Il-burokrazija u l-Belt ta’ Stivala

Xahar wara l-ieħor jibbumbardjawna bi statistika dwar kuntratti ta’ bejgħ tal-propjetà inkella dwar in-numru ta’ konvenji. Dan l-aħħar qieshom inbidlu ftit in-numri b’mod li beda jidher li l-bejgħ qed jonqos.  Dak li jmexxi l-assoċjazzjoni tal-iżviluppaturi qalilna li hi l-burokrazija li qed ittellef ir-ritmu tal-bejgħ.  

Il-proċess tal-permessi għall-iżvilupp, ġeneralment, hu iffukat fid-direzzjoni tar-rgħiba. Ħolqu regoli msejħa regoli tal-flessibilità biex isibu mod kif iduru mar-regoli tal-iżvilupp li oriġinalment saru bl-iskop li jħarsu t-tessut urban u l-kwalità tal-ħajja tal-komunità residenzjali.  Per eżempju, żona intenzjonata għal taraġ pubbliku fil-pjan lokali għall-Gżira għamel il-wisa’ biex tinbena lukanda. Dan qed isir f’żona residenzjali, jiġifieri fejn suppost jinbnew biss djar għan-nies.  Din il-flessibilità estrema fl-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art qed igawdu minnha l-Grupp tal-Kumpaniji Stivala. Dan ngħidu b’referenza għall-parti ta’ fuq ta’ Triq Moroni: żona li r-residenti tal-Gżira illum isibuha bħala l-Belt Stivala. Minkejja dan kollu l-kap tal-MDA għandu l-wiċċ li jilmenta! Qiesu dan mhux biżżejjed.

Żviluppaturi fil-Mellieħa mhumiex daqstant fortunati bir-regoli tal-flessibilità għax lukanda li ħarġilha permess ta’ żvilupp f’ċirkustanzi simili laqqtita meta l-Qorti tal-Appell ħassret il-permess. Il-permess ta’ żvilupp għal lukanda fil-Belt ta’ Stivala għandha ċans li jkollha l-istess destin bħall-dak tal-Mellieħa fil-futur qarib. Għalkemm l-applikazzjoni għall-permess ġie approvat madwar ħames xhur ilu  (PA5962/21) il-permess ta’ żvilupp għadu ma ħarigx.

Kultant l-opinjoni pubblika tiġiha waħda żewġ! Il-protezzjoni riċenti permezz ta’ skedar ta’ Palazzino Vincenti f’San Ġiljan hi materja oħra ta’ kunflitt bejn ta’ Stivala u l-burokrazija tal-ippjanar. Għadu kmieni wisq biex wieħed jista’ jgħid li dan hu każ magħluq.  B’ansjetà u biża’ nistenna l-passi li jmiss, u dan minkejja li hemm xi forma ta’ skedar tal-wirt li ħalla warajh l-Perit Vincenti.

Ta’ Stivala kienu qed jippjanaw li jħottu Palazzino Vincenti u floku, f’San Ġiljan, jiżviluppaw lukanda oħra.  F’Diċembru 2022 Palazzino Vincenti kien protett temporanjament fi Grad 1 permezz ta’ Ordni ta’ Konservazzjoni ta’ Emerġenza.  Din il-protezzjoni temporanja issa spiċċat u flokha għandna protezzjoni fi Grad 2 fuq bażi permanenti kif deċiż mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ix-xahar li għadda. Din mhiex aħbar tajba għax issa probabbilment ser nispiċċaw  bil-faċċata biss ta’ Palazzino Vincenti: ġewwa jispiċċa kollu.

Għal dawk li ferħu bl-aħbar tal-protezzjoni imħabbra, naħseb li għaġġlu. Probabbilment hu biss l-iżviluppatur u l-konsulenti tiegħu li għandhom għax jgħorku jdejhom għax mhux ser ikunu wisq il-bogħod milli jilħqu l-miri tagħhom.

F’dan il-kaz ukoll il-burokrazija tal-ippjanar mhux ser ikun irnexxielha milli żżomm lil ta’ Stivala milli jagħmlu ħerba mill-wirt nazzjonali. Kollox bil-barka tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.

Il-burokrazija tal-ippjanar li minnha jilmenta l-Kap tal-MDA l-anqas ma kienet tidher b’nemes meta ta’ Stivala ġiehom il-ħsieb li jġebbdu l-iżvilupp sat-tarf tal-kosta. Tiftakru? Erba’ snin ilu f’din il-paġna, f’artiklu ntitolat : Il-ħarsien tal-kosta: ma hemmx rieda politika (Illum: 14 t’ April 2019) kont ktibt dwar il-permess ta’ żvilupp tal-blokk bini fejn kien hemm ir-restorant Piccolo Padre mal-kosta ta’ San Ġiljan. Kont emfasizzajt dan li ġej: “L-iżvilupp in kwistjoni ngħata permess fuq art mal-kosta.  B’żieda ma dan …………………. jidher ċar li l-binja tibqa’ ħierġa fuq il-baħar.  Jidher li l-Awtorità tal-Artijiet l-anqas biss tniffset dwar dan.” Minkejja dak li jgħid il-Kap tal-MDA, il-burokrazija tal-ippjanar (u l-kuġini tagħha) kontinwament tagħmel il-wisa’ għal żvilupp bla rażan.  

Din hi l-effettività tal-burokrazija: dejjem fuq in-naħa tar-rgħiba.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 28 ta’ Mejju 2023

Għar id-Dud u Għar il-Lembi f’Tas-Sliema: bomba tal-ħin

It-Times illum ippubblika rapport dwar ħsara mal-kosta ta’ Tas-Sliema liema ħsara tista’ twassal għal traġedja.

Ilna nafu b’dan.

Fl-2007, jigifieri 16-il sena ilu, l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Tas-Sliema kien qabbad esperti ġeoloġiċi biex ħejjewlu rapport. Ir-rapport hu intitolat Report on Coastal Sliema. Geology, geomorphology, sites of scientific interest and coastal protection considerations.” Twil 50 paġna.

Ir-ritratt ta’ hawn fuq hu parti minn dan ir-rapport.

F’dan ir-rapport li ilu li sar 16-il sena kien diġa ċar li anke dakinnhar kien hemm ħsara sostanzjali li setgħet twassal għal traġedja. Imma ma sar xejn dwarha.

Jiena dwar dan diġa ktibt. Kellimt ukoll direttament lill-Ministru kkonċernat xi snin ilu. Kien qalli li mid-Dipartiment tax-Xogħolijiet kienu serħulu rasu!

M’għandi l-ebda dubju li qabel ma jmut xi ħadd ma hu ser isir xejn. Imbagħad jaraw f’min ser iwaħħlu!

It-turiżmu u l-bidla fil-klima

In-natura ma tinvolvix ruħha f’negozjati dwar l-impatti tagħha. Fil-mument addattat tisplodi, bla ma tiddiskrimina: fejn laqat laqat. Dan jidher ċar b’mod regolari ma’ kull maltempata qalila jew kalamità naturali f’kull parti tad-dinja.

It-tibdil fil-klima hu bħall-bomba tal-ħin li tista’ tieħu minn minuta għall-oħra.  Qagħda li qed teħżien ma’ kull rapport xjentifiku li jkun ippubbblikat. F’Marzu ħareġ rapport ieħor tal-IPCC li għal darb’oħra wissa li ma baqax wisq ħin biex nieħdu passi. Is-sinjali huma ċari, għal min irid jarahom. Fil-prattika, iżda, dawn huma injorati, forsi sakemm joħroġ rapport ieħor inkella sakemm issir xi laqgħa oħra internazzjonali. Isiru ħafna wegħdiet li l-affarijiet ser jinbidlu, li l-imġieba ser taqleb għall-aħjar: imma wara ftit kważi kulħadd jinsihom. Dan hu ċiklu li jirrepeti ruħu kull tant żmien.

Ma hemmx għalfejn immorru lura ħafna fiż-żmien. Ħarsu biss lejn it-temp lokali tul ix-xahar ta’ Frar 2023. Il-maltempata Helios laqtet il-gżejjer Maltin nhar id-9 ta’ Frar 2023: tul 24 siegħa x-xita li niżlet qabżet id-doppju tal-medja għax-xahar ta’ Frar. Il-ħsara li saret ma kienitx żgħira.

Minkejja dan, f’Malta għad hawn min joħlom li aħna, għandna nkunu eżentati mill-azzjoni radikali meħtieġa biex tkun indirizzata l-bidla fil-klima. Il-Membru Parlamentari Ewropew Laburista Cyrus Engerer, per eżempju, il-ġimgħa l-oħra ġie rappurtat li kien irrabjat għall-Kummissjoni Ewropeja għax il-proposti tagħha dwar il-bidla fil-klima huma l-istess għal kulħadd (one size fits all). Qal li l-istati gżejjer għandhom ikunu eżentati mill-liġijiet dwar il-bidla fil-klima. Dak li qal Engerer kien b’referenza għad-Direttiva dwar it-Tassazzjoni fuq l-Enerġija li hi immirata biex jonqsu l-emmissjonijiet tal-karbonju partikolarment billi jkunu ndirizzati l-impatti ambjentali tal-industrija tal-avjazzjoni.

Ilkoll nafu li t-turiżmu minn u lejn Malta hu dipendenti fuq l-industrija tal-avjazzjoni. Imma flok ma fittixna, tul is-snin,  li nżommu lit-turiżmu taħt kontroll b’politika li tagħti kaz l-impatti tal-industrija fuq il-klima, il-boloh li qed imexxu l-Awtorità Maltija tat-Turiżmu qed jimmiraw li jilħqu l-mira ta’ 3 miljun turist fis-sena.

Hemm ukoll studju ikkummissjonata mill-Assoċjazzjoni Maltija tal-Lukandi (MHRA) liema studju jikkwantifika kemm hawn sodod għat-turisti, mhux biss dawk li jeżistu, imma ukoll dawk approvati mill-permessi li diġà ħargu. Dan ir-rapport (tourism carrying capacity report) jgħid li hawn biżżejjed sodod li biex nużawhom neħtieġu li jkollna viċin il-5 miljun turist fis-sena.

Il-politika Maltija tat-turiżmu tfasslet qiesu għada ma hu ser jasal qatt. Riżultat ta’ hekk impatti ambjentali negattivi jibqgħu jinġemgħu minn proġetti massiċċi diġa mfassla, bħal dak ta’ Villa Rosa, mifrux fuq madwar 48,000 metru kwadru tul il-kosta tal-Bajja ta’ San Ġorg.

Biex tkompli tgħaxxaqha l-istudju tal-impatti ambjentali għall-proġett ta’ Villa Rosa hu mibni madwar analiżi ekonomika li tikkonkludi li l-proġett hu wieħed ekonomikament vijabbli.

L-industrija tal-avjazzjoni ilha żmien mhux ħażin teħlisha u tevita li ġġorr il-konsegwenzi tal-impatti tagħha: ilha eżentata milli terfa’ l-piż tal-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju li tiġġenera.  Dan kollu, iżda, jidher li qed joqrob lejn it-tmiem għax anke l-industrija tal-avjazzjoni ser ikollha iddur dawra sewwa madwarha u tibda hi ukoll terfa’ r-responsabbiltà għall-impatti tagħha. Il-prinċipju li min iħammeġ irid iħallas għandu japplika għall-industrija tal-avjazzjoni u bħala konsegwenza għat-turiżmu ukoll.  Bħal kull settur ekonomiku, dan is-settur irid jagħti kaz u jibda jerfa’ l-piz tal-impatti ambjentali tiegħu stess.

Bla dubju mhux ser tkun faċli. Dan hu inevitabbli, anke minħabba li għal żmien twil ftit li xejn tajna kaz, anzi evitajna kemm stajna din ir-realtà.

Xi snin ilu, f’Ottubru 2019, il-Parlament Malti approva mozzjoni dwar l-emerġenza klimatika. Imma sfortunatament, minkejja li din il-mozzjoni kienet approvata unanimament, xorta mhiex riflessa fil-politika tal-Gvern.

Hu fl-interess ta’ Malta li l-impatti ambjentali tat-turiżmu, b’mod partikolari t-turiżmu tal-massa, jkunu indirizzati bis-serjetà, qabel ma jkun tard wisq. L-industrija tal-avjazzjoni teħtieġ li tkun issensitizzata b’miżuri ekonomiċi bħat-taxxi ambjentali biex tibda tirriforma ruħha.  Irridu nżommu quddiem għajnejna, li l-gżejjer Maltin, bħall-gżejjer kollha,  jkunu minn tal-ewwel li jintlaqtu meta jseħħu uħud mill-agħar konsegwenzi tal-bidla fil-klima: l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar.

It-turiżmu m’għandux ċans li jeħlisha. In-natura mhux ser tiġiha ħniena miċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari tagħna. Tiġi taqa’ u tqum mill-konsegwenzi ekonomiċi. Tibqa’ għaddejja minn fuqna u tkaxkar kollox, kif tagħmel kullimkien!

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 9 t’April 2023

Tourism and climate change

Nature does not negotiate as to its impacts. At the appropriate natural time, pun intended, it unleashes its fury on all, without discrimination. This is illustrated on a regular basis with every major storm or natural calamity around the globe.

Climate change is like a ticking time bomb. It gets worse with every scientific report published. In March, yet another IPCC report sounded the warning that we are living on borrowed time. The signs are there staring us in the face. In practice they are ignored until another report is published and maybe another Climate Summit is held. Many promises relative to behavioural change are made, most being ignored. This cycle has been repeated every so often.

We need not go back many years. Just consider the local weather during the month of February 2023. The storm Helios hit the Maltese islands on 9 February 2023: in just 24 hours the recorded precipitation was more than double the monthly average for the month of February. The damage caused was considerable.

Yet some still dream that we, in Malta, should be exempted from the far-reaching radical action needed to tackle climate change. Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer, for example, was reported last week as feeling angered at the EU Commission “one size fits all” approach on climate action. He stated that island states should be exempted from climate change legislation. Engerer’s outburst was a reference to the Energy Taxation Directive which aims at reducing carbon emissions in particular through addressing the environmental impacts of aviation.

We all know that tourism to and from Malta is dependent on the aviation industry. Yet, instead of seeking ways to re-dimension it, thereby factoring-in climate change impacts into tourism policy, the nitwits at the Malta Tourism Authority have currently embarked on achieving targets to increase tourism to Malta to the 3 million mark.

Furthermore, a study on Malta’s tourism carrying capacity commissioned by the MHRA and carried out by Deloitte some months ago had identified that we would need close to 5 million tourists per year to make adequate use of the tourism beds available, both those existent as well as those in the pipeline, already approved for development!

Malta’s tourism policy targets have been planned as if there is no tomorrow. This keeps piling up the negative environmental impacts from large scale development projects in the pipeline, such as the Villa Rosa project spread over close to 48,000 square metres along the St George’s Bay coast.

To add insult to injury the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Villa Rosa project is buttressed by an economic analysis which endorses its economic viability.

Aviation has been a free rider for quite some time, being exempted from shouldering the impacts of the carbon emissions which it generates. The holiday will soon be over and as a direct result the aviation industry must take stock of the situation and shoulder the responsibility for its impacts. The polluter pays principle applies to the aviation industry and as a result to the tourism industry too. Like all other economic sectors, it must factor in its costings the environmental impacts which it generates: in technical jargon internalisation of environmental costs.

It will undoubtedly be painful. This is inevitable as it has been deliberately avoided for so long.

Some years back, in October 2019, Parliament in Malta approved a motion on the climate emergency. Unfortunately, the unanimously approved motion is not reflected in government policy since.

It is in Malta’s interest that the environmental impacts of tourism, particularly mass tourism, are contained before it is too late. The aviation industry must be prodded through economic means, such as environmental taxation, to restructure itself. Let us all remember that like all islands, the Maltese islands, will be among the first to suffer some of the worst repercussions of climate change: the increase in sea level.

Tourism will not be spared. Nature and natural forces will not consider our special situation or our economic considerations: it will roll over us as it did elsewhere!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 9 April 2023

Il-kosta (u madwarha) tagħna lkoll

Il-pubblikazzjoni riċenti tar-rapport dwar l-impatti ambjentali (EIA)  tal-proġett ta’   Villa Roża fil-Bajja ta San Ġorġ San Ġiljan ser terġa’ tiftaħ beraħ id-dibattitu dwar il-proġett tal-grupp dB f’Pembroke kif ukoll dwar il-Masterplan ta’ Paceville li kien abbandunat madwar sitt snin ilu, riżultat ta’ dibattitu intensiv li fih kienet involuta attivament is-soċjetà ċivili.

Għal darb’oħra il-proposta ċentrali ta’ żvilupp hi l-kummerċjalizzazzjoni intensiva tal-kosta kif ukoll madwarha, u dan apparti l-impatti konsiderevoli fuq iz-zona kollha.

Il-proposta tikkonċerna medda kbira ta’ 47,572 metri kwadri bi żvilupp propost li jikkonċerna t-turiżmu, id-divertiment flimkien ma’ użu kummerċjali, primarjament  uffiċini. Dan hu propost li jsir f’żona li diġa hi iffullata, prattikament is-sena kollha.

Ir-rapport dwar l-impatti ambjentali fih numru ta’ studji dwar diversi aspetti ta’ relevanza għall-proġett propost. Wieħed minn dawn hu analiżi ekonomika mħejji minn E-Cubed Consultants. Kif mistenni, dan l-istudju jitkellem f’termini pożittivi ħafna tal-proġett. Studji ta’ din ix-xorta li kapaċi jiġġustifikaw kollox, issa drajnihom!  Dan l-istudju jinjora kompletament  l-impatti li l-proġett ta’ Villa Roża ser ikollu fuq l-infrastruttura pubblika. Dawn l-impatti huma spiża li jridu jagħmlu tajjeb għalihom il-fondi pubbliċi. L-impatti tal-proġett innifsu huma sostanzjali. Imma meta tarahom b’mod kumulattiv ma’ dawk iġġenerati minn proġetti oħra kbar ippjanati għaż-żona huma enormi.

Dan hu kaz ieħor fejn il-profitti jmorru fil-but tas-settur privat imma hu mistenni li l-kaxxa ta’ Malta terfa’ l-ispejjes għall-iżvilupp meħtieġ tal-infrastruttura biex huma jkunu jistgħu jinqdew. Dwar dan, l-istudju ta’ E-Cubed hu sieket.

Dan x’mudell hu? Kif ġie indikat b’mod ċar minn studju ta’ Deloitte dwar it-turiżmu f’Malta, studju li kien ikkummissjonat mill-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Lukandi (MHRA), ser inkunu neħtieġu 4.7 miljun turist fis-sena biex jintużaw is-sodod li diġa hawn inkella li huma ippjanati! Dan ġenn, għax il-pajjiż ma jiflaħx għall-piż iġġenerat fuq l-infrastruttura kemm-il darba in-numru ta’ turisti li jżuruna jirdoppja.

Anke l-Gvern ħabbar mira ta’ tlett miljun turist, mira li hi għolja ħafna. Kieku l-Awtorità tat-Turiżmu għandha nitfa serjetà fit-tmexxija tagħha kienet tieħu passi biex trażżan l-iżvilupp sfrenat li għaddej fl-industrija u li fl-aħħar ħsara biss jagħmel. Ir-rebgħa imma m’għandiex limitu u qed twassal għal ħsara kbira għall-pajjiż.

Il-kummerċjalizzazzjoni tal-kosta u taz-zona madwarha teħtieġ li tieqaf qabel li din tibla l-ftit spazji miftuħa li għad baqa’ madwar l-istess kosta.

Permezz ta’ emendi li kienu saru għall-Kodiċi Ċivili f’dik li hi magħrufa bħala l-liġi tad-dimanju pubbliku l-Parlament kien approva leġislazzjoni biex jipproteġi l-kosta u bħala riżultat ta’ hekk iżid l-aċċess għall-pubbliku. Dan kien kollu daħq fil-wiċċ għax fil-prattika ma sar xejn. Kieku din il-leġislazzjoni qed taħdem, proġetti bħal dan ta’ Villa Roża ma jsirux għax dawn imorru kontra kemm il-kelma kif ukoll l-ispirtu tal-liġi.

Għaddej sforz kontinwu biex il-kosta tkun ikkumerċjalizzata.  Xi żmien ilu kellna l-proposta għall-marina ta’ Marsaskala. Kellna ukoll il-proposti dwar Manoel Island, dwar il-Bajja tal-Balluta, il-Waterfront tal-Birgu (inkluż il-marina) u l-marina għall-jottijiet fil-Kalkara u dan flimkien ukoll mal-Waterfront tal-Belt Valletta.

Ma dan wieħed irid iżid il-kummerċjalizzazzjoni sfrenata li għaddejja tal-ispazji pubbliċi mal-kosta, inkluż il-bankini.

L-art pubblika qed tkun kontinwament ittrasformata fi profitti għas-settur privat, ħafna drabi għal ftit magħżulin. Fi prattikament il-każi kollha, ħadd ma jagħti kaz tal-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti. Dawn qed ikun kompletament injorati. Xi drabi r-residenti saħansitra jinbeżqu l-barra miz-zoni residenzjali.

Issa għaddew madwar erba’ snin minn meta l-Parlament approva l-leġislazzjioni biex iħares il-kosta. Biex din il-liġi tkun tista’ titwettaq  l-għaqdiet ambjentali ppreżentaw dokumentazzjoni dwar iktar minn għoxrin sit mal-kosta li jimmeritaw li jkunu mħarsa. Ninsab infurmat li dawn l-għaqdiet ambjentali ippreżentaw ukoll riċerka estensiva dwar min jippossjedi din l-art. Hi ta’ sfortuna li t-tkaxkir tas-saqajn tal-Awtorità tal-Artijiet u tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar qed iżżomm u tostakola l-ħidma meħtieġa biex din il-liġi li tipproteġi l-kosta titwettaq. Dan qed isir ukoll fejn ma hemm l-ebda dubju li l-art  hi propjetà pubblika.

Għalfejn isiru dawn il-liġijiet jekk ma hemm l-ebda intenzjoni biex dawn ikunu implimentati?

Jeħtieġ li niċċaqalqu jekk irridu nkunu f’posizzjoni li nħarsu dak li fadal mill-kosta u z-zoni ta’ madwarha, u dan qabel ma jkun tard wisq. Sfortunatament ma hemmx rieda politika dwar dan. Il-Gvern u l-awtoritajiet tiegħu iqiesu l-kosta u z-zona kostali bħala magna biex tagħmel il-flus. Din hi l-viżjoni li qed isegwu fi sħubija kontinwa mal-forzi spekulattivi.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 26 ta’Marzu 2023

The coast and coastal areas belong to all of us

The recent publication of the EIA for what is commonly referred to as the Villa Rosa project at St George’s Bay St Julians brings us back to the dB Pembroke project debate as well as the Paceville Masterplan aborted some six years ago as a result of an intensive debate which involved heavily civil society.

Once more the issue is a development proposal which seeks further intensive commercialisation of the coast and the coastal area. In addition, the impacts on the surroundings are substantial,

The proposal involves a massive 47,572 square metres footprint with a proposed development mix of tourism, leisure and business uses in an area which is already saturated and as a result overcrowded at practically all times of the year.

The EIA contains a number of studies relative to a multitude of aspects. One of these studies is an economic analysis by E-Cubed Consultants. As expected, this study gives a glowing economic endorsement of the project. We have become used to such studies which seem to be able to justify anything. In arriving at its conclusions this study, completely ignores the impacts which the Villa Rosa project will have on the public infrastructure and on the fact that this will have to be made good for by the public coffers. The impacts are substantial when the project is viewed on its own but they assume enormous proportions when viewed cumulatively with the impacts generated by other major projects already in hand or in the pipeline for the area.

This is another case of profits being channelled to the private sector with the public purse being expected to foot the bill for the infrastructural development required. E-Cubed are completely silent on the matter.

Is this the tourism model for the future? As clearly indicated by the Deloitte study on the tourism carrying capacity in the Maltese islands, commissioned by MHRA, at the end of the day we would require 4.7 million tourists per annum if existing and projected tourism projects are to have around an 80 per cent occupancy. This is pure madness: it would signify a more than doubling of the current number of  tourist arrivals.

Even the government stated target of 3 million tourists per annum is too high. If the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) was anything close to serious it would have by now have taken urgent action to curtail the unrestrained development spree of these speculative developers. Their greed has no limits. It is driving this country towards a complete ruin.

The commercialisation of the coast and coastal areas has to stop before it engulfs the few open spaces left undeveloped in the vicinity of the coast.

Through amendments to the Civil Code in what is known as the Public Domain Act Parliament has approved legislation to protect the coast and to increase access to the public as a result. This legislative action unfortunately has so far proven to be another gimmick. If it were to be in any way effective this legislation would have nipped in the bud the proposed Villa Rosa development as it goes against both the letter and the spirit of this legislation.

A continuous effort to commercialise the coast is under way. It has been going on for quite some time. Some time back we had the proposal for a Marsaskala yacht marina. Some other glaring examples which come to mind are the case of  Manoel Island, Balluta Bay, the Birgu Waterfront and yacht marina, the Kalkara yacht marina, Valletta Waterfront.

There is also the ongoing commercialisation of the public spaces adjacent to the coast, including pavements and open spaces.

Public land is continuously being transformed into private profits, many times for the chosen few. In practically all cases, the quality of life of residents is not factored in, until the eleventh hour. Whenever possible, it is either avoided completely or else the residents are slowly squeezed out of residential areas.

It has been around four years since parliament approved legislation in order to reinforce the protection of the coastline through the public domain legislation. Environmental NGOs have submitted a list of over twenty sites along the coast which qualify for protection. I am informed that eNGOs have even carried out extensive research on ownership issues related to these sites. It is indeed unfortunate that the Lands Authority and the Planning Authority have ground the whole process to an unacceptable halt as a result rendering legislation ineffective. This applies even in those instances where it is proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that the land in question is public property.

Why approve such laws when there is no intention to implement them?

We need to act to protect what is left of the coast and the coastal areas, before it is too late. Unfortunately, there is no political will to act. Government and its authorities consider the coast and the coastal areas as money spinners. A vision which they pursue relentlessly in bed with the speculators.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 26 March 2023

Il-legat ta’ Arvid Pardo: niskopru mill-ġdid il-vokazzjoni marittima

“Aħna għandna interess naturali u vitali fil-baħar ta’ madwarna li permezz tiegħu ngħixu u nieħdu n-nifs.” Dan hu kliem Arvid Pardo, dakinnhar ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għall-Ġnus Magħquda, kliem li qal meta kien qed jindirizza  l-Assemblea Ġenerali fuq il-proposta ta’ Malta dwar qiegħ il-baħar u r-rizorsi tiegħu bħala l-wirt komuni tal-umanità.

Il-baħar hu ħajjitna, iżda ftit li xejn jingħata prominenza fil-prijoritajiet politiċi tal-pajjiż. Bħala gżira stat,   il-baħar u dak kollu marbut miegħu, għandu jkun fuq nett fl-aġenda politika tal-pajjiż.  Hu ghalhekk ta’ tħassib li lokalment ma ntqal prattikament xejn mill-Gvern dwar trattat fuq l-ibħra internazzjonali konkluż iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-qafas tal-istrutturi tal-Ġuns Magħquda. Ftehim li hu ta’ importanza storika u riżultat ta’ negozjati li ilhom sejrin sa mill-2004.  Dan hu ftehim li hu mibni fuq il-legat tal-Konvenzjoni tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar il-Baħar li dwarha, permezz ta’ Arvid Pardo, Malta tat sehem kruċjali.

Malta teħtieġ li tiskopri mill-ġdid il-vokazzjoni marittima tagħha u li tkun fuq quddiem nett f’dawn l-inizjattivi fid-dibattitu marittimu internazzjonali. Biex inkunu proattivi jeħtieġilna li jkollna Ministeru iffukat fuq il-politika Marittima li jiġbor taħt saqaf wieħed il-politika marittima kollha ta’ relevanza għall-gżejjer Maltin: mill-ekonomija l-blu, is-sajd u l-akwakultura għall-ħarsien ta’ zoni marittimi estensivi anke fl-ibħra internazzjinali, il-ħarsien aħjar tal-kosta kif ukoll li nimplimentaw sewwa l-liġi dwar id-Dimanju Pubbliku bla dewmien u dan biex ikun assigurat l-aċċess pubbliku għall-kosta, u b’hekk, fuq perjodu ta’ żmien tkun ikkontrollata l-kummerċjalizzazzjoni tal-kosta li ilha sejra s-snin.

Darba kellna Segretarjat Parlamentari għall-Affarijiet Marittimi. Illum il-ġurnata l-politika marittima hi linja waħda fil-lista ta’ responsabbiltajiet tal-Kabinett taħt il-Ministeru tat-Trasport. Fir-realtà, imma, l-politika marittima hi frammentata  u dwarha hemm responsabbiltajiet f’diversi Ministeri.  Fil-prattika dan ifisser li ma hemm ħadd li għandu responsabbiltà politika diretta u konsegwenza ta’ hekk il-koordinazzjoni politika f’dan il-qasam hi waħda limitat ħafna.  Din hi ħasra għax dan hu qasam li għandu ħafna potenzjal li jkun ta’ ġid għall-pajjiż.

It-trattat il-ġdid ser ifittex li jindirizza l-ħarsien tas-saħħa tal-oċejani mhux biss fil-present, imma iktar importanti fuq medda ta’ żmien: dan hu il-wirt li ser inħallu warajna lill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri.   Kif ġie emfasizzat mill-kelliemi għas-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda Antonio Guterres, dan it-trattat il-ġdid ser ifittex li jindirizza il-kriżi li qed tiffaċċja id-dinja fuq tlett fronti: it-tibdil fil-klima, it-telfien tal-bijodiversità u t-tniġġiż.

In-negozjati dwar it-trattat intemmu fil-lejl bejn l-4 u l-5 ta’ Marzu. Ser iservi biex titwettaq il-wegħda miftehma fil-konklużjonijiet  tal-Konferenza dwar il-Bijodiversità li saret f’Montreal f’Diċembru li għadda u li hi magħrufa bħala  30×30.   Din hi wegħda bl-iskop li tistabilixi fuq sisien legal sodi il-mira ta’ protezzjoni ta’ terz tal-bijodiversità fuq l-art u l-baħar u dan sas-sena 2030. In-negozjati dwar it-trattat fasslu l-qafas legali meħtieġ biex tkun tista’ tibda t-triq twila ħalli jkunu implimentati l-wegħdiet, il-konklużjonijiet u inizjattivi ta’ Montreal.

L-ibħra internazzjonali jibdew fejn jispiċċaw iż-żoni ekonomiċi esklussivi tal-pajjiżi differenti, ġeneralment madwar 200 mil nawtiku (390 km) mill-kosta. Dawn l-ibħra jammontaw għal 60 fil-mija tal-oċejani globali u ma huma tal-ebda pajjiż, u allura huma ta’ kulħadd! Dawn l-ibħra huma taħt theddida kontinwa ta’ ħsara mill-ħidma akkumulata tal-bniedem tul is-snin. Għalhekk il-ħtieġa li l-komunità internazzjonali taġixxi illum qabel għada.

Meta it-trattat jidħol fis-seħħ, forsi, inkunu pass eqreb lejn il-ħolqien ta’ zoni ta’ protezzjoni marittima fl-ibħra internazzjonali. Din, meta isseħħ tkun kisba storika kbira.

Arvid Pardo jkun kburi li wasalna sa hawn. L-aħjar mod kif nikkommemorawh ikun kull darba li nkunu kapaċi nidħlu għar-responsabbiltajiet internazzjonali tagħna dwar l-ibħra. Jeħtieġilna li niftakru kontinwament li bħala gżira, il-baħar hu ħajjitna: il-baħar hu dak li għamilna dak li aħna illum.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 13 ta’ Marzu 2023

Arvid Pardo’s legacy: rediscovering a maritime vocation

“We are naturally vitally interested in the sea which surrounds us and through which we live and breathe.” This was stated by Arvid Pardo then Malta’s UN Ambassador when addressing the United Nations General Assembly in November 1967 on Malta’s seminal proposal on the seabed and its resources as the common heritage of mankind.

The sea is our lifeline, yet it does not feature prominently in our policy priorities. As an island state, all issues relative to the sea should be at the very top of the country’s political agenda. It is with regret therefore that very little was said locally by government on the High Seas Treaty concluded within the UN framework earlier this week. This agreement, of crucial importance, is the culmination of negotiations which started in 2004 and builds on the legacy of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in respect of which Malta had a pivotal role through Ambassador Arvid Pardo.

Malta needs to rediscover its maritime vocation and be at the forefront of such international maritime initiatives and debate. In order to be proactive, we need a focused Ministry for Maritime Affairs which groups under one political head all maritime politics of relevance to the Maltese islands: ranging from the blue economy, fisheries and aquaculture to marine protected areas, the protection of coastal areas as well as ensuring that the Public Domain Act is implemented the soonest to ensure public access all along the coast and over time to reverse the commercialisation of the coast which has been going on for ages.

Once upon a time we had a Parliamentary Secretariat for Maritime Affairs. Nowadays maritime policy is a footnote to the list of Cabinet responsibilities, listed under the Ministry for Transport,  but in reality, it is fragmented over a multitude of Ministries. In practice this means that direct political responsibility and policy coordination in maritime policy is rather limited. This is a pity as it is a policy area which has so much potential!

The new treaty seeks to counter the destructive trends which is faced by the health of the oceans, not just at present, but also, more importantly, for generations to come. As emphasised by the spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the new treaty seeks to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

The treaty, concluded during the night between the 4 and 5 March, is crucial for implementing what is known as the 30×30 pledge of the Montreal Biodiversity Conference held last December. This is intended to protect a third of the biodiversity on land and at sea by the year 2030. This treaty establishes the legal framework required to start the long road towards implementation of the Montreal pledges, conclusions and initiatives.

The high seas begin where the exclusive economic zone of the different countries end, generally some 200 nautical miles (390 km) from the coastline. Comprising more than 60 percent of the world’s oceans they belong to no particular country. They are however under continuous threat from anthropogenic activity.

When the treaty enters into force, maybe, we will be a step closer to creating marine protected areas in international waters. That would be a historic achievement.

Arvid Pardo would be proud of such a moment. The best way of honouring his memory would be if we shoulder our international responsibilities, continuously protecting the marine environment which has contributed so much to what we are.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 March 2023

It-tibdil fil-klima: it-turiżmu mhux ser jeħlisha

Żmien il-biljetti tal-ajru bid-€10 spiċċa, qalilna Michael O’Leary, tar-Ryanair. Dan wara li sirna nafu matul dawn l-aħħar ġimgħat li fl-Unjoni Ewropeja, biex tkun implimentata l-inizjattiva l-ħadra (Green Deal), anke l-avjazzjoni teħtieġ li tagħti s-sehem tagħha billi tibda tinternalizza l-impatti ambjentali. Dan ifisser li l-ispiża riżultat tal-impatti ambjentali tal-avjazzjoni għandha tibda tkun inkluża fil-prezz tal-vjaġġ. Dan hu applikazzjoni diretta u prattika tal-prinċipju ambjentali li min iħammeg jeħtieġ li jħallas (polluter pays principle).

L-avjazzjoni ilha teħlisha billi kienet eżentata għal żmien twil milli terfa’ l-piż tal-impatti tal-emissjonijiet li tiġġenera. Issa dan ma jistax jibqa’ hekk. Din l-industrija ukoll trid tibda tagħti kont ta’ egħmilha. Bħas-setturi ekonomiċi l-oħra trid terfa’ l-piz tal-impatti ambjentali tagħha.  

Li min iħammeġ iħallas hu prinċipju ambjentali bażiku li jifforma parti integrali mill-liġi Ewropeja. Riżultat ta’ hekk dan iservi ta’ gwida għall-formolazzjoni tal-politika tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.  Sa mill-2004 dan il-prinċipju hu ukoll parti integrali mil-leġislazzjoni ambjentali Maltija. Anke fil-kaz tagħna dan il-prinċipju għandu jagħti direzzjoni ċara fil-formolazzjoni tal-politika Maltija.

Sfortunatament, minkejja li l-Parliament f’Malta approva mozzjoni li biha għaraf l-emerġenza klimatika, din id-dikjarazzjoni baqgħet fuq il-karta.  Ftit li xejn sar biex id-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa riżultat tal-għarfien ta’ l-eżistenza ta’ din l-emerġenza jittieħdu. Hu diżappuntanti li wieħed minn dawk responsabbli biex mexxa l-quddiem din il-mozzjoni issa qed jgħid li l-azzjoni biex ikunu indirizzati l-impatti klimatiċi tal-avjazzjoni huma kontra l-interess nazzjonali. M’għandux idea x’inhu jgħid.

Ejja nkunu ċari:  bħala arċipelagu f’nofs il- Mediterran, il-gżejjer Maltin inevitabilment ikunu effettwati mill-istadji li jmiss tal-impatti tat-tibdil tal-klima, ċjoe l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar.  Iz-zoni mal-kosta ilaqqtuha waħda sewwa, possibilment jispiċċaw taħt l-ilma, kollha jew kważi, skond kemm jogħla l-livell tal-baħar.  Dan japplika ukoll għall-infrastruttura kostali li tinkludi l-parti l-kbira tal-faċilitajiet turistiċi.

Hu fl-interess nazzjonali ta’ Malta li l-miri klimatiċi tal-2015 ta’ Pariġi jkun osservati u li jiġu  implimentati l-iktar kmieni possibli. Ma jagħmilx sens li nfittxu li nkunu eżentati. Bla dubju jkun hemm impatti konsiderevoli. Imma l-impatti  jekk naġixxu  biex nindirizzaw it-tibdil fil-klima huma ferm inqas mill-impatti li jkollna nħabbtu wiċċna magħhom jekk nibqgħu nippruvaw nevitaw ir-responsabbiltajiet  tagħna.

Tul is-snin, bla dubju, it-teknologija tkompli titjieb, u probabbilment li din tgħin biex jonqos il-piz tal-impatti.  It-tieni rapport ambjentali dwar l-avjazzjoni Ewropeja ippubblikat fl-2019 jiġbed l-attenzjoni li fiz-zona Ewropeja l-konsum medju tal-fuel fuq it-titjiriet kummerċjali naqas b’ 24 fil-mija bejn l-2005 u l-2017. Imma fl-istess żmien kien hemm żieda ta’ 60 fil-mija fil-kilometraġġ tat-titjiriet kummerċjali!

Din l-istatistika tiġbor fiha l-problema kollha: it-teknoloġija qed tnaqqas l-emissjonijiet għal kull kilometru tat-titjiriet, imma n-numru ta’ kilometri tal-vjaġġi qed jiżdied bil-kbir għax ħafna iktar nies qed jivvjaġġaw bl-ajru.  

Bħalissa għaddej dibattitu dwar taxxa fuq il-fjuwil tal-avjazzjoni. Din hi waħda mill-miżuri essenzjali u meħtieġa biex ikun possibli li sal-2030 u lil hinn il-gassijiet serra jonqsu b’55 fil-mija.  

Din l-inizjattiva għandha twassal biex il-prezz tal-biljett tal-ajru jkun jirrifletti l-ispiza reali, inkluż dik ambjentali ikkawżata mill-emissjonijiet.  Dan jista’ jseħħ jew b’żieda ta’ taxxa mal-prezz tal-biljett tal-ajru inkella billi dak li jkun jagħmel użu minn mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport.

Jekk wieħed jagħmel użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport it-taxxa tkun evitata u dan bil-konsegwenza li jkunu evitati ukoll l-impatti ambjentali tal-ivvjaġġar bl-ajru. Fl-Ewropa kontinentali dan jista’ jseħħ bl-użu tal-ferrovija li bosta drabi  hi alternattiva kemm effiċjenti kif ukoll iktar nadifa. Imma fil-kaz ta’ Malta u gżejjer oħra dan l-użu tal-alternattivi potenzjali hu limitat ħafna.  Dan iwassal għal żieda inevitabbli fl-ispiża biex dak li jkun jivvjaġġa bl-ajru u riżultat ta’ hekk jonqos in-numru kemm ta’ Maltin li jivvjaġġaw kif ukoll ta’ barranin (turisti) li jiġu Malta.

Għalkemm eventwalment jista’ jkun hemm xi konċessjonijiet raġjonevoli għal dawk li jgħixu fil-periferiji/gżejjer, it-turiżmu ma jistax jibqa’ jevita li jerfa’ l-piz tal-impatti tiegħu: dan hu meħtieġ biex isseħħ ġustizzja, kemm soċjali kif ukoll ambjentali!  Hu fl-interess ta’ Malta li l-impatt ambjentali tat-turiżmu, b’mod partikolari dak tal-massa, jkun indirizzat u ikkontrollat qabel ma jkun tard wisq. L-industrija tal-avjazzjoni teħtieġ li tkun imċaqalqa bi strumenti ekonomiċi bħat-taxxa ambjentali biex tirristruttura ruħha. Ejja niftakru li bħall-gżejjer kollha, Malta, flimkien mal-komunitajiet kostali, tkun minn tal-ewwel li ssofri l-agħar konsegwenzi tat-tibdil tal-klima: l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar. It-turiżmu ma jeħlisiex. Il-klima mhux ser tikkunsidra l-posizzjoni partikolari ta’ Malta jew l-impatt fuq l-ekonomija: in-natura ma tiddiskriminax, tibqa’ għaddejja minn fuqna bħalma għamlet bnadi l-oħra fejn kaxkret kull ma sabet fin-nofs!

It-turiżmu qiegħed f’salib it-toroq. Jeħtieġ li b’mod urġenti jaddatta ruħu u jaddatta għall-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima. Dan hu l-futur reali tat-turiżmu, mhux l-eżenzjoni mit-taxxi.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 14 t’Awwissu 2022

Climate change: tourism will not be spared

The era of €10 air fares is over, warned Michael O’Leary, Ryanair boss. This follows the news in the past weeks that within the European Union, in order to implement the Green Deal, aviation must do its part by internalising its environmental costs. That is, environmental costs must be incorporated in the price of air fares. This is a direct and practical application of the polluter pays principle.

Aviation has been a free rider for quite some time, being exempted from shouldering the impacts of the emissions which it generates. The holiday is now over and as a direct result the tourism industry must take stock of the situation. Like all other economic sectors, it must factor in its costings the environmental impacts which it generates.

The polluter pays principle is a basic environmental principle which forms an integral part of the EU acquis: it guides EU policy. Since 2004 it also forms an integral part of Malta’s environmental legislation and consequently it should also guide the formulation of Maltese policy.

Unfortunately, notwithstanding the approval by Parliament of a motion declaring recognition of the climate emergency, this declaration is still a paper declaration. The necessary policies required to face this emergency have never been discussed, approved and acted upon. It is disappointing that a prime mover behind the climate emergency motion is now equating the required action to address aviation’s climate change impacts as being contrary to the national interest. He has no idea on the matter!

Let us be clear:  as an archipelago in the centre of the Mediterranean, the Maltese islands will be severely impacted by the next stages of climate change impacts, that is the rise in sea level. The coastal areas will be hard hit, possibly they will be wiped out or substantially reduced, depending on the extent of the sea level rise. This is also applicable for all the coastal infrastructure, which includes practically all tourism facilities.

It is in Malta’s national interest that the 2015 Paris climate goals are adhered to and implemented the soonest. Seeking exemptions is not on.  Obviously there will be considerable impacts. The impacts of acting to address climate change will however be substantially less if we act than if we continue avoiding our responsibilities. 

Over the years technology will undoubtedly improve, possibly reducing the burden. The second European Aviation Environment Report drawn up in 2019 by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Environment Agency (EEA) and Eurocontrol points out that within the European area, the average fuel consumption of commercial flights has decreased by 24 per cent over the period 2005-2017. However, over the same time frame there has been a 60 per cent increase in the kilometres flown by commercial flights!

This statistic frames the issue: technology is driving down the emissions per passenger kilometre, however the number of passenger kilometres has been on an exponential increase as more people are travelling by air.

Currently there is an ongoing debate regarding a tax on aviation fuel. This is one of the essential measures needed to enable the reduction of 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and beyond.

This initiative is aimed to ensure that the price of an air flight includes all costs, including the environmental costs caused by the resulting emissions. This can be carried out either by a tax on air travel or else through the use of alternative means of transport, as a result of which the tax can be avoided legally, with the resultant decrease of the environmental impacts. In mainland Europe the use of trains is many a time a good alternative for air travel not just due to its efficiency but also in generating less environmental impacts. In the case of Malta and other islands the potential use of alternatives is very limited. This leads to an inevitable increase in the cost of air travel and the consequential decrease in air travelling, both incoming and outgoing.

Although there may eventually be some reasonable concessions for those who live on isolated islands, tourism cannot keep avoiding its own environmental impacts: this is what social and environmental justice demands! It is in Malta’s interest that the environmental impacts of tourism, particularly mass tourism, is contained before it is too late. The aviation industry must be prodded through economic means, such as environmental taxation, to restructure itself. Let us all remember that like all islands, Malta, together with coastal communities, will be the first to suffer some of the worsts repercussions of climate change: the increase in sea level. Tourism will not be spared. The climate will not consider our special situation or our economic considerations – nature does not discriminate: it will roll over us as it did elsewhere!

Tourism is at a crossroad. It needs to urgently adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is tourism’s future, not tax exemptions.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 14 August 2022