A tree, a Minister and the EU

January 25, 2020

Alfred E Baldacchino

Sunday, 2 February, 2020

Civil society lodged an appeal in the Courts of Justice after the Planning Authority approved (with the help of Environment and Resources Authority)  the Attard Central Link project in July 2019. The development is being funded by national and EU funds.

The court decision is expected on February 14, but Infrastructure Malta, also in the portfolio of Ian Borg, defied everyone and decided to start with the works.

They are demolishing everything in their path: trees, biodiversity, cultivated fields, farmhouses… anything as long as they get things done their own way.

The excavations along the route have almost been completed, irrespective of the fact that the court’s decision has not been taken.

Would one be wrong in saying that this is putting the courts in an embarrassing position, having to decide on something which has almost been completed?

Is this the way that public and European funds are managed to get things done?

Does this ministry believe that there is no-one in government or from civil society who can object to such a dictatorial fashion of getting things done? Does this not give the impression that Infrastructure Malta believes it has more power than a prime minister?

Getting thing done by Infrastructure Malta: unprofessionally uprooting a protected tree

The environmental impact assessment regarding the works – an assessment which was challenged in court – gives an indication of the richness of the biodiversity that would be destroyed by the works.

A call was received on January 21, regarding a rare tree – an elderberry tree – which had been uprooted days previously. This tree is protected by Legal Notice 258 of 2018.

But for Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta this is just another piece of paper they can ignore in getting things done, like they did at Wied Qirda, with many rubble walls, and all those concreted country paths in valleys, naturally using national and EU funds.

Such barbaric ways of getting things done also reflects on the new prime minister

Considering the complete disregard the Ministry of Infrastructure has for the protection of biodiversity – and considering the impotence of ERA, especially when confronted by this ministry – accompanied by a friend of mine, we decided to save this tree: voluntarily, using our own time and expenses.

So, on January 22, we went on site equipped with two secateurs and took all the possible cuttings from the almost dead tree, thrown and tied by the side of an adjacent field not to interfere with Infrastructure works. It took us two and a half hours to take all cuttings, which once cleaned and processed, would easily contribute to approximately 2,000 cuttings ready for propagation.

.

All possible cuttings taken from Infrastructure Malta’s massacre of the protected elderberry tree

Using our own personal car, we filled it with this precious propagation stock and drove to Ambjent Malta, seeking their help to preserve this rare protected species. They willingly obliged, but more help was needed.

The root ball could not be transported in our private car, so we asked for help to transport it for propagation too.

Some telephone calls had to be made to the so-called ‘higher authorities’ to save this important protected tree.

But the effort did save some red faces too, and Ambjent Malta was accompanied to the place where the half-dead tree was lying. It was transported and professionally replanted by Ambjent Malta within a couple of minutes.

Job done. Following the timely, intervention of two volunteers, the protected tree is given a good chance to survive with the help of Ambjent Malta.

Now if two individuals on their own voluntary initiative wanted to save a rare protected tree, why couldn’t Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta do this, considering the millions of public and EU funds they boast they have? They don’t simply because they do not care and do not want to.

Were ERA not so impotent when it comes to Infrastructure Malta, among others, it could easily have saved the tree.

The political, legal and administrative strength of ERA, one would assume, is much stronger than that of two private individuals. So why did they not take any action to save the tree in question? ERA would probably learn about all this destruction of biodiversity from the press.

Cabinet’s responsibility is collective. This means that such barbaric ways of getting things done also reflects on the new prime minister. Everybody who is not politically convinced that a circle is square is deeply concerned, because the way the Central Link Project is being managed – getting things done irrespective of everything, be it legal, be it administrative, be it the EU, or ignoring all stakeholders – makes a mockery of the new prime minister’s assurances and efforts to address the rule of law and the environment. How is this possible? Strange bedfellows, one would assume.

Good governance relies on the rule of law. There are many who really have the true, unselfish, good of the country at heart, and who are not imbibed with partisan politics. It is just political garbage that is getting things done without any professionalism and bereft of any good governance, using public and EU funds for such environmental destruction.

Getting things done because I say so can easily mean ‘I came, I saw, I destroyed’.

The European Union should make it a point that when it gives funds to any country, not least Malta, it should ensure that this is not used to destroy biodiversity in violation of its very own environment acquis.

Indeed, some do need to have wings clipped.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Mark Anthony Falzon is not appearing this week.

related articles:

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-architect-the-judge-the-house-and-the-illegal-driveway.686056

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/workers-at-wied-qirda-ignore-regulators-orders-to-stop.750328

Fake rubble walls ‘are illegal’

Environment Landscaping Conundrum

Environment hit by EU funds

“For our trees”

More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

‘Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’


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.

——————————————

PS – graphics were added to the original article.

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


MEPA leaves no stone unturned

August 19, 2014

times

Mepa leaves no stone unturned

Alfred E. Baldacchino

 The illegally extended road on Comino. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The illegally extended road on Comino. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014.08.17 - mepa reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Il­-Qala, Għawdex… u s-­siġar

March 24, 2014

NewsBook

It-Tnejn, 24 ta’ Marzu, 2014

Il­-Qala, Għawdex… u s­-siġar

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image

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

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

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

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

 aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja

November 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

Image

It-Tnejn, 18 ta’  Novembru 2013

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Sur Editur,

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

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

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

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

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

saqqajja trees5

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

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

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

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

saqqajja trees3

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

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

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

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

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

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

orizzont small

is-Sibt, 9 ta’ Novembru 2013.

 PETER GINGELL, Maniġer tal-Komunikazzjoni, MEPA

“Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja”

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

orizzont small

 

It-Tlileta 29 ta’ Ottubru, 2013.

ALFRED E. BALDACCHINO,
“Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja”

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

 

orizzont small

Aħarijiet

22 ta’ Ottubru, 2013

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja, ir-Rabat

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


Ir-Rabat, is-Saqqajja u s-Siġar

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

Massakru minn siġar fis-Saqqajja

Alfred E. Baldacchino

saqqajja trees1

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

ALFRED E. BALDACCHINO,
Ħ’Attard

ITTRA OĦRA LIL DEHRET MAL-­ITTRA TIEGĦI

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

ĠORĠ IL-QORMI,
Toronto – il-Kanada

 

ARA WKOLL

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/u-l-qerda-tas-sigar-tkompli-bl-istess-ritmu/


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

October 23, 2013

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

Alfred E. Baldacchino

L-Erbgħa 24 ta’ Ottubru, 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­– 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

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

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

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ – 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

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

saqqajja trees3

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

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

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

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ – 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

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

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

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

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

THE TREE BUTCHERY CONTINUES ­ 19 ta’ Ottubru 2013

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/10151935648499645/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

Il-Bankijiet f'Ħad-Dingli

Il-Bankijiet f’Ħad-Dingli

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

iNEWS

Massakru minn sigar fis-Saqqajja

http://www.inewsmalta.com/dart/20131021-massakru-minn-sigar-fis-saqqajja

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

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

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

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

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

L-­Orizzont

http://www.orizzont.com.mt/FullArticle.php?ID1=’Ahbarijiet’&ID2=112053

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The ‘garden’ at Mdina Ditch officially inaugurated

March 7, 2013

times

The ‘garden’ at Mdina Ditch officially inaugurated

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Thursday, 7th March, 2013.

 So the ‘open space’ in the Mdina ditch, or the ‘garden’ from where close to 300 trees, mainly citrus trees, olive trees, and cypress trees were uprooted and carted away, was finally officially opened by the Prime Minister on Wednesday 6 March, 2013. According to The Times  of 6 March, 2013 “None of the trees have been lost but they have been rearranged so as to help one get a better understanding of the bastions “. Honestly, I pity the Prime Minster for being pushed in the front line for such official openings, as if to shoulder the responsibility of the decisions taken by his subordinates. But anyhow, it is his decision.

On Wednesday morning I visited the Mdina ditch to see this seventh wonder of an ‘open space’ in a ditch, or this ‘garden’. I must say that the restored bastions look superb after years of neglect, though I still cannot understand how the decimated trees in the ditch or the ivy covering the Howard Garden wall, in any way interfered with their majesty. The bastions are as exposed as they were before, though restored, and still showing the majesty they showed before.

2013.03.06 - Laurel trees replacing citrus trees

Citrus trees which died replaced by imported Laurel trees.

I walked in Howard Gardens along the ditch. The expanse of concrete today make up more than half this ‘garden’ or ‘open space’; the rest is taken by turf. The citrus trees which were uprooted and replanted were all leafless.  Those which had any leaves were those which were not uprooted and left in place. Not only were the replaced citrus trees leafless, but some had also given up the ghost, and were replaced by imported Laurel or Bay Trees.  I could count up to 30 of these.

Wonder of wonders in this new ‘garden’ were a number of potted Laurel trees. So while established protected trees such as an 80-year-old protected olive tree were uprooted and carted away, it was found necessary to introduce imported Laurel trees in pots in this ‘garden’!

2013.03.06 - Laurel trees in pots in the garden

Laurel trees in pots in the garden

Reminiscing the natural habitat in the ditch before such destruction, I walked along the railings overlooking the ditch with heavy feet as I contemplated the ecological destruction beneath. I could not reconcile the expanse of turf with the historical bastions. I thought about the cost of such imported turf.  I also tried to figure the commercial cost of the rare resource of water needed to water such an area of turf. Along my walk, the path was full of ministry vehicles, engines, and a generator, including all the electrical and electronic paraphernalia both attached to the railing and also in the ditch. I tried to convince myself that I was not walking back in history when Malta was celebrating the granting of independence with such a fanfare. I tried to imagine the cost involved in such ‘celebrations’. I tried to see how one could get some information on such waste of public money and also EU funds.

2013.03.06 - THE BLACK MARBLE PLAQUE - 3

Concrete, turf and the tomb stone in the ‘garden’

I finally arrived at the other end of the ditch near Saqqajja. And wow… wow… what a cherry on the cake. In the ditch beneath the playing fields I saw a large black cuboid. I first thought it was some electronic equipment covered in black plastic for protection to be used for the evening celebrations.  But as I looked closer, I realised it was a black marble plaque which easily dwarfed the citrus trees in the vicinity, those “which have been rearranged so as to help one get a better understanding of the bastions.”

I focused my camera lens on the writing on this plaque.  On one face it read: “Il­-proġett sar mid­-Direttorat tar­-Restawr tal­-Ministeru għar­-Riżorsi u l­-Affarijiet Rurali taħt id­-direzzjoni tal­-Onor. George Pullicino”. (This project was undertaken by the Restoration Directorate of the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs under the direction of the Hon. George Pullicino). I moved on and focused on the other façade of the cuboid where there was another inscription which read: “Dan il-­ġnien fil­-Foss tal­-Imdina jgħaqqad il­-passaġġ tal-­istorja ta’ pajjiżna mal-­preżent u l­-futur” (This garden in the Mdina Ditch connects the passage of history of our country with the present and the future).  The writing on the plague finally declares this project as a garden. Such a plague is more of a tomb stone clearly showing how the future will look at the present which has placed the past in such an artificial environment. The number of concrete passages will make it relatively easy to arrive at such a conclusion. And the good thing about it is that it is autographed by the director of such a project.

2013.03.06 - THE BLACK MARBLE PLAQUE - 2

The black marble plaque

I invite all to go and have a look at it. A photo near the tomb stone would be quite historic in the future.

This justifies my previous writings on this project (see links below).  It lacks any ecological vision for any garden. Its main aim was just commercially orientated.

FURTHER READING and photos

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/qerda-tal-biodiversita-fil-foss-tal-imdina-biex-isir-gnien-ta-kwalita/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentalists-vs-government-over-trees/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/massacre-of-mdina-ditch-trees-is-the-eu-really-involved/


TREES – Open letter to the Prime Minister

September 30, 2012

28th September 2012

Dear Prime Minister Dr. Gonzi,

I would like to join Anna Spiteri’s appeal for the protection of the Senglea trees which are intended to be uprooted because of unjustified reasons, when less expensive measures can be taken to manage and incorporate them in the envisaged works. I would also like to add that the recent unprofessional uprooting of established trees which all have a role in the local ecosystem, seems to have run out of control. I have never experienced such misuse and mismanagement of such a natural heritage, done on an official basis, utilising both public and European funds.

Such use of public and European funds is not contributing to any protection, appreciation or to the safeguarding or embellishment of our urban landscape, thus having a drastic negative impact on the social and ecological environment
of the Maltese Islands.

While appreciating that considerable funds are being made available for such ‘landscaping’ and also government’s intervention to acquire European Union’s financial help towards such an aim, I regret to say that the way these resources are being used falls short of expectations and obligations, lacking any professional planning, wise use and proper management of local biodiversity. One cannot be blamed for thinking that the main aim of such activities is just commercial.

As you may be aware, a great number of trees were hacked, uprooted, transported and dumped elsewhere, from areas such as those at Fgura, Żebbuġ, Cospicua, Mdina Ditch, Mellieħa, Luqa, Santa Lucia, Raħal Gdid, Corradino, Marsa, Senglea, San Ġwann, and Victoria and Xewkija in Gozo. More uprooting and removal of trees is planned in connection with the EU TenT-financed project at Salina Road, Kennedy Grove, and the Coast Road, as well as the proposed uprooting of a substantial number of trees, including old Holm Oaks (Ballut) in Floriana and outside Valletta. I would also like to bring to your attention the destruction of indigenous protected trees which were planted by the late Prof. John Borg at San Anton Garden.

As you may also be aware, there is quite a public outcry at this lack of appreciation of local established trees and the complete disregard of public opinion. I am sure that you do agree that the public has a right to be involved in such decisions, a right which unfortunately is not being completely given.

I also regret to have to point out that the precious time, money and publication of local legislation and guidelines with regards to trees and local biodiversity are being ignored, as are the international obligations arising from various international environmental conventions, and the EU Environmental Acquis, also transposed into local legislation.

It is indeed a pity that such scarce resources are not being used and managed in a more professional, open way, both from the economic, ecological and social point of view. There is a great potential with the available resources that could offer more protection for the local biodiversity, a better balance of payment, more local opportunities and jobs in the protection of the local biodiversity, better embellishment of urban areas, the boosting of local environmental education the more so when the general public is crying for such measures. Unfortunately, because of myopic and other commercial reasons, all these are being ignored.

It would indeed be greatly appreciated if you can intervene in the interest of the people and the protection of local biodiversity, and ensure that such commercial activities do not have any negative impact on local biodiversity, that local and European funds are better utilised and better managed, and that the general public is involved in such decisions. After all these are all incorporated in a pre-electoral promise and are also incorporated in EU Environment Acquis obligations.

Regards

Alfred E. Baldacchino

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/qerda-tal-biodiversita-fil-foss-tal-imdina-biex-isir-gnien-ta-kwalita/

SEE ALSO RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentali…ent-over-trees

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/massacre-of-md…eally-involved/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/government-policy-on-trees/


Green dream and black nightmare

August 10, 2012

Friday,  August 10, 2012

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Green dream and black nightmare

During his short term responsible for the environment, both as junior minister and later, as minister, Mario de Marco has published a number of laws and policies.

Some he moved through Parliament, such as the National Environment Policy (NEP) and the Sustainable Development Act. Other guidelines and policies were published by his environmental watchdog, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

These included the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the new guidelines for the management of invasive plants. These supplemented the guidelines on trees, shrubs and plants for planting and landscaping and the tree protection regulations.

The above are some of the Government’s publications: all official administrative and legislative tools which can definitely make any green dream a reality. But why are they ignored by Government itself? I cannot image that these have been published just for the attention of  the EU and its Member States. Or that these publications are meant to take the public for a ride? Then why are these ignored and not enforced?

Unfortunately, the enforcement and implementation of these laws and regulations leave much to be desired.

The three pillars for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services as defined in the NEP are all addressed in the above. These provide direction to all players in this field, ensure policy integration and enable stakeholders to work in a coordinated manner to achieve the national objectives and key priorities.

All aim at improving the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity as well as easing pressures on biodiversity and promoting sustainable use.

Furthermore, these guidelines and regulations highlight the collaboration and commitment of all relevant stakeholders to achieve the strategic goals of the NEP and to empower people to actively participate in environmental management and take action on environmental issues.

An important policy in the NEP is that the government, in promoting environmentally-friendly actions, should lead by example.

Definitely not according to the guidelines and regulations referred to above!

Notwithstanding the above, the wave of criticism on the mismanagement of trees and the misuse of public funds in “landscaping” is gaining momentum.

Facebook groups have been set up, initiatives promoting the protection of trees have been taken and articles and letters in the press express the disappointment of such mismanagement. Yet, the government, through one, or at best, two of its ministers, still bulldozes on, irrespective of the people’s comments, criticism and suggestions. If, before the last election, the Prime Minster did not declare that the environment was one of the government’s three main pillars and if he did not lately say that he was ready to listen to the people in the national interest (even in the kitchen, if necessary, as I am told) one could comfortably say that the government does not have any special interest in the environment.

But, the way environment is being mismanaged makes one conclude that there is no such real interest and no such will. The social and ecological values are completely gobbled up by commercial interests with political blessing.

The Times (September 6, 2011) titled a report on the launching of the national environment policy thus: PM Launches Green Dream. There are many, many in this country who have such a green dream. Great things were conceived as little dreams. If Martin Luther King did not have a dream and persisted with determination there would not be a Barack Obama today. But to achieve a dream, one has to persist with determination in one’s vision and not ignore, or endorse, activities that are diametrically opposite to it.

The latest “landscaping projects” financed by the government are those of Mdina ditch, where about 400 trees were uprooted, surprisingly to make way for a garden. Trees at the Mellieħa old bus-terminus were all uprooted for others to be planted instead. Lately, the destruction of trees in part of Triq Diċembru 13, Marsa, hit the headlines. Some of the trees were removed on grounds that they are invasive!

Surprisingly, at the same time, another minister is endorsing plans and funds for the planting of Fountain Grass, Brazilian pepper tree, the Australian Pine tree (Casuarina) and the Hottentot fig – all aliens and invasive species.

Once again, the BSS (Bisazza Street Syndrome, which was conceived in Bisazza Street, Sliema) is again raising its ugly head with the same political players, leaving the Minster for the Environment speechless.

BSS did strike again with regard to the Rabat Road rubble walls (which now have been replaced by iron railings against all policies and regulations – Mepa please note). Now, BSS has infected the government’s so-called landscaping projects, defying, ignoring and ridiculing the above national regulations and policies, suppressing and pushing aside all active participation of the people.

What is very worrying is the fact that such “landscaping” is being done with public funds, some even with EU funds. And some are also completely against mitigation strategies regarding the government’s stand on climate change and water policy, which, incidentally, fall within the same ministerial portfolio.

The Prime Minister may have an admirable green dream. The majority of the people yearn for the fulfilment of such a conceived green dream. But, the government’s plans and projects are rendering the Prime Minister’s green dream a bizarre black nightmare, a nightmare that will haunt the political players all their lives and beyond. Not that anybody of them cares, I presume! But can the Prime Minister please intervene to achieve his and our collective green dream?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

PS  – Photos were added to this post and do not appear in the original article in The Times

See also:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentalists-vs-government-over-trees/


Money doesn’t only grow on trees here, it talks too!

May 23, 2012

Wednesday, 23 May, 2012

Alfred E. Baldacchino
Money doesn’t only grow on trees here, it talks too!

The appreciation of trees in the Maltese Islands is gaining momentum in leaps and bounds. This is mainly due to newly-established environmental NGOs, individual interventions, more private education and public awareness and, no doubt, Malta’s accession to the European Union.
Regrettably, the official side is still dragging its feet, finding it very difficult to understand and keep pace with this public awareness. This despite national and international legal obligations and good-intentioned environmental actions plans.
When Legal Notice 12 of 2001 was revoked by LN 200 of 2011, the Department of Agriculture was exempted from any legal responsibility with regard to urban tree-protection. Public trees in urban areas can now be pruned, uprooted, cut up in logs, butchered and destroyed without any official prior approval, according to one’s whims and fancies. Rather strange!
Many readers might remember, that when the Department of Agriculture was still responsible for landscaping, street trees used to be pruned with dedication, care and feeling. I remember the ficus trees at Saqqajja, in Rabat, among others, so professionally pruned in a seemingly sculptured way with a crown extending from one end of the line to the other and with small branches forming a beautiful trellis. It gave the area a green soothing sight in contrast with the heavy congested traffic-zone.
At that time, the Department of Agriculture did not have as many resources as today’s “landscapers” have but they used to make miracles with as little public expenses as possible and with professional management.
Today, “landscaping” projects are farmed out; it seems to anyone who can handle a chainsaw. There is nothing wrong in farming out to professional entities that are au courant with national and international legislation. But these operators must be subjected to a regulator that decides what should be done and not be done, monitor expenses, prevent ecological negative impacts, incorporate such operations in formal and non-formal education and ensure that the operators are observing guidelines and decisions.
After all, this is a basic issue of governance: the regulator and the operator should not be one and the same entity. Notwithstanding, the absence of such regulator, the politician still has a responsibility to shoulder, more so when such works are paid from public funds.
The lack of regulatory measures has led to a farcical scenario where the public is completely in the dark about what farming out agreements providing for and how funds are being managed. Taking the Prime Minister on a tour to demonstrate the colourful flowers or to nurseries to view lace makers at work only fools the actors but not the people.
What the people want to hear is how public funds are being spent: how much is being spent overseas on the importation of trees, what is the cost of such trees, why are these not being grown in Malta, thus creating more jobs, more local expertise and benefiting from the multiplier effect besides preventing the introduction of invasive species.

This invasive species used in landscaping financed by Government and under the auspices of the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs, has already established itself in valleys, garigue and other wild habitats. This despite the fact the national and international obligation, including those of the EU, to prevent the introduction and to control invasive species. It also goes against the National Environment Policy published earlier this year, and the fact that it is listed as invasive by MEPA the Competent Authority on the Environment. The Ministry responsible for landscaping seems to be living in a republic of its own.
The photo was taken along one of the busiest roads in the Maltese Islands.

The standard reply given to these sorts of questions is that such data cannot be divulged because those involved in landscaping are private companies. And I was always under the impression that these were public private partnerships. US orator and politician, Patrick Henry (1736-1799) once wrote that the liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. Seems that we still have a long way to go to reach the 18th century, despite being an EU member state.
It has now become customary that those who ask or comment in the national interest on the lack of governance, on professional tree management and on the lack of transparency on the use of public funds are looked upon as if they are enemies of the state. They are called names and are subjected to character assassination. It is so reminiscent of the 1980s.
Is there a real genuine desire for public consultations, suggestions and comments? The idea, of course, is not to point fingers at anybody.
In the history of landscaping in Malta, never have so few had a free hand and benefited at the expense of so many. It also seems that, in Malta, money does not only grow on trees but it talks too!
aebaldacchino@gmail.com

NOTE: The photo and its caption were not part of the original article in  The Times, but were added by the author on this post. Thelink to the original article is:

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120523/opinion/Money-doesn-t-only-grow-on-trees-here-it-talks-too-.420947


The time for the green itch

November 5, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The time for the green itch

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Every five years or so there is an itch in the air – a political itch – that intensifies at the eleventh hour. The environment is not immune to this five-year itch. In fact, the last environmental itch centred around an environmental pillar. What a noble idea, I thought! But when the itch subsided, the mass media was inundated with criticism regarding official decisions and actions not exactly having the environmental-pillar base.

These included: the discharge of treated sewage water in the sea, declared as having “no economic value”; mismanagement of Natura 2000 sites, declaring part of Dwejra “to be just bare rocks”, building adjacent to a freshwater stream of EU importance; Buskett saved by the skin of its teeth from being turned into a public garden; planting and covering substantial areas with declared invasive imported species, despite international obligations and recommendations by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority; channelling scarce resource of rainwater along roads to the sea; compliance certificates issued to buildings that do not conform to the legal requirements that each should have a cistern of a capacity of at least three cubic metres for every five square metres of the floor surface of each room; over-extraction of the already precarious groundwater; disbanding the National Sustainable Development Commission; opposing an EU proposal for the listing of the bluefin tuna on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; permitting buildings that make it impossible for neighbours to tap solar energy; negative impact of black dust politically regarded as an alien phenomenon; “cleaning” valleys by bulldozing their ecosystems… Space does not permit me to go on.

The virtual environmental-pillar was knocked out flat by the commercially-driven economic-pillar. It was not strong enough to withstand the official onslaught by those who have a collective responsibility to defend it. The environmental pillar is now dead and buried under commercially-driven decisions, perhaps at Wied il-Qasab Nadur cemetery.

Now it is time for a new itch: the green itch time. A draft National Environment Policy has been published for public consultation. What a noble idea, I think! The draft in hand encompasses legal international environmental concepts and principles, the great majority of which are already transposed in national legislation. These are juxtaposed in a colourful mosaic but, unfortunately, like all mosaics, hairline cracks abound, which, with some political acumen, can easily develop into loopholes. Some are already evident.

Such an essential document does not even have definitions of important concepts like “sustainable development”, “environment” or “precautionary principle”. International environmental legal obligations all have such definitions but do the political players have the same definitions in mind?

Some important concepts have also been mishandled. Can an environment policy disregard biodiversity as a resource? I cannot image that such omission is meant to cover the government’s stand against the listing of the bluefin tuna, an endangered international natural resource! The draft NEP lists a number of measures, all of which can definitely contribute to the sustainable use of the environment, though one comment betrays an inferiority complex.

Besides, a number of measures cannot be implemented within this legislature. Considering that some could be sitting on different seats, not necessarily of a different colour, following a musical chairs festival, one cannot exclude the possibility that such a policy will not necessarily be handled with care. The more so when some colleagues in the corridors of power do ignore national environment legislation, published over the signature of the Prime Minister himself. And the competent authority responsible for environment legislation habitually stands and stares, licking its wounds and cursing its impotency to take action.

I do, however, admire the tenacity and drive of Environment Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco but I cannot help feel that he is a lonely voice in a political wilderness, abandoned even by his environmental watchdog. A few days ago, another colourful environment document metamorphosed. This spelled guidelines for controlling alien species. A much-needed effort, though it retrospectively tackles negative economic, social and ecological impacts of introduced alien species and does not address the cause. They seem more like guidelines on how to control horses that have bolted after housing them in stables without doors.

This is why I have become very allergic to nicely-coloured printed documents that undoubtedly are attractive to the illiterate. Could be because I have not yet recovered from the decision to disband the National Sustainable Development Commission, flavoured by the now popular political dictum that one should not be judged by what one says but by what one does. These do not help at all to dispel any of my fears.

The eleventh hour is nigh. When the clock strikes one, will the environment policy slowly, silently, diplomatically, slide down in repose on the shelves of history, like the National Sustainable Development Commission did after all? National environmental legislation has been brushed aside; an environmental-pillar has been laid to rest; why not a policy? I am wishing, hoping and praying that I am wrong but I fear that Greenwich time will prove me right.


Illegal brick wall on the Rabat road

September 13, 2011

Following my contribution to The Times on the 26th August 2011,  MEPA has officially replied on 6th September 2011, confirming all the illegalities mentioned in my contribution.  My initial reply is also attached. May be interesting to readers.  I am attaching both the link to the MEPA’s letter, which is self explanatory,  and also a copy of the letter itself and the subsequent comments by readers.

I am attaching some photos  as a reminder of the illegalities which had to be corrected by the 7th September 2011, according to MEPA’s  enforcement notice (ECF 434/11) to Transport Malta.  Besides, according to MEPA, this would also show that my assertion that MEPA “like pale melancholy, sits retired, staring and ruminating its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets” is wrong.

Blatant infringement of the Trees and Woodland Protection Regulations published on 24 ta’ May, 2011, over the signature of the Prime Minister, the Minster responsible for the Environment.

The brutal pruning of the protected Aleppo Pine, which could only have been carried out by approval from the Minister of Rural Affairs and the Minster for the Environmnet.

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

When protected national heritage meets financial considerations and political decisions - despite the 'high level' of responsibility given to 'sustainable development'

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110906/letters/Illegal-brick-wall-on-the-Rabat-road.383498

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 

Peter Gingell, communications manager,

Malta Environment and Planning Authority, Floriana

Illegal brick wall on the Rabat road

I refer to the article Trees, Rubble Walls And BSS (Alfred E. Baldacchino, August 26). Mr Baldacchino highlights the incident whereby works carried out during the construction of a new bus interchange facility, along the Rabat road near Ta’ Qali, resulted in a rural rubble wall being demolished and replaced by a brick wall, while concrete was shoddily laid around a number of Aleppo trees. Mr Baldacchino uses this incident to assert that the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, “like pale melancholy, sits retired, staring and ruminating its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets”.

Contrary to the negative impression Mr Baldacchino tries to create for readers, the authority can confirm that on August 23, a few days before Mr Baldacchino’s article was published, Mepa had already issued an enforcement notice (ECF 434/11) against Transport Malta for having illegally demolished a protected rural rubble wall and replaced it with a brick wall. The authority also requested Transport Malta to remove the concrete from around the circumference of the affected tree trunks and under supervision, construct a “konka” to allow for better water percolation.

The authority has given Transport Malta up to 15 days to remove the illegality, following which Mepa may then take direct action. The Enforcement Directorate and the Environment Protection Directorate are monitoring closely the situation and inspected the site again last week. If, for Mr Baldacchino, the authority has been caught sitting “retired” and “staring”, then he is mistaken.

While the authority continues to do its utmost to ensure the implementation and enforcement of planning and environment regulations, it reminds the public and all government entities that we all bear shared responsibility in safeguarding our natural and built heritage.

5 Comments

Mr Tony Camilleri

Today, 12:13

Would anyone blame the people who think rightly or wrongly that corruption is rampant in MEPA?

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Today, 10:35

Indeed I am greatly obliged to MEPA for proving me right all along. MEPA has finally found its voice, 11 days after my article (26th August) saying it acted on the 23rd August, but found it only convenient to inform the public today.  15 days from August 23rd is September 7th: in two days time. MEPA will be hearing from me again, no doubt about it.

MEPA also felt offended when I said that it “like pale melancholy, sits retired, staring and ruminating its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets”.  Such works should not have taken place in the first place, and not accomplished before MEPA acted and gave 15 days to the Transport Authority to correct illegalities, after which MEPA MAY consider taking action.

Thanks also to MEP for stressing that “all governemnt entities ..bear shared responsibility in safeguarding our natural and built heritage” This has been my contention all along.  Now MEPA is under the portfolio of the Prime Minister who was the chairman of the National Commission for Sustainable Development.” If MEPA does ‘not sit retired’ it could easily have whispered in the PM’s ears about the utiliy of such commission, before it was idle since 2006, and disbanded in 2008.

Let us wait for 7th Sepotember, 15 days given in the enforcement notice (ECF 434/11). to see if MEPA is “like pale melancholy, sits retired, staring and ruminating its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets”.

PS – with reference to the ‘konka’ in MEPA’s letter, in Englsih this is referred to as a watering trench or watering well. A good Maltese dictionary can tell you this.

Bernard Storace

Today, 09:34

“The authority has given TransportMaltaup to 15 days to remove the illegality, following which Mepa may then take direct action”. MEPA ‘may’ take direct action, How? by turning the clock back. It’s never been done before and I believe will not be done now too.

What, no guts to stick up to the minister in charge. Action should be taken BEFORE and not after the crime against nature has taken place. Will the rubble wall be rebuilt? I doubt it very much and as usual the illegal stone wall will be sanctioned and more trees will die too. Another joke or what?

Alfred E. Zahra

Today, 16:08

If you or I want to get rid of a rubble wall or a tree, how can MEPA stop us? Not unless we are stupid enough to inform it of our plans beforehand. Mepa unfortunately is not like Joseph Muscat. It does not have Godly powers.

Mr Peter Murray

Today, 09:12

What hope do we have when governmental entity fail to obey the law or take the appropriate action when found out and ordered to take remedial action.Yet again we have Mr.Gingell only responding to complaints/concerns expressed via newspaper publications, yet seldom, if ever, to complaints lodged individually with his


Trees, rubble walls and BSS

August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011

Trees, rubble walls and BSS

Alfred E. Baldacchino

A few weeks ago, workmen were laying out a pavement on either side of the Rabat road near the Ta’ Qali intersection. A layby for the new buses, I thought! And so it was.

Little thought, if any, was given either to the Aleppo pine trees and the rubble walls along the stretches of the new pavement. The Aleppo pines, which characterise this stretch of road leading to Rabat, show a number of scars, now including fresh ones, resulting from mismanagement. Some of the trees are completely engulfed in concrete, some with nails hammered in them, further sealing their miserable fate at the hands of unsustainable mismanagement of the living natural heritage.

Blatant infringement of the Trees and Woodland Protection Regulations published on 24 ta’ May, 2011, over the signature of the Prime Minister, the Minster responsible for the Environment.

In the same stretch, part of the rubble walls were also heavily damaged! In an ingeneous, indigenous way, a brick wall was built on the rubble wall. As I slowed in the traffic to clear the roundabout intersecting the Żebbuġ, Mtarfa and Rabat roads – the one where sprinklers usually water much of the road as much as they water the turf – I could not help think and ask myself how the lack of coordination between ministries reigns supreme in this land.

A 'newly restored rubble wall' . What about the regulations for the protection of rubble walls? Well that is the responsibility of the Minster for the Environment and not of the Minister responsible for such works!

A couple of weeks ago, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority declared new tree protection areas. In the same legal notice (200 of 2011), signed by the Prime Minister himself, there are two schedules of protected trees. The Aleppo pine trees along Rabat road are listed in schedule II. They are more than 50 years old and are growing in an outside development zone area.

The brutal fresh pruning of the protected Aleppo Pine, which could only have been carried out by approval from the Minister of Rural Affairs and the Minster for the Environmnet.

Schedule II trees are protected to the extent that no person shall bury in the ground, dump, or deposit, any soil, manure, waste, rubbish, stones, rubble, scrap metal or any refuse near them; not even attempt to. Mepa is responsible for the administration, implementation and enforcement of these regulations.

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

Legal Notice 160 of 1997 protects rubble walls and non-habitable rural structures in view of their historical and architectural importance, their exceptional beauty, their affording a habitat for flora and fauna and their vital importance in the conservation of the soil and of water. It is unlawful to demolish them or to prevent free percolation of rainwater through rubble walls or to undermine the foundations of a rural construction.
The regulations add that no permit is required for sensitively executed repairs, provided that repairs are carried out using exclusively the same type of drystone rubble walling that composed the existing wall and that they do not significantly modify the overall profile or character of the wall. Again, Mepa is responsible for the administration, implementation and enforcement of these regulations.
Now, somebody in the corridors of power in this EU member state must be responsible for such works, unless, of course, someone convinces me that there is only a virtual government. The minister responsible for the environment cannot be held directly responsible for the works done but is directly responsible to ensure that environmental policies, laws and regulations are adhered to. He has a very expensive watchdog to see to this but it seems this watchdog is all bark and no bite.
The minister has the authority to direct in no uncertain way that the duty to protect the environment is not just his but is a collective political responsibility. As chairman of the National Sustainable Development Commission he has all the tools to do so. Unfortunately, as I finalised this article, I read in The Times that “Just before Parliament rose for the summer recess, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who is responsible for environment matters, confirmed that the National Sustainable Development Commission was disbanded in 2008 after the government approved the sustainable development strategy”. And this despite national and EU obligations! Yet, we are also told that “the government puts responsibility for sustainable development at the ‘highest level’”.

When protected national heritage meets financial consideration and political decisions - despite the 'high level' or responsibility given to 'sustainable development'

What is the use of drafting regulations and national environment policies when some Cabinet colleagues and their staff are immune to the laws of the land? In the meantime, the watchdog, Mepa, like pale melancholy, sits retired, staring and ruminating its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets.
I would not be surprised if I am taken to task by some colour-blinkered pen pusher on grounds that this is a trivial matter. Admittedly, I am not writing on the building of a new power station but the same concept, the same perception and the same vision (or lack of it) apply to both examples. First, go ahead with the development and, then, consider the regulations and see if there are any necessary permits to acquire. In the meantime, tell the gullible this is highest level of sustainable development at its best.

The long and winding road for protected trees in the Maltese Islands.

The Bisazza Street Syndrome (BSS) is rearing its ugly head – one legislates, another ignores. If BSS is not taken by the horns and immediately put in check, it will soon become the national environmental policy without any need for public consultations and without any need for backup legislation.
I can image that the picture of sustainable development to be submitted at the next UN Rio +20 conference in 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rio earth summit will be all nice and rosy: Malta puts responsibilty for sustianable development at the highest level while disbanding the commission to ensure that sustainable development is achieved.
Other photos taken on 24th Augut 2011, showing the complete desregard for protected trees, and protected rubble walls, despite the fresh declaration that “the government puts responsibility for sustainable development at the ‘highest level’”

According to Maltese politicians and their advisors, this is a tree - a protected tree!

Politically, to the applause of the gullible, it was the tree's fault moving in the bulldozer's path!

The dead branches of a mauled potected Aleppo Pine tree. Only possible with a permit from the Minster for the Environment and the Minster for Resources and Rural Affairs!

NO COMMENT - readers may wish to comment themselves.

One of the ARRIVA bus stops in the stretch of the new works. With the arrival of the new bus service, social, environmental and financial negative impacts have also arrived, though as I understand, some are still waiting for the buses.


E is for Environment

August 8, 2011

Maltatoday, Sunday 7th August, 2011

E is for Environment ___________________________________________________________________________________ Despite occasional improvements, Malta’s environmental standards remain below expectations raised by EU accession. ALFRED E. BALDACCHINO, the man who was involved in the transposition of the acquis communautaire into Maltese law, offers an insight into why. ___________________________________________________________________________________

As environmentalists go, few can lay claim to the epithet ‘tree-hugger’ quite as convincingly as Alfred E. Baldacchino. An author of numerous books on Malta’s indigenous wildlife (and biodiversity in general), his very name is now practically synonymous with all matters arboreal. More significantly still, he is often heard on the radio, where he discusses the regular ‘massacre’ of roadside trees in the name of ‘pruning’ and ‘landscaping’… as well as what appears to be our national predilection for choosing the species most unsuited to our islands’ particular ecosystem.

I meet Baldacchino at his Attard home, and I am soon introduced to his private collection of indigenous Maltese saplings – all taken from seeds and cuttings, and grown in pots on a small and crowded verandah. As he talks me through the different species, it quickly becomes apparent that behind his regular complaints about our national treatment of trees and plants, there lies a deeper and altogether more pressing concern with the lack of comprehensive planning and co-ordination: a state of affairs affecting our country’s entire attitude towards all aspects of the environment, with results that can be seen all around us.

Back on the terrace, he points to a specimen of Fraxinus angustifolia (Fraxxnu in Maltese) on his terrace. “If I can grow this from a seed here in my own home – and believe me, I am no expert in cultivation – why can’t we do the same elsewhere? Why do we have to import harmful and invasive species, sometimes spreading diseases and unwanted alien pests like the red palm weevil, when we can invest the same energy into preserving our own natural biodiversity?”

He promptly answers his own question: because commercial interests have meanwhile overtaken all other considerations… including our country’s legal and moral obligations to manage and protect the environment. As an example he turns to his hobbyhorse: environmental landscaping.

“Just this morning I talked about this on the radio, and I was surprised by the reaction: some 12 phone-calls throughout the programme… of which only one was critical, accusing me of being ‘too negative’.” Baldacchino’s point on that programme (of which I had caught snatches while driving) was that pruning of trees – which used to be carried out under the auspices of the Agriculture Department, but has now been farmed out to the private sector – is now being done at the wrong time of the year, and in a slapdash way that reduces many of the trees concerned to mere stumps.

“Just a few moths ago, the trees outside my own home were being ‘pruned’ (or rather, ‘hewn’) and when I popped my head out of the balcony and asked the landscapers why they were doing this now – and more to the point why they were chopping them down to the trunk – they replied ‘because cars pass from here’. What sort of answer is that? Did cars suddenly start passing this way only now…?”

Baldacchino suspects the reason is another: that the job of environmental landscaping has since been taken over by a ‘public private partnership’, or ‘PPP’. “If you ask me, it more like ‘Pee Pee Pee’,” he says… spelling out the ‘double-E’ each time. “The problem is that private concerns like these are driven by commercial interests, and commercial interests that simply do not mix with environmental protection.” For instance, Baldacchino argues that landscapers have taken to using herbicides on roundabouts and pathways. “Not a good idea,” he intones. “These herbicides will be washed away by the rain, only to find their way into valleys and possible reach the watertable. Why is this being allowed to happen? Why isn’t MEPA coming down like a tonne of bricks?”

Even the choice of plants and flowers for these roundabout displays is at best questionable. “Recently, the Prime Minister was on TV talking about government investment in embellishment projects. He was saying things like: ‘when did we ever see so many flowers blooming in August, when it is normally dry as dust?’ Personally I don’t blame the PM himself for saying things like that, but somebody should really tell him that this sort of landscaping goes against his own environmental credentials. These take substantial amount of precious water, especially those laid out with turf. Their temporary aesthetic impact carries hidden costs carried by society.…” Baldacchino explains that ‘alien’ flowers like (for instance) petunias tend to guzzle enormous amounts of water – itself a precious resource that the country can ill-afford to waste – and some species also have the potential to ‘escape’ and take root elsewhere in the wild. “Some of the plants used have microscopic seeds that get easily blown about by the currents as cars drive past, or carried by the wind, washed away by the rain, and so on. It is easy for them to end up germinating in a valley somewhere. What happens if they start to spread? They will become an invasive species, competing with other indigenous plants and ultimately become a threat toMalta’s natural biodiversity.” Some established invasives include the south and Central American Nasturtium, and the south African Hottentot Fig, the latter also used in landscaping.

Baldacchino points towards the profit margins of the private companies involved in the partnership as the main reason for both the use of herbicides, and the inauspicious choice of flowers. The reasoning is one we have all heard before, perhaps in relation to other issues and scenarios: ‘someone’ will be importing a certain type of herbicide, or a certain type of plant… “None of this is necessary,” Baldacchino asserts. “This is the result of having lost our way when it comes to environmental issues.”

But we have raced ahead of ourselves. Part of the reason I came here was to talk about these issues, true; but I also wanted to ask for a historical perspective on what exactly went awry. Baldacchino has after all been involved in the country’s environmental sector…  having kick-started the government’s environmental department in the early 1980s. At that time, the environment fell loosely under the portfolio of Health Minister Vincent Moran… though Baldacchino doesn’t count Moran as one of Malta’s environment ministers, for the simple reason that the word ‘environment’ had yet to achieve practical relevance back then. It was only later – and very gradually – that the concept began to take root in Malta’s subconscious, slowly rising to become a major concern. “Since the 1980s I have worked under six ministers and one parliamentary secretary,” Baldacchino recalls: adding the curious detail that three of them (apart from Moran) were doctors –Daniel Micallef, Stanley Zammit and George Vella. “Doctors make good environment ministers,” he asserts. “I think it’s partly to do with their scientific academic background, and also their charisma with people as doctors. In fact it was with Daniel Micallef that environmental awareness began to take off; and things reached a peak with Stanley Zammit, who had by far the longest time to deliver.”

Baldacchino also acknowledges the input of lawyers who took over the portfolio – namely Ugo Mifsud Bonnici and Francis Zammit Dimech – considering that by their time Malta had to face the voluminous legal international obligations including those of the EU. He was less enthusiastic about role of architect ministers who came in their wake. “Doctors immediately grasped the scientific concept of environmental conservation, while the legal aspect was also quickly picked up by lawyers… But something that took maybe five minutes to explain to the doctors, would take up to five hours with the lawyers…” As for the architects, Baldacchino makes an exception for Michael Falzon, who had the benefit of being helped by Stanley Zammit as his parliamentary secretary. I point out that this leaves us with only one architect who was also environment minister – George Pullicino, with whom Baldacchino had a very public and very acrimonious fall-out. However, he had no intention of being drawn into a discussion about that difference – which erupted after his retirement from the Environment Protection Directorate.

Instead we talked about what he defines as the two ‘fatal errors’ that have undermined previous efforts to create a functional environmental protection regime. “Initially, all the people involved in the department were chosen on the strength of their scientific background. Despite the paucity of human resources, we had the best available people. We needed them, too. Back then we were screening Maltese legislation with a view to transposing the EU’s acquis communautaire: a massive job and we had problems – big problems – at the beginning. But we also had a wealth of highly scientifically qualified and motivated people, enabling the department to be professionally run at the time.”

And then, out of the blue… the catastrophe. Baldacchino explains how the government suddenly decided to strip the environment of its own ministry, and instead transfer it lock, stock and barrel to the Planning Authority. “I think I was as surprised as Minister Zammit Dimech at the time,” Baldacchino recalls, referring to the decision as an environmental disaster from which the country has never fully recovered. “We were like a round peg in a square hole. Suddenly, decisions started being taken without any consideration or even idea of the country’s legal international obligations. Scientific and technical expertise was put aside in favour of other, more commercial considerations. From that point on, we started heading downhill.”

Baldacchino observes that – with the exception of occasional improvements – the trajectory has remained downhill ever since, in part thanks to a second and equally damning mishap. “The second major mistake was to allow the National Sustainable Development Commission (NSDC) to fizzle out. Whether intentionally, or through ignorance, or out of our national tendency to simply ‘postpone’ problems for future generations, the commission was never set in motion …” Originally set up in 2002 – significantly, before the decision to rob the environment of a ministry of its own – the NSDC initially aimed to provide an umbrella organization to integrate and amalgamate all economic, social and environmental considerations. “It has been years since the Commission last met,” Baldacchino says in regretful tones. “Today, decisions which have huge impact on the environment are taken in the absence of any framework organization. Development planning has hijacked all other considerations.”

Baldacchino argues that we are literally paying a high price due to the lack of any clear planning strategy… as an example, he singles out Malta’s policy regarding water. “The Knights of St John handed everything to us on a silver platter. They left us an entire aqueduct and water storing system, and more importantly they had drawn up laws whereby all houses had to have their own wells.” He points out that technically, these laws are still in the statue books. “But are they being implemented? No. Today, MEPA merely issues compliance certificates in cases where houses are illegally built without wells. And just look at the homes we are building: any space for reservoirs is today taken up by garages instead.” Ironically, then, it seems that Maltawas more conscious of water conservation 500 years ago … despite the fact that population pressures, coupled with the demands of a thirsty tourism industry, have resulted in skyrocketing water demands.

From this perspective, environmentalists like Baldacchino were ‘scandalised’ to hear Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt cavalierly announcing that excess water produced by sewage treatment would be pumped into the sea because it “had no economic value”. “No economic value? That’s blasphemy. What economic value is there is throwing away 50% pure water, when only a few metres away we have Reverse Osmosis plants pumping up 100% concentrated water from the sea? Considering how much we are paying for water produced in this way, can we afford to throw away water that would actually cost us less? So much for economic value…”

Baldacchino argues that the whole system was geared up from the outset with a view to pumping the water into the sea. No thought was given to the possibility of re-utilising that precious resource, “How else do you explain that all the country’s sewage treatment plants were sited near the sea to begin with?”

All this is symptomatic of a system which has fallen apart at the seams – almost an inevitability, Baldacchino suggests, when one considers how the environment itself was divorced from its original ministry, and instead spread among different entities, all of which work independently of one another without any cohesive framework policy. Again, water provides a good example; being a resource which falls under no fewer than three separate ministries. “MEPA is responsible for Malta’s surface water policy, and this falls under the office of the Prime Minister. But the Water Services Corporation – which handles distribution of water – falls under the Finance Ministry, whereas groundwater extraction, among others, falls under the MRRA.” So who takes ultimate responsibility for water-related problems when they arise? Baldacchino suggests the answer, as things stand, is ‘nobody’… coming back to his earlier point that the current set-up encourages government to put off existing problems, leaving future generations to cope with them as best they can.

“It’s a little like what happened with Bisazza Street, but on a national scale,” he remarks. “In the case of Bisazza Street, we had one ministry planning for pedestrianisation, and another ministry planning for traffic, and they only realized there was a problem when the two came together. Why? How is this possible? But at least,” he adds with a twinkle in his eye, “in the case of Bisazza street, a few ‘heads’ did actually roll…”