Effects of Ta’ Ċenċ development on Flora and Fauna

March 1, 2016

interview

http://www.independent.com.mt/img/logo.jpg

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.

http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2016-02-29/local-news/Din-l-Art-Helwa-hits-out-at-Ta-Cenc-proposal-building-in-ODZ-land-unacceptable-6736154093

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 

 

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A splitting image of Mepa

August 3, 2015

times of malta

Monday, 3rd August, 2015

A splitting image of MEPA 

Alfred E Baldacchino

mepa logo-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

trophy

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

cartoon

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

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

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

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

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PS – graphics were added to the original article.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Blinded by a pro-business vision – Alfred Baldacchino

June 21, 2015
 malta-todaySunday, 21 June 2015

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

interviewed by Raphael Vassallo
 

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

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

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

alfred_baldacchino

Alfred E. Baldacchino (Photo: Ray Attard)

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

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

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

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

or

Read the full interview in MaltaToday

2015.06.21---zonqor-point

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

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.

genista-safra

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.

mosaic-of-flowers

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.

znuber

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!

swallow's-nest-in-bar

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.

sings

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?

gawwija-prima

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.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


IR-RAPPORT TAL-MEPA DWAR IŻ-ŻONQOR

June 16, 2015

IR-RAPPORT TAL-MEPA DWAR IŻ-ŻONQOR

Alfred E. Baldacchino

It-Tnejn 15 ta’ Ġunju, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 


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.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


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

October 7, 2014

NewsBook

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.

siġar-qabel-ma-nqalgħu

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.

siġar-maqlugħa-minn-triq-Santa-Rita-Rabat

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?
il-futur-imċajpar-ta'-siġar

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?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com