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.
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.
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: