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?
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.
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.
Mark Anthony Falzon is not appearing this week.