Political calculation or environmental principle?

calculator

 

Joseph Muscat’s declaration that the Freeport Terminal will not be permitted to expand in Birżebbuġa’s direction due to its impacts on the residential community will inevitably have an effect on the Planning Authority. Viewed in the context of the recent Planning Authority decision not to approve the proposed Ħondoq ir-Rummien development, a pattern seems to be developing.

Given the fact that these two decisions are closely associated with localities that politically support the Labour Party it is still not clear whether this newly discovered sensitivity to restrict development which negatively impacts residential communities is based on political calculation or on environmental principle. This consideration is inevitable, in particular due to the report in this newspaper on 22 June that the Prime Minister had stated, in a discussion with environmental NGO Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, that he does not care about impact assessments, as residents get used to everything. As far as I am aware, the Office of the Prime Minister never corrected this report.

The Freeport Terminal debate clearly indicates that Birżebbuġa residents are determined to deliver a different message: they have had enough. During the last seven years there has been an ongoing tug-of-war between Birżebbuġa Local Council, MEPA and the Freeport Terminal Management. This has led to a number of improvements, the most important of which was the setting up of a tripartite Environmental Monitoring Committee that has served to build some bridges and to explore solutions to existing problems caused by the operation of the Freeport Terminal.

There was a time, around two years ago, when pressure was put on Birżebbuġa Local Council to drop its objections to specific operations. I distinctly remember representatives from the oil-rig repair industry  trying to convince the Council of the “benefits” that an oil-rig industry based at the Freeport Terminal could generate.

When these representatives realised that no one was convinced, an amendment to the environmental permit was forced through the then MEPA Board. To their credit, only three of the then board members understood the real issues and voted against the proposal: the two MPs (Joe Sammut and Ryan Callus) and the environmental NGO representative Alex Vella of the Ramblers Association.

The amended environmental permit would have permitted minor repairs to ships and oil-rigs berthed at the Freeport Terminal. However, after the MEPA Board meeting all hell broke loose, leading Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to disassociate himself from its decision and publicly align himself with the minority on the board opposing the changes. He then stated that he was in agreement with “his representative”, Labour MP Joe Sammut.

While the Freeport Terminal, faced with the reaction of residents, eventually relinquished the newly-acquired permit, the internal debate within the Labour Party continued, leading to the recent statement by Joseph Muscat that he is not in agreement with an expansion of the Freeport Terminal operations that would have a negative impact on the Birżebbuġa community.

Irrespective of whether it is a matter of principle or a political calculation which has led the Prime Minister to make such a statement, I submit that this is still a significant turning point that has been achieved as a direct result of Birżebbuġa Local Council’s persistent lobbying. It contrasts with the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition, who looks forward to an increase in the operations of the Freeport Terminal, without batting an eyelid over the resulting, continuously increasing, impact on the residential community.

The Prime Minister’s statement, while being a positive first step, is certainly not enough. It needs to be translated into policy as an integral part of the revised Local Plans currently under consideration. It is also important that the Prime Minister’s newly identified sensitivities are exported to other areas in Malta and Gozo. It is essential that, in a small country such as ours, third party rights opposing “development” are reinforced.

The issue at stake is far larger than Birżebbbuġa or the Freeport Terminal. It is a tug-of-war between those supporting “development” at all costs and our residential communities. The government must, through planning policy, be supportive of all our residential communities without exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 31st July 2016

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Niffukaw fuq edukazzjoni sesswali sħiħa

Ann Marie Azzopardi Parliament

 

Nhar l-Erbgħa Ann Marie Azzopardi Segretarja Ġenerali taż-Żgħażagħ ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika attendiet għall-laqgħa tal-kumitat parlamentari konġunt (Saħħa, Familja u Affarijiet Soċjali) dwar l-introduzzjoni tal-Morning After Pill.

Hija emfasizzat il-bżonn illi d-diskors dwar l-introduzzjoni tal-Morning After Pill jiffoka iktar fuq l-attitudni lejn is-sesswalità u lejn l-edukazzjoni sesswali.

Qalet “importanti li dan il-kontraċettiv ikun disponibbli bħala l-aħħar ħarsien f’każ ta’ emerġenza. Huwa importanti wkoll li titneħħa l-attitudni negattiva lejn is-sesswalita’ għaliex din l-attitudni tista’ tkun ostaklu għal żvilupp tajjeb fil-ħajja u l-edukazzjoni sesswali tal-individwu.”

Hi kompliet tgħid: “Għalkemm ninkoraġġixxu l-aċċessibilita’ għall-Morning After Pill, nsostnu li għandha tkun akkumpanjata minn riforma fil-qasam tas-saħħa sesswali u fl-aċċessibilità għall-kontraċettivi u għall-counselling sesswali.”

 

Il-Freeport : il-ħmar iwaħħal f’denbu!

MEPA Board April 2013

Matul dawn il-ġranet kienu ppubblikati diversi artikli b’kummenti dwar id-deċiżjoni li ħa l-Gvern u kkomunikata mill-Prim Ministru li mhux għaqli li l-Port Ħieles jitħalla jikber fid-direzzjoni ta’ Birżebbuġa minħabba l-impatti fuq ir-residenti.

Id-deċiżjoni hi waħda tajba imma ………………. tfisser li l-awtoritajiet li wassluna sa dan il-punt m’għamlux xogħolhom sewwa. B’mod partikolari l-MEPA li repetutament ħadet deċiżjonijiet mingħajr ma qieset sewwa l-impatti fuq in-nies, residenti f’Birżebbuġa.

Sentejn ilu, f’April 2014, il-MEPA kienet anke ddeċidiet li tagħti permess biex isiru xogħolijiet ta’ tiswija żgħira ta’ vapuri u oilrigs fil-Port Ħieles. Deċiżjoni li kienet wasslet għal dikjarazzjoni pubblika kuntrarja minn Joseph Muscat.

Quddiem dan kollu hemm mistoqsija waħda: kemm ser idumu jinħatru dawn it-tip ta’ nies fit-tmexxija tal-awtoritajiet jekk m’humiex kapaċi jmexxu? Għax dawk magħżul sal-lum ftit li xejn għandhom sensittività dwar kif dak li huma ser jiddeċiedu dwaru jeffettwa lir-residenti.

Dawn min jagħżilhom? Mhux kollha bil-barka tal-Prim Ministru jintagħżlu? Hemm xi cans li jintagħżlu persuni aħjar? Forsi ma nibqgħux bil-ħmar iwaħħal f’denbu!

 

Il-Freeport : tagħlima kbira

BBugia. two Mayors

Jekk Simon Busuttil  inħasad, jiena xejn ma kont sorpriż bid-dikjarazzjoni tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat li huwa ma jaqbilx li l-Port Ħieles jibqa’ jespandi fid-direzzjoni ta’ Birżebbuġa. Dan għaliex osservajt id-deċiżjoni tinbena biċċa biċċa. Kultant b’sogru kbir għal dawk involuti.

Forsi l-iktar mument kritiku kien meta l-Bord tal-MEPA kien iddiskuta emenda għall-permess ambjentali tal-Port Ħieles u dan il-Bord kien ivvota fil-maġġoranza kbir tiegħu favur din l-emenda. Ħlief tlieta: iż-żewġ membri Parlamentari (Joe Sammut u Ryan Callus) u r-rappreżentant tal-NGOs ambjentali Alex Vella tar-Ramblers Association.

L-emenda kienet biex ikun permess fil-Port Ħieles xogħol żgħir ta’ tiswija ta’ vapuri u oilrigs! Il-Kunsill ta’ Birżebbuġa dakinnhar kien għamel lobbying qawwi kontra l-emenda, imma din xorta kienet approvata mill-Bord tal-MEPA.

Imma wara l-laqgħa tal-Bord tal-MEPA qamu l-irwiefen kollha. Ir-residenti semmgħu leħinhom b’mod mill-iktar ċar u irnexxielhom joħolqu diskussjoni mqanqla anke fil-Partit Laburista tant li wasslu lil Joseph Muscat biex b’mod ċar jgħid fil-pubbliku illi hu ma kienx jaqbel mad-deċiżjoni li kien ħa l-Bord tal-MEPA. Kien iddikjara publikament li kien jaqbel mal-vot kontra (fil-Bord tal-MEPA) tal-Membru Parlamentari Laburista Joe Sammut, inċidentalment li jirrappreżenta lid-Distrett li minnu jifforma parti Birżebbuġa fil-Parlament. Eventwalment minħabba r-reażżjoni pubblika l-Port Ħieles ma baqax jinsisti għall-permess li kien kiseb għal xogħol ta’ tiswijiet minuri fuq vapuri u oilrigs.

Wara dan l-inċident jidher li kompla id-dibattitu fil-Partit Laburista li wassal għad-deċiżjoni li n-nies f’Birżebbuġa jixirqilhom li jkunu mħarsa mill-impatti tal-Port Ħieles ħafna iktar milli kienu sal-lum.

Jiena naħseb li dan huwa punt importanti ħafna u l-mertu għalih huwa prinċipalment tal-Kunsilliera Laburisti fil-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa: fuq quddiem nett is-Sindku tal-lum, Kevin Barun, imma ukoll Joseph Farrugia ir-Ricky li bħala l-ewwel Sindku ta’ Birżebbuġa ħejja t-triq illi wasslet għal din id-deċiżjoni.

Imma issa huwa importanti li din ma tkunx biss rebħa ta’ Birżebbuġa. L-effetti tagħha jeħtieg li jinfirxu billi minnha l-Partit Laburista jieħu tagħlima kbira: il-konsiderazzjoni tal-impatti fuq in-nies ta’ kull proġett ta’ żvilupp (hi x’inhi n-natura tiegħu) hija fundamentali daqs, jekk mhux iktar, mill-konsiderazzjonijiet ekonomiċi.

Ikun tajjeb li naraw jekk u kif din it-tagħlima ser tkun applikata tul ix-xhur li ġejjin. Taqbida bejn is-saħħa tan-nies u s-saħħa tal-flus.

ippubblikat ukoll fuq iNews : l-Erbgħa 27 ta’ Lulju 2016

L-awtoritajiet lil min jiddefendu?

planning authority

 

Huwa sinjal ħażin meta l-għaqdiet ambjentali ikollhom il-ħtieġa li jmorru l-Qorti biex iħarsu l-ambjent. Għax dan minnu innifsu jfisser li l-istituzzjonijiet ma jnisslux fiduċja. Ifisser li l-għaqdiet ambjentali jidhrilhom li l-istituzzjonijiet li għandhom l-inkarigu tal-ħarsien ambjentali jew tal-ippjanar m’għandhomx widnejn li kapaċi jisimigħu.

Dan mhux xi ħaġa ġdida. Ilna biha s-snin.

Meta l-għaqdiet ambjentali riċentement marru l-Qorti dwar il-bini għoli propost għal Tignè u l-Imrieħel huma marru għax għad ma sarux studji bizzejjed biex jgħarblu l-impatti ta’ dan it-tip ta’ bini. L-impatti fuq in-nies, primarjament. Għax l-impatti ekonomiċi bla dubju ġew miflija bil-lenti.

Jidher li fil-Qorti ntqal li l-istudji li qed jilmentaw dwarhom l-għaqdiet ambjentali kienu waħda mill-materji li l-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar kellu l-ħsieb li jinvestiga kieku ma kienx miżmum milli jiltaqa’ bil-proċeduri legali tal-għaqdiet.

Ma nafx jekk dan huwiex tad-daħq jew tal-biki.

Hemm numru mhux żgħir ta’ persuni impjegati fl-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Uħud minnhom f’karigi maniġerjali u eżekuttivi bl-inkarigu propju li jaraw li l-istudji neċessarji jkunu saru jew qed isiru. Bl-inkarigu jiġifieri li jaraw li l-awtorità jkollha f’idejha l-informazzjoni meħtieġa biex tkun tista’ tagħmel xogħolha sewwa.

Kien ikun ħafna aħjar kieku t-tmexxija tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tassigura ruħha li ma jkunx inkoraġġit żvilupp qabel ma bħala pajjiż  inkunu ppreparati għalih u għall-impatti tiegħu. Imma l-awtorità sfortunatament ma taħdimx hekk. Għalhekk hemm ħafna mistoqsijiet li għadhom mhux imwieġba. Sakemm nibqgħu bla tweġibiet ser ikun ifisser li l-impatti tal-iżvilupp ta’ bini għoli fuq in-nies għadu mhux studjat biżżejjed.

In-nies huma inkwetati għax qed jifhmu dejjem iktar li l-awtoritajiet m’humiex tarka tagħhom imma huma tarka tal-industrija tal-bini u tas-suq tal-propjetà. Din hi l-problema rejali tal-awtoritajiet.

Għax il-ħarsien tal-ambjent fl-aħħar ifisser ħarsien tal-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies u mhux il-ħarsien tas-suq.

Simon Busuttil għadu ma fehem xejn

Simon Busuttil 11

Simon Busuttil inħasad. Hekk irrapportat il-Malta Today dwar ir-reazzjoni tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni għad-deċiżjoni tal-Gvern li mhux ser jinkoraġixxi l-espansjoni tal-Port Ħieles.

Simon Busuttil għadu mhux qed jirrealizza illi l-impatti li qed joriġinaw mit-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles qed jifnu lir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa . L-iktar li qed jinħass presentment hu l-istorbju matul il-ħin tal-mistrieħ. Imma mhux dan biss.

Kif diġa kelli l-opportunità illi nispjega f’artikli oħra, hemm ukoll impatti li huma kkawżati mid-dawl eċċessiv fit-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles kif ukoll impatti li joriġinaw min-nuqqas ta’ aċċess għall-baħar għall-isports u d-divertiment b’mod ġenerali.

L-impatti ambjentali għandhom effett immedjat kif ukoll effetti fit-tul fuq il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Hekk qiegħed jagħmel il-Port Ħieles: qiegħed bil-mod il-mod jherri l-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Fi ftit kliem is-suċċess tal-Port Ħieles qed iħallsu għalih ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa billi tul is-snin, sal-lum ukoll, qed jiġu mġiegħela jissagrifikaw il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħhom.

Pajjiż serju ma jittratta lil ħadd miċ-ċittadini tiegħu b’dan il-mod. Alternattiva Demokratika ilha titkellem żmien twil dwar dan. Għalhekk huwa ta’ sodisfazzjon għalina li l-Gvern u l-Partit Laburista fl-aħħar fehmu dan. Huwa ukoll tal-mistħija li Simon Busuttil li jippoppa sidru bħala l-paladin il-ġdid tal-ambjent għadu ma fehem xejn.

The Freeport: who pays the price for its economic success?

freeport.aerial viw

 

There are conflicting views on the acceptability or otherwise of the operations of the Freeport Terminal at Kalafrana, limits of Birżebbuġa. Throughout the years, governments have repeatedly emphasised that the Freeport’s contribution to Malta’s economic growth justifies practically anything. It has been implied that no sacrifice was to be spared for the Freeport to be transformed into an economic success.

As a result, the residential community of Birżebbuġa has been forced to sacrifice its quality of life.

Putting it briefly, it is the result of a lack of planning prior to the setting up of the Planning Authority. Land required for the Freeport was expropriated as far back as 1962, yet a considerable residential area was developed close by in the mid-1980s. No suitable buffer zones were created to shield the Birżebbuġa community from the operational impacts of the Freeport. Had this been done when the Freeport was not even on the drawing board, the present day problems would have been substantially less than what they actually are today.

A major issue is the noise generated, particularly during the quiet hours. Advisors to the Freeport Terminal recently submitted the results of a 12-month noise monitoring survey which was conducted over the period February 2014 to January 2015. The report lists a number of recommended remedial measures, both those required in the short term as well as those requiring a longer time frame to implement. The 15 short-term measures and the seven long-term ones are no guarantee that issues of acoustic pollution will disappear. Reductions in impacts are anticipated even though no projections have yet been made as to whether these will be cancelled out by impacts resulting from an increase in operations at the Freeport Terminal.

A major contributor to noise pollution originating from the Freeport Terminal during the quiet hours is the humming of the main and auxiliary engines of the berthed vessels in port. It is for this specific reason that the Environmental Monitoring Committee at the Freeport Terminal (which includes representation from the Birżebbuġa Local Council) has insisted right through that the shore to ship electrical supply to vessels berthed at the Freeport Terminal should be addressed.

The final report of the 12-month noise survey in fact points at the necessity of undertaking studies on the feasibility of this proposal. This is in line with the 8 May 2006 Recommendation of the Commission of the European Union on the promotion of shore-side electricity for use by ships at berth in community ports (Recommendation 2006/339/EC).

The EU recommendation is specifically intended to be considered by EU ports “where air quality limit values are exceeded or where public concern is expressed about high levels of noise nuisance, and especially in berths situated near residential areas” .

The above makes the point on a reduction of the quality of life of the residential community as a result of just one issue: noise. Then there are other issues amongst which light pollution (resulting from the floodlights at the terminal), which issue is being addressed, as well as the lack of availability of a substantial portion of Marsaxlokk Bay which cannot be adequately used for water sports. Add to this the large number of sports facilities which the British Services developed in the past in the Birżebbuġa Area, most of which have been gobbled up by the development of the Freeport and one gets a real feel as to what the Freeport has done to the quality of life of the Birżebbuġa community.

The development of a waterpolo pitch to replace that constructed in the 60s as well as the development of a football ground, both in the final stages of completion will reduce these impacts. But they will certainly not be sufficient for a community which had so many more sports facilities when it was so much smaller.

To be fair, the Freeport Terminal is not the only contributor to the reduction of the Birżebbuġa residents’ quality of life. Generally, it is the result of the gradual industrialisation of the Marsaxlokk Port over the last thirty years. The addition of the floating gas storage facility servicing the gas-fired Delimara Power Station in the coming weeks (or months) will further increase these problems.

The concerns of ordinary people have been ignored for far too long. Maybe this is why the Prime Minister commented earlier this week on the undesirability of any further expansion of the Freeport Terminal. Possibly he has, at this late hour, realised the extent of the mess which has been created.

The time to clean up is long overdue.

published  on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 July 2016

L-anqas euro għall-Air Malta

one euro

Fil-Qorti, l-avukat tal-Air Malta ġie rappurtat li qal li jekk ma jkunx konkluż il-ftehim mal-Alitalia li permezz tiegħu l-Alitalia (u allura l-Etihad Airways) ikunu azzjonisti b’49% tal-ishma u probabbilment bid-dritt li jmexxu l-kumpanija, l-Air Malta tfalli.

Qal ukoll li l-Air Malta qed tiffaċċja żbilanċ ta’ €66 miljun.

Din informazzjoni interessanti u in parti tispjega dak li qal Luca Cordero di Montezemolo f’Mejju li għadda meta qal li biex takkwista d-49% tal-ishma tal-Air Malta l-Alitalia ma kienetx bi ħsiebha tinvesti xejn. L-anqas euro wieħed ma kien ser ikun issugrat. Risk free investment, kien qal!

Ovvjament bħalissa ħadd ma jgħid xejn dwar dak li qiegħed għaddej minħabba l-velu tal-kunfidenzjalità meħtieġa biex tipproteġi n-negozjati.

Imma mill-ftit li hu magħruf ma tantx jidher li ġejjin affarijiet sbieħ fl-Air Malta. Mhux biss għall-piloti.

 

 

Michael Falzon u l-Awditur Ġenerali

Michael Falzon 6

L-Awditur Ġenerali jagħmel l-investigazzjonijiet tiegħu dwar l-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Jiġifieri dwar is-settur pubbliku u dwar il-Gvern tal-ġurnata, prinċipalment. Imma jinvestiga ukoll dwar il-Gvern tal-bieraħ, jekk iħoss il-ħtieġa jew jekk ikun mitlub.

Nifhem li mhux bil-fors ikun hemm qbil mal-konklużjonijiet li jasal għalihom l-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali. Min jagħmel l-investigazzjoni jista’ jiżbalja ukoll. Sakemm l-iżbalji jkunu żbalji umani, wieħed jifhem, avolja xorta ħadd ma hu ser jieħu pjaċir b’dawn it-tip ta’ żbalji! Huwa għalhekk li l-kritika li għamel Michael Falzon lill-uffiċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali, għalkemm kienet tinħass esaġerata, huwa xieraq li tkun eżaminata iktar milli fil-fatt jidher li ġiet eżaminata.

L-Awditur Ġenerali f’ittra lill-Ispeaker jispjega li l-impjegat fl-uffiċċju tiegħu li fuq il-media soċjali dehru ritratti tiegħu waqt partita futbol flimkien mal-ex Ministru Jason Azzopardi ma kienx involut fl-investigazzjoni li minna ilmenta Michael Falzon. Din l-ispjega tindirizza biss parti mill-ilment imma ma titfa l-ebda dawl (ta’ l-inqas publikament) dwar kemm hu ta’ ħsara li uffiċjali investigaturi mill-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali jidhru viċin wisq tal-politiċi.

Inċidenti ta’ din ix-xorta jitfgħu dell bla bżonn fuq l-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali. Itappnu l-kontribut kbir li l-uffiċċju dejjem ta lill-pajjiż. F’ċirkustanzi bħal dawn l-Awditur Ġenerali għandu jkun ċar u iebes. Sfortunatment ma kienx.

Huwa ovvju li l-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali dejjem ser ikun kritiku tal-Gvern. Gvern għaqli jagħti każ ta’ din il-kritika, anke fejn mhux bil-fors jaqbel magħha. Imma l-Awditur Ġenerali għandu l-obbligu li jassigura ruħu li dawk li jgawdu l-fiduċja tiegħu iġibu ruħhom sewwa. Dejjem, mhux biss waqt il-ħin tax-xogħol. Inkella għandu l-obbligu li jdabbrilhom rashom malajr.

Pass il-quddiem għal Joseph Muscat dwar il-Port Ħieles

freeport.aerial viw

Il-kumment ta’ Joseph Muscat il-bieraħ  waqt il-konferenza ta’ Ernst & Young li huwa [jiġifieri li l-Gvern immexxi minnu] jippreferi li l-Port Ħieles itejjeb l-effiċjenza tiegħu flok ma jespandi kien kumment addattat.

B’dan il-kumment issa ġie jaqbel ma Alternattiva Demokratika f’xi ħaġa oħra. Għax kif għidna bosta drabi aħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika l-Port Ħieles huwa viċin wisq in-nies u m’huwiex fl-interess tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa li jibqa’ jespandi. Diġa l-Port Ħieles għandu impatt qawwi fuq il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti: bit-tniġġiż li joriġina mill-ħsejjes, bit-tniġġiz li joriġina mid-dwal qawwija kif ukoll bl-impatti sostanzjali fuq il-bajja. Huwa importanti li dawn l-impatti jonqsu mhux jiżdiedu.

Bid-dikjarazzjoni tiegħu Joseph Muscat qed jaċċetta dan kollu. Prosit. Pass kbir il-quddiem favur il-komunità ta’ Birżebbuġa. Fl-aħħar nista’ ngħid li mhux Alternattiva Demokratika biss qed tisma’ l-karba tan-nies!

L-aħħar punt: mhux il-Port Ħieles biss qiegħed inaqqas il-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies ta’ Birżebbuġa. Issa daqt ikollna ukoll it-tanker tal-gass. Imma dwar dan ma naqblux. Tkellimna dwaru fil-passat u jkollna l-opportunità li ngħidu iktar fil-futur.