parlamentari fl­uffiċċju tal­-Prim Ministru. B’dispjaċir wieħed ma jistax jgħid li fil-qasam tal­-ħarsien tal-­ambjent qed isir xi titjib fuq l-­istat miskin li l-ambjent kien jinstab dawn l­-aħħar snin, minkejja li l-­partit fil-­gvern ġej mill­-kamp soċjalista. U l-­ħsara soċjali u ambjentali għadha għaddejja qisu mhu qed jiġri xejn. Ir-­rieda politika favur il­-ħarsien tal­-ambjent, minflok issaħħet iddgħajfet.

Aktar ’l quddiem naraw speċi invażivi oħrajn, kemm fawna kif ukoll flora, li jew iddaħħlu fil-­passat qarib, jew inkella iddaħħlu f’dawn l-aħħar snin, jew li minkejja li huma meqjusa li huma invażivi kemm mir-­regolamenti Maltin kif ukoll dawk tal­-Unjoni Ewropea, xorta għadhom jitħawlu, dejjem bil-­barka tad­-direzzjoni politika.

Sakemm il­-MEPA tibqa’  timxi bla skrupli dwar il-­qerda tal­-ambjent… miskin l-­ambjent u miskin il-­poplu Malti.

ara wkoll

IS-­SIĠAR BARRANIN… l-­impatti ta’ viżjoni għamja

February 12, 2014


IS-­SIĠAR BARRANIN…  l-­impatti ta’ viżjoni għamja

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Fl­-aħħar artiklu rajna kif speċi miġjuba minn barra l­-pajjiż jista’ jkollhom impatt negattiv dirett fuq l­-ekoloġija ta’ pajjiżna. Iżda minbarra dan l-impatt dirett jista’ jkun hemm ukoll impatt indirett. U anki hawn l-­impatti negattivi indiretti jkollhom effetti ekoloġiċi, soċjali u ekonomiċi. Din il-­ħsara mhix marbuta ma’ speċi ħajjin biss li jinġabu minn barra, imma wkoll ma’ oġġetti magħmula minn speċi ħajjin, bħal ngħidu aħna, injam, kif sejrin naraw aktar ’l quddiem.

Minn ma semgħax bil-­bumunqar aħmar tal­-palm? Dan daħal mas-Il-Bumunqar Aħmar tal-Palmsiġar tal-palm li ġew importati mill­-Eġittu u mill-Italja, fejn kien qed jagħmel ħerba mis-siġar tal-­palm. Li kieku intuża l-­prinċipju ta’ prekawzjoni biex jilqa’ għall-­possibiltà li dan l-­insett ma jidħolx hawn Malta, kieku ma kienx ikun hemm din il­-ħsara ekoloġika, soċjali u ekonomika. Imma l­-kilba għall-­qliegħ tal-­flus ġiet qabel kollox, u xejnet kull prinċipju ta’ ħarsien ekoloġiku.

Minn meta dan daħal f’pajjiżna fl-­2007, inqerdu ’l fuq minn 800 siġra tal­-palm. Issa rnexxilu jasal ukoll anki f’Għawdex fejn qed idur is­-siġar tal­-palm kollha. Xi ħadd ħabbel rasu u inkwieta? Iva, minn kellu s-siġar tal-­palm, uħud anki ta’ valur sentimentali u storiku.

Minn ma semgħax bil­-ħanfusa tal­-qrun twil tat-­tut, li daħlet mal-­injam u li qerdet is-­siġar tat-­tut kollha minn Ħaż­-Żebbuġ, Ħ’Attard, is-Siġġiewi, ir-Rabat u l-­madwar. Xi hadd inkweta? Iva, minn kellu dawn is-siġar, siġar xjuħ u uniċi li kienu mfittxija għall­-frott bnin tagħhom.


Il-Ħanfus tal-Qrum Twil li diġà qerdet numru kbir ta’ siġar tat-tut. Issa minħabba    n-nuqqas ta’ dawn is-siġar, daret fuq is-siġar tat-tin.

U dawn huma ftit mill-­ispeċi li ddaħħlu hawn Malta mas-­siġar u pjanti oħra, għax hemm numru ta’  bebbux tal-­art li qed jinfirex bil­mod il-mod sakemm il­-popolazzjoni tagħhom tikber u l­-ħsara tibda tidher, u tinħass. Xi ħadd qed jinkwieta? Żgur mhux dawk li jimportaw dawn is­-siġar u pjanti oħra li magħhom iġibu dawn l-­ispeċi f’pajjiżna. Bilkemm ma nistħajjilx lil xi ħadd, anki xi politikant jgħid, imma għalfejn tinkwieta? Ma kienx hemm minn ħaddem in­-nies, u qala’ l-flus? U billi daħlu xi insetti u bebbux, u nqerdu ftit siġar, allura x’ġara? Li ġara hu, li kien hemm xi ħadd għall-­qliegħ tal­-flus, anki bil-­barka politika, issa  l-­poplu u l­-ambjent qed iħallsu il-­prezz tal­-ħsara ta’ din il-­viżjoni għamja.

Imma forsi wieħed jistaqsi fejn qegħdin jitħawlu s­-siġar miġjuba minn barra minn Malta. Jekk wieħed imur, fost postijiet oħra, sal­waterfront il-­Belt, jew fil-­Kottonera, jew fejn jiltaqgħu l­-karozzi tal­-linji l-­Belt biex jiġbru n­-nies, barra dak li darba kien bieb il-­Belt, wieħed jista’ jara ħafna minn dawn is-siġar. Siġar li ġurnata ma kinux hemm, u l­-għada f’daqqa waħda dehru fuq il­-post xi wħud aktar minn 5 metri twal. U forsi wieħed jistaqsi dawn kemm swew. Tagħrif uffiċjali  jgħid li dawk tal-­Kottonera biss swew mat-€30,000 u nġabu mill-­Italja. Dawk ta’ barra bieb il­-Belt jingħad li swew madwar €10,000 il-­waħda. Minnhom hemm 27 waħda, ħamsa minnhom mietu u ġew mibdula b’oħrajn ġodda. Imma forsi anki hawn xi ħadd jistaqsi: imma dawn minn ħallas għalihom? Iva, int u jien. Bħalma qed inħallsu l­-ħsara indiretta ta’ xi wħud minnhom, int, jien u l-­ambjent naturali.

Forsi xi ħadd ukoll jistaqsi, imma ma hemm ħadd responsabbli għall-ippjanar u l-­ħarsien tal-­biodiversità Maltija biex jara li dan ma jiġriex. Qabel l­-2013 ir-­responsabbiltà kienet tal-­Minstru tal-­Ambjent fejn il-MEPA kienet l-Awtorità Kompetenti biex tħares il-­wirt nazzjonali (u xorta dawn kienu jsiru!). Illum il­-Mepa mhix taħt ir-­responsabbiltà tal-­Ministru tal-­Ambjent imma taħt Segretarju Parlamentari fl­-Uffiċċju tal­-Prim Ministru (u xorta għadhom isiru). Mill-­2013 it­-tisbih tal-­art waqa’ taħt ir-­responsabbiltà tal-­Ministru tat­-Transport u l-Infrastruttura, minkejja li s-­siġar huma parti mill-­biodiversità u mhumiex sinjali tat-­traffiku jew lampi tad­-dawl. U l-MEPA… imħabbta bil-­ħruġ tal­-permessi tal-­bini u tara kif tibbilanċja dawn mal­-qerda tal­-ambjent li hija suppost li twaqqaf,  kif jingħad uffiċjalment

Sakemm hemm il­-qliegħ tal-­flus b’din l-­attività kummerċjali bis-­sigar; sakemm hemm numru ta’ ħaddiema li qed jitħallsu biex jagħmlu dak li jgħidulhom, anki jekk ma jaqblux miegħu; sakemm il­-flus biex dan isir, ħafna drabi bi flus pubbliċi wkoll; sakemm il-mexxeja politiċi u soċjali ta’ dan il-­pajjiż jibqgħu ma jagħtux każ il-­bżonn tal-­ħarsien tal­-ambjent u jkejlu l-progress biċ-­ċifri ta’ flus biss, u jibqgħu ma jridux jafu bil­-ħsara ekoloġika u soċjalil li qed issir, wieħed bilforsi jibqa’ jistaqsi kemm sejra tkun kbira din il­ħsara ekoloġika, soċjali, u ekonomika.

U hekk rajna l-­impatt indirett tas-­siġar barranin imdaħħla fil­-gżejjer Maltin. Aktar ’il quddiem naraw xi speċi li qed jgħinu f’din il-ħsara soċjali, ekonomika u ekoloġika, minħabba din il-­viżjoni għamja li qed twassal biex il­-ftit igawdu finanzjarjament u l­-poplu u l­-ambjent iħallsu.

ara wkoll:

Is-siġar barranin… u l-impatt dirett tagħhom

Environmental disorientation

January 31, 2014

times of malta

January 31, 2014

Environmental disorientation

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Political environmental awareness reached its climax in 2004 before accession to the EU. Membership achieved, environment started a political nose­dive. ‘Merged’ with the Planning Authority, it was hijacked, destabilised and emarginated. Look at how environmental matters are being handled today by MEPA, politically referred to only just for convenience sake with no conviction at all. This led nine environment NGOs to show their disapproval of the lack of professional management of the environment.

2013 can be regarded as the year when environment disorientation reached its peak, and environment conservation hit rock bottom. To the extent that MEPA ­ the competent authority for the EU Environment Acquis is not within the control and not in the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment, but managed and run by the Office of the Prime Minister, through a Parliamentary Secretary.  MEPA, who never really showed any zeal or understanding of environmental responsibilities, except for producing nicely coloured publications and policies, which nobody takes any notice of, not even Mepa itself, had a field day. Stable doors were flung wide open allowing horses not only to gallop out but to stampede over all environmental and social considerations. Reason for this sad and sorry state of affairs is that the environment and planning directorates are going to be separated. All environmental matters are in deep freeze, till the day, when the surgical operation of dismembering Mepa will see the light of day. In the meantime development permits are being dished out with little, if any, environmental or social concern. When the environment is given the kiss of life, then it won’t be MEPA problem any more to see how the vacated stables door can be closed to keep the freed horse inside.

Why was MEPA not included in the environment portfolio until the operation takes place, and then the planning directorate passed to the appropriate Minister? Because environment is not a priority. It never was.


One of the expensive muddles regarding EU obligations is the Water Framework Directive: not an easy Directive by all means, the more so since Malta is an island. This Directive covers both surface, and underground water: a matter of life and death for all life in the country. 2013 saw this resource in such a pitiful state as it has never been since the advent of man on these islands. Projects inherited from previous water-drop1years, included an educational programme piloted by one Minister and sponsored by a local bank to catch every drop of water, while another Minister happily boasting and spending 57 million euros or more, mostly coming from the EU, excavating underground tunnels so that every drop of rain­water caught is swept into the sea, after bulldozing biodiversity in valleys. Yet another Minister responsible for EU funds to see to the purification of drainage water, not to harvest such resource, but to dispose of it into the sea with a certain pride and satisfaction of


Rain water which comes for free is chanelled to the sea. Then sea water is pumped up to be desalinated by energy consuming desalinators!

being unique in the EU! Still another Minister trying to find his way through an inherited tangled cobweb, trying to plug the holes through which water tankers plying the local streets, selling water extracted for free from the aquifers. Another Minister is financing the desalination of sea water (containing dumped purified drainage water) by energy consuming desalination plants. I cannot not mention water park, the dancing fountains and the expanses of turf being laid, taking gallons and gallons of water sprinkled everyday with the approval of the Ministry for landscaping. And a postponed and postponed national water policy, in the face of a possible EU infraction.  Great Political management of the environment! Shall we soon be singing ring a ring o’roses? God forbid.

“Environment destruction is turning our lives upside-down”

The monument for environmental and social destruction during 2013, without doubt was the Nadur cemetery in Gozo; built on a priceless ecological water catchment area, destroying works of the Knights to harvest rain water, and putting the ecosystem and the life of a farming community in danger, by depriving them of water and by flooding other farmers’ fields because of the hydrological changes in the area. A 600­ grave cemetery to be run on a time share basis blessed by that Competent Authority for the Environment, MEPA; blessed by the local politicians; helped by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal who like Pontius Pilate washed its hands from such a catastrophic social and environmental crime; and developed, built and blessed by the Gozo Church Diocese. A cemetery whose first intakes were Mepa’s and


the Gozo Diocese’s environmental and social conscience. Only God can forgive such an environmental and social crime, approved in 2013. To add insult to injury, this happened in Eco ­Gozo, cementing the lip service for ecological protection and the lack of understanding of biodiversity.


The good thing about environment in 2013 is that I have run out of space, and cannot delve deeper on the proposed changes to the Outside Development Zones, and Structure Plan; the Xemxija scandalous planning decision, biodiversity loss and the invasion of alien species, and other policies in the pipeline in favour of further myopic development, such as land reclamation, Hondoq ir-Rummien, the Malta-­Gozo tunnel both in Eco Gozo, all burdening the environment and society with more hidden costs and destruction.

What of 2014 one might ask? Following the liaise-faire in environmental and social awareness by politicians and other social entities since accession to the EU, one can only say that environmentalists, socialists and nationalists (nothing to do with politicians) atheists and believers alike, would better fasten their seat belts. Past decisions can only reflect further destruction of the environmental and social fabric, rendering our country a difficult and unhealthy place to live in. The momentum of these negative impacts on society and the environment can already be seen and felt. Development and money matters are holding the political decision makers of this country at gun point, at a cost to the environment and society.

times 1

Photo and caption in the Times: Changes burdening the environment and society with more hidden costs and destruction were also proposed for Eco-Gozo. Photo:

Every time I get to think about this, with every thought of where all this will lead us to, makes me feel that I can’t tell the bottom from the top. Am I standing on my head or on my heels? Is it cloudy is it bright? Is it day or is it night? Am I wrong or am I right? And is it real?

Environment destruction is turning our living upside-down. But why cannot this country ever grow up?

I have as yet refrained from answering my question as to whether all this is sheer inexperience in good governance, or a shrewd diabolical political psychology.

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Rabat Road Rubble Walls

December 21, 2013


The rubble wall approach

Saturday, 21st December, 2013.

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Summer of 2011 saw Transport Malta working on the Rabat road in connection with the arrival of the Arriva public transport. An interchange with two bus stops was planned adjacent to the road leading to Ta’ Qali.

How the rubble wall protection regulations was brought to disrepute for one and all to see

2011 – the brick wall replacing the rubble wall along Rabat road.

Two stretches of protected rural rubble walls, one on each side of the road were illegally brought down and replaced by a brick wall. The plans also included tree mutilations, at that time so reminescent of Transport Malta: a number of protected Aleppo Trees more than 50 years old in this Outside Development Zone felt the brunt and the chainsaw, one with a substantial limb cut off, some had nails driven in them, and others engulfed in concrete (‘Trees, rubble walls and BSS’, August 26, 2011).  


2011 – The brutal pruning of the protected Aleppo Pine, carried out by MEPA’s approval.

Mepa, the environmental watchdog, watched from a distance in its Floriana ravelin. When public criticism escalated, and the brick walls were completed, Mepa, through a letter in the Times (06.09.11) informed the public that it had given “Transport Malta up to 15 days to remove the illegality, following which Mepa may then take direct action.” 15 day passed, followed by 15 weeks and the brick walls were still standing. After the lapse of about another 15 months – during which Mepa, was still ruminating on its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets, presumably still contemplating its original 15 days deadline – the brick walls were pulled down. And lo and behold, they were replaced by iron railings ­ as illegal as the brick walls they replaced in the rubble wall breach!

According to the Rubble Wall and Rural Structures (Conservation and Maintenance Regulations, 1997, a “rubble wall” means a dry stone wall, built-in loose, unhewn stones which stands by gravity and friction without the use of mortar. Furthermore, it is unlawful to demolish or to endanger by any means whatsoever, the stability or integrity of any rubble wall, or to prevent free percolation of rainwater through the structure of a rubble wall, or to undermine the foundations of such rubble wall.

Rumours had it that a roundabout was planned at the cross-section to Ta’ Qali, including more tree mutilations and uprooting of some of the old protected Aleppo Pines. But before such plans were put into action the date for the general election was announced.

2013.12.02 - new rubble wall

November 2013 – the new rubble wall replacing the iron railing which replaced the brick wall built-in 2011

Last month, heavy machinery descended on the area. The iron railings disappeared. Instead two rubble walls rose from beneath the street level, incorporating also two bus stops. Not only the old Aleppo Pines were not touched, but the suffocating concrete around their trunks was broken up to allow for a water trench. Even the nails which were driven in the tree

2013.12.02 - new water trench for trees

November 2013 – new water trenches replacing concrete around old protected trees

trunks during 2011 were removed. From the works on site, it seems that there are no plans for any roundabout. Pity that the new rubble walls surface were covered with cement which will prevent free percolation of rainwater through the structure, contrary to the above mentioned regulations. Rubble walls are protected amongst others, because they afford a habitat for flora and fauna.

2013.12.02 - cement covered rubble wall

November 2013 – the unfortunate decision of covering the newly built rubble walls with concrete

It seems though that there is a little flicker of light (and of hope) at the end of the tunnel and that, at least in this case, the planning and adjustment of roads is not at the whims and fancies of an uncontrolled bulldozer, but subject to professional planning and environmental management, although this can be bettered. One hopes that this approach, a bit more refined, is extended and taken in consideration in other development projects, whether on land or at sea.  If this becomes the rule of thumb, then one can hopefully look at the day when environment and development ­ not excluding landscaping ­ can walk hand in hand with mutual economical, social and ecological benefits. In the meantime one can only keep one’s fingers crossed and hope that Mepa’s unprofessional interpretation of its vision will be something of the past, for the good of the country and this and future generations.


The greener it can get

November 29, 2013


The greener it can get

Friday, November 29, 2013, 

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 which will eventually be submitted to the European Commission for funding, was discussed at a public consultation earlier this month.

Consulttion Document cover

The synopsis presented contains positive ideas. The full report was not available being ‘a long and detailed document’ and ‘not easy to use for public consultation’. This greatly hindered more indepth suggestions and comments. Could it not have been uploaded on the department’s website?

The synopsis is based on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of rural development based on five themes, with objectives and activities for funding.

Theme 1 deals with water, wastes and energy.
Can water be managed in the absence of a national water policy? The present fragmented ‘management’ reveals a ministry digging a tunnel to channel rain water directly to the sea. Another purifying sewage water and dumping it in the sea. A corporation managing and distributing potable water while a secretariat is trying to plug holes and mend cracks in water reservoirs and cisterns.

Such lack of coordination and waste of financial resources, most of which are coming from the EU, does not augur well. This was also pointed out by the representative of the Malta Water Association during the public consultation, adding that lack of access to the original draft report restricts discussions.

Activities suggest investment “in water management, abstraction…” Does this mean that abstraction will be funded when this is being tackled by another ministry trying to control and regulate it?

Theme 2 deals with Maltese quality produce, highlighting the need for quality assurance, poor enforcement of regulations and support for adding value as the major opportunities. The GMOs Pandora’s Box that farmers and consumers are being offered and possibly swallowing and the ever-increasing public rejection of GMOs can be capitalised upon by the farming community. Not only was this not even referred to but a farmer’s representative was heard saying that farmers cannot do without GMOs!

Theme 3 refers to sustainable livestock.
A positive item under activities to be funded is the support “for activities that reduce livestock farms’ impact on the climate and environment”. This can perhaps address the issue of past EU funds used to build such livestock farms on sensitive water table areas, rendering the water so nutrient rich and unusable.

Theme 4 deals with landscape and the environment.
The objectives are great and the wording is even nicer. But this is another subject where fragmentation reigns supreme.

Landscaping is under the responsibility of the Ministry for Transport where the main driving force is devoid of any ecological input. Mepa is the competent authority (on paper) under the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office. It is no secret that Mepa has rarely raised a finger to protect any tree and often turns a blind eye to all mutilation, uprooting, chemically-killed trees and introduction of alien species.

Local councils, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism, go on a rampage ‘pruning’ trees with no questions asked.

The reply to my question as to who will be the regulator in such landscaping was no reply at all, sending shivers down my spine. The sanest political, technical, administrative, ecological, economical, legal way forward is that the regulator has to be the Minister for the Environment. This will ensure that there will not be any cow itch trees, fountain grass, flame trees et al. or turf growing in rural areas. And EU funds will be used in line with EU obligations, not as has happened in the past.

The economic bias of such a
report completely dwarfs the
sensitive ecological obligations

The funding of “new skills and knowledge (that) will be required in terms of landscape management, ecological understanding, conservation and practical skills” is a good idea if well managed and executed professionally.

The maintenance and restoration of rubble walls brought a rumble of disappointments by many who have been waiting for five and more years to restore the breach in their rubble walls. Breaches in rubble walls contribute to soil erosion, which fills valleys, and eventually is carried out to sea. Cannot photos and videos record such breaches to allow their immediate restoration and then farmers be reimbursed by the RDP?

rubble wall builder - The Times

Breaches in rubble walls contribute to soil erosion, which fills valleys, and eventually is carried out to sea (Photo: The Times)

A one day’s wait, especially during the rainy season, is too long for this fragile environment, resulting in ecological and additional expenses.

The wider rural economy and quality of life are addressed under theme 5
Among the objectives listed is the development of bed-and-breakfast business, which is also a good objective. However, if its implementation does not encompass the ecological impact it can be bizarre in such a small island State, the more so when experts and representatives involved in such activity omit biodiversity experts and the Ministry for the Environment, whether by conviction or for convenience.

The unnumbered delivery section outlines other actions, including ‘valley management/landscape management partnerships’ and a ‘rural resource hub’.

The first is urgently necessary even from an ecological point of view but, God forbid, if this is executed on the lines of past years without any holistic professional input but just by bulldozing earth to temporarily please the eye and inflict ecological damage.

The ‘rural resource hub’ is also welcome and can fill the void and neglect so conspicuous during the last decade. The once beneficial government experimental farm has, during the last years, been used more by domestic cats, dogs and pets. The once experimental farm can help educate, train, give technical knowledge advice and hands-on experience to all stakeholders in rural development.

These are but a few reflections and suggestions on the abridged consultation document, without having access to the original draft and keeping in mind that “precise details may well change over the next year, as discussions and agreement are still being developed in Brussels”.

Unfortunately, the economic bias of such a report completely dwarfs the sensitive ecological obligations. The outline nonetheless contains important and useful points that can contribute to rural development and Maltese biodiversity with some dotting of the i’s and crossing of thet t’s.
Alfred E. Baldacchino is a former assistant director at Mepa’s environment directorate.

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja

November 18, 2013

L-Orizzont fit-22 ta’  Ottubru, 2013 ippublika aħbar dwar il-massakru tas-siġar fis-Saqqajja r-Rabat.

Jien  ikkumentajt fuq din l-aħbar fit-29 ta’ Ottubru, 2013 , kif ukoll korrispondent ieħor minn Toronto l-Kanada.

Il-MEPA, l-Awtorità Kompetenti għall-ħarsien tas-siġar fil-gżejjer Maltin (għalmenu fuq il-karta biss) fid-9 ta’ Novembru, 2013, ħasset li kellha tikkoreġi xi kummenti li għamilt jien.

Illum 18 ta’ Novembru, 2013, l-Orizzont ippubblika l-ittra tiegħi bi tweġiba għall-kummenti tal-MEPA. Qiegħed nehemż dawn il-kummenti kollha fuq dan il-post.


It-Tnejn, 18 ta’  Novembru 2013

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Sur Editur,

Nixtieq nirreferi għall-ittra tal-MEPA bi tweġiba għal ittra oħra, intitolata “Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja”, ir-Rabat, li dehret fil-ħarġa tal-ġurnal l-orizzont tas-Sibt, 9 ta’ Novembru, 2013. F’din l-ittra l-MEPA tgħid li:

1.  Fil-programm, is-CEO tal-MEPA qal li jekk siġra hija protetta hemm bżonn il-permess tal-MEPA biex din tinżabar jew tinqala’ minn postha, iżda jekk is-siġra mhijiex protetta, hemm bżonn biss il-permess tad-Dipartiment tal-Agrikultura.

Ir-regolamenti għall-ħarsien tas-siġar – Avviż Legali 200 tal-2011 – jgħid li l-awtorità kompetenti (jiġifieri l-MEPA) għandha tkun responsabbli għall­-amministrazzjoni, implimentazzjoni u inforzar ta’ dawn ir-regolamenti. Imkien f’dawn ir-regolamenti, jew f’xi oħrajn, ma hemm referenza għad-Dipartiment tal-Agrikultura.

Tista’ l-MEPA tagħmel referenza għal-liġi li turi li d-Departiment tal-Agrikultura huwa b’xi mod responsabbli legalment kif qiegħda tgħid hi? Jiddispjaċini ngħid li l-MEPA qiegħda tipprova titfa’ r-responsabbiltà tagħha fuq Ministeru ieħor li ma għandu l-ebda obbligu legali, biex tgħatti xturha.

2.  Il-MEPA qalet ukoll li mill-investigazzjoni tagħha sabet li ma kien hemm l-ebda ksur ta’ regolamenti. Dan, għax kif qalet, mir-ritratti tal-ajru, dawn is-siġar miżbura għandhom inqas minn 50 sena. Ma nafx x’ritratti għandha l-MEPA u minn fejn ġabet dawn ir-ritratt u d-dati. Kull min hu tal-età tiegħi u hu mir-Rabat bħali, jaf li dawn is-siġar għandhom sewwa viċin it-80 sena. Jekk it-tagħrif li għandha l-MEPA biex toħroġ permessi tal-bini huwa ta’ dan it-tip, mhux ta’ b’xejn fil-pajjiż hawn din il-qerda kollha tal-ambjent naturali.

saqqajja trees5

Ritratt mehud fl-1961 li juri s-siġar tas-Saqqajja fejn diġà jidhru li kellhom madwar il-15-il sena. Imma mir-ritratti li għandha l-MEPA dawn is-siġar għad ma għadnhomx 50 sena.

3.  Il-MEPA qalet ukoll li skont l-Avviż Legali 200 tal-2011, siġar tal-Fikus jeħtieġu permess tal-MEPA biex jinżabru jekk huma ixjaħ minn 50 sena u jinsabu fl-ODZ, Żoni Protetti jew UCA. Dan juri l-istat miskin ta’ kif il-MEPA ħarbtet ir-regolamenti fl-2011 (għax xi ħadd hekk ried) biex il-qerda tas-siġar li qiegħda sseħħ, kemm mill-kuntrattur tal-Gvern, kemm minn xi kunsilli lokali, insomma minn min irid jeqred jew ibiċċer, ikun jista’ jagħmel fl-urban mingħajr ebda permess mingħand ħadd.

Dan kollu minkejja li, skont l-ewwel sentenza fil-viżjoni tal-MEPA ippubblikata fuq il-websajt tagħha stess, u se nikkwota:

L-għan tagħna huwa li ngħaddu lit-tfal tagħna pajjiż aħjar minn dak li writna. Huwa minħabba f’hekk li aħna nqabblu l-ambjent ma’ teżor, xi ħaġa li nużaw l-enerġija tagħna biex inħarsu, biex nieħdu ħsieb u biex intejjbu. L-ambjent jiġbor kollox: in-natura, il-kultura u anki l-wirt arkitettoniku, bliet u rħula, il-kampanja, l-ibħra u l-arja. Aħna nemmnu li flimkien għandna bil-għaqal nippjanaw biex il-wirt tagħna, din il-ġawhra li aħna ngħożżu, ma tgħibx għal dejjem.

saqqajja trees3

Kif kienu jinżabru s-siġar minn missiriejiitna. Dawn ma kellhom l-ebda viżjoni miktuba imma din kienet tidher fix-xogħol tagħhom fuq l-art.

U tagħlaq billi, fost oħrajn, tgħid: “Il-valuri li jispirawna biex nilħqu l-obbligi tagħna huma dawk li jħallu effett pożittiv fuq is-soċjetà. Il-valuri huma marbutin ma’ ġustizzja murija f’deċiżjonijiet għaqlin u f’waqthom u infurzati b’mod ġust. Jekk aħna napplikaw dawn il-valuri b’determinazzjoni, inkunu qed ngħinu biex infasslu il-ġid komuni, kunċett li huwa riżultat tal-għeruq Kristjani ta’ dan il-pajjiż. Dawn il-valuri, applikati b’mod professjonali, jagħtu evidenza tal-integrità tal-Awtorità f’dak kollu li tagħmel u li tgħid.

Kif ġabuhom is-siġar illum.  Imma kif dan il-pajjiż tilef kull sengħa, kull pġrofessjonalità, kull rispett, u tilef ruħhu għall-flus.

Kif inżabru l-istess sigar meta għandna l-MEPA li għandha vijżoni  miktuba, imma ma tidher imkien fix-xogħol tagħha fuq l-art.

Filwaqt li din il-viżjoni ma hemm xejn x’wieħed jgħid fiha, il-mod kif il-MEPA qiegħda timxi magħha jew iġġiegħlek tidħak jew tibki, speċjalment meta din l-awtorità hi mħallsa minn flus il-poplu biex tħares dak li hu tal-poplu. Jekk hix il-MEPA li qed tidħak bil-poplu jew hux il-poplu li qed jidħak bil-MEPA inħalli f’idejkom.

Illum il-poplu huwa aktar intelliġenti u għandu kuxjenza b’saħħitha favur l-ambjent. Il-MEPA tista’ taħseb li b’xi mod tista’ tgħaddi l-poplu minn għajn il-labra. Lili mhux biss ma tikkonvinċinix imma ma niddejjaq xejn ngħid li l-MEPA, wara li l-ewwel ħatfet id-Dipartiment tal-Ambjent, illum ġabitu fix-xejn, u nqisha li hija l-akbar għadu tal-ambjent naturali fil-gżejjer Maltin.

orizzont small

is-Sibt, 9 ta’ Novembru 2013.

 PETER GINGELL, Maniġer tal-Komunikazzjoni, MEPA

“Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja”

Sur Editur,
Nirreferi għall-ittra lill-Editur li dehret fil-ġurnal l-orizzont nhar it-Tlieta, 29 ta’ Ottubru 2013, mibgħuta mis-Sur Alfred Baldacchino taħt it-titlu “Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja”.
Fl-ittra tiegħu is-Sur Baldacchino qal li s-CEO tal-MEPA, waqt programm ta’ diskussjoni fuq One TV, kien skorrett meta qal li l-qlugħ u ż-żbir tas-siġar huma r-responsabbiltà tad-Dipartiment tal-Agrikultura.
Il-MEPA trid tiċċara li s-Sur Baldacchino għażel li jikkwota parti minn dak li qal iċ-CEO tal-MEPA, is-Sur Johann Buttigieg.
Fil-programm, is-CEO tal-MEPA qal li jekk siġra hija protetta hemm bżonn il-permess tal-MEPA biex din tinżabar jew tinqala’ minn postha, iżda jekk
is-siġra mhijiex protetta hemm, bżonn biss il-permess tad-Dipartiment tal-Agrikultura.
Fil-każ fejn numru ta’ siġar tal-Fikus ġew miżbura fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat, il-MEPA wara li għamlet l-investigazzjoni tagħha sabet li ma kien hemm l-ebda ksur ta’ regolament. Dan għax mir-ritratti tal-ajru, dawn s-siġar miżbura għandhom inqas minn 50 sena.
Skont l-Avviż Legali 200 tal-2011, siġar tal-Fikus jeħtieġu permess tal-MEPA biex jinżabru jekk huma ixjaħ minn 50 sena u jinsabu fl-ODZ, Żoni Protetti jew UCA.

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It-Tlileta 29 ta’ Ottubru, 2013.

“Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja”

Sur Editur,
Qrajt b’interess ir-rapport intitolat “Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat” ippubblikat fil-ħarġa ta’ l-orizzont ta’ nhar it-Tlieta, 22 ta’ Ottubru.
Din il‑qerda ta’ siġar f’pajjiżna issa ilha għaddejja s-snin. Hija qerda bla rażan, bla raġuni, u milli jidher bla ħadd mhu lest li jerfa’ reponsabbiltà għaliha.
Il-fragmentazzjoni li teżisti fil-ħarsien tas‑sigar mhi qiegħda tgħin xejn biex is-siġar li qegħdin jikbru f’pajjiżna jkunu mħarsin kif suppost.
Ftit tal-ħin ilu kont qiegħed nara programm ta’ diskussjoni fuq ONE TV fejn is-CEO tal-MEPA qal li l-ilqugħ u ż-żbir tas-siġar huma responsabbiltà tal-
Agrikultura. Dan mhux korrett. Din ir-responsabbiltà kienet hemm taħt ir-regolamenti l-qodma tal-2001. Imma dawn ġew revokati u mibdula mill-MEPA stess fil-2011.
Illum il-MEPA hija l-awtorità kompetenti għall-ħarsien tas-siġar skont ir-regolamenti tal-ħarsien tagħhom li għamlet hi stess.
Naħseb li hemm bżonn immedjat li l-Prim Ministru jindirizza din il-fragmentazzjoni llum qabel għada biex ma tkompliex issir aktar qerda.
Sur Editur,
Wara li fil-ħarġa ta’ l-orizzont ta’ nhar it-Tlieta, 22 ta’ Ottubru, qrajt l-artiklu taħt ir-ras “Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat”, inkompli nistaqsi lili
nnifsi, għax milli jidher dawk responsabbli qatt ma ħassew l-obbligu li jagħtu kont ta’ għemilhom, x’inhi r-raġuni ta’ dan iż-żbir tas-siġar, speċjalment
b’dan il-mod selvaġġ.
Jien, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, naħseb li kull ma qiegħed isir hu li s-siġar qegħdin jaqtgħu nifishom għax dawn mill-weraq jieħdu n-nifs.
Jien ngħix f’Toronto, belt mimlija siġar. Tant hawn siġar illi jekk jibdew jiżbruhom, kieku ma jispiċċaw qatt.
Toronto – il-Kanada


orizzont small


22 ta’ Ottubru, 2013

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat

saqqajja trees
Għal darb’oħra f’pajjiżna qegħdin naraw massakru minn għadd ta’ siġar meta dawn jinżabru. Laħħar każ seħħ fis-Saqqajja r-Rabat. Dawn is-siġar ma ġralhomx bħas-siġar tal-Ħamrun li ż-żbir tagħhom twaqqaf meta saru għadd ta’ rapporti. Sfortunatament dawn is-siġar kollha nżabru b’mod mill-aktar selvaġġ.
Għalkemm jidher li saru xi rapporti qiegħed jingħad li dawn is-siġar m’għandhomx 50 sena. Minkejja dan huma diversi dawk ir-Rabtin li llum għandhom minn 75 sena ’l fuq, li qegħdin isostnu li dawn is-siġar tat-tip Fikus Nitida ilhom fil-Pjazza tas-Saqqajja aktar minn 50 sena.
Rabti li tkellem magħna qalilna li “ma nistax nifhem kif dawn is-siġar jinżabru b’dan il-mod. Li jinżabru hu tajjeb, imma mhux jitħallew kważi għerja għal kollox mill-weraq”. L-istess resident qalilna li “fir-Rabat għandna kwistjoni oħra fuq siġar li jinsabu fi Triq Santa Rita u li s’issa qed jiġu indikati li se jinqalgħu bħala parti minn proġett. Nisperaw li dan ma jsirx. Illum dawn joffru ftit dell għal min ipoġġi taħthom, jekk jinqalgħu xemx biss se jkun hemm,” sostna l-istess resident.

Ir-Rabat, is-Saqqajja u s-Siġar

October 29, 2013
It­-Tieta, 29 ta’ Ottubru, 2013

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja

Alfred E. Baldacchino

saqqajja trees1

Sur Editur,
Qrajt b’interess ir-rapport intitolat “Massakru minn si­ġar fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat” ippubblikat fil-ħarġa ta’ l-orizzont ta’ nhar it-Tlieta, 22 ta’ Ottubru.
Din il‑qerda ta’ siġar f’pajjiżna issa ilha għaddejja s-snin. Hija qerda bla rażan, bla raġuni, u milli jidher bla ħadd mhu lest li jerfa’ reponsabbiltà għaliha.
Il-fragmentazzjoni li teżisti fil-ħarsien tas‑sigar m’hi qiegħda tgħin xejn biex is-siġar li qegħdin jikbru f’pajjiżna jkunu mħarsin kif suppost.
Ftit tal-ħin ilu kont qiegħed nara programm ta’ diskussjoni fuq ONE TV fejn is-CEO tal-MEPA qal li l-ilqugħ u ż-żbir tas-siġar huma responsabbiltà tal-Agrikultura. Dan mhux korrett. Din ir-responsabbiltà kienet hemm taħt ir-regolamenti l-qodma tal-2001. Imma dawn ġew revokati u mibdula mill-MEPA stess fil-2012.
Illum il-MEPA hija l-awtorità kompetenti għall-ħarsien tas-siġar skont ir-regolamenti tal-ħarsien tagħhom li għamlet hi stess.
Naħseb li hemm bżonn immedjat li l-Prim Ministru jindirizza din il-fragmentazzjoni llum qabel għada biex ma tkompliex issir aktar qerda.



Sur Editur,
Wara li fil-ħarġa ta’ l-orizzont ta’ nhar it-Tlieta, 22 ta’ Ottubru, qrajt l-artiklu taħt ir-ras “Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat”, inkompli nistaqsi lili nnifsi, għax milli jidher dawk responsabbli qatt ma ħassew l-obbligu li jagħtu kont ta’ għemilhom, x’inhi r-raġuni ta’ dan iż-żbir tas-siġar, speċjalment b’dan il-mod selvaġġ.
Jien, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, naħ­seb li kull ma qiegħed isir hu li s-siġar qegħdin jaqtgħu nifishom għax dawn mill-weraq jieħdu n-nifs.
Jien ngħix f’Toronto, belt mimlija siġar. Tant hawn siġar illi jekk jibdew jiżbruhom, kieku ma jispiċċaw qatt.

Toronto – il-Kanada



U l-qerda tas-siġar tkompli bl-istess ritmu

October 23, 2013

U l-qerda tas-siġar tkompli bl-istess ritmu

Alfred E. Baldacchino

L-Erbgħa 24 ta’ Ottubru, 2013.

Wara kampanja twila kontra l-­qerda tas-­siġar f’pajjiżna, wieħed kien jistenna’ li bil-­bidla fil-­gvern kien ikun hemm xi ħjiel ta’ xi miżuri biex dan jibda’ jsir b’mod regolat u bi professjonalità. Imma b’dispjaċir wieħed jinnota li l­qerda, iż­-żbir bla rażan, in-­nuqqas ta’ apprezzament, id-­dilettantiżmu, in­-nuqqas ta’ rieda u interess, u l­isparpaljar ta’ fondi pubbliċi għadu għaddej bl-­istess ritmu li kien għaddej qabel l­-elezzjoni, minkejja xi wegħdiet.

Dan kollu sforz il­-fragmentazzjoni li hemm bħalissa f’dawn ir-­responsabbiltjiet li kulħad qe ifarfr u jgħid li mhux tiegħu.

Mela għandna l-­Ministru tat­-Transport u l-­Infrastruttura li huwa responsabbli mill-­landscaping. Is­-Segretarju Parlamentari fil­-Ministeru tal-­Prim Ministru responsabbli mill-­MEPA li hija l-­Awtorità Kompetenti għall­-Ħarsien tas-­siġar; u l­-Ministru tal-­Kunsilli Lokali li huwa responsabbli mill-­Kunsilli Lokali. Hemm ukoll il-­Ministru tal­-Ambjent li bnir-raġun ma għandu l­-ebda responsabbiltà fejn jidhlu s-­siġar minħabba din il-­fragmentazzjoni ta’ responsabbiltajiet.

Is-sura ta' dwn is-Siġar turi l-mentalita mikina u l-kultura kontemporanja taż dan il-pajjż

Is-sura ta’ dawn is-Siġar turi l-mentalita miskina u egoistika, l-kultura kontemporanja ta’ dan il-pajjż

Is-­sit eletroniku Rabti People who like or live in Rabat Malta poġġa ritratt ta’ dan il-massakru fuq is-­sit eletroniku permess ta’ Chris Farrugia fl-­interess tar­Rabat, tar-­Rabtin, u anki tal-­biodiversità Maltija, hekk kif beda dan il­-massakru fuq is­-siġar tas­-Saqqajja r-­Rabat. Skont kummenti fuq dan is-­sit ix-­xogħol ġie mqabbad mill­-Kunsill Lokali tar­Rabat u ma għandniex xi ngħidu sejjer jitħallas minn flus il­-poplu. In-­numru ta’ kummenti fuq dan is­-sit kienu mijiet, u l­-karba tal-­poplu Rabti għal din il­-qerda hija kbira. Wieħed jistenna’ biex jara kemm sejjer jismagħha l­-Gvern.

Qiegħed inpoġġi l-­kummenti li għamilt jien kemm fuq dan is­-sit kif ukoll fuq siti oħra li siltu xi ­kummenti minnu u tefgħuhom fuq siti tagħhom. Qiegħed ukoll inżid l­-indirizz eletroniku fejn dehru u xi ritatti biex wieħed jekk irid ikun jista’ jara l-­istampa kollha u l-­kummneti tagħna r-Rabtin, ma’ oħrajn li jaqblu magħna, saħansitra anki barra xtutna.

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­– 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

SIĠAR IMMASAKRATI 2013 – Is-Saqajja — 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

Christopoher Farrugia with Astrid Vella and 3 others– The latest attack on trees took place two days ago at Saqqajja, Rabat, reducing the former row of majestic trees to ugly, bare and leggy branches topped by a few leaves! Now MEPA is defending this Rabat Local Council action, saying that the trees can be ‘pruned’ savagely as they are not over 50 years old, when in fact elderly Rabat residents remember them already grown 75 years ago!

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ – 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

Alfred E. Baldacchino – Chris, prosit talli bdejt din it-thread fuq ir-Rabat u minn veru jħobbu speċjalment fuq dawn il-ħniżriet ta’ żbir li llum mhux ir-residenti tar-Rabat biss, imma l-Maltin u l-Għawdxin kollha qed jilmentaw minn dan in-nuqqas ta’ professjonalità. Il-Kunsill Lokali tar-Rabat imissu jistħi meta hawn din il-kritika kollha u jibqa’ għaddej qisu qed jgħix fiq xi pjanetà oħra. Imma l-Kunsilli Lokali li huma fformati mir-rapreżentanti tal-partiti politiċi, suppost għandhom il-barka kemm tal-Ministeri mill-Kunsilli Lokali kif ukoll mill-Ministeru responsabbli għall-MEPA biex setgħu jagħmlu dawn l-oxxenitajiet.

saqqajja trees3

Kif kienu jinżabru mill-ħġaddiema tal-Gvern is-siġar tas-Saqqajja fl-imgħoddi meta la kellhom cherry pickers u lanqas srieraq mekkaniċi. Dawn huma l-istess siġar li jidhru fir-ritratt ta’hawn fuq. wara li nżabru il-ġimgħa li għaddiet.

Nixtieq inkun naf min qed jgħati dawn il-pariri professjonali lill-Kunsill Rabti. Kif taf int Chris jiena llum għandi 67 sena. Niftakar meta kont għadni mbuttat fil-pushchair biex inmorru l-ġnien kont narahom hemm. U dan kellhom aktar minn 10 snin fil-wisa’. Forsi l-MEPA għadhom ma jafux jgħoddu… is- siġar. Imma il-MEPA la qatt kellhom u lanqas għandhom interess li jħarsu s-sigar u l-pjanti oħra indiġeni Maltin. Jekk tħares kif amendatw ir-regolamenti tal-Ħarisen tas-Siġar tal-2001 u kif dawn il-MEPA biddlithom fl-2012 biżżejjed biex wieħed jara kemnm il-MEPA hija interessata. Illum il-MEPA kważi kważi saret aġenżija tal-iżviluppaturi. Nixtieq inkun naf b’dan it-tqaċċit tas-siġar kollha għal kemm il-siġra il-MEPA oġġezzjonat. Bil-politika tal-MEPA, minkejja kemm bil-pjanijiet tal-gvern ta’ qabel (imfasswlin mill-MEPA stess) kemm b’dawk tal-gvern ta’ issa tidher li tiġi taqa’ u tqum. Ħares ftit lejn il-permess li tgħat fix-xogħol tal-foss tal-Imdina fejn inqerdu tant siġar biex il-foss inkesa bit-turf u ġabet is-swar tal-Imdina qishom Windsor Castle. Naturalment xi ħadd qala balla flus. Dan jidher aktar importanti minn xi 300 siġra (waħda minnhom żebbuġa li kellha viċin il-100 sena u li nqalgħet bil-barka tal-MEPA) kollha inqerdu.

Kien hemm suġġeriment aktar ‘l fuq biex fir-Rabat jitwaqqaf grupp jew kumitat dwar il-ħarsein tas-siġar u l-ambjent naturali Rabti. Jekk timxi din l-idea għidluli għax inkun minn ta’ quddiem bħala Rabti li noffri l-ħin biex inkun fuqu. Ma niflax nara aktar oxxenitajiet minn nies li jieħdu deċiżijoniet u ma jagħrfux siġra minn arblu tad-dawl. U mbgħad iwaħħlu f’ħadd ieħor. Ikun interessanti wkoll li l-politikant responsabbli mill-Kunsilli Lokali u dak mill-MEPA jgħidu kif jaħsbuha.

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ – 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

Kif ġabuhom is-siġar illum.  Imma kif dan il-pajjiż tilef kull sengħa, kull pġrofessjonalità, kull rispett, u tilef ruħhu għall-flus.

Kif ġabuhom is-siġar illum. Imma kif dan il-pajjiż tilef kull sengħa, kull professjonalità, kull rispett, u tilef  anki ruħhu għall-flus.

Alfred E. Baldacchino – Allura biex inkun naf x’gara irrid immur il-Kunsill tar-Rabat? Irrid nifhem li l-Kunsill kellu jdejh marbutin biex iwqqaf dawn l-oxxenitajiet? Sa fajn naf jien il-membri tal-Kunsill qegħdin hemm biex jaraw u jirrapreżentaw in-nies tar-Rabat. Ma naħsebx li dan il-pajjiż huwa xi wieħed minn dawk ta’ wara dik li darba kienet il-purtiera tal-ħadid. Jekk il-Kunsill għandu spjegazzjoni jgħidlna. Jekk qed jipproteġi lil xi hadd, jiddispjaċini ngħid li r-responsabbiltà hija xorta waħda tiegħu u tal-Ministeru lli jaqa’ taħtu. Imma ma rridx neħodha kontra l-Kunsill tar-Rabat. Jekk dan jitkellem u jafda man-nies Rabtin li tellgħuh, imexxi aħjar u mingħajr wisq problemi, speċjalment jekk ikollu xi pressjoni minn nies mhux mir-Rabat. Xi ħadd qal li dawn is-sigar hemm bżonn jinbidlu! Ma nagħmlux mod li hemm xi ħadd qed ifesfes f’widnejn xi ħadd biex dawn jinbidlu u minflokom jitħawlu siġar mill-Afrika t’isfel, mill-Amerika t’isfel u minn kull parti oħra tad-dinja, bħal dawk li ħawlu fil-Kottonera u kullimkien. Tgħid għalhekk din is-segretezza kollha? Hemm minn bi ħsiebu jaqla xi skoss flus minn fuq dahar il-poplu bil-bejgħ tas-sigar barranin?

Xi ħadd ieħor qal li lanqas tista’ tpoġġi fuq bank minħabba l-għasafar. Kumment fqir u tat-tfal. Mur daqsxejn sa’ Ħad Dingli (mhux ‘l bogħod) u ara kif il-Kunsill ta’ Ħad Dingli solva din il-problema bla wisq spejjes u bla wisq teatrin. Naħseb li n-nies tar-Rabat huma intelliġenti biżżejjed jekk iridu. Imma minn ċerti kummenti li qed jidhru qed nistenna għar.


Il-Bankijiet f'Ħad-Dingli

Il-Bankijiet f’Ħad-Dingli

Alfred E. Baldacchino – Bankijiet f’Ħad Dingli li jippermetti lilll-għasafar ikollhom kuxjenza safja kif ukoll lil minn ipoġġi fuq il-bankijiet biex ipoġġu b’rashom serħana. U ma nqatat l-ebda siġra u kellu jħallas għaliha l-kunsill kif sejjr jagħmel dak tar-Rabat.


Massakru minn sigar fis-Saqqajja

Alfred E., Baldacchino  – Hija ħaġa tal-­mistħija li sena wara sena, wieħed jara dan id-­dilettantiżmu u qerda ta’ siġar u ħadd ma jieħu responsabbiltà. Dan minkejja l-­kritika kontinwa taċ-­ċittadini li minn flushom qed iħallsu għal dan ix­-xogħol u qerda.

Dawn is­-siġar għandhom ’l fuq minn 70 sena minkejja dak li qalet il-­MEPA. Jiena Rabti u llum għandi 67. Dejjem hemm nafhom. Imma l­-MEPA…

Sfortuntament il-­MEPA la għandha u lanqas qatt kellha interess li tħares is-­­siġar, minkejja l­-obbligi legali u morali li għandha. U dan jispjega għaliex ir­­regolamenti tal-2001 ġew mibdula mill­­-MEPA fl’2012. Possibbli li lanqas is­­-Segretarju Parlamentari responsbbli mill-­MEPA ma jista’ jagħmel xejn fuq hekk?

Xi Kunsilli Lokali ukoll qishom lanqas qegħdin hemm. Fir­-Rabat is-sena l-­oħra ġara l-­istess u milli jidher ma tgħallem xejn. U dan minkejja li qed iħallas il­-poplu għal dan ix-­xogħol xejn professjonali approvat u mqabbad mill­-Kunsill Lokali. Possibbli li s-­Segretarju Parlamentari responsabbli mill-­Kunsilli Lokali dan kollu ma jinteressahx?

Dan il­-qerda u xogħol bla sens u bl-­ebda professjonalità kienet bla kontrol taħt il­­-Gvern ta’ qabel. Imma jiddispjaċini ngħid li mhux talli ma rranġa xejn talli għada kif kienet qabel minkejja l-­kritika tan-­nies. Forsi l-­­Prim Ministru jista’ jinterveni hu u jwissi lil min għandu jwissi, dejjem sakemm ma jaqbelx hu wkoll ma’ dan it-­tip ta’ xogħol!


Alfrd E. Baldaahino (kumment għall-pubblikazzjoni) Din il-­qerda ta’ siġar f’pajjiżna li issa ilha għaddejja s­-snin hija qerda bla rażan, bla raġuni, u milli jidher bla ħadd ma hu lest li jerfa’ reponsabbiltà għalijha. Il­-fragmentazzjoni li teżisti fil-­ħarsien tas-­sigar mhu qed tgħin xejn biex is­-siġar li qed jikbru f’pajjiżna jkunu mħarsa kif suppost.

Ritratt meħud fl-01963 fejn is-=siġar jidhru li għandhom sewwa vi1in il-15-il sena dak iż-żmien. Imma il-MEPA li qalet li dawn ma għadhomx aktar minn 50 sena, issa qed twaħħal fl-Agrikultura wara li qalgħatha barra mir-regolamenti.

Ritratt meħud fl-1961 fejn dawn is-siġar jidhru li għandhom sewwa viċin il-15-il sena dak iż-żmien. Imma il-MEPA li qalet li dawn ma għadhomx aktar minn 50 sena, issa qed twaħħal fl-Agrikultura wara li qalgħatha barra mir-regolamenti u llum ma għandha x’taqsam xejn.

Ftit tal-­ħin ilu (it­-Tlieta 22 ta’ Ottubru) kont qed nara programm ta’ diskussjoni fuq ONE TV fejn is­-CEO tal-­MEPA qal li l-­ilqugħ u ż-­żbir tas-­siġar huma responsabbiltà tal­-Agrikultura.  Dan mhux korrett. Din ir-­responsabbiltà kienet hemm taħt ir-­regolamenti l-­qodma tal­-2001.  Imma dan ġew revokati u mibdula mill­-MEPA stess fil-­2012. Illum il­-MEPA hija l­-Awtorità Kompetenti għall-­ħarsien tas­-siġar skond ir-­regolamenti tal­-ħarsien tagħhom li għamet hi stess.

Naħseb li hemm bżonn immedjat li l-­Prim Ministru jindirizza din il-­fragmentazzjoni illum qabel għada biex ma tkompliex issir aktar qerda.

Is-sbuħija tas-siġar ta' fuq is-Saqqajja ir-Rabat kif darba kienu u kif ma jistgħu ikunu qatt sakemm tinbidl din il-mentalit.a pulitika ta' pajjiżna.

Is-sbuħija tas-siġar ta’ fuq is-Saqqajja r-Rabat kif darba kienu u kif ma jistgħu jkunu qatt aktar sakemm tinbidl din il-mentalità  pulitika  u kulturali ta’ pajjiżna.

When the rain sets in

September 19, 2013

times of malta

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When valuable rain sets in

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The faintest smell of rain tends to make some feel wet under the collar. This trauma automatically triggers the urge to swoop on valleys ‘to clean’ them, as if valleys are some kind of water closet.

Valleys are dried river beds, which have been transformed to this state by climate and environmental changes, but still harvest rain water. The Knights of Jerusalem reluctantly settled in these islands – one of the top 10 arid countries in the world. In 1530 they planned, engineered and managed such a rare resource to serve the islands and its people and to defend them in difficult times. Later the British enhanced, and continued to manage such a rare resource.

When the foreigners left, they took with them their acumen in planning and management, but they left behind a wealth of their works, without which Malta would not be what it is today.

The indigenous then took over the management and planning. Since that time, rain water management is close to nonexistent.

Old underground water cisterns and networks all over the islands lie cracked and dry, even in the capital city. Others were destroyed to make way for streets and roads. Old  bell­shaped water cisterns were bulldozed to make way for underground garages. An engineered network was obliterated so that the Gozo Church could build a monument for the dead in Nadur.

The MEPA approved development not only deprived the area from accumulating rain water, but also intercepted the undergreound veins which fed the Knight's engineed system to water the fields. Ironically the developer it is the Gozo Church which has build a momument for the dead at the expense of the living.

The MEPA approved development not only deprived the area from harvesting rain water in the aquifer, but also intercepted the undergreound veins which fed the Knight’s engineed system to water the fields.
Ironically the developer is the Gozo Church which has build a momument for the dead at the expense of the living. May the Lord forgive them.

An 1854 regulation obliging every dwelling to have a well to collect rain water was completely ignored and rain water collected by buildings was channelled, illegally, to the sewers or let loose in the streets.

In 2012 the gruesome political intelligence (GPI) repealed this regulation enabling rain water to be directed to the sewers, in the interest of development. Sewers used to empty their load out at sea, till treatment plants were built. Again the GPI saw that these were built close to the coast, to dispose treated water in the sea. Politicians boasted that Malta was the first EU Member State to do so.

Malta will remain the one and only country in this field because no sane political intelligence would throw treated water (which with a little bit of more planning and management could have even become potable water) in the sea, only for it to be pumped up again a couple of meter further away to be distilled by energy-intensive desalination plants and redirected back to households and industries.

New buildings mushroomed with increasing momentum, to the extent that today there are more than 70,000 vacant buildings (and still counting), equivalent to 9 times the number of all households at Birkirkara. Footprints of these buildings used to absorb rain water nourishing the water table.

Water is today managed either by letting it run in the streets or by connecting it with the sewers. Sewers have a limited carrying capacity and they show the first signs of stress when water fountains sprout from the inspection holes; a replica of the dancing water fountains in St. George’s Square Valletta, opposite Parliament House, as a gentile reminder perhaps.

Mismanagement par excellance - polluted street waters, mixed with overflowing sewer water, dumping the resource in the valleys.

Mismanagement par excellance – polluted street waters, mixed with overflowing sewer water carrying chemicals, dumped in the valleys. Some politician must have been accountable for this planning!

More water, added pressure, increased momentum, eventually lifts the sewer’s inspection hole covers, throwing up excess water in the streets, carrying solid and liquid wastes, some toxic. Such ‘rivulets’ combine with water running the streets, gather momentum, increase volume, and roar their way to the lowest part of the nearby land ­ – valleys.

“If the Grand Masters
were to judge
the management of rain water today,
they would impose
years of rowing on
the Order’s galleons
on those concerned.”

No wonder the water table needs protection from seeping chemicals. And the environmental watchdog, MEPA, and its predecessor, approve and endorse such plans and mismanagement, perhaps with some political help!

All along valleys were neglected, though always rising to their natural role to deal with rain water. But even valleys have their maximum carrying capacity. If they are fed excessive water the level rises more than they can handle. This will dislodge rubble walls, erode soil and uproot trees. When the GPI ‘clean’ valley


A breach in a rubble wall at Chadwick Lakes immediately after the valley was ‘cleaned’ last year.

courses, water momentum can then play with cars and houses like toys. The GPI has invested millions, including EU funds, to dig tunnels to direct such rain water to the sea. Foreigners used to dig such tunnels to fill cisterns and recharge the water table.

The result of the 'cleaning' of vallyes, making it easier for an increase in momentum, and the destruction even of infrastucture.

The result of the ‘cleaning’ of vallyes, giving water additional momentum. One has now to clean or patchup the infrastructure.

If the Grand Masters were to assess, evaluate, examine, and judge the planning and management of rain water today, they would undoubtedly impose years of rowing on the Order’s galleons to those concerned. So different from today’s democracy where nobody seems to be accountable, and society and the environment pays for such life­-threatening mistakes.

When street become rivers, valleys become destructive.

When street become rivers,
valleys are rendered destructive.

Traffic signs of the future

Traffic signs of the future

Why not go and experience such mismanagement when it rains? Do not take any boots or umbrellas; they would be more of a hazard.

And if one can go with an amphibian it would be better than a car. Be careful too because traffic signs designed for future use have yet to be installed, drawing attention to crossing coffins, of all shapes and sizes, both literally and metaphorically. One will then understand how the GPI let loose its reins, such that when it rains, cats and dogs reign supreme.

The postponement and accumulation of mismanagement problems in this wet business make the people hot beneath the collar, though seemingly happy to swim with the current.

PS – Photos and graphics were inserted after the publication of the original article

see also:

A vision buried at Nadur cemetery

April 6, 2013


Saturday, April 6, 2013

A vision buried at Nadur cemetery

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The Archpriest of Nadur applied for the development of a cemetery on May 20, 2002. An outline development permit was issued on January 28, 2004 and a full development permit, valid for five years, was granted by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority on May 31, 2007. An appeal was submitted by Nature Trust on July 16, 2007 and works on the cemetery started in summer of that same year.

2012.10.00 - works in progress while the appeal keeps being postponed

Work in progress on the cemetery while the appeal board deliberated

The following documented data was made available to the Appeals Board: The development is in an ODZ (outside development zone).

There never was any public consultation.

EU Water Framework Directive obligations regarding ground water were not taken in consideration.

The locality is designated as an area of high landscape sensitivity and a land of agricultural value according to the Gozo and Comino Local Plan.

Technical staff at Mepa repeatedly recommended a refusal for such development.

Refusal was also recommended by the planning authority’s Heritage Advisory Board.

The proposed cemetery lies within the catchment area of one tributary that feeds Wied Għajn Qasab, one of the most important in Gozo.

This 6,500-square-metre cemetery footprint is on upper coralline limestone (garigue), overlying blue clay that contributes to a perched aquifer covering 5.6 square kilometres, “filtering on a good rainy season 16,000 gallons (73,000 litres) of potable natural water daily at Għajn Qasab springs”.

It is estimated that the recharge of water through percolation or infiltration amounts to 785,109 cubic metres annually.

The water catchment area around the cemetery covers 33,000 square metres.

The rock formation contains various faults, crevices and fissures, which channel rainwater to the farmers’ cisterns.

The fields dependent on the aquifer have been used for agricultural purposes for hundreds of years.

The engineering works regarding water use and storage, including bell shaped wells, galleries, channels and cisterns, date back to the time of the Knights of St John. Such network has been physically destroyed or rendered nearly useless by the cemetery.

The report by the geologist appointed by the developer, indicated that the project is unlikely to have an adverse impact on the water resources.

No hydrologist’s report was ever submitted.

The precautionary principle, a guiding principle in the EPA 2011, was completely ignored. The developer reports that the cemetery plans to cater for 643 graves, despite the fact that only 50 persons die annually in Nadur, some of whom are buried in the old cemetery.

The commercial value of the cemetery’s footprint estimates each grave at €4,000 at the time of the submisison of the appeal in 2007, showing the commercial vision of the project.

A number of letters were officially, personally and publicly written to the Prime Minister and to the minister responsible for the environment.

A number of social entities, farmers and the public expressed disapproval both of this development and of the way it was being handled.

The appeal case was heard and postponed for 19 times and, finally, a decision date was appointed for September 27, 2012, only to be postponed again.

The legal representative of the farming community wrote to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, emphasising that postponing the decision was jeopardising the interests of the farmers.

A hydrological report by Marco Cremona was eventually presented to the Appeals Tribunal. The study clearly states that there is no doubt about the direct hydraulic connection between the site of the cemetery and the farmers’ water source.

Affidavits by affected farmers show that, before the work on the cemetery, they had enough water for their fields. However, when the works got under way, they had to buy water for their fields and products decreased in quantity and quality.

On March 15, 2013 – the ides of March and six days after the last election – the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal informed the objectors that the original permit dated May 31, 2007 was superseded by another permit dated July 23, 2012, where the applicant presented an amended application to the original permit.

Since there was no appeal to the latter permit, the original one was now exhausted, having been superseded by the latter. Because of this, the tribunal abstained from taking further notice of the appeal.

Mepa’s vision “is to pass onto our children a better country than we inherited. It is for this very reason that we (Mepa) compare our environment to a treasure, something we dedicate our energies to, to protect, care for and improve. The environment encompasses all – nature, cultural and architectural heritage, towns and villages, the countryside, the seas and air. We (Mepa) believe that together we should carefully plan so that our heritage, this gem that we treasure, will not fade away.”

Who can possibly believe this when Mepa buried its vision at the Nadur cemetery?

2009.02.00 - The remains of a protected carob tree

The water catchment area of garigue which replenished the perched aquifer feeding and supplying water to the farming community and the valley ecosystem – BEFORE the approved rape of the ecosystem started.

Was this cemetery, to be run on a time­share basis, really needed in Nadur? Why was the precautionary principle not applied in such a sensitive and delicate ecological area with such a rare natural resource? Why where the above social and ecological negative impacts all cast aside, importance being given only to economic aspects? Was ‘the hand of god’ coerced to give the green light for such an injustice?

Jesus once entered the temple area and drove out all traders and shoppers. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. What would He have done had He found the selling of graves in His name? It is easier to deliver 10 sermons than to live one.

“Our lives end the day we become silent about things that really matter”…“and, in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends” (Martin Luther King).

2009.06.01 water from the acquifer

The murky water feeding the farmers’ cisterns after the work started – definitely not the clear pure potable water they were used to use before.

The dead at Nadur cemetery will haunt and curse the living.

For God’s sake, remove environmental matters from Mepa before the social and ecological fabric of these islands is completely destroyed.

The original article in The Times, with comments posted by readers, can be seen at the following link:

Valley flora being slowly choked by invasive plant

March 9, 2013


Saturday, March 9, 2013 by

Juan Ameen

Valley flora being slowly choked by invasive plant

A biodiversity expert has expressed concern that the flora of Wied Babu in Żurrieq, a protected Natura 2000 site, is slowly being choked by an invasive plant from the Americas.

Alfred Baldacchino said the biodiversity at Wied Babu was “under great negative impact” by Cardiosperum grandiflorum, also known as Showy Balloon Vine or Love in a Puff.

2. Cardiospermum grandiflorum spreading at Wied Babu

1. Cardiospermum grandiflorum spreading at Wied Babu

The plant has already had a negative impact on carob trees, Mediterranean Heather and brambles at the mouth of the valley and “is rapidly advancing towards a healthy stand of protected buckthorn, destroying everything in its wake”, Mr Baldacchino said.

He pointed out that the plant was also spreading at the other end of the valley – one of the richest environments for Maltese indigenous flora.

3. Cardiospermum grandiflorum suffocating carob trees and brmable

2. Cardiospermum grandiflorum suffocating carob trees and bramable

The plant originates from the tropical regions of the Americas, especially Brazil and eastern Argentina, and has been introduced outside its native range as an ornamental garden plant.

However, Mr Baldacchino said its overall negative impacts were devastating. He believes it was originally imported as a garden plant and then it “either escaped accidentally or somebody dispersed its seeds intentionally”.

The seeds are dispersed by water and air and the plant forms dense infestations out­competing indigenous vegetation. Its weight can also cause branches to break.

4. Cardiospermum grandiflorum deadly seeds

3. Cardiospermum grandiflorum deadly seeds

Such is the negative impact on indigenous species that it has been listed as a noxious weed in South Africa, Australia, the US and New Zealand, according to Mr Baldacchino.

Its invasiveness is so acute it has been added to the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation Alert list, he said.

Invasive alien species were spreading all over the world mainly because of transport and the ornamental garden industry, he pointed out, adding that some people claim the damage by these species was more acute than climate change.

5. Cardiospermum grandiflorum thicket at Wied Babu

4. Cardiospermum grandiflorum thicket at Wied Babu

A number of international conventions, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and also the EU Environmental Acquis, tackle invasive species. The EU has an ad hoc committee that is studying the spread and drafting additional regulations for immediate control.

Malta is obliged to honour these provisions, which have been transposed into local legislation.

A number of publications such as the National Environment Policy and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority ‘s new guidelines for the management of invasive plants were published but no enforcement or monitoring was being done.

Mr Baldacchino said one of the measures was to stop the plant from expanding.

8. Cardiospermum grandiflorum deadly seeds

5. Cardiospermum grandiflorum deadly seeds

“This is not relatively difficult, though it needs manpower, and ongoing monitoring to uproot seedlings and established plants is urgently necessary,” he added.

Mr Baldacchino said he had received reports from the Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar Tree Group that the vine was also spreading up the trees along Birkirkara’s Valley Road.

He informed the Environment Ministry and the planning authority, which said they were studying the matter.

The best form of management and control was prevention, which “unfortunately is completely absent”.

Where these plants have set root, Mr Baldacchino said, the best control method was to weed them before they seeded to reduce the dispersal.

Consistent follow-up was required for sustainable management.

“This is quite a heavy economical, social and ecological price that we have to bear following neglect and inadequate attention to prevent such alien species from establishing themselves,” he said.


Further reading:

Concrete path choking trees

March 3, 2013


Sunday, 3rd March, 2013

Concrete path choking trees

 Juan Ameen

A set of old Aleppo trees on the pavement in Burmar­rad Road have been choked with cement as a con­tractor filled up the square soil bases, leaving the trunks sticking out.

The cementing of the tree bases, done a few weeks ago, has been slammed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which said it was “appalled”.

The authority “is appalled that such methods of work are still carried out in this day and age,” a spokesman said.

The complete surfacing around tree trunks in cement “is not only insensitive to our environment but constitutes bad practice since it may adversely affect the tree growth,” the spokesman added. The planning authority said it was investigating the mat­ter to find those responsible for these works “so as to reinstate the site to the authority’s satisfaction”.

When contacted, Transport Malta, responsible for the arterial road, said the contractor had been instructed to rectify the situation. “The Contractor proceeded with works before receiv­ing detailed instructions. These works are not acceptable and the contractor has already been instructed to rectify,” a Transport Malta spokesman said.

The cementing of the tree bases was also slammed by biodiversity expert Alfred Baldacchino who said that it would damage and possibly endanger the trees. The trees absorb rainwater, which falls into the soil, and their roots need air. Once the roots grow out­ wards, then the cement would be damaged and peo­ple would complain that the trees were damaging the pavement, Mr Baldacchino said.

Mr Baldacchino had received photographs of the cemented bases and immediately reported it to the authorities and the planning authority, which informed him it would investigate the matter.  “The authorities’ appreciation of trees is nil- irre­spective of national and international obligations,” Instead of saying it was going to look into the mat­ter, the planning authority should hire a Contractor with the right machinery to break up the cement and send the bill to Transport Malta, he argued. “There is nothing to investigate – it’s dangerous to the tree and procrastinating doesn’t help”.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ­ – Alfred E. Baldacchino

According to the L.N. 200 of 2011 -­ Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, 2011 -­  MEPA, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority is the Competent Authority responsible for the administration, implementation and enforcement of these regulations.

Provision 12: No person shall fell … or in any way destroy or attempt to destroy, damage or attempt to damage, any tree or part thereof listed in Schedule I or Schedule II … except by permission of the Competent Authority:

Gmail - FW: trees on Burmarrad-T'Alla w Ommu road

The soil was covered by concrete engulfing the tree trunk in the process. This needed a development permit from MEPA.

Provision 14: (1) No person shall dump or attempt to dump… chemical or any other substance near any tree listed in Schedule I or Schedule II … which may harm any such tree…

Provision 29: (1) Any person who: —

(a) fails to comply with any provision of these regulations,

(b) contravenes any restriction, prohibition or requirement imposed by or under these regulations, or

(c) acts in contravention of any provisions of these regulations, or

(d) conspires or attempts to conspire, aids or attempts to aid, abets or attempts to abet, counsels or attempts to counsel, procures or attempts to procure any other person to contravene the provisions of these regulations, or to fail to comply with any such provision, including any order lawfully given in terms of any provision of these regulations, or to contravene any restrictions, prohibitions or requirement imposed by or under the said regulations, shall be guilty of an offence against these regulations.

Gmail - FW: trees on Burmarrad-T'Alla w Ommu road

The Ministry of Transport does not see any difference between a tree and  an electricity pole, while MEPA is looking at and investigating the matter.

The trees in question are listed in Schedule II of the Tree Protection Regulations:

Pinus halepensis ­ Żnuber; Siġar tal-Prinjol; Siġar tal-Arżnu; ­ Aleppo Pine; Jerusalem Pine

MEPA  has all the necessary legal tools, and also obligations, to protect Malta’s biodiversity, including trees. Unfortunately it cannot be said that it is on the side of the people who want to protect Malta’s natural heritage, when it comes to taking action.  This is so evident when MEPA is faced with great and irreparable damages to trees done by Government Ministries, mainly that responsible for transport and that responsible for landscaping. In such cases MEPA is completely impotent  (see mutilated trees on Rabat Road) 

This is just another strong justification that the protection of the Environment should never be merged or under the remote responsibility of any Planning Authority. 


The garden at Salina park

February 9, 2013


Friday, February 8, 2013

by Alfred E. Baldacchino

A report was carried in The Times on the extension of the “landscaped gardens in Salina park” (January 14).
Such projects can be very beneficial if they are accomplished with in-depth planning and management. I have gone through the project description statement (PDS) submitted for the extension. Unfortunately, the document lacks important data to enable support for such a project.
Nonetheless, with some suggestions and comments, such a ‘garden’ can achieve its aims without any negative social and ecological impacts.
Let’s start with water. Although the use of water can contribute to the natural environment of the park in a number of ways, be they aesthetical, ecological or social, one has to keep in mind and emphasise that water is a scarce resource.
The PDS refers to “water features” without any indication of what these actually   are. Keeping in mind the recent obsession with ‘water fountains’, one cannot be  blamed for thinking that these are some of the features referred to, which, in some cases, are completely unsustainable.
The PDS also refers to a new dug ‘water cistern’, which is slightly larger than half the size of the proposed underground space for a “pump room and services”. The water storage for use in watering trees and for the ‘water features’ is definitely not adequate, as indicated by the need of a ‘water
tanker for filling in the water reservoir’.
There is also no indication of why the water cistern in question is so small when there is so much flood water being channelled to the sea and the sewer system. The pull-quote in The Times report – “A long stretch of stream will refresh the atmosphere” – is quite inappropriate, considering the local precarious water situation because this can also hole a number of public pockets. How sustainable is the use of such a scarce resource as suggested in the PDS?
There is then the issue of trees. The PDS indicates areas where new trees are to be planted but there is no data whatsoever on such trees. To better enable more comments, suggestions and support for the project, additional information is needed, such as: the species of trees to be used; whether the trees are indigenous or exotic; whether the supply of trees is to be obtained from local stock or imported; whether there are plans to implement the Government’s obligations in contributing to the European Union loss of biodiversity campaign by utilising endangered or rare indigenous trees propagated from local stock and adequate to such a habitat; whether the
new ‘garden’ will be according to the guidelines of the National Environment Policy, the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations, 2006, the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, 2011 and other related national and EU obligations with regard to the protection of biodiversity.
There is absolutely no reference to this at all in the PDS and, considering the way that ‘landscaping’ is mentioned in the proposal, it makes it a bit more difficult to support such a project given such lack of important data.
Another consideration is use of electricity. The PDS refers to the need of electricity for ‘pedestrian lighting’ but, again, there is no indication or line drawings of how this lighting will be used and controlled. This ‘park’ or ‘garden’ will, no doubt, become a natural habitat for nocturnal fauna but there is no mention of mitigation measures of how these would not be disturbed. More data is also needed to enable both the public and environmental groups to comment on the use of the planned ‘pedestrian lighting’.

With regard to the management of the site, annex 1 (reference to figure 2: aerial view – photographic survey) attached to the PDS, shows that, in certain areas, some of the trees are planted too close to each other, thus preventing the proper growth of a tree canopy. This can lead one to conclude that either the site is not properly managed or else that the number of trees planted is more important than the final grove itself.
Such crowded trees will necessitate future thinning and this is a waste of resources (financial, human, and ecological), especially where the trees involved cannot be replanted, such as the Pinus species.

Such a ‘garden’ in the ‘park’ (I cannot understand the need for such a distinction in this context) has to have a management plan but none is mentioned in the PDS. One has to see what conditions the Malta Environment and Planning Authority comes up with in connection with the permit, such as use and management of a managed natural habitat. Not that I am very optimistic because where government projects are involved, Mepa unfortunately uses the same rubber stamp.
No one would like to be led up a garden path for a walk in the park.

Taking the big ‘E’ out of MEPA

February 4, 2013

Alfred E. Baldacchino

One of the issues presently being discussed by political parties in the run up to the general election is the environment. The discussion centers round whether the environment should still form part of MEPA or be given more importance and autonomy than it has now (if it really has any).

The Nationalist Party, which in 2002 masterminded the merger (some still refer to it as a ‘hijack’) of the Environment with the Planning Authority, had also promised that the environment would be one of its main three pillars. In its latest electoral manifesto it is now promising a new Nature Agency to be responsible for the protection of biodiversity and the managing and conservation of protected areas, parks and natural reserves.

The Labour Party is promising that it will separate again the Environment Directorate from the Planning Directorate and include it with the Malta Resource Authority.

Alternative Democratic too is not happy with the present MEPA setup and is also suggesting that the Environment Directorate and the Planning Directorate should both be accountable to the Malta Resource Authority, with the Environment Directorate having a more leading role than the other one.

All three parties basically are in agreement that as far as the environment is concerned MEPA has not delivered following the merger of  Environment and Planning.

Having, in the past, worked both with the former Environment Department since its inception, under the responsibility of five different Ministers and one Parliamentary Secretary (indeed those were the days), and later when Environment was ‘merged’ with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, I am more than convinced that such a ‘merger’ is more like a square peg in a round hole.

Given the Government’s ‘environmental pillar’ promise  and the justifications given for such a merger, one would have expected that the environment would be second to none and it would be an example on how to manage and administer the environment. But Environmental issues are today fragmented: biodiversity, water resources, climate change, air pollution, etc. Each political incumbent guards his little patch without any coordination, irrespective of national economical, social or ecological repercussions. On a  positive side a number of nicely coloured reports and guidelines have been published. On paper everything is nice and rosy. BUT some of these are simply being ignored by government itself. Tangible actions taken include: the endangering of Natura 2000 sites, such as Buskett, Dwejra, and Mistra; and Nadur Cemetery, to mention just a few. Refusal by the Environment arm of MEPA was recommended for such developments but all boasted or still boast a MEPA permit! Trees forming ecological niches have been, and still are,  uprooted to create “gardens”! The scarce resource of water, instead of being harvested as legally and conscientiously obliged, is being channeled to the sea,  while important  legal regulations for harvesting water have recently been revoked. There is not one single qualified environmentalist with voting powers on the MEPA 15-­member Board. The cherry on the cake was the disbanding of the National Commission for Sustainable Development. This is the vision and the attention the environment is being given today.

Most of what had been established and built over the years by the previous  Environment Department was literally dismantled when the environment became a directorate within MEPA.  I did point all this to the Prime Minister at one of the public discussions at Castile, but I was bluntly told that the merger of the Environment and Planning was a Cabinet decision.

Those environment entities and individuals who have or are involved in the communication, conservation and public awareness of the environment cannot be blamed for being disillusioned, angry, exploited, and emarginated, while being called names for their constructive  criticism and comments in the national interest. I cannot help feel that MEPA, despite national and interntional obligations,  is more a Maltese Exploiter of Public Assets: that is  the important national resources, whether biological (fauna and flora) or physical (land, water, air). It is high time that MEPA is professionally pruned down to size, though not as brutally as government prunes urban trees;  some of the middle management embraces some of the best qualified personnel on the island.  One of the necessary measures for the environment to flourish in the national interest is to graft the environment within the Malta Resource Authority.

Following the last election, MEPA has undergone the promised reform. In 2008  I did question whether such reform will  result in just a change in colour of the sheep’s clothing! No, it did not change the colour of the sheep’s clothing, but it did change the sheep into a lamb, and tethered it in the lion’s den.

Sadly, today the environment is like a ship without a rudder, and without a captain, exposed to brutal elements and high seas, wandering where the wind blows…  and the wind is always blowing from the direction of the development- orientated Planning Directorate. Undoubtedly there is no place for the  in MEPA. It has made a mess of it.

All such thoughts were expressed in one of my articles in the Times dated 22 April 2008, which is attached below.


Tuesday, 22nd April 2008

Mepa: The missing link
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Without any doubt, Malta needs an authority, better still authorities, responsible for environment and planning so that the interests of the Maltese community are safeguarded from exploitation and Malta’s international responsibilities are honoured.

A professional authority will also help Malta to mature and to find its rightful place with other nations in the international sphere. However, such an entity has to have a vision, a direction and an understanding of its obligations. It has to have a will to achieve these aims. From the ever-increasing public criticism and the irregularities that are continuously being uncovered, it seems that Mepa is not exactly in line with such a vision, such understanding and such accountability to the Maltese community. It lacks such fervour.

Ironically enough, such a blot on Mepa’s image started with the “merger” of the minuscule Department of the Environment and the mammoth Planning Authority in 2002. Such a “merger”, which carried with it heavy international environmental responsibilities, mainly as a member state of the European Union, was an onus which the top brass at the Planning Authority were never au courant with. They were not equipped with the technical and scientific background to handle it. And I am afraid to say that the majority of Mepa boards still aren’t. Nonetheless, Mepa is the competent authority for the EU
environmental acquis.

The cracks became chasms as time passed by, especially when the new Environment Protection Directorate was left without a director for about four years, leaving the headless directorate to wander in a rather hostile environment. Words, which still reverberate in my ears (for example: Forget the environment, it is development which dictates the environment here; we do not need scientists, we need geographers; why worry if an endemic lizard becomes extinct, it is just a lizard), uttered in the corridors of Mepa do not do any credit to a supposedly competent authority on the environment. To this day I still cherish with increasing satisfaction the names that were bestowed on the Environment Protection Directorate: “environmentalists”, “fundamentalists” and “officials who lose precious time playing with marine turtles, dolphins and wild flowers”. These are all responsibilities and obligations arising out of Malta’s accession to the European Union, and other international legal treaties, for which this blessed Mepa is the competent authority, and the non-adherence to which amounts to EU and other
international infringements.

This “us and them” complex within Mepa is resulting in a rift that contributes to discontent and loss of motivation in the dedicated staff who do not feel that they belong to such an important but divided organisation. Some have left because of this syndrome. This has rendered the authority much weaker in the face of the ever-increasing and more specialised international obligations, not least those of the EU. Stephen Farrugia, a former director of planning at Mepa, wrote (The Times, April 10): “It is pertinent to point out that the previous Environment Protection Department and the Planning Authority
empires have always been to a greater or lesser extent in continual turf wars with each other. This situation, that still persists within Mepa, is to me one of the great demotivators in sustaining healthy working relationships between the two directorates”.

The “merging” of the Environment Protection Department with the Planning Authority was a mistake: the two are not compatible and those who argue in favour of such “merger” do so because it is easier to manipulate the scientific reports of those who are considered as an appendix. When the mentality of such a competent authority stoops so low in its environmental “lack of knowledge” (and the above are just a few simple examples) then it is no wonder that the Environmental Protection Directorate has been reduced to the Cinderella of Mepa, dictated by Planning Authority officials who have no scientific or environmental management and planning qualifications, with the exception of the odd one or two. If it weren’t for, or what is left of, the hard work of the dedicated professional and scientific staff previously forming the backbone of the Environment Protection Department, the list of eventual infractions of the EU environmental acquis would be much, much longer.

This unfortunate situation was recently validated in a concrete way (pardon the pun). The lack of awareness of Mepa’s obligations, both national and international, led to the approval by Mepa of development applications in Special Areas of Conservation for which Mepa itself is the competent authority on an international level. These permits infringe the EU Habitats Directive, which lays down clear obligations with regard to developments in Special Areas of Conservation, such as those in Dwejra, Gozo and Mistra Bay.
Mepa may have the best qualified middle management personnel in the country. But the lack of an equivalent qualified professional and scientific top brass sitting in the top echelons of Mepa boards and committees reinforces Bjorn Bonello’s (another ex-Mepa employee) comments on Mepa (The Times, March 27) and “displays blatant mockery of the planning system and the people’s intelligence” besides frustrating the technical and scientific staff. Furthermore, if Mepa still regards itself as the competent authority of the EU environmental acquis, its top echelons have to be closely familiar with Malta’s
international obligations and responsibilities, the more so when their decisions carry with them financial and political implications at EU level. Hijacking the Environment Protection Directorate makes the crisis more acute and can only benefit one or two individuals before the community is asked to dig deep into its pocket.

I feel morally obliged to write this, not only to distance myself from such obscenities, which are having an irreversible negative impact on the environment and on dedicated technical and scientific officials within Mepa, but also to give weight to the Prime Minister’s declaration on the need to reform Mepa, which declaration is also one of the Nationalist Party’s electoral
pledges. The Mepa reform has to take in consideration the engagement of scientific professionals among its top brass. The Environment Planning Directorate’s voice has got to be heard and be equally as strong as that of the Planning Directorate and not be stifled, silenced or ignored. It will then be possible for the professionals and scientists sitting on Mepa’s boards
and committees to be able to conscientiously evaluate and pass judgement, instead of branding the scientific input as “the work of fundamentalists”.
Everybody who has the good of the country at heart eagerly awaits such an urgent reform in the hope that, when all the comments have been taken on board, it will not result in just a change in colour of the sheep’s clothing.

Mr Baldacchino has been involved in the protection of biodiversity since 1970, both with local and foreign NGOs and also as a civil servant for more than 30 years, mainly occupying managerial positions within the Department of Environment. For the last five years before retirement he was assistant director at the Environment Protection Directorate, Mepa.


B Agius (9 hours,  39 minutes ago)
It is not enough to have professional people as top brass in any Government institution if they can also perform functions outside the public service as consultants and/or in their own private practice.To the extent this is allowed to happen in Malta it will always contribute to a Public Service open to corruption or at least conflict of interest. Any Government job should be paid
highly enough for the Government to expect, by law, that those on its books don’t do anything else! This should also apply to all elected politicians.

Let’s hide our face in shame following more information on trees – 2

December 22, 2012


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Of trees and fortified cities

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Last month was not a good one for trees, not so kindly handled by three contributions to The Times. The director of Mepa’s environment protection directorate was the harbinger (November 13), followed by Mepa board member Giovanni Bonello (November 18), with a past Minister for the Environment completely missing the wood for the trees (November 25).
Bonello’s well-researched, in-depth contribution emphasised the need for better appreciation of fortifications. A very admirable work, though I feel the need to dot some i’s and cross some t’s.
During the Great Siege, the Knights, while defending this barren island, were not in the best of moods to plant trees. It is understandable that paintings of battles do not show any trees in the vicinity of fortifications.
One has to admit that some of the trees, more than 50 years old today, are growing in the vicinity or inside fortifications and some can be of concern. However, one has to accept that such old trees now form part of an ecosystem and one cannot bulldoze the natural heritage to solve an aesthetic problem, creating a more sensitive ecological one.
I would never have planted the Ficus nitida trees in front of the law courts, for example. When the area was dug up, it showed the beautiful hidden magnificent underground arched passages. Today, these accommodate the city’s hidden sewers and priceless, neglected, damaged water cisterns. Some tree roots have also crept in.
Over the years, these trees have become the roost for white wagtails wintering in the Maltese islands. It is an opportunity for a scientific study of such a roost (unless they sought refuge in a walled fortified city for protection). Only a professional plan of action can contribute to a solution, certainly not heavy machinery with men wielding chainsaws. It has to be done gradually with the input of all stakeholders, no matter how “philistine” or “ignoramus” they are in the cultural heritage.
It is indeed surprising how the Ministry for the Environment and its entourage, past and present, are so good at coining adjectives for those who have the environment at heart, the main stakeholders. The November contributions refer to “treehuggers’, “chorus of tree-huggers”, “fifty shades of philistine”, “complete ignoramus on cultural heritage”, “crass ignorance and crasser arrogance of self proclaimed DIY environmentalists”, and “self-anointed custodians of the heritage kingdom”. I know a couple more, not coined this November  (for some other varied coined adjectives please see: If the Ministry for the Environment and its chorus were as good at protecting the environment as they are in coining such adjectives, Malta’s environment would be heaven on earth. Such adjectives, though, are of great satisfaction for environmentalists. Drowning men clutch at straws and shun stakeholders’ altruistic hands.
The strongest points of Bonello’s contribution regarding fortifications make me feel very sad, even though historical fortifications are not my battle horse.
“Nowhere in the world are fortifications more extensive, more impressive, more outstanding than they are in Malta.” “It is to be self-evident, that if a nation has something really precious to boast of, it would want its treasures seen, and seen to their best advantage.” “…people would do their utmost to enhance the visibility of anything inestimable.” “Those who still have them, flaunt them, enhance them, try to squeeze every cent of added value from them.” I feel as strongly as Bonello does regarding such a priceless, unique heritage.
“Over the past two centuries many conspired to debase them.” Yes, not even two World Wars managed to indent such majestic fortifications despite the fact that warfare became much more sophisticated. But after Malta gained independence, the jewel in the crown of our majestic walled fortifications was the first to bite the dust. King Carnival (KC) was helped by Maltese politicians to win the fortified city with just one stroke of a pen! One has to be genuinely demented to inherit the works of the best architect who constructed a monumental façade, and replace it with a garage door to let KC go through without a fight. If only the fortified Valletta gate was hidden behind some trees, KC would not have gone through!


Even the past colonisers realised the importance of Malta’s historical past. When Malta gained Independence in 1964 the responsibility of historical protection passed to Maltese Politicians. It did not take them long to replace this with a garage door (see below)


The garage door built  after independence, replacing the Valletta City Gate. It makes it easier for King Carnival with his carnival floats to pass through

A one-in-a-million chance of rehabilitating the fortified Valletta gate was lost when Mepa, the environment watchdog, decided to send such a gate to the photographic album of history, endorsing an €80 million government project.

Borrowing another quote from the learned judge, “Unless they look awesome and frightening, bastions are a joke.” Many will walk through such a joke, be they ignoramuses, tree huggers, DIY environmentalists, all shades of philistines, historians, researchers, politicians, clergy or men in the street. It will be the extension of the king carnival joke, with piano music in the background. This is surely not the way the Knights of Malta intended the bastions to look. Where walled cities are concerned, “we are definitively guilty of lèse majesté”.


“Unless they look awesome and frightening, bastions are a joke.” (Giovanni Bonello). The plans for the City Gate Project approved by MEPA in 2010. Undoubtedly taking in considration that King Carnival can still pass through with ease. This is surely not the way the Knights of Malta intended the bastions to look. Where walled cities are concerned, “we are definitively guilty of lèse majesté”.

Who can now dethrone King Carnival from Valletta, the magnificent fortified walled city? If only KC was a tree, the magnificent Valletta’s fortification gate could still be seen!
Alfred Baldacchino was assistant director responsible for the protection of biodiversity within Mepa.

Original article

Of trees and fortified cities –

See also