Overshoot-and-collapse

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.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

 

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Environmentalists and the PN’s green agenda

January 29, 2017
A page from the PN’s environment document ‘A Better Quality of Life’

A page from the PN’s environment document ‘A Better Quality of Life’

A page from the PN’s environment document ‘A Better Quality of Life’

The Nationalist Party’s new environment policy is “thorough and promising”, stakeholders believe, however clear environmental timelines would help the electorate trust it to deliver where successive governments have failed.

PN leader Simon Busuttil last week launched a list of environmental proposals, hedging his bets on a green agenda, along with good governance, to try and upstage the Labour Party at the next election.

2017-01-29-pn-environment-documentThe document, ‘A Better Quality of Life’, puts forward 16 key focus areas and 171 green proposals, mapping out a plan as far forward as 2050. Among the ideas to come out of the document are a new skyline policy, the exclusion of land-reclamation for speculative purposes and an increased emphasis on solar rights.

Perhaps the most talked about suggestion, a promise to enshrine environmental protection in the Constitution, has been hailed by the experts contacted by this newspaper as a sign of “real action”.

If the same people who brought about the 2006 expansion in building zones make up a future PN government, then I most certainly do not trust it

Veteran conservationist Alfred Baldacchino said this commitment could finally see parties take a stand against long-time abuse.

“The commitment to include the protection of the environment in the Constitution contributes to making hot potatoes easier to handle,” he said.

Marlene Farrugia, the former chair of Parliament’s Environment Committee, felt, however, that “quite a few sizzling potatoes were spared a mention!” She did not elaborate.

Environmental lobbyist and The Sunday Times of Malta columnist Claire Bonello also praised the constitutional move. She hopes it could mean that the environment will no longer be wiped off the statute books by MPs at the swipe of a pen.

But can the PN be trusted to deliver when it comes to the environment? Many remember the position taken by previous Nationalist administrations not so long ago.

In 2006, much to the dismay of environmental groups, the PN government revised the development boundaries in all localities. The result? An area roughly the size of Siġġiewi was turned into developable land.

During the same period, the government facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the conditions and increasing height limitations in localities such as Swieqi and Marsascala, intensifying development in already built-up areas.

Sociologist and former Alternattiva Demokratika leader Michael Briguglio said the PN would have to provide clearer pledges in the run-up to the next election.

“The PN document already proposes clear commitments on issues such as major ODZ development [the PN has pledged to renegotiate a controversial deal granting virgin land at Żonqor Point to a private developer]. In other areas, such as water management, the PN can offer clearer commitments,” he said.

Dr Bonello shared Dr Briguglio’s sentiment. The PN, she said, had to find a way to convince the electorate that it would “walk the walk when in power”.

“How can it do so? The one thing that springs to mind is by declaring set dates for the implantation of certain measures and by demoting whoever had a hand in the country’s sad environmental state to the dark, dank cellar under Stamperija [the party headquarters]. We all know who I’m referring to,” she said.

How would you judge the PN’s environment document?

Alfred Baldacchino, conservationist: This document is comprehensive. It provides a proper definition of the word ‘environment’, binding the biological and the physical, making it as comprehensive as possible. The commitments allow stakeholders to be involved in decision making, so decisions in the national interest will not be decisions against the environment.

Michael Briguglio, former Alternattiva Demokratika (Green Party) leader: It is evident the PN embarked on a wide-ranging consultation exercise coordinated by experts in the field. The result is a text which proposes a better policy framework than that put in place by the current Labour government.

Claire Bonello, green lobbyist: The document looks thorough and promising. I especially like the proposal to entrench environmental protection rights in the Constitution. The commitment to revise SPED is commendable. In its current format, it’s a ridiculous non-policy which is as stretchy as knicker elastic.

Marlene Farrugia, former chair of Parliament’s Environment Committee: It is an excellent working document which implies that the PN have learnt from their mistakes and the mistakes of the PL. Simon Busuttil is leading his damaged party into cleaner, favourable territory where the environment is concerned.

Can the PN be trusted to deliver on its green agenda?

AB: I cannot imagine any political party riding roughshod over the environment anymore.

MB: The commitments the PN is making are clearer than those coming from the current administration, but some could still be made clearer. It should provide clearer pledges in the run-up to the election.

CB: It has to convince the electorate it will walk the walk. It should set dates for the implementation of certain measures.

MF: I do not know what a future PN government will be made of, therefore I cannot gauge whether it will keep its promises on the environment or not. If the same people who brought about the 2006 expansion in building zones make up a future PN government, then I most certainly do not trust it, in spite of Simon Busuttil’s honest intentions. If, on the other hand, there is a coalition government made up of a significant number of tried-and-tested environmentalists, then yes, what is left of our environment will be safe.


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

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


IL­-ĦARSIEN SOĊJALI U AMBJENTALI TA’ PAJJIŻNA

April 29, 2014

NewsBook

It-Tlieta, 29 ta’ April, 2014

IL-­ĦARSIEN SOĊJALI U AMBJENTALI TA’ PAJJIŻNA

 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.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


L-­ISPEĊI INVAŻIVI… u l­-Mepa

April 14, 2014

NewsBook

It-Tnejn, 14 ta’ April, 2014

L-­ISPEĊI INVAŻIVI… u l­-Mepa

 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.

 

aebaldacchino@gmail.com  


A vision buried at Nadur cemetery

April 6, 2013

times

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.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

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

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130406/opinion/A-vision-buried-at-Nadur-cemetery.464394