Land use planning : beyond rhetoric

Freeport 2015

 

There is a common thread running through a number of local land-use planning controversies: they are tending to either ignore or give secondary importance to environmental, social and/or cultural issues, focusing instead on economic considerations.

On this page I have discussed the impact of the Freeport Terminal on  Birżebbuġa a number of times. The basic problem with the Freeport is that its impact on the Birżebbuġa community were ignored for a very long time. In fact, an attempt to include a Social Impact Assessment as an integral part of the EIA which was carried out some years ago was given the cold shoulder by MEPA. The end result was that the decision-taking process was not adequately informed of the impact of the terminal extension, both those already apparent and those which were yet to come. In particular, no assessment was made of the disintegration of the sports infrastructure in the area that has  slowly been eaten up – primarily by the Freeport.

Most of this could have been avoided through an active engagement with the local community over the years at the various stages of the project’s planning and implementation. This is why plans for the Freeport’s expansion, as indicated by the Freeport Corporation’s CEO  earlier this week in an interview with The Business Observer, should be explained  immediately. Even at this early stage it must be ascertained that the situation for  Birżebbuġa residents will not deteriorate any further.

No one in his right mind would deny that, over the years, the Freeport has made a significant contribution to Malta’s economic growth. Few, however, realise that the price paid for this economic success has been the erosion of the quality of life of the Birżebbuġa community. This is certainly unacceptable but it will only get worse, once the gas storage tanker for the Delimara Power Station is parked within Marsaxlokk Bay in the coming months, very close to the Freeport terminal.

The same story is repeating itself in other areas. Consider, for example, the 38-floor tower proposed at Townsquare and the 40-floor tower proposed for the Fort Cambridge project, both on the Tignè Peninsula in Sliema. The Townsquare assessment process is reaching its conclusion, whilst the one in respect of Fort Cambridge is still in its initial stages. Yet both are linked to the same fundamental flaw: the lack of consideration of the cumulative impact of the development of the Tignè Peninsula – which includes the MIDI development as well as the individual small scale projects in the area.

The adoption of plans and policies which have made it possible for the authorities to consider the development of the Tignè Peninsula were not subject to a Strategic Impact Assessment and, as a result, the cumulative impact of implementing these plans and policies were not identified and assessed. The end result is that the proposed towers are justifiably considered as another disruptive and unwelcome intrusion by the Tignè and Qui-Si-Sana communities.

The developers and their advisors focus exclusively on the impacts which are generated by their proposals, with the authorities generally avoiding the consideration of the big picture at the earliest possible stage.

Preliminary indications from the proposed Gozo Tunnel and the Sadeen “educational” setup at Marsaskala/Cottonera are already pointing in the same direction. In both cases, the alternatives that were generally brushed aside are the very options that need to be examined in detail in order to ensure that the challenges that will be faced in 2016 and beyond have not been prejudiced by myopic considerations in 2015.

Planning failures have serious consequences on those of our local communities that have to bear the brunt of the decisions taken for a long period of time. These can be avoided if the authorities refocus their efforts and realise that the economy is a tool which has to be a servant, and certainly not a master.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 20 December 2015

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X’hemm lest għal Birżebbuġa?

Freeport.Aaron

Il-Port Ħieles, skond Aaron Farrugia, CEO tal-Korporazzjoni tal-Port Ħieles, dalwaqt jixpakka. Għandu bżonn l-ispazju biex jikber.

F’intervista ma’ Vanessa MacDonald ippubblikata fil-Business Observer il-bieraħ (supplement tat-Times of Malta) Aaron Farrugia jara potenzjal ghall-espansjoni tal-Port Ħieles fl-art li l-kumpanija GO kellha fit-triq ta’ Ħal-Far. Mid-dehra ma jafx li diġa hemm applikazzjoni fuq din l-art u li l-MEPA diġa esprimiet ruħha li ma taqbilx fil-principju, għalkemm l-applikazzjoni għadha pendenti.

Qed jara ukoll potenzjal għall-iżvilupp tal-Port Ħieles fil-miljun u nofs metru kwadru ta’ art li hemm bejn il-Port Ħieles u Ħal-Far.

Il-konflitt bejn il-ħtiġijiet tar-residenti (ta’ Birżebbuġa) u l-interessi tal-Port Ħieles huwa wieħed reali li kull jum li jgħaddi qiegħed jinħass iktar u jweġġa’. Għax fir-realtà l-Port Ħieles mhux postu daqshekk viċin in-nies. Kien meħtieġ li jinqata’ min-nies billi jitħalla l-ikbar spazju possibli vojt bejnu u r-residenzi. Imma dan l-ispazju qatt ma nħoloq.

L-intervista ta’ Aaron Farrugia hija inkwetanti għax minn dak li fiha jfisser li ma hemm l-ebda intenzjoni li jħallu lir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa bi kwiethom.

L-Onorevoli Lawrence Gonzi qed iħawwad

 

It-Times tal-lum qaltilna li għall-Gvern ir-responsabbilta għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi fl-għola livell.  Jiġifieri minħabba l-fatt li l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu responsabbila’ tal-Prim Ministru Lawrence Gonzi jfisser, suppost, li l-Gvern qed jagħtiha l-ikbar importanza.

Ir-realta sfortunatament hi bil-bosta differenti għax fil-materja l-Onorevoli Gonzi wera ruħu inkompetenti bil-kbir. Raqad raqda kbira ta’ l-inqas mill-2008 lil hawn. Ma għamel xejn ħlief paċpaċ. Paroli biss.

Fl-istess nifs li l-Onorevoli Gonzi jgħidilna kemm il-Gvern qalbu taħarqu għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli ninsabu infurmati li l-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli ilha ma tiltaqa’ sa mill-2006! Mhux biss, talli l-Gvern issa xoljiha.

U dan Gvern li jgħid li moħħu hemm u li qed jagħti l-importanza lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Li kieku ma jagħtix każ mela x’jagħmel ?

U ħallina. Ir-realta’ hi waħda sempliċi. M’għandekx idea x’inti tagħmel.

Politka tan-Ngħam

 

Il-politika tal-Gvern dwar l-attivita nukleari fil-Mediterran hi politika tajba għan-ngħam. Ta’ min ideffes rasu fir-ramel biex ma jismax u ma jarax.

 

Fi tmiem il-ġimgħa l-oħra kien ippubblikat artiklu fil-gazzetta Taljana  Il Sole 24 Ore iffirmat mill-ġurnalista Federico Rendina. L-artiklu ntitolat Il Governo rilancia sull’atomo. Berlusconi: contatti per costruire centrali nucleari nei Paesi vicini. jimplika li Berlusconi qed jipprova jħajjar pajjiżi bħal Malta, l-Montenegro u l-Albania biex fihom jinbena impjant nukleari.

 

Wara tlett ijiem ta’ skiet u biss wara li AD ġibdet l-attenzjoni għall-artiklu, d-DOI ħareġ ċaħda li l-materja qatt kienet diskussa. Kompla biex qal li l-AD kienet irresponsabbli talli fil-publiku ġibdet l-attenzjoni għal dan l-artiklu. Il-fehma tiegħi hi li huwa rresponsabbli l-politiku li bħan-nagħma jdaħħal rasu fir-ramel u jibda jemmen li dak li hu m’huwiex jara ma jeżistix.

 

X’ser jiġri iktar dwar il-proġett nukleari Taljan għad irridu naraw.

 

 

Imma llum hemm oħra fil-gazzetti. Kummenti dwar iż-żjara tal-President tar-Repubblika fil-Libja. Il-ġurnalisti huma interessati fil-kwistjoni tal-impjant nukleari tal-Libja, għax bdew jifhmu kemm huma gravi l-konsegwenzi fuq Malta “jekk” xi ħaġa tmur ħażin meta jibda jopera l-impjant nukleari Libjan.

 

Karl Schembri għall-Malta Today minn Tripli jirrapporta li uffiċjal Malti qallu li l-kwistjoni nukleari hi “a non-issue” li tinteressa biss lill-media!

 

Mark Micallef għal The Times minn Tripli ukoll jirrapporta li l-Gvern m’għandu l-ebda intenzjoni li jqajjem mal-Libja l-kwistjoni nukleari.

 

Il-politika tal-Gvern Malti dwar in-nukleari fil-Mediterran hi politika għan-ngħam. U l-Opposizzjoni ? Billi qed jiżviluppa consensus fuq il-politika barranija, l-Opposizzjoni baqgħet ħalqa magħluq hi ukoll !

It-taxxa tar-registrazzjoni tal-karozzi

exhaust1.jpg

 

Kulħadd f’daqqa waħda qed jitkellem favur l-ambjent. Din m’hiex xi ħaġa ħażina. Pero jekk dan ifisssirx li ser nimxu il-quddiem jew le għad irridu naraw. Irridu naraw kif il-kliem ser jinbidel f’fatti.

Għalissa, 4 ġimgħat wara l-elezzjoni għadu ftit kmieni.

It-Times illum f’artiklu intitolat Car Tax Reform Gathers Speed ħabbret li mhux il-bogħod li jkunu magħrufa l-proposti tal-Gvern għal riforma tat-taxxa dwar ir-registrazzjoni tal-karozzi. Il-Ministru Tonio Fenech ġie rappurtat li qal li din it-taxxa ser tkun ibbażata fuq l-emmissjonijiet (tal-karozzi).

Dettalji iktar għalissa m’hemm xejn ħlief il-kumment tat-Times li din ir-riforma tista’ twassal għal karozzi li jkunu iktar irħas fil-prezz. Jekk dan li jkollna karozzi iktar irħas iseħħx jew le m’huwiex faċli li tgħidu f’dan l-istadju. Għax dan ser jiddependi mid-dettalji tar-riforma kif ukoll minn jekk it-taxxa titħallasx f’daqqa meta tinxtara l-karozza, inkella jekk tkunx waħda li titħallas kull sena skond kif tvarja l-emissjoni tal-karozza!

Il-Gvern kien ħabbar din ir-riforma fid-diskussjoni ta’ qabel il-budget madwar tlett snin ilu. Minn dakinnhar lil hawn kien hemm pressjoni mill-Unjoni Ewropea dwar il-ħlas ta’ registrazzjoni in konnessjoni ma’ karozzi second hand. Ir-rati li jitħallsu illum huma meqjusa diskriminatorji meta tqabbilhom ma dawk li jitħallsu dwar karozzi ġodda.

Minn dak magħruf s’issa ħareġ punt posittiv. Li r-riforma li ser issir m’hiex ser tkun limitata għall-aspett fiskali iżda ser tindirizza ukoll l-aspett ambjentali. Dan hu tajjeb għax l-aħħar rapport dwar l-istat tal-ambjent f’Malta iqiegħed lit-transport fuq nett fil-lista ta’ dak li huwa problematiku f’pajjiżna.

Dan l-eżerċizzju hu sfida kbira. Nittama li jirnexxi.

No comment

Today’s Malta Independent reported the Prime Minister  Lawrence Gonzi as having stated the following in yesterday’s mass meeting :

“Speaking about the government’s commitment    to improve the country’s environment, Dr Gonzi appealed to all those with a genuine interest in this sector to join the government to find the best way in favour of sustainable development.”

MEP Simon Busuttil in his weekly article published in The Times today was more specific and stated that :

” There is no doubt, for instance, that AD has managed to put the environment at the very top of the PN’s political agenda. And I hope that my party will reach out to AD activists whose good ideas and positive energy can be successfully applied to the benefit of the country. This will not be easy given the acrimony of the final days of the campaign. But nor is it impossible. This is the time for magnanimity, not for pettiness.”

There is no need for any comment on my part !