Min ipproteġa lid-Direttur Ġenerali tas-Sajd bejn 2013 u illum?

Dal-għodu tħabbar li d-Direttur Ġenerali tas-Sajd Dr.Andreina Fenech Farrugia kienet sospiża b’effett immedjat. Dan wara li n-newsletter elettroniku Spanjol El Confidencial ippubblika transcript ta’ diskursata telefonika bejn id-Direttur Ġenerali tas-Sajd Maltija u negozjant ewlieni tat-tonn Spanjol. It-telfonata kienet dwar ħlas mitlub f’kuntest ta’ skandlu dwar tonn illegali b’valur ta’ madwar €25 miljun.

Il-Ministru Josè Herrera għamel sewwa mhux biss li aġixxa, imma ukoll li aġixxa mill-ewwel.

Imma l-kobba jidher li hi mħabbla għax Dr. Fenech Farrugia kienet diġa tneħħiet fi żmien meta kien Ministru tas-Sajd George Pullicino fl-2011, meta kien qed iberraq fil-Ministeru tas-Sajd.

Imma immedjatament wara l-elezzjonijiet tal-2013, fi żmien sentejn, Fenech Farrugia inġiebet lura mill-Gvern il-ġdid.

Shift News illum tirreferi għal xniegħat li l-Partit Laburista kien midjun lejn l-industrija tat-tonn li appoġġatu finanzjarjament fil-kampanja elettorali tal-2013 u dwar il-possibilita li kienet l-industrija tat-tonn li insistiet għar-ritorn ta’ Dr Adreina Fenech Farrugia.

Il-kobba hi mħabbla sewwa u xi ħadd għandu l-obbligu li jispjega. Hemm mistoqsija li teħtieġ tweġiba ċara: min kien qed jipproteġi lil Dr Andreina Fenech Farrugia sakemm il-forzi tal-ordni Spanjoli semgħu t-telefonata? Għaliex?

Advertisements

Ħmar il-lejl: l-ippjanar għall-kosta u r-riżorsi marittimi

Nhar it-Tnejn il-Parlament beda d-diskussjoni dwar l-implimentazzjoni tal-leġislazzjoni tad-dimanju pubbliku u b’mod partikolari dwar rapport li ħejjiet l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar fuq is-siti nominati. Ir-rapport jirreferi għal 24 sit nominati prinċipalment mill-għaqdiet ambjentali: 16-il sit kienu nominati minn Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), seba’ siti minn Friends of the Earth u sit wieħed mill-Ministru għall-Ambjent Josè Herrera.

Id-diskussjoni għadha fl-istadji inizzjali u s’issa kienet limitata għal spjegazzjoni tal-liġi li l-Parlament approva lejn nofs l-2016.

Moħbi mill-attenzjoni pubblika hemm il-ħtieġa urġenti li tkun implimentata d-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar l-Ippjanar tal-Ispazju Marittimu. Din id-Direttiva kellha tkun addottata sa tmiem l-2014. Permezz tal-Avviż Legali 341 tal-2016 Malta nnominat lill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar bħala l-awtorità kompetenti li ser tieħu ħsieb dak li għandu x’jaqsam mal-ippjanar tal-ispazju marittimu fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Wara li staqsejt inġibdet l-atttenzjoni tiegħi li l-Pjan dwar l-Ispazju Marittimu għal Malta diġà jifforma parti mill-Pjan Strateġiku dwar l-Ambjent u l-Iżvilupp (Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development – SPED). Ngħid il-verità ma kontx irrealizzajt dan. Ħsibt li kien hemm xi paġni f’dak id-dokument li kienu qabżuli u allura mort infittex mill-ġdid u sibt sezzjoni intitolata Coastal Zone and Marine Area u taħtha tlett oġġettivi għall ħarsien tal-kosta. Dawn l-oġġettivi jistgħu, u nittama li jkunu, sviluppati fi strateġija dettaljata dwar l-Ispazju Marittimu Malti.

Waqt li Malta jidher li llimitat ruħha għal tlett oġġettivi xotti, pajjiżi oħra għamlu ħidma kbira biex jippreparaw il-pjani tagħhom dwar l-Ispazju Marittimu. L-Irlanda, per eżempju, ippubblikat dokument ta’ 88 paġna intitolat Harnessing our Ocean Wealth. An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland. Min-naħa l-oħra, ir-Renju Unit ippubblika dokument ta’ 55 paġna intitolat UK Marine Policy Statement.

Dawn iż-żewġ dokumenti jidħlu fid-dettall dwar l-Ippjanar għall-Ispazju Marittimu meħtieġ fl-Irlanda u r-Renju Unit. Bla dubju dawn id-dokumenti jeħtieġ li jkunu supplimentati bi pjani ħafna iktar dettaljati. Id-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja fil-fatt tistabilixxi s-sena 2021 bħala d-data sa meta għandhom ikunu ffinalizzati l-Pjani għall-Ispazju Marittimu.

Malta hi gżira mdawra bil-baħar Mediterran. Fatt li għandu jkun rifless f’politika marittima serja u aġġornata. Sfortunatament dan mhux il-kaz għax jidher li għalina f’Malta it-tlett oġġettivi dwar il-kosta fil-Pjan Strateġiku dwar l-Ambjent u l-Iżvilupp (SPED) huma biżżejjed.

Id-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar l-Ippjanar tal-Ispazju Marittimu bla dubju hi intenzjonata biex iċċaqlaqna ħalli nimlew it-toqob fil-politika tagħna. L-ekonomija l-blu, jiġifieri l-ħidma ekonomika li tiddependi fuq l-użu tar-riżorsi marittimi, teħtieġ attenzjoni ħafna iktar dettaljata.

Il-Gvernijiet Maltin, wieħed wara l-ieħor, għamlu ħerba fuq l-art u ħsara bla qies fiż-żoni naturali. F’xi kazi l-ħsara li saret ftit tista’ tiġi rimedjata. L-ilma tal-pjan hu l-eżempju ewlieni.

L-ippjanar b’attenzjoni tal-Ispazju Marittimu jista’ jkun ta’ għajnuna biex din l-imġieba żbaljata tal-Gvernijiet ma tkunx esportata lil hinn mill-kosta ħalli wara li ħarbatna l-art ma nħarbtux il-baħar ukoll.

Snin ilu kien pass għaqli li kienet indirizzata l-kwalità tal-ilma baħar bl-introduzzjoni tal-impjanti għat-tisfija tad-drenaġġ. Għad baqa’ xi jsir biex l-ilma msoffi, flok jintrema, jibda jintuża. Kontinwament għadna niffaċċjaw it-tniġġiż mill-gaġeġ tal-ħut li għandna fl-ibħra u li qed ikollhom impatti kemm fuq iż-żoni residenzjali kif ukoll fuq il-faċilitajiet turistiċi. Imbagħad hemm ukoll is-sajd, it-tibdil fil-klima, l-bijodiversita, is-sigurtà marittima, il-fdalijiet arkeologiċi fil-baħar kif ukoll il-ħmar il-lejl li nassoċjaw mar-riklamazzjoni tal-baħar. Pjan għall-Ispazji marittimi fil-gżejjer Maltin irid jindirizza dawn l-oqsma u bosta oħra b’mod integrat.

Il-gżejjer Maltin fihom 316 kilometru kwadrat. L-ibħra Maltin sa 25 mil nawtiku mill-kosta fihom medda ferm ikbar b’kejl ta’ 11,480 kilometru kwadrat filwaqt li l-blata kontinentali taħt il-ġurisdizzjoni Maltija fiha 75,779 kilometru kwadrat.
Din hi l-isfida li għandna quddiemna biex inħarsu l-ibħra tagħna.

ippubblikat fuq Illum – 24 ta’ Diċembru 2017 

Planning nightmares: the coastline and marine resources

 

Last Monday, Parliament commenced a discussion on the implementation of the Public Domain legislation, in respect of which the Planning Authority has submitted a report entitled “Sites Nominated to be declared as Public Domain”. This report refers to 24 sites, nominated primarily by eNGOs: 16 sites were nominated by Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), seven by Friends of the Earth and one by Minister for the Environment Josè Herrera.

The discussion is still in its initial stages and so far it has been limited to an explanation of the legislation enacted by Parliament in mid-2016.

Currently under the radar is the urgent need to implement the EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning, which had to be adopted by end of 2014. Malta has, in fact, adopted it and through Legal Notice 341 of 2016 it identified the Planning Authority as the competent authority which will deal with issues of maritime spatial planning in the Maltese Islands.

After submitting a query, it was pointed out to me that the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) shall constitute Malta’s Maritime Spatial Plan – something I had not realised. Thinking that I had missed something, I checked the SPED and found a text entitled Coastal Zone and Marine Area under which are listed three coastal objectives. These are clearly objectives that can (and hopefully will) be developed into a detailed Maritime Spatial Plan.

While Malta has apparently limited itself to three brief objectives, other countries have gone into considerable detail to prepare their Maritime Spatial Plans. Ireland, for example, has published an 88-page document entitled Harnessing our Ocean Wealth – an Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland and the United Kingdom has published a 55-page document entitled UK Marine Policy Statement.

Both documents go into some detail as to the Maritime Spatial Planning required in Ireland and the United Kingdom and they will undoubtedly have to be supplemented with more detailed plans. The EU Directive determines the year 2021 as the deadline for the establishment of Maritime Spatial Plans.

The fact that Malta is an island should be reflected in more importance being given to maritime policy. Unfortunately, this is clearly not the case as it seems that we have to manage with three coastal objectives in our Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED).

The EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning is intended to nudge us to fill the gaps in our policies and plans. The blue economy, which is the economic activity dependent on the utilisation of marine resources, requires much careful planning.

Successive Maltese governments have ruined land-based resources and natural habitats. At times this has been done almost beyond repair. The water table is one such glaring example.

Careful maritime spatial planning could be of assistance in not exporting this erroneous behaviour beyond the coastline so that the environmental damage inflicted on the land is not repeated at sea.

Some years ago, addressing the quality of seawater by ensuring that urban wastewater dumped into the sea was adequately treated was a positive step. More still needs to be done to use the treated water. We repeatedly face issues of contamination arising out of fish-farms that has a negative impact on our residential and tourist facilities. What about fishing, energy, climate change, biodiversity, maritime safety, marine archaeological remains and land reclamation nightmares? A Maritime Spatial Plan for the Maltese Islands has to address all these issues and many more, in an holistic manner.

The Maltese Islands have a land area of 316 square kilometres. On the other hand, the area around the Maltese islands up to 25 nautical miles from the shoreline measures 11,480 square kilometres, while the area of the Continental Shelf under Malta’s jurisdiction in terms of the Continental Shelf Act measures approximately 75,779 square kilometres.

This is the physical extend of the challenge we face to protect our sea.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 24th December 2017 

L-iskart tal-fish farms barra Marsaskala

                

Nhar l-1 ta’ Mejju fit-tard, ircevejt din l-email minn sajjied part-time

Ghaziz Perit,

Qed nehmizlek ir-ritratti. Il-post huwa xi 6 kilometri l-barra minn Marsascala. Hemm borza  tal-plastic blu bl-isem ‘Coppens’ fuqha. Dik hija borza tal-ghalf tal-hut. Hemm kaxxa tal-jablo mimlija qxur u demm tal-hut. Il-bahar mimli skart tal-fish farm. Medda kbira b’hut mejjet u fdalijiet tal-hut, kollox jinten seba’ pesti. Il-wicc tal-bahar kien miksi b’liega ta’ zejt qisu mxahham. Jekk il-kurrenti u r-rih idahhluh lejn l-art, festa kbira jerga jkollna. Il-Borza u l-kaxxa gbarthom u hallejthom fuq il-luzzu (salt intiena), imma hemm hallejthom ghalissa, bhala evidenza. Il-vera nies irresponsabli!

Fil-kaz kellimni.  Tislijiet.

 

Il-gaġeġ tat-tonn f’San Pawl il-Baħar

Dal-għodu fisem Alternattiva Demokratika ipprezentajt oġġezzjoni quddiem l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar kontra l-applikazzjoni PA 3072/17 li biha qed jintalab li 4 gaġeġ tat-tonn jiċċaqalqu minn Kemmuna għas-Sikka l-Bajda, faċċata ta San Pawl il-Baħar.

Din l-applikazzjoni qed issir meta sissa għadha ma ġiet stabilita l-ebda żona għall-akwakultura fl-inħawi u dan minħabba li suppost illi l-istudji għadhom għaddejjin!

Biex tgħaxxaqha l-post fejn qed jiġi propost biex jitqegħdu l-gaġeġ fis-Sikka l-Bajda huma eżatt fuq żona sensittiva ekoloġikament. Dan minbarra l-fdalijiet mill-għalf tat-tonn li l-kurrent ikaxkar dritt għal go San Pawl il-Baħar u Buġibba.

Ħaġa tal-iskantament kif fis-Sikka l-Bajda ukoll, ftit il-bogħod diġa hemm 8 gaġeġ oħra tat-tonn li suppost li l-operaturi intrabtu mal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar li kellhom ineħħuhom sal-aħħar ta Mejju 2017.

Mela issa minflok ma jneħħuhom ser jippruvaw iżiduhom!

Bmin jaħsbu li qed jgħaddu żżmien?

Ir-riskji tat-tanker tal-gass

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

Ilna iktar minn tliet snin nargumentaw fuq il-ħażna tal-gass għall-power station ġdida li kienet issue ċentrali fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali.

Qabel l-elezzjoni l-ħażna kienet proposta li issir fuq l-art. Wara l-elezzjoni nbidlu l-pjani u saret il-proposta għall-ħażna fuq il-baħar.

Tajjeb li niftakru li fi tmiem is-snin 90 kien hemm diskussjonijiet dettaljati mat-Taljani tal-AGIP dwar il-kostruzzjoni ta’ pipeline tal-gass bejn Gela fi Sqallija u Marsaxlokk. Il-ftehim ma twettaqx għax kieku ilna 20 sena bil-gass u t-tanker ma kienx ikun hemm bżonnu.

Il-Gvern ħabbar xi xhur ilu li t-tanker tal-gass sorġut fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk ser ikun qiegħed hemm temporanjament sakemm ikunu iffinalizzati l-proċeduri kollha neċessarji biex isir il-pipeline tal-gass.

Meta kien hemm id-diskussjoni dwar il-power station il-ġdida quddiem il-Bord tal-MEPA xi sentejn ilu konna iddiskutejna f’ċerta dettall id-diffikultajiet li konna qed nantiċipaw dwar dan it-tanker tal-gass. Dawn essenzjalment kienu tnejn. L-ewwel l-impatt tal-maltemp fuq it-tanker innifsu kif ukoll fuq il-vapuri  fil-viċinanzi, prinċipalment dawk fil-Port  Ħieles imma ukoll l-impatt fuq is-sajjieda. It-tieni dwar il-miżuri ta’ sigurtá biex ikunu evitati inċidenti u f’kaz li dawn xorta jseħħu jkunu minimizzati l-konsegwenzi.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ser ikunu ippubblikati r-rapporti li saru u terġa tiftaħ beraħ id-diskussjoni.

Naħseb li kulħadd jieħu pjaċir kieku dawn il-problemi jissolvew.

L-istandards ta’ sigurtá fl-industrija tal-gass ifissru li dwar issues ta’ sigurtá u periklu, r-riskju possibilment ikun minimizzat kif kienu rrappurtaw l-esperti George Papadakis u Roberto Vaccari, kwazi tlett snin ilu. Hemm ukoll il-materja tas-sigurtá marittima li għad irridu naraw x’miżuri effettivi ser jittieħdu. Għax s’issa ftit huwa magħruf sakemm naraw ir-rapporti u naqrawhom sew.

Ir-riskji ħadd ma hu ser jeliminhom. Bla dubju hemm kull interess li dawn jonqsu l-iktar possibli. Imma kemm fil-fatt jonqsu  għad irridu naraw. Kif wara kollox irridu naraw min ser iħallas il-prezz. U l-prezz, tajjeb li niftakru, ma jitħallasx biss bl-euro.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : 17 t’Ottubru 2016

Fl-aħħar, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tiċċaqlaq

fil-gagga

Mela fl-aħħar l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar iddeċidiet li tirtira l-permessi tal-gaġeġ tal-ħut. Daqsxejn tard. Imma aħjar tard milli qatt.

Ir-rappreżentant tal-Opposizzjoni fuq il-Bord tal-Awtorità, Ryan Callus, ukoll ivvota biex il-permessi jkunu irtirati. Tajjeb. Dan ngħidulu progress!

Jibqa’ biss il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni li ġimgħatejn ilu kellu riżervi kbar li tittieħed azzjoni, għax sfortunatament ma fehem xejn mill-ħsara kbira li qed jikkawżaw dawn l-irziezet fil-baħar.

Issa nistennew il-passi li jmiss. Li jsir ic-ċaqlieq tal-gaġeġ iktar il-barra fejn il-ħsara tkun minimizzata. Kif ukoll li l-awtoritajiet idaħħlu f’rashom darba għal dejjem li meta jitfaċċaw l-abbużi u l-irregolaritajiet għandhom jaġixxu mill-ewwel u mhux joqgħdu jipposponu.

Peró d-deċiżjoni tal-bieraħ tibqa’ waħda tajba.

 

Joseph inkwetat u Simon qalbu perżuta

fil-gagga

 

Joseph inkwetat għax l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ipposponiet bi ħmistax il-ġurnata d-deċiżjoni dwar l-irziezet tal-ħut. Simon ħa nifs il-ġewwa għax qalbu perżuta għall-ħaddiema li l-għixien tagħhom jiddependi minn dawn l-irziezet tal-ħut.

L-avukati li qed jiddefendu lil dawk li jrabbu l-ħut fil-baħar infurmaw lill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li l-egħluq ta’ dawn l-irziezet tal-ħut ikun ifisser daqqa kbira għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż għax fuq dawn il-gaġeġ kbar jiddependi 1.5% tal-prodott gross nazzjonali.

Il-Professur Victor Axiaq, li għall-grazzja t’Alla irkupra saħħtu, seta din id-darba jagħmel l-argument ambjentali dwar il-ħsara kbira li qed issir. Ħsara, emfasizza l-professor, li tista’ tittaffa biss jekk il-gaġeġ tal-ħut jinħarġu ħafna iktar il-barra mill-kosta.

Dawn ilhom iktar minn ħdax-il sena jafu li jeħtieġilhom li jiċċaqalqu għax qed jagħmlu l-ħsara. Imma meta hu magħruf li madwar nofs il-gaġeġ tal-ħut huma illegali (bla permessi jew ikbar mill-permess) bil-fors toħroġ il-mistoqsija dwar min kien qed jipproteġihom huma u jisfidaw il-liġi.

Ħdax-il sena huma iktar minn biżżejjed.

 

Wara t-tejatrin ta’ Singapore …………….. lil hinn mill-partiġjaniżmu politiku

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

 

Qed joqrob il-jum li fih it-tanker għall-ħażna tal-gass tal-power station jidħol u jitqiegħed fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Qed jgħidulna li dan ser ikun temporanju, jiġifieri għal ftit taż-żmien, sakemm jitlestew l-istudji dwar il-pipline tal-gass bejn Sqallija u Malta. Ovvjament trid iżżid ukoll iż-żmien biex il-pipeline jitqieghed f’qiegħ il-baħar inkluż ukoll il-perjodu tal-finanzjament, tendering u commissioning. Mhux xahar u tnejn.

Kemm ser ikun twil dan il-perjodu temporanju? Jiddependi mix-xogħol li sar diġà. Peró ma neħodiex bi kbira jekk dan iż-żmien ikun bejn 5 u 8 snin.

Sadanittant hemm il-ħtieġa li jkun ikkunsidrat il-permess operattiv tal-power station taħdem bil-gass f’Delimara. Dan il-permess ikun irid jissodisfa tlett tipi ta’ direttivi/regolamenti. Dawk dwar l-impjanti industrijali, dawk dwar l-impatti ambjentali (IPPC – Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) u dawk dwar il-ħarsien minn inċidenti industrijali u l-impatti kemm ambjentali kif ukoll dawk ta’ protezzjoni ċivili (Direttivi ta’ Seveso).

Dan kollu jkun ikkunsidrat mill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u Riżorsi flimkien ma’ awtoritajiet oħra, prinċipalment id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili u l-Awtorità għall-Ħarsien tas-Saħħa fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol. Imma ser ikun hemm ukoll bla dubju ħtieġa  ta’ eżami sewwa ta’ issues ta’ navigazzjoni minn Trasport Malta minħabba kemm it-tanker stazzjonarju (marbut mal-moll) fil-bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk kif ukoll minħabba li madwar 8 darbiet fis-sena ser jidħlu tankers bil-ħtiġijiet tal-gass skond kemm tkun qed tikkonsma gass il-Power Station ta’ Delimara.

Dawn huma kollha affarijiet li ġew diskussi f’ċerta dettall madwar sentejn ilu meta kien qed ikun diskuss il-permess ta’ żvilupp quddiem il-MEPA. Dakinnhar kien intqal li dawn kollha kienu affarijiet li riedu jkunu deċiżi iktar tard. Preċiżament issa hu dak il-mument, matul dawn il-ġimgħat u xhur li ġejjin.

Ser naraw matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ sigurtà huwa u jkun trasferit il-gass mit-tankers ġejjin u sejrin għal ġot-tanker stazzjonarju. Jekk hux veru li għal ċertu ħin il-port ikun jeħtieġlu illi jkun magħluq u kif dan (jekk minnu) ser jeffettwa l-operat tal Freeport u tas-sajjieda.

Irridu naraw kemm il-miżuri ta’ sigurtà fl-operazzjoni tal-power station huma f’posthom u xi drills ser ikunu meħtieġa (inkluż il-frekwenza tagħhom) biex ikun assigurat illi l-popolazzjoni residenzjali fil-viċinanzi tkun imħejjija għal kull eventwalità, anke jekk remota.

Wara l-inċidenti ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa fil-ħruq tan-nar tal-festa ta’ Marsaxlokk bla dubju jridu jittieħdu prewkazzjonijiet ħafna iktar biex ikun assigurat li dawn it-tip ta’ inċidenti, jekk iseħħu, jinżammu l-bogħod kemm jista’ jkun mill-power station ta’ Delimara u l-ħażna tal-gass.

Dan kollu dwaru hemm l-obbligu li jkun hemm konsultazzjoni pubblika mar-residenti effettwati, dawk ta’ Marsaxlokk prinċipalment, imma probabbilment ukoll dawk ta’ Birżebbuġa.

L-operazzjoni tal-power station bil-gass bla dubju ser tnaqqas it-tniġġż tal-arja u b’mod ġenerali ittejjeb l-impatti ambjentali. Il-kostruzzjoni tal-pipe tal-gass eventwalment tnaqqas u tbiegħed il-perikli. Imma sa ma jasal dak il-jum, il-possibiltà tal-perikli, anke jekk remoti xorta qegħda wara l-bieb tagħna.

Lil hinn mill-partiġġjaniżmu politiku għandna l-obbligu li nassiguraw li l-affarijiet isiru sewwa. Biex dan isir għandna l-obbligu li neżaminaw kull pass li jsir. Għax b’hekk biss kulħadd joqgħod attent li jagħmel xogħolu sewwa.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tlieta 2 t’Awwissu 2016

Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

 laudato_si_    Cry of the Earth

 

This is the title of Leonardo Boff’s seminal work on the inextricable link between social justice and environmental degradation, originally published in 1995.  Earlier, during the 1972 UN Human Environment Conference in Stockholm, it was also the rallying cry of India’s Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi who, on behalf of the developing world, forcefully insisted that poverty was inextricably linked with environmental degradation.  In Stockholm Mrs Gandhi had emphasised that “the environment cannot be improved in conditions of poverty  –  how can we speak to those who live in villages and slums about keeping the oceans, the rivers and the air clean, when their own lives are contaminated at the source?”

This is also the underlying theme of the encyclical Laudato Sì published by Pope Francis last June. It is not just a seasonal Latin American flavour at Vatican City.  The earth’s tears are continuously manifested in different ways depending on the manner in which she is maltreated .

Environmental degradation has a considerable impact on the quality of life of  us all except, that is, for the quality of life of  the select few who pocket the profits by appropriating for themselves advantages (economic or otherwise) and lumping the negative impacts on the rest.

Environmental degradation is an instrument of social injustice. Consequently, enhancing the protection of the environment is also essential to restore social justice.

The water table is subject to continuous daylight robbery: over the years it has been depleted by both authorised and unauthorised water extraction.  What is left is contaminated as a result of the impact of fertilisers as well as surface water runoff from the animal husbandry industry. Theft and acute mismanagement  are the tools used in the creation of this injustice.

The Malta Freeport has been quite successful over the years in contributing to economic growth and job creation. The price for this has, however, been paid by Birżebbuġa residents – primarily through being subjected to continuous noise pollution on a 24/7 basis. Various residential units in the area closest to the Freeport Terminal are vacant and have been so for a considerable time. A noise report commissioned as a result of the conditions of the Terminal’s environmental permit will be concluded shortly. Hopefully, the implementation of its conclusions will start the reversal of the Freeport’s negative impacts on its neighbours.

The Freeport, together with various fuel storage outlets, the Delimara Power Station (including the floating gas storage facility which will soon be a permanent feature) as well as fish-farms have together definitely converted Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port. As a result of various incidents during 2015, spills in Marsaxlokk Bay signify that Pretty Bay risks losing its title permanently.   Fortunately, Birżebbuġa residents have been spared additional impact originating from minor ship and oil-rig repairs after they reacted vociferously to a decision by the MEPA Board to permit such work at the Freeport Terminal.

Public Transport has made minor improvements but nowhere near what is required. It is essential that Malta’s congested roads are mopped up of the excessive number of cars. Improving the road infrastructure will just make it easier for more cars to roam about in our roads, thereby increasing the scale of the problem.  The major consequences are a reduced ease of access and the deterioration air quality.

We will soon be in a position to assess the impact of two other major projects: a business hub at the Malta International Airport as well as a car-racing track with various ancillary facilities. The former will take up land at the airport carpark but will have considerable impact on the surrounding villages. The car-racing track may take up as much as 110 hectares of land outside the development zone and have a considerable impact on both nature and local residents in the areas close to where it will be developed.

The list of environmental impacts that we have to endure is endless.

I could also have included the impact of the Malta Drydocks and the consequent squeezing out of residents from the Three Cities as a result of its operations, primarily as a result of sandblasting, in the 1970s and 1980s. I could also have added the impact of the waste recycling plant at Marsaskala and the refusal of the authorities to finance studies on the impact of its operations on the health of residents, or else the impact of the operation of petrol stations close to and within various residential areas.

The size of the Maltese islands is limited. A number of the abovementioned  activities/developments  are essential, but others are not. However, it stands to reason that we should not bear the brunt of non-essential activities or developments. This should lead us to plan more carefully so that  the impacts of the activities that are essential are adequately addressed.

As evidenced by the above list, unfortunately over the years those taking decisions betrayed their responsibilities towards the common good, seeking, instead the interests of the select few thereby compounding social injustices.

This is Malta’s contribution to the accumulated tears of Mother Earth.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 January 2016