AD concern over BP oil drilling near Malta

Alternattiva Demokratika this afternoon expressed concern about drilling in the Gulf of Sirte which is being taken in hand by BP.

Its spokesman on EU and international affairs, Arnold Cassola, said that it should be of extreme concern for Malta that BP, ‘which has a disastrous track record with regards to safety measures in this field,’ as seen from the recent Gulf of Mexico disaster, was about to start drilling an oil well in the Gulf of Sirte in Libyan waters.

“The Libyan government is already giving Malta a really bad name through the way it deals with irregular migrants. We ask the Maltese government, and the likewise subservient PL opposition led by Joseph Muscat, to speak up and show some dignity and self respect and not continue acting as if Malta were a colony of Libya,” he said.

Carmel Cacopardo AD spokesman on sustainable development, observed that approximately 60% of Malta’s drinking water is obtained through reverse osmosis. In the case of a major accident in the new BP oil well 500 kilometres away from Malta, a major source of drinking water may become unusable, he said.

“After the serious accident on the BP platform in the Gulf of Mexico which has been traced to incompetence and decisions doing away with safety procedures, a similar accident in a BP-run oil-rig is not an impossible happening. Such an accident will also have a long term effect on the livelihood of Maltese fishermen as well as on the tourism industry, not to mention the ecological havoc. AD calls upon the Maltese government to insist with the Libyan government as well as with BP that they are to ensure that all safety procedures are in place before drilling starts,” Mr Cacopardo said.

He also called upon the UK government which has defended BP with the US administration, to use its good offices to ensure that the lessons learnt from the Gulf of Mexico are acted upon immediately.

The Wied il-Buni Buffer Zone

When the current parliamentary session was inaugurated in May 2008 the then President of the Republic read the government’s programme listing those of its political pledges it felt safe to announce.

The President had informed Parliament that: “The government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development of the economy, of society and of the environment. When making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow.”

He further emphasised that “Sustainable development has three main dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Our challenge is to ensure continuous economic development, promoted by education, social development, with particular attention to environmental protection. When we evaluate our activities in view of these three interrelated dimensions, we would be placing every person at the heart of the government’s actions”.

Now consider this policy direction and apply it to the Freeport at Birżebbuġa.

Had the Freeport been designed today it would have a much smaller footprint. When the Freeport was designed in the 1980s such large-scale projects were not subject to any land use planning control. Nor were any environmental criteria relative to the impacts on the Birżebbuġa community given any weight. (Some would justifiably argue that not much has changed since.)

When, in the early 1990s, the then Planning Authority was faced with a Freeport already in operation (even though it was still in its initial stages) it sought to contain its spread through the policies which it approved.

One important policy contained in the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan creates a buffer zone between the Freeport and Birżebbuġa. In fact, Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan policy MB 28 states: “Any use allocated to the area of land at Wied il-Buni should act as a buffer to shield the leisure activity along the seafront from the industry of the Freeport and, in any case, must not cause inconvenience to nearby residents due to noise, fumes, vibrations and/or hours of work. The preferred use is public open space.”

Policy could not be any clearer, yet, notwithstanding this, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority board last month approved an extension to the Freeport Terminal using part of this buffer zone. As a result, the Freeport’s increased activity in the future is possible but the welfare of the community was thrown overboard by a Mepa board which felt it could ignore the regulator’s own policies. They did not only ignore the above local plan policy but, in addition, they also ignored the social and environmental impacts of the terminal extension focusing only on perceived economic benefits. In so doing, they also threw overboard the government’s declarations in favour of sustainable development and future generations.

In an explanatory note immediately after the above-quoted policy, the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan further explains as follows: “The site referred to (the buffer zone) is immediately adjacent to Freeport Terminal between Triq San Patrizju and the shore.

“The site is currently used partly as a sailing club and the rest as a dump-yard. It is close to houses along Triq San Patrizju and, if not carefully controlled, its eventual use could have a detrimental impact on local residents.

“It also presents an opportunity to assist in reducing the effects of the industrial activity of the Freeport.”

This was approved and published by the then Planning Authority in May 1995.

An increased environmental sensitivity of the community since 1995 should have led Mepa to observe its own rules. In fact, the first decision taken relative to the Freeport Terminal extension was to refuse it. This the Mepa board did on February 26, 2009. However, after it was requested to reconsider this refusal, the Mepa board overturned its original decision on January 21, 2010. There were no changes to the project between the two dates.

There was only one occurrence which could be of relevance: the elections of the Maltese members of the European Parliament in June 2009. Whether this had any bearing on the decision of the individual Mepa board members is difficult to say, as none gave any indication. It is, however, a fact that some Mepa board members had second thoughts and changed the manner in which they voted. Being independent, they are obviously entitled to change their mind. One wonders, however, why none considered it ethical to give a reasonable explanation. Those who will have to bear the brunt of their decision are entitled to such an explanation.

The decision is now being contested in the Planning Appeals Board by the local NGO, Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group.

Until such time as a definite decision is taken, it may be opportune to ponder as to why it is possible that this country can have clear and specific policies but then cannot identify competent boards capable of ensuring that they are applied as originally intended.

published in The Times today,July 24, 2010


On this blog you can also see the following posts on the same subject :

17th July 2010 : Wara l-Bieb.

12th June 2010 : Past Mistakes ……. Present Day Decisions.

1st February 2010 : Malta Freeport : Impacts on Residents should be dealt with effectively.

21st March 2009 : The Freeport : Will MEPA backtrack ?

26th February 2009 : Kisba Importanti wara suġġeriment ta’ AD – MEPA accepts AD proposal.

5th March 2008 : Birżebbuġa u l-Port Ħieles

Malta : Still in the Middle Ages

‘Malta still in the middle ages’ – AD participates in anti-censorship march


Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party is participating in the anti-censorship march organised by the Front Against Censorship.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘It seems though Malta has joined the European Union, in many aspects we are still in the middle ages. It is disturbing that state institutions should decide what is acceptable and what is not within the arts. This is reminiscent of dictatorial regimes – from North Korea to Iran – whose state structures aim to create a monolithic conformist identity, devoid of freedom In advanced modern societies where individuals are reflexive, such imposition from the state is unacceptable’.

‘In various respects, proposed legislation on censorship increase repression on freedom of speech. AD believes that no artistic production should be banned, provided there are clear guides such as age classification and warnings on content shown. AD is also firmly in favour of educational reforms which enhance the reflexivity and responsibility of individuals, such as the teaching of comprehensive sexual education and the values of tolerance and respect. A difference should also be made between art and the spreading of hate such as that of the neo-nazi type’.

‘If the recent decision of the Civil Court on the “Stitching” play were to be applied consistently, then, we might as well close down our film-theatres for showing films full of violence and explicit content. We might as well ban MTV for showing provocative videos and empty bookshelves for having books that are deemed “incompatible”‘.

Yvonne Arqueros Ebejer, AD spokesperson for Civil Rights, added: ‘Freedom of expression is a civil right.  It is a cornerstone of a democratic society. This right also protects opinions that shock, disturb or offend, as long as they do not incite violence or hatred. However, the right to freedom of expression has come under pressure from various sides. Greens will continue to resist attempts to compromise the right of expression, even where it may clash with religious or other beliefs.

‘AD supports the Front Against Censorship and we once again, together with the European Green Party, we express our solidarity with Mark Camilleri and Alex Vella Gera who were taken to court due to their respective roles in Realta’ newspaper’.

‘Whilst other political parties are ultimately stuck in time when it comes to freedom of expression,  Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party is clear and consistent in its position for the modernisation of censorship laws as befits a modern democracy’.

AD supports Divorce Court Case

Alternattiva Demokratika supports Lynn Zahra’s divorce court case

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party fully supports the court case to be instituted by Dr Lynn Zahra, with regard to divorce.
Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, stated: ‘Alternattiva Demokratika gives total political support to Dr Zahra’s court case, and we applaud her for her courage which is inspirational to thousands of other persons in a similar situation’.
Arnold Cassola, AD Spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, stated: ‘Maltese and European Union citizens resident in Malta are discriminated against because they cannot have recourse to divorce in Malta.  Unfortunately, because of the fundamentalist attitude of the Maltese government and the “catch all voters” attitude of the PL leadership, the Maltese are being deprived of a civil right which all other European Union citizens are party to’.
Yvonne Arqueros Ebejer,  AD Spokesperson on Civil Rights, added, ‘Lynn Zahra has started the ball rolling.  This court case could constitute an important milestone for the thousands of Maltese who are being deprived of their right to re-marry after their first marriage has failed or to start a new life whatever they choose it to be. Should Lynn Zahra lose her case in Malta, she can then proceed to the European Courts of Justice’.

Gonzi u l-White Rocks: l-interessi personali u l-profitti


Lawrence Gonzi kien rappurtat dalgħodu mit-Times li wieġeb għall-kritika ta’ Paul Abela (ex Sindku Nazzjonalista tas-Swieqi u illum President tal-GRTU) dwar il-proġett tal-White Rocks billi qal li dan (Abela) għandu interessi personali u interessi ta’ profitt u li l-kritika tiegħu għall-proġett tal-White Rocks hi motivata minn dan.

Mur obsor, kemm hu għaref il-Prim ! Mhux ovvja li min (flimkien ma ħaddieħor) tefa’ offerta li wara proċess twil ta’ negozjati ġiet aċċettata jfittex li jħares l-interessi tiegħu.

Paul Abela fl-artiklu tiegħu  ippubblikat fit-Times of Malta tal-14 ta’ Lulju 2010 qal li l-Gvern kien għadu marbut mal-consortium bl-isem Costa San Andrea li miegħu kienu saru negozjati wara sejħa għall-offerti fl-1999.

Bil-mod kif qed jitkellem Lawrence Gonzi qiesu li dawk li magħhom qiegħed jinnegozja l-Gvern tiegħu ġejjin jagħmlu l-karita’. Dawn għall-profitti ukoll ġejjin, profitti li biex jimmaterjalizzaw talbu art li fuqha jkunu jistgħu jinbnew 300 appartament. Il-fondi ġġenerati mill-bejgħ tal-appartamenti jagħmlu tajjeb kemm għall-profitti kif ukoll għall-ispejjes biex jinbena dak li Lawrence Gonzi qed isejjaħlu kumpless sportiv, imma li fir-realta’ għadu mhux ċar eżatt x’ser ikun.

Il-mistoqsijiet mhux imwieġba mill-Gvern ta’ Gonzi qed jiżdiedu, u issa magħhom żdiedu dawk ta’ Paul Abela : għadu marbut mal-consortium Costa San Andrea jew le ?  

Għal uħud mill-mistoqsijiet l-oħra, ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog :

 3 ta’ Lulju                 Land Speculation at White Rocks

13 ta’ Ġunju                 The White Rocks Project

Wara l-Bieb

F’pajjiż żgħir fid-daqs bħal tagħna kull żvilupp li jsir ikollu effett fuq xi ħaġa oħra.

Il-bieraħ f’Birżebbuġa indirizzajt konferenza tal-aħbarijiet dwar l-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles u kif din teffettwa lir-residenti. Il-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa u l-NGO ambjentali tal-lokal il-Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group f’isem ir-residenti qed jopponu l-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles minħabba li din teffettwa ħażin lir-residenti.

Hemm limitu għal dak li hu ġustifikabbli li nissaportu. B’dan l-iskop il-Pjan Lokali għall-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk approvat fl-1995 stabilixxa dan il-limitu billi identifika l-area ta’ Wied il-Buni bħala żona li l-Port Ħieles ma kellux jaqbiżha. Hi fil-fatt definita bħala buffer zone.

Il-permess għall-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles li l-MEPA approvat reċentement dan tinjorah.

Hawn diversi li jitkellmu b’passjoni mingħajr ma jkunu jafu l-fatti. Huwa faċli li tgħid li huwa neċessarju li l-Port Ħieles jespandi fl-interess tat-tkabbir tal-ġid ekonomiku imma min jgħid hekk ikun qed iħares biss lejn parti żgħira ħafna mill-istorja. Għax hemm bżonn ukoll li nħarsu lejn affajiet oħra : kif din l-estensjoni teffettwa l-ħajja tan-nies, u kif din teqred ukoll facilitajiet sportivi tal-baħar (sailing club) li jgawdu mhux biss ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa imma ukoll residenti min-nofsinnhar tal-pajjiż li għalihom Birżebbuġa huwa post ta’ villeġġatura.       

Hemm ukoll l-impatti ambjentali li akkumulaw tul is-snin mill-attivita’ industrijali fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Dawn huma sostanzjali. Jagħmel sens ħafna illi qabel ma biss nikkunsidraw estenzjoni tal-Port Ħieles nifhmu iktar l-impatti ambjentali akkumulati li per eżempju qerdu l-ħajja fil-bajja u nassiguraw li dawn ikunu indirizzati.

Il-Kunsill ta’ Birżebbuġa, il-Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group u l-Port Ħieles ilhom ix-xhur jiltaqgħu mal-MEPA biex flimkien insibu l-aħjar mod kif dawn l-impatti li akkumulaw tul is-snin ikunu indirizzati u possibilment jonqsu għall-ġid ta’ kulħadd.

Dan hu l-mod kif l-affarijiet isiru bis-serjeta’. Għalhekk nitkellmu dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Għax l-iżvilupp biex jagħmel sens ma jridx inissel biss titjib ekonomiku, iżda dan irid jagħmlu mingħajr ħsara : la ħsara ambjentali u l-anqas ħsara soċjali.  

Il-ħsara ħadd ma jridha wara biebu.


Ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog :

12 ta’ Gunju 2010 : Past Mistakes ……. Present Day Decisions.

1 ta’ Frar 2010 : Malta Freeport : Impacts on Residents should be dealt with effectively.

21 ta’ Marzu 2009 : The Freeport : Will MEPA backtrack ?

26 ta’ Frar 2009 : Kisba Importanti wara suġġeriment ta’ AD – MEPA accepts AD proposal.

5 ta’ Marzu 2008 : Birżebbuġa u l-Port Ħieles.

Lil hinn mir-raġġiera


Il-mozzjoni privata ta’ Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando (JPO) fil-Parlament biex ikun introdott  id-divorzju ħsadet lil uħud, fosthom lil Mons Arċisqof. Ħafna iżda ilhom jistennew li xi ħadd jiċċaqlaq.

L-issue fil-fehma tiegħi hi waħda biss : li l-għażla dwar id-divorzju ma ssirx mill-istat għan-nom tagħna, kif isir sal-lum, imma li ssir minn kull wieħed u waħda minnha skond il-kuxjenza tiegħu jew tagħha. Imma biex dan ikun jista’ jsir l-istat irid jipprovdi l-għodda neċessarji.

Illum, huwa u jkun intervistat fuq l-RTK minn Tonio Bonello l-Arċisqof qal waħda tajba: li l-Partiti fil-Parlament m’għandhomx l-awtorita’ morali li jmexxu l–quddiem  leġislazzjoni dwar id-divorzju, għax ħadd minnhom ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika ma ressqu quddiem l-elettorat proposti f’dan is-sens.

Hemm kontradizzjonijiet oħra.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista li jippreżenta ruħu bir-raġġiera m’huwiex ser jazzarda li jappoġġa d-divorzju, avolja imbagħad ma sab l-ebda diffikulta li jmexxi l-quddiem il-koabitazzjoni w id-drittijiet li jirriżultaw minnha.

Min-naħa l-oħra l-Labour permezz tal-mexxej tiegħu ilu jitkellem favur id-divorzju li ġustament jiddeskrivieh bħala dritt ċivili. Imma ma jemminx biżżejjed f’dan id-dritt ċivili biex iħossu li jista’ jikkonvinċi lill-Partit tiegħu biex jappoġġa l-proposta parlamentari ta’ JPO. Dan qed jagħmlu bi ħsieb : għax b’hekk jista’ jfuh maż-żewġ naħat : kemm ma’ dawk favur kif ukoll ma dawk kontra. Progressiv għal uħud u bir-raġġiera għal oħrajn !

Il-proposta ta’ JPO hi dettaljata. Minn eżami tad-dettalji jidher ċar li hemm diversi persuni li qed jagħtu kontribut biex din tlaħħmet. Li jonqos issa hu li naraw kemm minn dawn huma Membri tal-Parlament.

Alternattiva Demokratika tilqa’ l-mozzjoni u hi sodisfatta li JPO mexa fuq dak li ipproponiet AD lill-Membri Parlamentari f’ittra li iċċirkulatilhom reċentement.

Land Speculation at White Rocks

Having first class sports facilities in Malta is an objective which everyone shares. Hence the point at issue, in my view, is not whether a sports complex should be developed but how this can be done and the manner in which it should be financed.

The government has opted for direct negotiations with the selected partners. Was it right in directly selecting the proposed developers and negotiating away from the spotlight of tendering rules and procedures which a normal democratic society imposes?

My view is that the method of selection clearly indicates the government’s disdain for transparency and accountability, even if the final deal will eventually be presented for Parliament’s approval. Removing the major part of the process from the continuous scrutiny of the public institutions set up purposely for their examination, is a clear indication of what could lie in store. Comments have already surfaced as to the ethical credentials of those selected as partners.

An eventual agreement will consist of two elements: the provision of the sports facilities and a prime site residential development consisting of around 300 residential units. The second element is intended to finance the first, the land being made available by the taxpayer through publicly-owned land.

Three documents need to be examined in order to identify the applicable parameters and the considerations to be made.

The first document of relevance is the Development Brief for the White Rocks site issued by the then Planning Authority in 1995. Even if then the proposed development was for an “upmarket tourism project” the development parameters drawn up are of extreme relevance to today’s discussion.

The site, the brief informs us, has a total area of 36.9 hectares. This is subdivided into three zones. Zone 1, having an area of 38 per cent of the total, consists of the existing holiday complex and its facilities. Zone 2 (39 per cent of the area) consists of a mixed garigue and rocky coastline, including the marine environment and archaeological resources. Zone 3 (23 per cent of the area) consists of agricultural land.

The 1995 brief laid out that only Zone 1 was to be released for development. The brief identified one exception: an underground structure in Zone 2 which was to be rehabilitated and in respect of which no extension of its footprint was to be considered.

The second document of relevance to the White Rocks site is the North Harbour Local Plan approved in August 2006. This document, in addition to ignoring any development potential of the White Rocks site, defines it as a “green wedge”. Now, to my mind this means that no development is permissible on the site.

The third document of relevance is the Habitats Directive of the EU applicable to these islands as of May 2004. Zone 1 of the White Rocks site is adjacent to a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which has been so declared by Malta and approved by the EU Commission. This spills over into Zone 2 described above.

Now the only development permissible in SACs is that which is necessary for the management of the site. The Habitats Directive further lays down that activities on sites adjacent to SACs are restricted too, such that they serve as a buffer zone and are not the indirect cause of damage to the said SACs.

If the above parameters are adhered to, it is not at all clear which sports facilities can be developed on the White Rocks site. Given that Zone 1 covers 38 per cent of the total area, the space is limited both in terms of area as well as in terms of potential for the development of sports facilities. This would leave unanswered questions as to where the 300 projected residential units intended as payment for services rendered by the developing consortium are to be built.

One hopes that in planning the development of the sports complex the limits identified in the 1995 development brief will not be ignored.

Given the development parameters established in 1995, to which one must now add the responsibilities derived from the EU Habitats Directive of the European Union, it is doubtful whether the White Rocks site is suitable for development as a sports complex of the extent indicated by the Prime Minister and other government spokesmen.

Furthermore, it is neither possible nor acceptable to develop 300 residential units on the site to settle the costs of this development.

This is just land speculation in its crudest form. In an overdeveloped Malta the least one expects is a government engaging in speculative development in order to settle its bills and simultaneously claiming that the environment is one of its main policy pillars!

One wonders whose advice government is listening to. At times it seems that it has retained its Xagħra l-Ħamra advisors: those that had convinced it to promote a golf course without having first understood its environmental implications. Governments never learn.

published in The Times of Malta, July 3, 2010

Rubbishing of auditors by gonzipn will stop !

Some good news from Parliament.

The Times today reported that in Parliament yesterday, during the debate on a motion of no confidence in the Minister of Education Dolores Cristina, the Prime Minister stated that : 

“There must be instilled a culture of respect for auditors. Their criticism should be accepted and not fought. In the public sector, such audits also served to have more efficiency and value for money. It was important that internal and external auditors’ suggestions were heeded and acted on without delay.”

Some good news at last which contrasts with the manner in which government led by gonzipn has treated the Auditor General, the Ombudsman and the MEPA Audit Officer.

The rubbishing of audtors by gonzipn will now stop! Well, its never too late to learn from your mistakes!