Wanted: a transport policy which makes sense

Everywhere is within reach in the Maltese islands: distances are relatively small. It is, in addition, an established fact, documented in the Transport Masterplan, that 50 per cent of private car trips on our roads take less than fifteen minutes. Do we need to be dependent on private cars for such short distances?

Over the years public transport was neglected. In the absence of suitable public transport, and as a reaction thereto, a pattern of car dependency has inevitably developed. The resulting congested roads are a symptom of this fact rather than being, as suggested in Parliament earlier this week by a government backbencher, the direct consequence of an increase in the country’s standard of living.

There have been improvements in public transport in the last years: these are however insufficient. Having free public transport is a good but pre-mature initiative as public transport has yet to be efficient and reliable. The decision announced last week by Transport Minister to invest in cycle lanes, is welcome, even if it comes a little late in the day.

The heavy investment in road infrastructure over the years has been misdirected as it has focused on the effects instead of on the causes of traffic congestion. The financial resources utilised in the Marsa Road network, the Central Link and elsewhere, will, at the end of the day, prove to be monies down the drain as traffic congestion will build up once more. This is already evident even in these early days. Others have been there before us as is revealed by countless studies carried out all over the world on the link between traffic congestion and improvement of the road infrastructure.

It is only through the provision of alternative means of sustainable mobility that the problematic behavioural pattern we have developed over the years can be addressed. Moving away from car dependency will however be a very slow process if policy makers keep continuously sending conflicting signals.

Making it easier for the car user through more or better roads is no help in solving the problem. It will make matters worse. Likewise, the subsidisation of petrol and diesel is sending a clear message to all that car dependency is not even considered to be a problem.

Three specific factors are currently in play: traffic congestion, fuel cost and the transition to transport electrification. If properly managed, together they can help us move towards a state of sustainable mobility. The transition period is however necessarily painful unless it is properly managed.

Postponement in tackling traffic congestion properly will only make matters worse.

Improvement of road infrastructure has postponed the issue of tackling traffic congestion into the future. Fuel subsidies have added to the problem as they blatantly ignore it. Electrification, unless coupled with a reduction of cars on the road will add acute electricity dependency on foreign sources to our current problems. Energy sovereignty has been problematic for quite some time: it will get worse.

The second electricity interconnector with the Sicilian mainland will worsen our car dependency as a result of linking it with a dependency on electricity generated outside our shores. We know quite well what that signifies whenever the interconnector is out of service, whatever the cause!

We need to go beyond the rhetoric and act before it is too late. It is also possible to ensure that the vulnerable are adequately protected. This would mean that instead of having across-the-board subsidises, these would be focused on those who really need them. All those who have mobility problems should receive focused assistance to help them overcome the difficulties which could result from a modal shift in transport. We cannot however go on with subsidies for all: it is not sustainable, neither economically, nor environmentally or socially

Land use planning can also be of considerable help if it is focused on the actual needs of the whole community instead of being at the service of the developers. We need to ensure that each community is self-sufficient in respect of its basic needs. This will, on its own, decrease traffic generated by the search for such needs.

The climate change debate is a unique opportunity to rethink the way we plan our cities as one way in which to combat the climate crisis. The idea crystallised as ‘the 15-minute city’ by Carlos Moreno, an architect advising the Paris mayor, entails turning current urban planning on its head to ensure that all our basic needs are available within easy reach, not more than 15 minutes away.

Carlos Moreno speaks of a social circularity for living in our urban spaces based on six essential functions: to live in good housing, to work close by, to reach supplies and services easily, to access education, healthcare and cultural entitlement locally by low-carbon means. Can we reassess the nature and quality of our urban lifestyles within these parameters?

All we do is essentially linked. At the end of the day traffic congestion and the related car dependency are a product of our mode of behaviour.  Thinking outside the box, we can tackle it successfully, as a result unchaining ourselves from our car dependency, consequently adjusting to a better sustainable lifestyle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 20 November 2022

Luigi Di Maio’s threat

US President Donald Trump, over breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, unleashed a blistering criticism of Angela Merkel’s government for being too supportive of Russia’s natural gas pipeline, which provides natural gas to various European states. Germany is too dependent on Russian natural gas, said Donald Trump. Is it appropriate for Angela Merkel’s Germany to do away with energy sovereignty and security in this manner? Being too dependent on Putin’s Russia is not on, he suggested.

Malta also may have its energy sovereignty and security hanging by a string.

Only last month we were reminded by Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi di Maio that Malta’s electricity interconnector supply is plugged in at Ragusa on the Sicilian mainland. The comment was made in the context of the savage debate that developed over the rescue operations involving drowning immigrants picked up from the Mediterranean Sea by NGO operated sea vessels.

The Cinque Stelle politician considered it appropriate to use the Ragusa plug-in for political leverage in the same manner that Vladimir Putin makes use of his Russian gas supply, in relation not just to Angela Merkel’s Germany, but to most of the European mainland.

The fact that Malta is at times too dependent on the Ragusa electricity supply makes matters worse. We have undoubtedly lost count over the last months regarding the number of times we have been subjected to an electricity black-out in Malta: the standard explanation being that there was some technical hitch on either side of the Sicilian Channel which was being taken care of.

Malta will shortly have another Sicilian plug-in, this time a gas pipeline most probably at Gela.

Like the electricity interconnector plugged in at Ragusa the gas-pipeline plugged in at Gela will be another commercial undertaking. Malta will be paying for its gas, just as much as it is paying for its electricity.

Luigi Di Maio’s thinly veiled threat was obviously that the existing electricity plug-in at Ragusa was there at the Italian government’s pleasure which could reverse any commitment entered into so far if the Maltese government persists in irritating it.

It is not known whether there was any follow-up to Di Maio’s declaration, accept that the Maltese government closed all ports to NGO-operated vessels and that criminal proceedings were initiated against the MV Lifeline captain on flimsy sea-vessel registration charges.

This is unfortunately in-line with the Di Maio/Salvini philosophy that good Samaritans have to be treated suspiciously.

At the time of writing, another sea vessel with 450 migrants on board is sailing through Malta’s search and rescue area towards Sicily with Matteo Salvini, Minister for the Interior, insisting that Italy’s ports are closed for such vessels.

What next?

Potentially, as a result of the closure of Maltese and Italian ports, this is another developing tragedy. Di Maio’s veiled threat, maybe, has been taken seriously by the Maltese government.

Such incidents send one clear message: the foundations of solidarity as a value have heavily eroded. It has been transformed into a slogan. Solidarity is one of the basic values of the European Union – it is not limited to the EU’s border states. Successive Maltese governments have tried to nudge other EU member states to shoulder this collective responsibility which is currently shouldered disproportionately by the border states. The response from nine members states when the MV Lifeline debacle came to the fore was encouraging, but it is certainly not enough.

Faced with racist and xenophobic overreactions, opting for solidarity is not an easy choice. It would be certainly helpful if more EU states put solidarity into practice. The problem is that not all of them are convinced that this is the only ethical way forward.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 July 2018

Direct Order għal Delimara ?

delimara power station2

Il-proposta tal-Labour hi waħda valida. Imma hi nieqsa mid-dettalji biex id-diskussjoni dwarha twassal għal konklużjoni pożittiva.

Hemm diversi punti validi.

Li jkollna impjant li jaħdem bil-gass ifisser inqas impatti fuq l-arja u per konsegwenza fl-inħawi fejn jaqbel il-proposta twassal għal kwalita’ tal-arja li tkun aħjar.

Il-PL qed jgħid li f’21 xahar jista’ jwettaq din il-proposta. Hawnhekk fl-opnjoni  tiegħi hawn diversi affarijiet li jeħtieġ li jkunu ċċarati.

Iktar m jgħaddi żmien iktar qed jidher li biex iż-żmien ikun qasir mhux ser jinħarġu tenders. Ser ikun hemm “expression of interest”.  L-anqas ma hu ċar dwar proċess ta’ permessi u studji dwar l-impatti ambjentali. Gfħax minkejja li diġa saru studji fl-inħawi dwar l-estensjoni tal-impjant ta’ Delimara dawn ikun meħtieg li bħala minimu jkunu aġġornati in vista ta’ proposta li hi teknikament differenti u li għalkemm ser naqqas uħud mill-impatti tista’ tiġġenera impatti differenti.

Il-proċess tat-tendering m’huwiex kapriċċ li nistgħu ngħaddu mingħajru. Huwa proċess b’mekkaniżmi li huma intenzjonati li jnaqqsu l-irregolaritajiet. Illum il-ġurnata huma proċeduri ikkumplikati u jinkludu appell minn eventwali deċiżjoni. Li twarrab dawn il-proċeduri m’huwiex ħaġa għaqlija. Biha tnaqqas iż-żmien, imma biha ukoll tnaqqas il-kontrolli fuq il-proċess innifsu. U għalkemm l-ebda proċess ta’ kontrolli ma hu garanzija assoluta kontra l-abbuż, li twarrab il-proċess tat-tendering hu żball. Tnaqqas iż-żmien vera imma iżżid il-possibilita’ tat-tahwid. Tiftaħ il-bibien beraħ għall-abbuż. Dan ikun il-konsegwenza ta’ Direct Order li jidher li hemm ippjanat għal Delimara.

Hemm imbagħad il-costings tal-proġett. Dawn ftit li xejn nista’ nikkummenta fuqhom sakemm ma narax ir-rapporti u l-istudji li saru. Għalhekk meħtieġa t-trasparenza biex dak li qiegħed jintqal ikun issostanzjat.

L-aħħar punt huwa dwar garanzija għal prezz tal-gass. Qiegħed jintqal li ser tintalab garanzija ta’ 10 snin dwar il-prezz tal-gass. Il-costings jidher li x’aktarx huma ibbażati fuq dan.

Ma naħsibx li din hi kundizzjoni realistka. Għalkemm il-gass hu orħos mill-fuel użat illum, u huwa iktar effiċjenti ukoll, xorta huwa soġġett għal prezz li jvarja. Huwa antiċipat ukoll illi dan il-prezz jista’ jiċċaqlaq il-fuq matul iż-żmien u dan billi d-domanda għalih qed tikber. Issa jekk il-PL għandu xi garanzija f’dan is-sens dan il-fatt huwa importanti ħafna. Mhux biss għall-garanzija innifisha imma ukoll dwar il-kundizzjonijiet li jista’ jkun hemm marbuta magħha.

Din hi l-posizzjoni.

Diskussjoni ibbilanċjat hi meħtieġa. Imma biex issir il-Labour irid jippubblika l-informazzjoni kollha li għandu.  Jekk l-informazzjoni tiġi ippubblikata diskussjoni serja tista’ tagħmel il-ġid f’din il-kamoanja elettorali għax isservi biex niddiskutu politika nazzjonali dwar l-enerġija. Jekk le ifisser li l-Labour irid jgħaddi ż-żmien bin-nies.

Gimmicks tal-Labour dwar l-enerġija

Meta l-Partit Laburitsta ideċieda li jaddotta l-proposta tal-kumpanija Sargas kien qed iqarraq.

Hu ovvju li meta s-Sargas qed tgħid li l-elettriku tista’ tipproduċieh b’7c5 dan hu prezz iħis hafna u attraenti. L-onesta politika iżda kienet titlob li wieħed jeżamina x’hemm iktar li qiegħed jinżamm moħbi b’din il-proposta.

Meta rappreżentanti tas-Sargas għamlu preżetazzjoni f’Lukanda lokali huma emfasizzaw li dan il-prezz ta’ 7c5 huwa l-prezz ta “raw energy”. Jiġifieri kemm tiġi tiswa’ l-enerija ġġenerata. Komplew jemfasizaw illi dan il-prezz ma jinkludix l-arrangamenti li jkun meħtieġ li jaslu għalhom dwar l-impjant innifsu. Għax l-impjant (il-power station) tkun trid jew tinkera inkella tinxtara. Din hi stamat li tkun tiswa bejn €800 u €900 miljun.

Dan il-prezz ta’ 7c5 l-anqas ma jinkudi l-ispejjes konnessi mal-Carbon Capture Technology li biha s-Sargas qed jgħidu li jrid jiġbru l-carbon dioxide u jesporatawh. Apparti l-fatt li din it-teknoloġija għad m’hiex sviluppata biżżejjed, din mhux biss tiswa l-flus iżda tikkonsma ukoll l-enerġija : bejn 25% u 40% tal-enerġija ġġenerata.

Meta wieħed jgħodd dan kollu l-prezz tal-enerġija bil-proposta ta’ Sargas li magħha jaqbel il-Partit Laburista ta’ Joseph Muscat ikun wieħed għoli ħafna iktar milli qed jgħidu.

Imma l-Partit Laburista jibqa’ għaddej bil-gimmicks.

L-aħħar ħaġa. Jekk l-enerġija tkun ġġenerata bl-impjant tas-Sargas xi ħadd irid jispjega x’ser jiġri mill-ħaddiema tal-Enemalta li preżentme jaħdmu fuq il-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku. Għax l-Enemalta bi-proposta tal-Labour ma jkolliex bżonnhom iktar!

Linking energy and democracy

The Times Logo
Saturday, June 18, 2011 ,

Carmel Cacopardo


Last weekend, Italian voters said no to nuclear energy for the second time since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago.

Italy is not alone in refusing to handle nuclear energy. The Fukushima incidents have driven home the point that, even in a country that is very strict on safety standards, nuclear energy is not safe. Fukushima has proven that no amount of safeguards can render nuclear energy 100 per cent safe. Though accidents are bound to happen irrespective of the technology used, the risks associated with nuclear technology are such that they can easily wipe out life from the affected area in a very short time.

Last weekend’s no has a particular significance for Malta as this means an end to plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Palma di Montechiaro on Sicily’s southern coast, less than 100 kilometres from the Maltese islands.

Germany’s Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition government, faced with the resounding victory of the Greens in the Länd of Baden-Württemberg, has made a policy U-turn. As a direct effect of the Greens-led opposition to Germany’s nuclear programme, Germany will be nuclear-energy free as from 2022, by which date all existing nuclear power installations will be phased out. In doing so, the Merkel government has, once and for all, accepted the Green-Red coalition agreement on a complete nuclear phaseout.

Even Switzerland is planning not to make use of its existing nuclear plants beyond their scheduled projected life. The Swiss government will be submitting to Parliament a proposal not to replace existing nuclear plants. The process is scheduled to commence in 2019 and will conclude with the closure of the last Swiss nuclear reactor in 2034.

After the Tunisian revolution, Abdelkader Zitouni, the leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to repudiate the Franco-Tunisian agreement for the provision of nuclear technology by France. Hopefully, the same will happen when the Administration of Libya is back to normal.

There are other Mediterranean neighbours that are interested in the construction of nuclear plants. Libya and Tunisia were joined by Algeria, Morocco and Egypt in reacting positively to Nicolas Sarkozy, the peripatetic nuclear salesman during the past four years.

Malta could do without nuclear energy installations on its doorstep. Italy’s decision and the policy being advocated by Mr Zitouni are a welcome start. It would be wishful thinking to imagine Foreign Minister Tonio Borg taking the initiative in campaigning for a Mediterranean free of nuclear energy even though this is in Malta’s interest.

It is a very healthy sign that Malta’s neighbours together with Germany and Switzerland are repudiating the use of nuclear energy. Their no to nuclear energy is simultaneously a yes to renewable energy. This will necessarily lead to more efforts, research and investment in renewable energy generation as it is the only reasonable way to make up for the shortfall between energy supply and demand.

A case in point is the Desertec project, which is still in its infancy. The Desertec initiative is based on the basic fact that six hours of solar energy incident on the world’s deserts exceeds the amount of energy used all over the globe in one whole year. Given that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population lives within 3,000 kilometres of a desert, the Desertec initiative considers that most of the world’s energy needs can be economically met through tapping the solar energy that can be captured from the surface of the deserts.

The technology is available and has been extensively tested in the Mojave Desert, California, in Alvarado (Badajoz), Spain and in the Negev Desert in Israel where new plants generating solar energy on a large scale have been in operation for some time. The Desertec project envisages that Europe’s energy needs can be met through tapping the solar energy incident on the Sahara desert. The problems that have to be surmounted are of a technical and of a geopolitical nature.

On the technical front, solutions are being developed to address more efficient storage and the efficient transmission of the electricity generated.

The Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and, hopefully, the successful conclusion of the Libyan revolution will address the other major concern: that of energy security. The movement towards democracy in North Africa can contribute towards the early success of the Desertec project in tapping solar energy in the Sahara desert for use in both Northern Africa and in Europe.

While Malta stands to gain economically and environmentally through the realisation of such a project, I have yet to hear the government’s enthusiasm and commitment even if the project is still in its initial stages.

Malta is committed in favour of the pro-democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Benghazi. Being surrounded by democratic neighbours is a definitely positive geopolitical development. If properly nurtured, this would enhance Malta’s economic development, energy security and environmental protection concerns.

Il-bomba ta’ Austin Gatt


Il-bomba li sploda Austin Gatt dwar il-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma ilha ġejja. Ilha tinħema.

Il-problema ma nħolqitx issa, iżda ilha teżisti. Il-Gvern permezz tas-surcharge u s-sussidji lill-Enemalta u l-Korporazzjoni ghas-Servizzi tal-Ilma stenna sakemm  għaddiet l-elezzjoni. Dan biex jevita reazzjoni tan-nies u tal-industrija li inevitabilment kien ikun tradott f’voti.

Kif qal tajjeb Lino Spiteri fit-Times illum id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Austin Gatt kienet żball ekonomiku u politika. Il-Gvern permezz ta’ Austin Gatt u bil-parteċipazzjoni tal-konsulenti mill-KPMG għamel prinċipalment ezerċizzju tal-calculator – kif kien għamel il-Gvern ta’ Alfred Sant fl-1997 : u li bħala riżultat kien ħaffef il-waqa’ tiegħu.

X’inhu meħtieġ ?

L-ewwel nett li wara li ġie kwantifikat l-impatt ekonomiku, jiġi determinat ukoll l-impatt soċjali. S’issa ma jirriżultax illi dan ġie eżaminat. Huwa neċessarju li dan ikun eżaminat, għax l-aċċess għall-enerġija u l-ilma huwa meħtieġ biex il-kwalita’ tal-ħajja tagħna ilkoll tkun waħda diċenti. Irid allura jiġi stabilit x’inhu l-aċċess minimu neċessarju għall-elettriku u ilma għal kull tip ta’ familja fil-pajjiż.

Mhux biss. Imma huwa ukoll neċessarju li jkunu stabiliti mekkaniżmi biex ma jkunx hemm abbużi minn dan l-aċċess minimu garantit.

Sal-lum il-politika tal-prezzijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma dejjem hekk kienet f’dan il-pajjiż. Dejjem kien hemm rati differenti dipendenti mill-konsum : rati baxxi għall-konsum baxx. Rati għola għall-konsum għola.

Fuq dan il-bażi għandu jkun possibli li jinħoloq kunsens nazzjonali. Il-piż għandu jinġarr minn min jikkonsma ħafna.

Addressing Our Environmental Deficit

published on Sunday 27 July 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo


 In his address to Parliament last May, the President had stated: “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.”

In December 2006, the National Sustainability Commission had drawn up the National Sustainable Development Strategy. Having been approved by Cabinet, it is appropriate that the pre-budget document just published ignites the debate on its implementation. The strategy is a blueprint for action representing a holistic perspective as to how this country should be administered. Its eventual handling will in due course give a clear indication of the government’s real views on sustainable development.

Malta’s energy policy is undoubtedly up for an upheaval. Due to the absence of strategic planning over the years, Malta is one of the few countries without any significant alternative energy generated. Other countries identified their vulnerability because of fuel oil dependency years ago and took action. Denmark has since built up its wind energy industry from scratch since the oil crises in the 1970s and is now a world leader. In 2005 Denmark generated 18.5 per cent of its electrical energy needs through wind.

The pre-budget document identifies near shore wind technology as the next step forward, contributing 95MW of wind energy or seven per cent of Malta’s projected electricity demand in 2010. The shortfall in meeting the EU target of having 10 per cent of electricity demand met by alternative energy is planned to be met with wind turbines at other exposed land sites and industrial estates, including those to be identified within the framework of the eco-Gozo project.

The pre-budget document focuses on macro-generation and does not give sufficient weight to micro-generation of energy, both with small wind turbines as well as with photovoltaic panels. It must be borne in mind that micro-generation if adequately motivated could add up to a substantial amount of energy generated through alternative technology. In addition to residential application (not flats or maisonettes!), schools and public buildings could be ideal sites for the micro-generation of energy. Moreover, one can consider fitting micro-turbines to the structures of the hundreds of disused windmills (water pumps) that pepper the countryside. These windmills were strategically located by our ancestors in wind-prone areas and are now an integral part of the Maltese countryside.

The pre-budget document rightly refers to energy generated through waste. It speaks of the generation of electricity using animal waste through biogas in a facility to be constructed in the north of the island. This is a long overdue initiative. However, I believe that it is badly conceived. The lessons that should have been learnt following the Sant’ Antnin debacle seem to have been forgotten.

The point at issue is whether one facility covering the whole island is sufficient or desirable. Would it be a good idea to transport animal manure across the whole island to a facility in the north?

One point resulting from the public debate relative to the Sant’ Antnin waste recycling plant was the applicability of the proximity principle. The required plant should be sited as close as possible to the source of the waste being processed. This had led to the Sant ‘Antnin projected operation itself being scaled down to deal with one third of the islands’ waste. The rest, it was stated, should be processed on other sites (possibly two) that have not yet been identified! These other sites should be used for the production of biogas too and they should be identified in a location as close as possible to those areas that have the largest number of animal farms in order to minimise the movement of animal waste. Knowing that a number of these farms are sited very close to each other should make matters easier for our waste management planners.

Bad planning brings out another sore point, which was not discussed in the pre-budget document: namely the management of our water resources. Groundwater (a ‘free’ source of freshwater) still accounts for 40 per cent of our potable water supply. Groundwater accounts for the greater part of the water used by agriculture, the construction sector, landscaping activities and various other industrial and commercial concerns, including some hotels which are supplied by bowsers. However, as a result of over-extraction, the quality of the water in the aquifer is becoming saltier by the day and will become useless within our lifetime.

Yet, illegal extraction of ground water continues unabated and the authority responsible for the sustainable use of this precious resource (the Malta Resources Authority) persists in not taking any concrete action. The recent increase in the surcharge on mains water will inevitably result in a rush to drill more boreholes and extract more groundwater, with the consequence that our aquifer will die an earlier death.

Within this context, the construction of wastewater treatment plants treating urban wastewater and discharging it directly into the sea assumes an alarming relevance. A country whose natural water resources are not sufficient for its use ought to manage its water resources in a much better way. It certainly ought not to permit the illegal extraction of water or the discharge of treated water into the sea. The siting of the wastewater treatment plants in Malta and Gozo is such that discharging treated water into the sea is a foregone conclusion. This decision, undoubtedly arrived at based on the original siting of the sewage outfalls, ignores the possibilities to reuse the treated water, either as a second-class source or (with additional treatment) as potable water. Other developed countries, notably Singapore, produce an ever-increasing percentage of their potable water in this manner. This issue is ignored in the pre-budget report.

All this could easily have been prevented with a proper water management planning strategy, which, instead of large-scale plants for wastewater treatment, could have identified a number of smaller sites along the sewer route on the islands for the construction of small packaged wastewater treatment plants. These would have provided ample treated effluent where and when required for agricultural use, landscaping and other uses not requiring water of potable quality – at little or no distribution costs. The widespread availability of this water would have substituted the need to extract groundwater and facilitated the required enforcement action on its illegal extraction.

The total costs would have been substantially less. By costs I do not just mean economic ones but also the ecological cost of losing a strategic resource (the aquifer), which loss will have to be borne by future generations.

As indicated in the public hearings carried out by Minister Tonio Fenech, the pre-budget document deals with the sustainability of localities, rightly linking this issue to the proposed reform of local councils. It refers to the need for localities to draw up a Local Sustainable Development Strategy. In environmental management, we normally consider this within the Local Agenda 21 process currently espoused by thousands of localities around the globe: think global act local.

The sustainable localities proposal is undoubtedly well intentioned, and if adequately planned and applied can lead to positive results. The difficulty that will arise is that of economies of scale. Our localities vary substantially in size: from the largest – Birkirkara, to the smallest – San Lawrenz in Gozo. I believe that the best manner to apply Local Agenda 21 in Malta would be on a regional level. It would entail the setting up an additional level of local government that could be made up of all the local councils in the region. One possibility for the identification of regions would be to follow the boundaries of the seven local plans. These regions could be the channel for drawing up a Local Agenda 21 in conformity with national policy and strategies, which allow ample room for adequate planning. The proposed Conference on Local Sustainable Development would be a good start.

The basic point at issue in all deliberations is to view the economy as a tool at the service of the eco-system rather than as master of all. Adopting sustainable development as a policy instrument is no easy task. It entails taking a holistic view of public administration and its consequences. It signifies that national policy and administrative action need to have a continuous long-term view.

Economic policy generally takes on board social policy. It now needs to ensure that it is subservient to the eco-system because at the end of the day the eco-system is the source of our being. It is only at this point that we will be in a position to settle our country’s accumulated environmental deficit!