Sens komun: fil-Mosta u f’Marsaxlokk

 

 

Matul dawn l-aħħar ġranet, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet qed tikkampanja kontra żvilupp massiċċ li ġie propost kemm fil-Mosta kif ukoll f’Marsaxlokk.  Din hi kampanja li ilha li bdiet ħdax-il sena, u tibqa’ għaddejja,  kontra t-tkabbir taż-żona żviluppabbli proposta minn George Pullicino, dakinnhar Ministru responsabbli għall-ambjent u l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

Nhar il-Ġimgħa, f’Marsaxlokk, kien ta’ sodisfazzjoni li s-Sindku Horace Gauci, elett f’isem il-Partit Laburista, ingħaqad magħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika waqt konferenza stampa b’appoġġ għar-residenti Tal-Marnisi Marsaxlokk.

Hi kampanja biex is-sens komun favur l-ambjent jipprevali fuq id-deċiżjoni li kien ħa l-Parlament fl-2006 meta l-Gvern immexxi mill-PN mexxa ‘l-quddiem proposta biex żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art li kienu barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp, ma jibqgħux iktar ODZ u minn dakinnhar jibdew jiffurmaw parti miż-żona ta’ żvilupp. Dan sar mingħajr ma ġew eżaminati l-impatti ta’ deċiżjoni bħal din, lejliet li kellha tidħol fis-seħħ id-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar il-kejl tal-impatti strateġiċi ambjentali. Li ma sarx dan l-kejl, ifisser li l-impatti kumulattivi tal-iżvilupp li kien qed ikun propost kienu kompletament injorati.

Nhar it-Tnejn 20 ta’ Marzu l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar ħa żewġ deċiżjonijiet kontrastanti dwar żewġ meded kbar ta’ art. Dwar l-ewwel waħda, art agrikola fil-Mosta tal-qies ta’ 38500 metru kwadru l-proposta bi pjan ta’ żvilupp kienet rifjutata filwaqt li dwar it-tieni waħda ukoll primarjament agrikola u b’qies ta’ 17,530 metru kwadru, l-propost pjan ta’ żvilupp kien approvat.

Fiż-żewġ każi ma sar l-ebda eżami tal-impatti soċjali, ekonomiċi u ambjentali u dan billi l-professjonisti tal-ippjanar li taw il-parir lill-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar kienu tal-fehma li d-deċiżjoni tal-2006 tal-Parlament kienet kemm ċara kif ukoll finali. Sfortunatament ma dehrilhomx meħtieġ li jeżaminhaw dan minn lenti kritika.

Fl-2006, il-Parlament kien iddeċieda li dawn iż-żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art ma kellhomx iktar ikunu meqjusa bħala barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ). Il-grupp parlamentari tal-PN kien ivvota favur din il-proposta, u dan jispjega l-għaliex dak li taparsi kkonverta favur l-ambjent, Simon Busuttil, għadu ma fetaħx ħalqu dwar dan kollu.  Imma l-Partit Laburista, dakinnhar fl-Opposizzjoni ma kienx qabel u kien ivvota kontra li din l-art tkun tista’ tingħata għall-iżvilupp. Għalhekk Joseph Muscat bħalissa qiegħed f’posizzjoni imbarazzanti.

Il-Partit Laburista għadu tal-istess fehma, jew bidel il-ħsieb? Għax issa waslet is-siegħa tal-prova. X’ser jagħmel? Għax anke jekk ikun meqjus li d-deċiżjoni tal-Parlament tal-2006 titfa’ ċerti obbligi fuq il-Gvern u fuq l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, xorta hu possibli li l-impatt tal-iżvilupp massiv li ġie propost ikun imtaffi.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-20 ta’ Marzu tal-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar li biha l-applikazzjoni dwar l-art fil-Mosta kienet rifjutat hu l-mod kif għandhom isiru l-affarijiet. Hi deċiżjoni li s-Segretarju Parlamentari Deborah Schembri għandha żżomm quddiem għajnejha meta l-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk jiġi quddiema biex tikkunsidra jekk tagħtix l-approvazzjoni tagħha. Jiena naħseb li s-Segretarju Parlamentari Schembri għandha tibgħat il-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk lura quddiem l- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar biex ikun ikkunsidrat mill-ġdid.

Żvilupp massiv ta’ din ix-xorta m’għandux ikun possibli meta hawn tant propjetajiet residenzjali vojta. Anke f’Marsaxlokk stess l-aħħar ċensiment, dak tal-2011, juri li 18.7% tar-residenzi huma battala filwaqt li 5.9% tagħhom jintużaw biss kultant. Nistgħu nibqgħu nibnu bil-goff meta għandna din il-kwantitá ta’ propjetá vojta?

Għandna bżonn ftit sens komun fl-ippjanar ta’ l-użu ta’ l-art. Sens komun li jagħti piz u konsiderazzjoni tal-impatti fuq il-komunitá kollha qabel ma jittieħdu deċiżjoniiet bħal dawn.

Fiż-żewġ każi, l-Mosta u Marsaxlokk, qed nitkellmu dwar raba’ li kienet tinħadem u li issa intelqet minħabba l-pressjoni kkawżata mill-iżvilupp. Dan hu process li jeħtieġ li nwaqqfuh minnufih. Illum qabel għada.

 

ippubblikat f’ Illum –  2 t’April 2017

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Green sense is common sense

 

In the last few days Alternattiva Demokratika-the Green Party- has been campaigning against over-development at both Mosta and Marsaxlokk. It is the renewal of an everlasting campaign, started 11 years ago against the increase in the development zone piloted by former Environment and Land Use Planning Minister George Pullicino.

In Marsaxlokk last Friday we were joined by Labour Mayor Horace Gauci who arrived at, and addressed an AD press conference in support of the residents of Il-Marnisi, Marsaxlokk, in view of the impact of the rationalisation exercise in the area.

It is a campaign to see green sense prevail over the rationalisation exercise, as a result of which, in 2006 on the proposal of a PN-led government, Parliament included around two million square metres of land within the development zone overnight. This was done without a strategic environment assessment having been carried out to examine the proposals. It was on the eve of the coming into force of the Strategic Environment Assessment EU Directive which, just days later, would have made such an assessment compulsory. Not carrying out such an assessment signifies that the cumulative impacts of development were ignored by not being factored into the decision-taking process.

On 20 March, the Planning Authority Executive Committee took two contrasting decisions in respect of two large tracts of land. Regarding the first – 38,500 square metres of agricultural land at Mosta –  the scheme for a development proposal was turned down, while in respect of the second – 17,530 square metres of largely agricultural land in Marsaxlokk – the proposal for development was approved.

In neither case was any assessment of the social, economic and environmental impact carried out, as the professional land-use planners advising the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority consider that Parliament’s decision in 2006 was definite and any assessment unnecessary. Unfortunately they did not think it appropriate to examine the matters before them critically.

In 2006, Parliament had decided that this two million square metre area of land, formerly considered as ODZ land, was henceforth to be part of the development zone. The PN Parliamentary group had  voted in favour of this proposal, which is why the pseudo-environmental convert Simon Busuttil is completely silent on the issue. However, the Labour Party Opposition voted against the proposal, thus placing Joseph Muscat in an awkward position today.

Has the Labour Party changed its views? The chickens are now coming home to roost.

When push comes to shove, and notwithstanding the PN mantra that “ODZ is ODZ”, the PN always seeks to consent to ODZ development, as long as such development is given the go-ahead when it is in the driving seat!

But what about the Labour Party today? Even if it factors in the views of those who maintain that the 2006 decision ties its hands, it can certainly take mitigation measures that would substantially reduce the negative impact of the 2006 parliamentary decision which favours such massive over-development.

The decision of the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority on the 20 March to reject the proposal for the development of the tract of land in Mosta is the way forward. It should be taken on board by Parliamentary Secretary for land use planning Deborah Schembri when the Marsaxlokk case is placed on her desk for her consideration. I respectfully ask Ms Schembri to request the Planning Authority to reconsider its decision and hence send it back to the drawing board.

The proposed reconsideration should be undertaken primarily because such massive development is not required: it is not necessary to sacrifice so much agricultural land. (I am informed that on the site there is also a small stretch of garigue with a number of interesting botanical specimens.) The results of the 2011 Census indicated that 18.7 per cent of Marsaxlokk’s housing stock was then vacant and 5.9 per cent of it only in occasional use.  Why should we keep adding to the vacant housing stock through proposals for massive development projects?

We need some green sense in the planning of land-use. We need some common sense in considering the impact on the whole community before far-reaching decisions are taken.  In both cases mentioned above, the land that has been the subject of proposed  development schemes is agricultural land that has fallen into disuse as a result of development pressures. This process should be reversed forthwith, and the sooner the better: it is only common sense.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 2 April 2017

Il-bidla fil-klima hi magħna

climate-change

Nhar il-Ġimgħa li għaddiet rappreżentanti ta’ iktar minn 170 pajjiż, Malta inkluża, inġabru fil-kwartieri ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda fi New York biex jiffirmaw il-ftehim dwar il-klima li intlaħaq fi tmiem is-sena ġewwa Pariġi. Dan il-ftehim għandu jfisser li hemm qbil li kull pajjiż ser jikkontribwixxi lejn soluzzjoni ta’ din il-problema.

Hemm qbil biex jittieħdu l-passi kollha meħtieġa ħalli t-temperatura globali ma togħliex iktar minn bejn 1.5oC  u 2oC fuq it-temperatura globali, kif din kienet fil-bidu tal-perjodu industrijali. Biex dan isir jeħtieġ li jonqsu l-emissjonijiet li qed joriġinaw mill-attivitajiet tal-bniedem u li qed jinġabru fl-atmosfera u jsaħħnu d-dinja. Ewlieni fost dawn il-gassijiet hemm id-diossidju tal-karbonju (CO2) li prinċipalment joriġina mill-ħruq ta’ żjut fossili li nużaw biex niġġeneraw l-elettriku kif ukoll mill-petrol u mid-diesel li jintużaw fil-karozzi u inġenji oħra.

Anke Malta ser tfittex li tnaqqas l-impatti tagħha fuq il-klima u dan billi jkollha politika sostenibbli dwar it-trasport, l-enerġija u l-agrikoltura, fost oħrajn. Irridu nindirizzaw l-impatti tal-klima fuq il-bijodiversità, fuq is-saħħa, fuq it-turiżmu, fuq l-ilma, fuq l-agrikoltura kif ukoll fuq l-infrastruttura marittima.

Kemm is-sena li għaddiet kif ukoll l-ewwel tlett xhur ta’ din is-sena kienu fost l-iktar sħan fl-istorja. It-temp qed jitħawwad. L-istaġuni qed jiġġebbdu u jinbidlu. L-istaġuni tax-xita inbidlu għal kollox b’mod li qed issir ħsara kbira lill-agrikultura kif ukoll lill-ħażna tal-ilma li hi tant essenzjali għal kull forma ta’ ħajja. It-temperatura li qed togħla qed iddewweb is-silġ fil-poli u fuq il-muntanji f’diversi partijiet tad-dinja bil-konsegwenza li l-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla u ser jogħla iktar jekk ma’ jittieħdux miżuri biex inrazznu l-għoli tat-temperatura.

Irridu innaqqsu l-impatti tagħna fuq il-klima bħala pajjiż: irridu innaqqsu l-emissjonijiet kif ukoll il-ħela ta’ riżorsi bħall-ilma u l-elettriku. Jeħtieġilna ukoll li narmu inqas skart kif ukoll li nirriċiklaw iktar. Jekk nagħmlu iktar użu mit-trasport pubbliku ukoll nistgħu inkunu ta’ għajnuna kbira biex Malta tnaqqas il-kontribut tagħha għall-bidla fil-klima.

Irridu nifhmu li l-bidla fil-klima qed tħarbat il-ħajja ta’ kulħadd. Qed tipperikola r-riżorsi li s’issa tipprovdilna b’xejn in-natura. Dan ifisser li filwaqt li kulħadd jintlaqat, l-iktar li jintlaqtu huma l-fqar f’kull rokna tad-dinja. Għax it-tibdil fil-klima iżid il-faqar kullimkien. Dan diġa beda jseħħ.

Il-klima hi parti mill-ġid komuni, hi ta’ kulħadd u hi għal kulħadd. Hu għalhekk ukoll li għandna l-obbligu li kull wieħed minna jagħti sehmu biex l-impatti ta’ pajjiżna jonqsu. Il-ftit impatti tagħna huma importanti daqs il-ħafna impatti ta’ ħaddieħor. Mela niftħu ftit għajnejna għall-ħsara kbira li diġa saret u nagħtu sehemna biex din tonqos. Ma baqax żmien x’jintilef għax il-bidla fil-klima diġa qegħda magħna.

Din is-sena bħala riżultat tal-bidla fil-klima ftit li xejn kellna xita f’Malta. L-effett fuqna ser jinħass l-iktar fuq l-agrikultura u l-ħażniet tal-ilma. Pajjiżi oħra sofrew l-għargħar li kaxkar kull ma sab.

Dawn huma l-effetti li qed jidhru u li diġa huma magħna. Nagħmlu l-parti tagħna biex flimkien ma dak li jirnexxielhom jagħmlu pajjiżi oħra innaqqsu dawn l-impatti u b’hekk titjieb il-qagħda ta’ kulħadd. Għax il-klima hi ġid komuni tal-umanità kollha: hi ta’ kulħadd u hi għal kulħadd.

Simon’s ODZ bluff

Simon Busuttil.Zonqor2

 

20 January is the closing date for the submission of expressions of interest in response to the call by the Privatisation Unit for the setting up of a Motorsports complex in Malta.

During the press conference that launched the call on 29 September, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Chris Agius emphasised the fact that the choice of location was up to the investors presenting the submissions, even though several sites were proposed in the consultation process leading up to the call for expressions of interest.

However, Sam Collins, writing on 25 April last year on an online motor-racing guide, under the heading Malta eyes Formula 1 with new circuit stated that a “110 hectare parcel of land has been earmarked for the development.”  It is pretty obvious that the as yet unidentified  “110 hectare parcel of land” to be used for this proposed motorsports complex will be situated outside the development zone (ODZ). Each hectare consists of 10,000 square metres, meaning that 110 hectares equals one million, one hundred thousand square metres.

Sam Collins describes the proposal in this manner: “The government documents relating to the circuit’s development point out that part of its purpose would be to attract major international racing series, including Formula 3 and similar classes. The proposed facility would also include facilities for concerts, conferencing and a racing school. A hotel and museum of motoring and transport heritage would also be built on site. Road safety and driver training would play a major part in the facility’s layout, with a dedicated area for these activities. A CIK Kart circuit would also be built alongside the main track.”

The basic question which had to be addressed – but which most obviously has not been addressed so far – is whether Malta can afford to waste this much land. The answer, in my opinion, irrespective of the number of motor-racing car enthusiasts on the island, is clear and unequivocal: Malta cannot waste any more of its limited land.

The sites that have been possibly earmarked are limited in number, as Malta’s size does not present too many options and the impact of the selected site will be substantial, irrespective of its current use.

Development on the  parcel of land selectedcould have a substantial impact on areas of ecological importance that are protected either in terms of local policy or else as a result of EU or international commitments. Knowing that most of the undeveloped land along Malta’s coastline from Bengħajsa right up to Ċirkewwa is protected for ecological purposes, this could be the case, particularly if the identified parcel of land is close to the coast.

The impact could be further increased in view of the possible proximity of the selected parcel of land to residential areas. A specific area, mentioned consistently through the grapevine, would lump these impacts on Malta’s political south, further adding to the disregard for residents’ quality of life in the region accumulated over the years.

There are, therefore, three issues on the basis of which the proposed facility is objectionable: firstly, that Malta is too small for such a development; secondly, that the environmental impact will be substantial and thirdly, that the neighbouring residents’ quality of life, as well as biodiversity and natural resources, will be bartered for short term economic gain.

Depending on the precise eventual location, it may be possible to mitigate and reduce the impact on residents. However, it is most probable that a reduced impact on residents would signify increased impact on natural resources and biodiversity. In my opinion, this signifies that even on the drawing board the project should have been a non-starter.

In recent months we have had the Żonqor “University” debacle. A major sticking point in that case was that the original proposal was to use land situated outside the ODZ and public opinion’s unifying reaction was “No to ODZ development”.

The Parliamentary Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, took a clear stand against the ODZ Development proposed at Żonqor. Yet in the case of the proposed motor track facility, the Opposition Spokesperson on Sport, David Agius, was invited to be present when the call for expressions of interest was launched. His presence confirms that, notwithstanding Simon Busuttil’s solemn declarations on the sanctity of ODZ land, the proposal for the (ODZ) motor track facility enjoys bipartisan support.

Which means that Simon’s talk on ODZ is just bluff.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 January 2016

Taqta’ fejn taqta’ joħroġ id-demm

racetrack

L-argument dwar iċ-ċirkwit tal-tlielaq tal-karozzi qiegħed jiġi mpoġġi ħażin.

Uħud qed jgħidu li dan iċ-ċirkwit m’għandux jitqiegħed f’ODZ. Dan hu argument li min qed jagħmlu m’jafx x’inhu jgħid. Għax l-ebda ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi ma jsir ġo żona ta’ żvilupp.

Jiena nħares lejn il-materja b’mod ħafna differenti.

Nistaqsi: Għandna biżżejjed art għal din l-attività? Nafu li din l-attività tirrikjedi kwantità kbira ta’ art?

Tkun fejn tkun l-art ser toħloq xi forma ta’ impatt. Tista’ teffettwa raba’ li qed jintuża jew kien jintuża għall-agrikultura. Tista’ minflok teffettwa xagħri u allura l-impatt ikun iżjed wieħed fuq riżorsi naturali u bijodiversità. Dan apparti wirt storiku jew arkejoloġiku li jiddependi minn fejn tkun l-art.

Jekk min-naħa l-oħra l-proposta tkun viċin wisq l-abitat (kemm jekk ODZ kif ukoll, agħar jekk ġoż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp) l-impatti fuq ir-residenti ser ikunu ta’ natura sostanzjali. Hemm l-impatti kkawżati mill-istorbju kif ukoll mit-tniġġiż tal-arja bħala riżultat tal-użu ta’ kwantità kbira ta’ fuel fit-tlielaq.

L-istorbju ma jeffettwax biss lill-bniedem. Jeffettwa ukoll lin-natura. Jeffettwa ukoll l-annimali fl-irziezet. Hemm diversi regoli u liġijiet dwar dan li jirrestrinġu ċerta attività bħalma hi dik tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi.

Jiġifieri taqta’ fejn taqta’ joħroġ id-demm.

L-art li ser tkun meħtieġa hi waħda sostanzjali. Qabel l-aħħar elezzjoni d-delettanti tal-isport tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi kienu taw indikazzjonijiet li l-art meħtieġ tista’ tkun bejn it-33 tomna u 40 tomna.

Mhux kull art li tista’ tkun magħżula ser ikollha l-istess impatt. Irridu nistennew u naraw għax tkun liema tkun l-art li ser tintagħżel ser toħloq problema. Peró din bil-fors ser tkun ODZ – barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp! Għax ma tista’ tkun imkien iktar.

Meta nisma’ proposti bħal din dwar iċ-ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi huwa ċar li uħud donnhom għad ma jridux jaċettaw iċ-ċokon tal-pajjiż. Minħabba dan iċ-ċokon attività bħat-tlielaq tal-karozzi fl-opinjoni tiegħi ma jagħmlux sens.

Estremist jew …………….. imdawwar bil-poodles

poodles 2

 

Ġieli qalulna ukoll fundamentalisti. L-aħħar titlu hu estremisti. Hekk irrappurtat it-Times online illum diskors dal-għodu ta’ Joseph Muscat. L-Independent min-naħa l-oħra  uża l-kelma “absolutism”.  Il-Malta Today irrappurtat dak li ntqal b’video li jaqbel ma dak li qalet l-Independent.

Ir-realtà hi li l-valur tal-ekoloġija hu wieħed assolut. Għalhekk din l-opposizzjoni li bdiet u nittama li ma tieqafx.  Il-ħerba ekoloġika madwarna qed tikber kontinwament, għax hawn wisq politiċi irresponsabbli bħal Joseph Muscat jiġru mas-saqajn. Tkun irresponsabbli jekk tħares sal-ponta ta’ mnieħrek. Jekk tħares lejn il-gwadann immedjat u tinjora, jew aħjar tagħlaq għajnejk għall-ħsara irreparabbli li qed tiżviluppa bil-mod u fit-tul.

Il-proposta tal-hekk imsejjaħ kompromess li qed jimbotta ftit ftit Joseph Muscat, fis-sens li jibni biss parti mill-campus tal-“Università” fiz-Zonqor u l-kumplament x’imkien ieħor hi proposta irresponsabbli. Għax jekk Muscat qed jagħraf li hemm validità fl-argument li l-Università għandha titbiegħed miż-Żonqor, din għandha titbiegħed kompletament. Mhux biċċa biss biex taparsi kien qed jisma’.

Tajjeb li l-Gvern jisma’. Imma hu iktar importanti li jagħti każ. Li ma tkunx trid  tisma’ hu ħażin. Imma li tisma’ u ma tagħtix każ hu agħar għax turi li taparsi qed tisma’.

Pajjiżna ma jistax jitlef iktar raba’. Tilef iktar minn biżżejjed tul is-snin. Dak li ntilef ma jistax jinġieb lura.

Ir-raba’ taż-Żonqor m’huwiex biss sors ta’ għajxien għall-bdiewa. Huwa ukoll bejta tal-bijodiversità li qed tinqered ftit ftit.

Li topponi li l-ġungla tal-konkos jibla iktar raba’ m’huwiex estremiżmu. Huwa sens ta’ responsabbiltà kbira favur żvilupp sostenibbli. Għax l-iżvilupp għaqli m’huwiex li tibni iktar imma li tkun kapaċi tutilizza dak li hu diġa mibni biex taqdi l-ħtiġijiet tal-lum.

Dan ma jgħoddx biss għaż-Żonqor imma jgħodd ukoll għall-iskejjel li trid tibni l-Knisja f’Ħal-Ghaxaq. Ankè dawk, m’għandhomx jinbnew. Għandhom jinstabu soluzzjonijiet oħra, avolja diffiċli.

It-titlu ta’ estrimist fejn jidħol l-ambjent xejn ma jdejjaqni. L-importanti l-konsistenza li min huwa mdawwar bil-poodles m’għandux idea xi tkun.

The 11 April vote : not against hunters

 

kacca u voti

The issue to be decided upon on 11 April is whether Malta should accept or repeal the regulations that permit spring hunting.

In fact the question asked in the referendum is as follows : Do you agree that the provisions of the “Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtle Dove and Quail Regulations” (Subsidiary Legislation 504.94) should continue in force?

On the 11 April we are expected to answer this question. A YES signifies agreement with spring hunting while a NO will abolish spring hunting from Malta’s statute book. It will also bring Malta in line with the Wild Birds Directive of the European Union.

The Wild Birds Directive is about the protection of biodiversity and not about facilitating hunting. As has been emphasised by university students on the campus this week, the focus of the referendum is sustainability. It is not about pleasing hunters but about our duties as a nation to protect wild birds. We have a duty, as a nation, to protect wild birds. We have a duty -all of us- to protect nature. In particular, we have a duty to prevent the loss of biodiversity.

Spring is the time when birds fly over Malta on their way to their breeding grounds. Malta, as one of the member states of the European Union along the route used by wild birds on their way to their rearing grounds, has a special responsibility to ensure that these birds are not hunted and can safely reach their destination.

The permissible exceptions are limited and very specific. These exceptions are known as “derogations”. The Wild Birds Directive permits the killing of wild birds during spring if these are a threat to aviation security. Likewise, the killing of wild birds in the spring is permissible if they are agricultural pests or else pose a sanitary threat. The Wild Birds Directive does not, in any way, permit the killing of birds for fun.

There are a number of inaccuracies being bandied around by the hunting lobby during this referendum campaign. They state, for example, that Malta has negotiated a derogation relative to spring hunting.  This is incorrect. No EU member has negotiated, or can negotiate, any spring hunting derogation. Derogations are not designed to suite the interests of individual states and the rules regulating such derogations are spelt out clearly and are applicable to all member states in equal measure.

The decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2009 is also being grossly misinterpreted and quoted out of context. The ECJ decision does not in any way condone spring hunting. It does, in fact, chastise Malta for infringing the Wild Birds Directive during the period 2004-2007 and concludes that, by authorising spring hunting of quails and turtle doves  from 2004 to 2007, Malta has failed to comply with the Wild Birds Directive. (ECJ decision C-76/08 dated 9 September 2009) The reports on the derogations unilaterally taken by the Maltese government to permit spring hunting from 2008 to date are still being evaluated by the European Commission.

These are briefly the issues which the 11 April will decide. As a direct consequence of abolishing spring hunting, in addition to shouldering our responsibilities as a nation to protect wild birds during their breeding time we will have the added benefit of reclaiming the countryside during spring.

This abrogative referendum is a democratic tool which is being utilised for the first time by civil society in Malta. It is being used because, over the years, the parliamentary political parties preferred to listen to the hunting lobby which repeatedly warned them: “No hunting no vote”   and had them on a leash.

Maybe this time they will take heed, that even environmentalists have a vote.  It is not a vote against hunters, but a vote in favour of wild birds and their protection. It is a vote in favour of our environment and in favour of Malta .

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 22nd March 2015

Joseph iħobb jiċċajta ………… ħafna

Joseph Muscat ihobb jiccajta

Iktar milli jiċċajta, forsi nkun iktar korrett jekk ngħid li jħobb jipprova jgħaddi n-nies biż-żmien.

F’waħda mill-okkazjonijiet li fihom indirizza lill-istampa riċentement qal li l-budget għall-2015 hu wieħed li jħares l-ambjent!

Ħadd ma jistax jiċħad li l-budget fih numru ta’ miżuri ambjentali. Imma b’daqshekk ma jfissirx li dan hu budget ambjentali. Kulma jagħmel il-budget hu li jiġbor flimkien id-diversi miżuri li qed jippjana li  jieħu l-Gvern matul is-sena 2015. Jonqsu viżjoni koerenti ambjentali li la għandu u l-anqas jidher li jista’ jkollu fil-futur immedjat.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent m’huwiex biss dwar il-kostruzzjoni, imma ukoll dwar il-bijodiversita, is-sostenibilita’, l-kwalita tal-arja, il-politika dwar ir-riżorsi, il-viżjoni marittima, l-ilma, il-politika dwar il-klima, l-enerġija alternattiva, t-trasport, l-ekonomija l-ħadra, l-ekonomija l-blu, l-ekonomija ċirkulari, it-tassazzjoni ambjentali u tant affarijiet oħra.

Diskors tal-budget li ħa kważi 4 siegħat biex inqara ma sabx imqar ftit sekondi biex jispjegalna kif il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat ser jimplimenta politika ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Mhux biss. Imma fl-estimi għall-Ministeru bl-isem twil u bombastiku okkupat minn Leo Brincat (Ministeru għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli, Ambjent u Tibdil fil-Klima) kullma hemm ivvutat għall-politika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu għaxart elef ewro. Dikjarazzjoni onesta li tfisser biss li matul l-2015 il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat m’għandu l-ħsieb li jagħmel xejn f’dan il-qasam. It-terminu Żvilupp Sostenibbli fid-diskors tal-budget jissemma darbtejn. Jissemma biss fiż-żewġ tabelli fejn hemm imniżżel l-isem tal-Ministeru ta’ Leo Brincat.

Il-politika tal-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat dwar l-Iżvilupp sostenibbli (jekk  teżisti) tqieset mill-Ministru Edward Scicluna bħala li m’għandiex relevanza għall-budget tal-2015

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tinseġ flimkien il-politika ambjentali, dik ekonomika u soċjali. Meta tkun żviluppata kif imiss, il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tassigura l-interessi tal-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri billi tmexxi l-quddiem l-ekonomija b’rispett sħiħ lejn l-ambjent u lejn il-bniedem. Għalhekk ngħidu li l-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi mibnija fuq erba’ pilastri: l-iżvilupp ekonomiku, l-ħarsien tal-ambjent, il-ħarsien soċjali u l-politika kulturali.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ikolli l-opportunita’ nispjega iżjed fid-dettall kemm il-budget ippreżentat għall-2015 bl-ebda mod ma jista’ jitqies budget li jħares l-ambjent.  Minkejja li hemm miżuri individwali li huma pożittivi ma teżistix viżjoni ambjentali ċara u koerenti.

Għalhekk Joseph qed jiċċajta meta jgħid li dan hu budget ambjentali.

sd strategy budget 2015

Green talk but no more

four_pillar-sustainable  development

 

When push comes to shove it is always the rights of future generations which are ignored and thrown overboard. This is done repeatedly as governments tend to give greater value to the rights of present generations, in the process discounting the rights of the future.

It is a recurring theme in all areas of environmental concern. Whether land use planning, water management, resource management, waste management, climate change, biodiversity or air quality,  procrastination is the name of the game. With 101 excuses governments postpone to tomorrow decisions which should have been implemented yesterday.

Future generations have a right to take their own decisions. It is pretty obvious that they will not be able to take adequate decisions as their options will be severely curtailed as a result of the implementation of present and past decisions.

The politics of sustainable development aims to address this deficiency.

On a global level it all started in Stockholm in 1972 as a result of the sensitivities of the Nordic countries which set in motion the UN Human Environment Conference. After the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, the Rio Summits (1992 and 2012), as well as the Johannesburg Summit (2002), we can speak of charters, international conventions, declarations and strategies all of which plot out in detail as to what is to be done. However as pointed out by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the UN Rio+20 Summit (2012) in his report entitled “Objectives and Themes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” institution building has lagged behind. This signifies that the integration of policymaking and its implementation is nowhere on target, Malta not being an exception.

The Sustainable Development Annual Report 2013 presented in Parliament by Minister Leo Brincat on the 27 May 2014 indicates that not much progress has been made to date on the matter, notwithstanding the number of meetings as well as the appointment of coordinating officers and focal points in each of the Ministries.

Way back in 2008 Malta had a National Sustainable Development Commission which through the inputs of civil society, in coordination with government involvement, had produced a National Sustainable Development Strategy. This was approved by Cabinet at that time but never implemented. So much that to try and justify its inertia the then government tried to divert attention in 2012 by proposing a Sustainable Development Act. This essentially transferred (with changes) some of the proposed structures and institutions identified in the National Sustainable Development Strategy to the legislation and used the process as a justification for not doing anything except talk and talk. The changes piloted through Parliament by then Environment Minister Mario de Marco included the effective dissolution of the National Commission for Sustainable Development (which had been dormant for 5 years). The justification which  the responsible Permanent Secretary uttered as an excuse was that the Commission was too large and hence of no practical use.

It has to be borne in mind that sustainable development is also an exercise in practical democracy whereby policy is formed through capillarity, rising from the roots of society, and not through filtration by dripping from the top downwards. For sustainable development to take root the strategy leading to sustainability must be owned by civil society which must be in the driving seat of the process.

Readers may remember that the President’s address to Parliament  way back on 10 May 2008 had emphasised 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.”

This was not manifested in the government’s actions throughout its 5 year term. Not just in its approach to sustainable development but also in its dealing with the individual issues of environmental concern: be it land use planning, water management, resource management, waste management, climate change, biodiversity or air quality.The politics of sustainable development is an uphill struggle. It signifies a long term view in decision making, that is, considering carefully the impacts of today’s decisions on tomorrow. It requires much more than chatter.

As the report tabled by Minister Leo Brincat states in its conclusion, we are in for more chatter as the emphasis in the coming year seems to be the revision of a strategy which has never been implemented. The strategy is worded in such general terms that it is difficult to understand what this means, except that there is no practical interest in getting things done. It would have been much better if some effort was invested in the Action Plans which the different Ministries have to draw up in order to implement the strategy in the various departments/authorities under their political responsibility.

This, it seems, is unfortunately the Maltese long term view.

Published in The Times of Malta, Monday June 30, 2014

Snippets from the EGP Manifesto: (9) Greening Agriculture

organic agriculture

The European Parliament now has equal responsibility for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. It is time to make our farming climate-smart, sustainable, fair and ethically sound. We want resilient, biologically diverse, healthy and robust agro-ecosystems that not only adapt to climate change but mitigate it.

We want to see a system which allows for a much fairer distribution of public funds, including more support for small farmers, for organic farming, for conventional farmers who want to green their production methods and for local production and sale, which brings farmers closer to consumers.

Farmers deserve a decent price for their products and corporate buyers should not be allowed to drive down farm-gate prices below sustainable levels.

We need to increase soil fertility, drastically cut the inputs of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, eliminate harmful export subsidies and move away from intensive industrial farming. We will continue our campaign for fair and unrestricted access to plant breeding material and against the patenting of plants and animals. We oppose the further privatisation of seeds and plant material in EU rules on seeds and we will keep fighting against the corporate control of the seed industry which makes farmers reliant on seed designed specifically for use with chemical fertilisers and pesticides, instead of allowing them to save and breed their own seed and adapt their crops to changing local conditions.

Biodiversity loss and excessive pesticide use has meant habitat destruction and led to a massive decline in bee and other insect populations, which disturbs natural pollination of many plants and crops. If we want healthy local fruit and vegetables, we must ‘give bees a chance’.

(EGP 2014 Manifesto section entitled  : Greening Agriculture)