EU funds endanger Buskett N2K site

May 13, 2017

Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Endangering Buskett 
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Buskett is a Tree Protection Area, with some trees protected for their antiquity, a scheduled woodland, an Area of Ecological Importance, a Site of Scientific Importance, a Site of European Importance, a Special Area of Conservation, a Bird Protection Area, and above all an EU Natura 2000 site.

The remains of an Ash Tree, after being handled by a Landscaper, in the Natura 2000 Buskett.

Yet, to date Buskett has never been professionally managed, especially on the lines of EU obligations. Never. There is absolutely no will, no vision, and no professional commitment. To the extent that a past environment minister was made to believe that Buskett is a garden. There were plans to transform this important ecological habitat into a ‘quality garden’ on the lines eventually implemented at the Mdina Ditch.

One would have thought that this was just a political flash in the pan by a gullible politician who was taken in by those with commercial interests. But to this day, professional environmental responsibilities still have not reached the level of Cabinet’s political acumen.

The only type of management approved by the Authority for the Protection of the Environment is the chopping down of protected trees, such as this one in Buskett – A Natura 2000 site.

As an EU member, Malta had to have management plans implemented for all Natura 2000 sites by six years after accession. This deadline was not met.

Following public consultations, later approved by the government, and boasted about by the incumbent Minister for the Environment, management plans are not yet implemented, and it seems they will never be.

A recent visit to Buskett revealed the complete political failure, lack of professionalism and irresponsibility with regards to the management of this important EU Natura 2000 site.

Clearance of important natural habitat in a Natura 2000 site to restore of a rubble wall.

An extensive area of maquis was recklessly bulldozed and obliterated to enable the restoration of a rubble wall. While the restoration of rubble walls is necessary, and those in hand are being professionally built, this can never justify the massacre of flora and fauna: habitat and species of European importance.

The rich maquis habitat as it was before it was bulldozed with the blessing of the Ministry for the Environment.

I wandered around Buskett and I could see piles of earth and stones dumped on sensitive habitats: habitats important for rare and endangered species, all listed in the data sheets sent to the EU to justify the importance of such a Special Area of Conservation of European Interest.

A butchered Ash Tree where, a couple of weeks before, I was photographing its new seeds.

Piles of stones and earth dumped on sensitive habitat in this EU Natura 2000 site.

It is heartbreaking to see two protected and rare hawthorn trees that were chopped from ground level to make way for machinery, earth and stone dumping. A rare protected ash tree was heavily butchered.

Unfortunately European Union funds are being mismanaged, endangering an important sensitive habitat which according to EU legislation, the Minister for the Environment is obliged to protect on behalf of Malta and the EU.

According to the EU Habitats Directive (article 6.3), an appropriate assessment has to be drawn up for any plan or project not directly connected with, or necessary to the management of a Natura 2000 site, but which is likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects. Such an appropriate assessment is needed to highlight the implications for the site in view of its conservation objective.

The national competent authority for the EU Habitats Directive (the Environment and Resource Authority – ERA) shall eventually endorse the plan or project only after having ascertained that the conclusions of such assessment regarding the implications for the SAC will not adversely affect the integrity of the SAC concerned. ERA is also obliged, if appropriate, to obtain the opinion of the general public.

Two mature protected hawthorn trees in this Natura 2000 site, 2.5 metres high, were raised to the ground seemingly by the approval of the Ministry for the Environment and ERA 

Can the minister publish the appropriate assessment made (naturally if it has been done), which enabled the ERA board to approve such works in this important Natura 2000 site?

If not available, then ERA approved such works blindfolded, which is very irresponsible, or else the ministry is in complete darkness of its responsibility, and its personnel is on a wild unmonitored spree to obliterate a delicate natural habitat just to restore a rubble wall. Ironically, posters at Buskett advertise these works as an EU-funded Life Saving Project.

It seems that following the acquiring of EU funds, the most important thing is to nail a poster acknowledging EU. How these funds are spent, and whether they are in line with the obligations of the EU Environment Acquis, is not important, not even to the Ministry.

Considering the fact that the minister’s Environment and Resource Authority board is made up of the cream of the crop of Maltese academics, such officially approved ecological damage with EU funds is worse than one can image, both from a professional, an administrative and a political point of view.

60 mature olive trees were chopped down by the approval and financing of the University of Malta, following populist demands. So if it can be done on the University campus, why not on public land?

It reminds me of the massacre of 60 established olive trees on the university campus, where no one batted an eye. We now have to suffer this ecological destruction in a Special Area of Conservation of national and European importance. Seems that academic qualifications today at best are of secondary importance when one sits on a political board.

Have we reached a stage where the destruction of the environment and the ecosystem has achieved virtual academic qualifications, approved not only by politicians but also by the top academic institution of this unfortunate country that seems to sit and tacitly approve?

This is a glaring declaration of total failure of the ministry’s obligations with regards to the protection of the environment. It seems that the latest environment ministers, one from either side of the local political hegemony, are competing among themselves as to who is the most committed to the destruction of biodiversity.

It would do no harm to remind, once again, the environmental promise contained in the 2013 electoral manifesto:

“The Environment and Resources Authority… will focus more specifically on the conservation, protection and amelioration of the environment and resources while undertaking also the responsibility of the important role of an environmental regulator, which presently our country does not have.”

A visit to Buskett where this EU Natura 2000 site is being endangered by EU funds, shows not only how an environmental regulator did never exist in the past, but also how the present one is working diametrically opposite to what has been promised and contrary to national and international obligations. Not only is it not functioning, but it is officially involved in such ecological damage.

Have we reached a stage where the destruction of the environment and the ecosystem has achieved virtual academic qualifications?

The minister has gone on record as saying that he has a “sound environmental policy”. Buskett Natura 2000 site, shows the lack of a will to protect biodiversity, as promised, all the result of such a “sound environmental policy”.

 

The result of the ‘sound environmental policy’ with which some are very proud.  Seeing all the above official ecological damage, this is the best diplomacy I could manage. And I am sure there are many others who feel the way I do.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

see also:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/another-buskett-onslaught/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/buskett-%e2%80%93-a-special-area-of-conservation-in-the-eu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/il-buskett/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/trees-butchered-at-university/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/a-cash-cow-in-the-ditch/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/the-garden-at-mdina-ditch-officially-inaugurated/

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

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Glyphosate: il-prezz għoli li qed inħallsu

January 24, 2017

one-news

SE TINQATA’ ERBIĊIDA TOSSIKA MINN MALTA

is-Sibt, 21 ta’ Jannar 2017

 

Ara wkoll

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/glyphosate-il-prezz-gholi-li-qed-inhallsu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/glyphosate-you-with-addenda/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/glyphosate/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/sena-dizastru-ghan-nahal/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/glyphosate-debate-goes-on/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/il-bexx-kimiku-is-sahha-tal-bniedem-u-tal-ambjent-1/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/il-bexx-kimiku-is-sahha-tal-bniedem-u-tal-ambjent-2/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/bees-alert-its-goodbye-honey/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/use-and-overuse-of-pesticides-2/

 


THE ‘NATIONAL WONDERS’ OF TREE PRUNING IN MALTA

September 6, 2015

THE ‘NATIONAL WONDERS’ OF TREE PRUNING IN MALTA

Monday, 7th September 2015

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The unprofessional, dilettantish way of pruning trees in Malta is no secret. Apart from the many photos and comments in the mass media, the ‘art’ and ‘national wonder’ of this tree pruning is evident for one and all to see along the streets of Malta. And so are the impacts of its unprofessionalism. The conclusion without much thought seems to be that such pruning is done in the shortest time possible to fill the truck with the chopped off branches and disappear. No professional direction from those who are supposed to be professionally responsible for such works, unless of course this is the only professional way they know of. No vision for any aesthetic aspect, or for any ecological or social concern, or for the tree protection regulations (which under the previous responsible Minister have been amended to accommodate such ‘pruning’), which adorn the legal bookshelves of Malta, one of the 27th EU member states.

pruning-1

One of the ‘natural wonders’ of tree pruning in Malta. As screwed as the official vision of the tree pruning, appreciation, protection and management. The expenses for such a ‘national wonder’ has been paid from the €8 million public funds provided annually by Government.

pruning-2

A different angle, for those who are a bit sceptic about such a ‘national wonder’.

Since the management of Maltese street trees was taken out of the hands of the Department of Agriculture, it seems that ‘landscapers’ have grown faster than trees. If one can wield a chainsaw, start it and cut the widest trunk in the shortest time possible, than one is qualified as a ‘landscaper’.  No qualifications needed, no licence needed, no monitoring needed, no questions asked, just wield the chainsaw and cut, cut, cut. One is also politically blessed, for such a work of art. Such is the pitiful state of ‘landscaping’ and ‘silviculture’ in Malta that one can easily compare it to an operation in the Intensive Therapy Unit, conducted by undertakers, instead of the medical profession.

To make matters worse, such ‘landscaping’ is under the control of a Minster, responsible for landscaping, who endorses payment for such ‘national wonders’  of tree pruning out of €8 million yearly budget, the agreement on which is kept under lock and key. He is also aided by some of the Local Councils who also pay for such ‘national wonders’ out of public funds. And Government is happy with this too.

pruning-3

The result of such ‘national wonder’ of pruning in Malta. With the added high temperatures, the Aleppo pine, could not but break in two being so unbalanced. But this is the best professionalism Malta can offer in tree pruning.

pruning-4

Another look at such work of art of local tree pruning. Incidentally another similar old tree further down the road was recently accidentally broken in twof by heavy machinery during works along the road. But the chainsaw was quick on the scene before any ‘fundamentalist’ could snap a photo or two. Minister Mizzi, responsible for road works and landscaping is accumulating quite a number of feathers in his cap!

But one must give credit where credit is due. We have been told that the present political vision is to make Malta the best in the EU. Without any doubt, in the field of the destruction of biodiversity, Malta is the best in the EU! And to think that the EU Commissioner for the Environment is Maltese… what else can one wish for?

Can the Minister responsible for ‘landscaping’ intervene to prevent such bull… paid out of public funds?

2007.12.18---Sale-of-logs-by-ELC---4

ritratt mehud fit-8 ta’ Diċembru 2007.

Other sites and photos showing such ‘National wonders’ paid out of public funds

On pruning trees in Malta – http://wp.me/pL6Mk-gA

Government policy on trees in Malta – http://wp.me/pL6Mk-eN

Trees, rubble walls and BSS -http://wp.me/pL6Mk-cq

Money doesn’t only grow on trees here, it talks toohttp://wp.me/pL6Mk-hY

Fallen trees and lost water – http://wp.me/pL6Mk-MS

Concrete path chocking trees – http://wp.me/pL6Mk-r8

TREES – open letter to Prime Minsiter – http://wp.me/pL6Mk-mb


Blinded by a pro-business vision | Part 2 (continued)

June 22, 2015

Blinded by a pro-business vision | Part 2

malta-today

Sunday, 21 June 2015

interviewed by Raphael Vassallo

continued from Part Ihttp://wp.me/pL6Mk-SO

One indication was the simple fact that MEPA went ahead and chose Zonqor Point without any basic studies or impact assessment exercises.

“The impact on society there, which has not been taken into consideration, is enormous. This area is the only open space, the lung, of this part of the island. Yet according to the electoral manifesto, ‘open spaces would be increased for the benefit of the people, from an environment and well-being point of view’.

“Great. Agreed. Now, if such an area already exists… why go against this direction, and propose development which will negatively impact society? The loss of that area will have social repercussions from a recreational and educational perspective, as well as from the point of view of science and ecology. Even commercially… because we also have to consider that the environment also has its commercial value. Development is not the only commercial activity…”

Another area where the government has departed from its pre-electoral pledges directly concerns the environment.

“We were told that ‘the environment would be given its full importance, and separated from MEPA so that it can function better in the interests of the people’. Agreed. In fact, I said I agreed with this before. But how is it being implemented? The environmental director is currently in limbo… no longer under the responsibility of the minister for the environment: he has no say whatsoever. He falls under the responsibility of the Prime Minister. And not only is the directorate rudderless, its officials not knowing whom they’re answerable to – they don’t have a director – but the latest blow to the environment is that when MEPA presented an official report to the government, it was a report without any input from the EPD…”

The EPD’s role would normally be to assess projects from both an ecological and also an infrastructural point of view. Baldacchino stresses that a serious decision on a project like this could not have been taken without this information.

“The construction of a university campus for 4,000 students will have a serious impact on the infrastructure, both in the vicinity and beyond. The traffic problem, for instance. How will this development impact the well-being of the people in the area, and also the rest of the island? These have not been taken into consideration at all.

“Not only that, but the CEO of MEPA, when talking at the committee meeting, made it very clear that the environment directorate has been completely ignored. How can such a report be considered professional and holistic, how can it contribute to the well-being of the country from a social, environmental and even political perspective, when the only unit to have any expertise in this matter is completely by-passed… when its data is completely excluded from the report? Instead, the report was entrusted to somebody ‘anonymous’… because MEPA refused to name the officials who drafted it. Then we all pretend that this is a serious, professional document for the government to decide upon in the interests of the country…”

This naturally raises the suspicion that the decision to propose Zonqor Point was taken first, then all the necessary adjustments were made to the government’s environment planning policies to make it happen…

Baldacchino shrugs with a wry smile. “This report is… I’ll say it in Maltese… ‘igib il-bocca hdejn il-likk’. I don’t know the equivalent in English…”

Neither do I. But it’s a pleasing analogy for (roughly) ‘setting oneself up favourably for the next throw’ in bowls…

“And this, too, runs counter to the spirit of the Labour Party manifesto before the election,” he continues. “That manifesto explained that the ‘government would be dedicated to the protection of the environment: not because of the obligations arising from our membership in the EU; but because it is in the interest of the people… of this generation, and future generations’. How do we achieve this? By preventing the competent directorate from contributing its data – not its opinions; its data – to the final decision? I cannot understand this. I just can’t… unless, of course, the electoral manifesto has not been accepted and taken on board by the movement in government…”

Meanwhile there are other indications that official policy documents may be facilitating certain individual projects. It has been noted, for instance, that the newly revised ‘Strategic Plan for Environment and Development’ has been imbued with ministerial discretion to allow certain deviations from planning regulations “for projects of national importance”. Moreover, the document was launched at a time when the Planning Act of 2006 is no longer in force… and the replacement document doesn’t go into the same level of detail regarding implementation and enforcement… does Baldacchino share these concerns about SPED?

“In brief, I would describe ‘SPED’ as a policy document to ‘speed up’ development at the expense of society and the environment. I’m a little blunt, but that’s how I see it…”

He adds that it had already sped up the level of environmental degradation. “Although, during the previous administration, the environment wasn’t something nice and rosy, today it is far worse. Because all the legislative instruments that were there are being dismantled. The directorate exists only on paper: perhaps to honour some obligation that we have to have a directorate in the EU.

“If there were genuine interest, MEPA would have remained under the ministry for the environment, and when all the amendments had been done for the demerger to take place, the planning directorate would have moved away from the ministry. But no, it was done the other way round, to accommodate development, and stifle environmental matters.”

It is this general policy direction, Baldacchino adds, that has led to this [yesterday’s] demonstration. “This will be attended by genuine socialists, genuine Labourites, genuine Nationalists, genuine AD supporters… the genuine man in the street who puts the interest of the country before the interest of any political entity.”

At the time of our interview, the protest is still some days ahead. But already there are indications that the issue itself has (somewhat predictably) taken on a decidedly partisan hue. It remains to be seen whether the turnout will match Baldacchino’s expectations… but there is also something of a counter-protest going on, with at least one petition being circulated in favour of the project in the South of Malta.

Isn’t there a danger, then, that this issue will slip out of the grasp of all those ‘genuine campaigners’, and become just another pull on the ropes in a political tug-of-war?

“One has to keep one’s feet on the ground, and accept the fact that a percentage of the electorate on each side of the political giants – I would say around 35-40% – are the type who would be shown a circle, and told it is a square… and they applaud the speaker for telling them that. It’s a ‘square circle’ mentality. And the fact that there is a petition going around applies to this mentality. The same thing happened in the Spring hunting referendum. For me, this is just a declaration of political failure by a government that says it listens, but then doesn’t hear. If there is a genuine interest in good governance, the electorate has to be part of the decision. Otherwise, one can only conclude the decision has been forced onto the electorate…”

And yet his own example sounds ominous. The Spring hunting referendum went on to be won by the hunters, in no small part thanks to the involvement of party politics…

“Yes, but the political intelligentsia of this island, whatever colour flag they wave, will get the message from that referendum. If they really are intelligent, that is. It was a very strong message. Despite the political intervention to achieve a ‘yes’ result, the intelligent electorate did not heed both parties’ stand on the issue. 49% voted against party lines. So for the politicians, the result is worse than it would have been had people been left to vote without political influence. I would assume the politicians will realise that the floating voters – the ones who realise that a circle is round – can think and act for themselves.”

At the same time, those defending the project (politically-motivated or not) also argue that the ‘South’ of the country has traditionally been neglected and abused over the years; and that projects such as this represent a turn-around in the area’s economic fortunes. The project itself is being touted as an example of ‘sustainable development’. Does he agree with the ‘sustainable’ part… and, short of this type of large-scale investment project: what would an environmentalist propose for the economic regeneration of the South?

“Thank you for bringing up the word ‘sustainable development’. That’s a buzz-word today. Before ‘the environment’ was a buzz-word. Now it’s ‘sustainability’… which is used by some politicians in a way that doesn’t make any sense, and only shows that they don’t understand the meaning of the word. ‘Sustainable’ means that the activity undertaken ‘will not be detrimental to future generations, in their use of the same resources in the same way as they are being used today’. But no politician would intend to define what he means by ‘sustainable’…”

All the same, by opposing individual projects such as the proposed Zonqor development, the environmentalist movement in general often opens itself to the charge that it doesn’t see sustainability in any form of development whatsoever. Is there such a thing as development which is ‘sustainable’, according to Baldacchino’s definition?

“I am not against commercial activity in any area, even in the area under discussion. But one has to take into consideration whether the commercial returns in the short-term will outweigh the negative social and environmental impacts in the long run. The hidden costs, the externalities of the whole project… these will have to be borne by future generations. For example, I was quite surprised to hear the MEPA representative at last Monday’s meeting declare that this project will generate jobs for the people of that area… as, for example, cleaners.”

He gasps in mock surprise. “When you think that in the past, the Labour Party had tried to eliminate dependency on foreigners, because we had become a country of ‘cleaners’ for foreign interests… are we going to revert back to offering jobs as cleaners to foreign projects? It was quite surprising to me. This project was supposed to kick-start economic activity in the south. How? By providing cleaning jobs to people in the area?”

At the same time, however, we must also concede that cleaners do exist: and some of them might actually appreciate the chance of extra work…

“OK, fine. But how are we going to raise the living standard? Again, this is part of the commercial argument, and why you can’t exclude the social aspect from it. What is the government doing to raise the cultural standard and improve quality of life in the area? It’s offering menial jobs that, today, most people don’t want to do… And who said there’s no other type of commercial activity that can take place in an area which has so much historical and ecological value? You could have genuinely sustainable, eco-friendly activity, generating jobs without ruining the area… educational activities, for example. One natural asset we have, and which is being completely ignored, is the geographical position of the island which can attract tourists on the basis of the historical attractions we have. But this is not accepted, because it doesn’t give as immediate, high returns as development…”

He argues that this, too, forms part of the reason for yesterday’s protest.  “People are disappointed with the way their environment is being ignored, for a blinded pro-business vision. It’s good to have a pro-business vision, don’t get me wrong. But not a blinded one. Not at the expense of society and the environment…”

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Blinded by a pro-business vision – Alfred Baldacchino

June 21, 2015
 malta-todaySunday, 21 June 2015

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

interviewed by Raphael Vassallo
 

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

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

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

alfred_baldacchino

Alfred E. Baldacchino (Photo: Ray Attard)

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

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

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

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

or

Read the full interview in MaltaToday

2015.06.21---zonqor-point

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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Il-bexx kimiku, is-saħħa tal-bniedem u tal-ambjent – 1

May 11, 2015

NewsBook

Il-bexx kimiku, is-saħħa tal-bniedem u tal-ambjent – 1

it-Tn ejn, 11 ta’ Mejju, 2015

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

 Il-ħajja tal-bniedem illum hija maħkuma minn bexx bil-kimika li juntuża f’firxa wiesgħa. Wieħed mill-għanijiet ta’ dan il-bexx huwa biex jeqred ħxejjex u animali li l-bniedem iħoss li ma għandux bżonnhom, jew, li nkella jarahom li qed ifixkluh u jikkompetu miegħu għall-qligħ tal-flus. Waħda mill-kimika l-aktar li tintuża hija l-glyphosate u din ma toqgħodx tagħżel il-pjanti li sejra toqtol imma toqtol dawk li tolqot.

pic 5

Il-kimika glyphosate tinxtorob mill-weraq tal-pjanta u xi ftit mill-għeruq, u twassl biex teqred il-pjanta. Din tintuża fl-agrikultura, fl-ortikultura, fit-tkabbir tad-dwieli, u anki fit-tkabbar tas-siġar, kif ukoll fil-ġonna u anki fid-djar biex teqred dawk il-pjanti li jitqiesu bħala ‘ħżiena’. Tintuża wkoll biex tnixxef l-uċuh tar-raba’ qabel il-waqt biex il-ħsad ikun aħjar u hekk il-qligħ ikun akbar. Barra minn hekk din tintbexx mal-ġnub tat-toroq u fuq il-bankini fl-ibliet u anki f’xi mogħdijiet fil-kampanja.

Il-glyphosate hija l-aktar erbiċida li tintuża madwar id-dinja, minħabba li kif jingħad din mhix tossika u ma għandiex impatti negattivi, u anki minħabba li ma tqumx ħafna flus.

Saħanstira l-kumpaniji kbar, bħal Monsanto, illum jagħmlu wkoll organiżmi ġenetikament modifikati (GMOs) biex meta dawn jitbexxu b’din il-kimika, dawn ma jmutux filwaqt li jinqerdu dawk il-pjanti ‘ħżiena’ li jkunu qed jikkompetu magħhom. 70% tal-qmuħ, 78% tal-qoton u 93% tas-sojja, huma modifikati ġenetikament biex jirreżistu din il-kimika li tintbexx fuqhom biex tħarishom minn insetti u minn pjanti oħra.

Wieħed mill-prodotti li jintuża biex jeqred il-pjanti u li fih din il-kimika glyphosate huwa r-Roundup li jitbexx madwar id-dinja kollha. Dan huwa meqjus, minn min jipproduċih mgħandniex xi ngħidu, bħala li kważi ma għandux impatti negattivi fuq il-bniedem. U din id-dikjarazzjoni ġiet milqugħa mill-Awtorità tal-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent Amerikana. Minħabba f’hekk ftit li xejn saru studji fl-Amerika biex jaraw kif din il-kimika qed taffettwa l-bniedem u l-ekosistema. Dan minbarra li kien hemm xi studji li ffalsifikaw ir-riżultalti biex din il-kimika ma tiħux isem ħażin. Ir-Roundup jista’ jinxtara mingħajr ebda xkiel minn fuq kull xkaffa ta’ kull ħanut tal-ġonna.

Tant ir-Roundup jintuża fl-agrikultura, li numru ta’ pjanti li jikbru fis-selvaġġ mgħadhomx jaqgħu vittma u jiġu meqruda għax dawn issaħħu kontra din il-kimika. ħMinbarra hekk, l-użu u l-impatti negattivi ta’ dan il-prodott qed iqajjem tħassib kbir fuq is-saħħa tal-bniedem u tal-ambjent naturali.

L-Agenzija Internazzjonali għar-Riċerka dwar il-Kankru (IARC) tal-Organizzazzjoni Dinjija tas-Saħħa (WHO) qalet li l-glyphosate, kimika ewlenija użata fir-Roundup, taraha bħala aktarx li tikkawża l-kankru fil-bniedem. Dan mill-ewwel ġie miċħud minn Monsanto li qalu li ma jafux kif l-IARC waslet f’din il-konkluzjoni.

Minbarra hekk, studji oħra tal-IARC fuq annimali jorbtu l-użu tal-glyphosate ma’ ‘sinjali mekknaniċi’ bħal ħsara fid-DNA fiċ-ċelloli tal-bniedem meta dan ikun mikxuf għal din il-kimika. Ma għandniex xi ngħidi li dan ukoll ġie miċhud bil-qawwa mill-kumpanija li tuża din il-kimika u li kull sena ddaħħal ’l fuq minn $16bn mill-bejgħ ta’ din il-kimika.

Rapporti tal-WHO jikxfu wkoll li din il-kimika nstabet fl-ikel, fl-ilma, u anki fl-arja wara li tkun ġiet imbexxa.

Numru ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej, bħall-Olanda, id-Danimarka u l-Isvejza, jew waqqfu jew ikkontrollaw sewwa l-użu ta’ din il-kimika minħabba l-periklu ta’ impatti negattivi fuq is-saħħa – u mhux il-kankru biss – problemi fil-kliwi, mard seliak, infjammazzjoni tal-kolon u awtiżmu, u saħansitra ulied immankati. Pariġi, Chicago u Vancouver ukoll ħadu passi simili fl-interess tas-soċjetà tagħhom.

Studju li sar fl-Arġentina jorbot l-użu ta’ din il-kimika ma’ impatti negattivi fuq il-kolonji tan-naħal u nsetti oħra. Fi New York għaqda mhux governattiva qed tifittex lill-Agenzija tal-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent talli mhux qed tieħu passi biex twaqqaf il-ħsara li l-glyphosate qed jagħmel lill-popolazzjoni tal-friefet.

Studju ieħor li sar mill-Università Nazzjonali ta’ Córdoba l-Arġentina, wieħed mill-pajjiżi fejn l-aktar li jkabbru sojja ġenetikament modifikata, jispjega kif 30% tal-imwiet fl-inħawi fejn hemm agrikultura intensiva, huma minħabba l-kankru, meta mqabbel ma’ 20% medja tal-pajjiż kollu. U ż-żieda ta’ dawn l-imwiet minħabba l-kankru hija marbuta mad-data ta’ meta beda jintuża l-glyphosate u kimiċi oħra fl-agrikultura.

Statistika mogħtija mis-Soċjetà Amerikana tal-Kankru turi li l-kankru żdied bi 80% mill-bidu tas-snin 70, is-snin meta l-kimika glyphosate tpoġġiet fuq is-suq.

Fl-2013 l-għaqda mhux governattiva Ewropea Friends of the Earth ħallset għall-studju f’laboratorju indipendenti fil-Ġermanja. Dan wera li fl-awrina ta’ nies minn 18-il pajjiż, medja ta’ 44% tal-kampjun, kellhom traċċi tal-glyphosate.

F’Malta, testijiet li saru mill-Friends of the Earth ta’ Malta, sabu li 90% tal-kampjun tal-awrina kien fiha traċċi tal-glyphosate – 9 minn kull 10 persuna studjati.

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bexx ta’ kimika fl-urban f’Malta.

Studji xjentifici li dehru fil-Journal of interdisciplinary toxicology juru li l-glyphosate jista’ jkun il-kaġun ewlieni li jwassal għall-obeżità, u għall-awtiżmu, kif ukoll għall-infertilità, għall-mard u sofferenzi oħra bħall-Alzheimer, Parkinson, depressjoni u kankru.

Iż-żieda qawwija fl-użu ta’ din il-kimika bil-bexx fuq il-qmuħ fl-Amerika mxiet pass pass maż-żieda fil-każijiet ta’ dawk li jbgħatu bil-marda tas-seliak. Il-kawża ewlenija ta’ din il-marda tibda’ bl-ikel ta’ proteini gluten miċ-ċereali.

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Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, li fih il-glyphosate. Ritratt: Studioshots/Alamy

Dan l-aħħar, studji oħra f’numru ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej, sabu traċċi tal-glyphosate f’firxa wiesgħa fl-ikel. U dan l-istudju sar fuq dawk li jgħixu fl-ibliet li mingħajr dubju ma kinux milquta bil-bexx ta’ din il-kimika, imma jieklu ikel li b’xi mod kellu x’jaqsam ma’ din il-kimika fit-tkabbir jew produzzjoni tiegħu. 44% tal-kampjun tal-awrina tagħhom kien fih ammont  ta’ din il-kimika.

Stima aktar friska tikxef li wieħed minn kull għoxrin persuna fl-Amerika ta’ Fuq u fl-Ewropa isofru mill-marda tas-seliak. Din il-marda qed tiżdied fl-Amerika u anki fl-Ewropa, fejn 5% tal-popolazzjoni isofru minnha.

L-glyphosate żdied ħafna min-ħabba l-użu f’firxa wiesgħa ta’ tipi ta’ Roundup, anki b’rabta ma’ ħxejjex ġenetikament modifikati. Tant li fl-Ewropa l-glyphosate huwa l-aktar kimika popolari li tintuża biex teqred il-pjanti. Ma jistax wieħed ma jinkwetax meta iqis li fl-2007 fl-Istati Uniti biss, l-ammont ta’ din il-kimika ntuża f’ammonti kbar: medja ta’ 83,000 tunnellata fil-qasam agrikolu; 3,000 tunnellati fil-ġonna tad-djar; u 6,500 tunnellata fl-industria, kummerċ u f’attività governattivi.

Id-darba li jmiss nitkellmu fuq l-użu ta’ din il-kimika f’Malta.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchno.wordpress.com


Environmental disorientation

January 31, 2014

times of malta

January 31, 2014

Environmental disorientation

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Political environmental awareness reached its climax in 2004 before accession to the EU. Membership achieved, environment started a political nose­dive. ‘Merged’ with the Planning Authority, it was hijacked, destabilised and emarginated. Look at how environmental matters are being handled today by MEPA, politically referred to only just for convenience sake with no conviction at all. This led nine environment NGOs to show their disapproval of the lack of professional management of the environment.

2013 can be regarded as the year when environment disorientation reached its peak, and environment conservation hit rock bottom. To the extent that MEPA ­ the competent authority for the EU Environment Acquis is not within the control and not in the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment, but managed and run by the Office of the Prime Minister, through a Parliamentary Secretary.  MEPA, who never really showed any zeal or understanding of environmental responsibilities, except for producing nicely coloured publications and policies, which nobody takes any notice of, not even Mepa itself, had a field day. Stable doors were flung wide open allowing horses not only to gallop out but to stampede over all environmental and social considerations. Reason for this sad and sorry state of affairs is that the environment and planning directorates are going to be separated. All environmental matters are in deep freeze, till the day, when the surgical operation of dismembering Mepa will see the light of day. In the meantime development permits are being dished out with little, if any, environmental or social concern. When the environment is given the kiss of life, then it won’t be MEPA problem any more to see how the vacated stables door can be closed to keep the freed horse inside.

Why was MEPA not included in the environment portfolio until the operation takes place, and then the planning directorate passed to the appropriate Minister? Because environment is not a priority. It never was.

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One of the expensive muddles regarding EU obligations is the Water Framework Directive: not an easy Directive by all means, the more so since Malta is an island. This Directive covers both surface, and underground water: a matter of life and death for all life in the country. 2013 saw this resource in such a pitiful state as it has never been since the advent of man on these islands. Projects inherited from previous water-drop1years, included an educational programme piloted by one Minister and sponsored by a local bank to catch every drop of water, while another Minister happily boasting and spending 57 million euros or more, mostly coming from the EU, excavating underground tunnels so that every drop of rain­water caught is swept into the sea, after bulldozing biodiversity in valleys. Yet another Minister responsible for EU funds to see to the purification of drainage water, not to harvest such resource, but to dispose of it into the sea with a certain pride and satisfaction of

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Rain water which comes for free is chanelled to the sea. Then sea water is pumped up to be desalinated by energy consuming desalinators!

being unique in the EU! Still another Minister trying to find his way through an inherited tangled cobweb, trying to plug the holes through which water tankers plying the local streets, selling water extracted for free from the aquifers. Another Minister is financing the desalination of sea water (containing dumped purified drainage water) by energy consuming desalination plants. I cannot not mention water park, the dancing fountains and the expanses of turf being laid, taking gallons and gallons of water sprinkled everyday with the approval of the Ministry for landscaping. And a postponed and postponed national water policy, in the face of a possible EU infraction.  Great Political management of the environment! Shall we soon be singing ring a ring o’roses? God forbid.

“Environment destruction is turning our lives upside-down”

The monument for environmental and social destruction during 2013, without doubt was the Nadur cemetery in Gozo; built on a priceless ecological water catchment area, destroying works of the Knights to harvest rain water, and putting the ecosystem and the life of a farming community in danger, by depriving them of water and by flooding other farmers’ fields because of the hydrological changes in the area. A 600­ grave cemetery to be run on a time share basis blessed by that Competent Authority for the Environment, MEPA; blessed by the local politicians; helped by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal who like Pontius Pilate washed its hands from such a catastrophic social and environmental crime; and developed, built and blessed by the Gozo Church Diocese. A cemetery whose first intakes were Mepa’s and

epitaph_name_Tomb1

the Gozo Diocese’s environmental and social conscience. Only God can forgive such an environmental and social crime, approved in 2013. To add insult to injury, this happened in Eco ­Gozo, cementing the lip service for ecological protection and the lack of understanding of biodiversity.

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The good thing about environment in 2013 is that I have run out of space, and cannot delve deeper on the proposed changes to the Outside Development Zones, and Structure Plan; the Xemxija scandalous planning decision, biodiversity loss and the invasion of alien species, and other policies in the pipeline in favour of further myopic development, such as land reclamation, Hondoq ir-Rummien, the Malta-­Gozo tunnel both in Eco Gozo, all burdening the environment and society with more hidden costs and destruction.

What of 2014 one might ask? Following the liaise-faire in environmental and social awareness by politicians and other social entities since accession to the EU, one can only say that environmentalists, socialists and nationalists (nothing to do with politicians) atheists and believers alike, would better fasten their seat belts. Past decisions can only reflect further destruction of the environmental and social fabric, rendering our country a difficult and unhealthy place to live in. The momentum of these negative impacts on society and the environment can already be seen and felt. Development and money matters are holding the political decision makers of this country at gun point, at a cost to the environment and society.

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Photo and caption in the Times: Changes burdening the environment and society with more hidden costs and destruction were also proposed for Eco-Gozo. Photo: viewingmalta.com

Every time I get to think about this, with every thought of where all this will lead us to, makes me feel that I can’t tell the bottom from the top. Am I standing on my head or on my heels? Is it cloudy is it bright? Is it day or is it night? Am I wrong or am I right? And is it real?

Environment destruction is turning our living upside-down. But why cannot this country ever grow up?

I have as yet refrained from answering my question as to whether all this is sheer inexperience in good governance, or a shrewd diabolical political psychology.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

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