The Quality of Life Account

Considering the Delimara power station extension in terms of the integrated pollution prevention and control application, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority asked Enemalta to submit an economic study on the different fuels that could be used. With a working language in euros, the study inevitably ends up considering whether preventing or reversing air quality degradation is, in fact, feasible due to the costs involved. I am being crude but that is basically what it entails.

It has been explained elsewhere that opting for gas oil instead of heavy fuel oil (HFO) will result in 37.75 per cent lower emissions of PM2.5 (particulate matter having up to 2.5 microns diameter).

Cubed Consultants Limited, author of the Delimara cost benefit analysis, recognises that gas oil has a better emissions performance than HFO. It arrives at this conclusion notwithstanding the incomplete information at its disposal, which information ignores a number of significant HFO emissions.

Cubed Consultants Limited concludes that there is an immediately apparent trade-off between low financial costs and high emission costs: they balance each other out! This may be so in the context of the economic philosophy adopted by Enemalta’s consultants but in the real world things work out differently.

The high emission costs are billed elsewhere. The health account foots part of the bill shouldering higher expenses for health care in general and respiratory ailments in particular. The quality of life account foots the rest of the bill. As a result of opting for lower fuel expenses the higher emissions produced will affect residents in the areas impacted. The varying impacts on their health will reduce their quality of life. Residents in neighbouring areas will also share the effects of the lower air quality.

One of the documents submitted to Mepa by the Marsaxlokk, Birżebbuġa and Żejtun local councils in reply to Enemalta’s IPPC submissions is authored by medical doctor Jason Bonnici and deals with the health effects of air pollution.

Dr Bonnici refers to studies carried out in Atlanta, US in 1996 both before and after the Olympic Games. As a result of measures taken to reduce air pollution during the three weeks of the Games, various indicators (ozone, NO2, carbon monoxide, PM10…) registered a substantial decrease. PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 microns diameter) for example, registered a 16 per cent decrease over the pre-Games levels.

As a result, Atlanta achieved a 40 per cent reduction of consultations in medical practices for asthma in children and a decline of between 11 and 19 per cent of asthma-related visits to emergency departments.

In Beijing, during the 2008 Olympic Games, similar efforts to reduce pollution resulted in a reduction of 31 per cent in PM2.5 and 35 per cent in PM10 concentrations. Results on the impacts of this achievement on health are not yet available.

Faced with this information, it is clear that the generation of air pollution through the use of HFO comes at a heavy health and environmental cost. No amount of economic benefit may balance out the reduction in the quality of life of those whose health is impaired. That is if they live on, as studies quoted by Dr Bonnici indicate an increased death rate in areas that experience the impact of high level PM2.5 and PM10 emissions.

Now, the PM2.5 and PM10 emissions measured by Mepa at Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk in April and May 2011 are already very high. Average PM2.5 daily readings measured 52.50μg/m3 at Marsaxlokk and 34.70μg/m3 at Birżebbuġa in contrast with the EU mandatory target value of 25μg/m3. On the other hand, average PM10 daily readings measured 54.10μg/m3 at Marsa­xlokk and 70μg/m3 at Birżebbuġa. The EU mandatory daily average is of 50μg/m3.

Faced with this reality, Mepa should feel in duty bound to ensure that the fuel option with the least impacts is selected. It is gas oil that pollutes the least and, hence, it presents the minimum of environmental and health impacts.

There is one further point that Edward Mallia has illustrated time and again. The cost to produce a unit of electricity at the Delimara extension making use of gas oil as a fuel is cheaper than what it presently costs at the Marsa power station using HFO. In the local councils’ documents presented to Mepa, Prof. Mallia and engineer Arthur Ciantar present the workings proving that it is not correct to state that using gas oil instead of HFO would lead to higher electricity bills.

Reducing health and environmental issues to prices and incremental costs or savings tends to lead to a situation of knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing, particularly the value of human life. Euros are not a suitable tool to measure the value of human life, health, the quality of life and the environment.

The ball is now in Mepa’s court. In the next few weeks, we will be able to comprehend the extent to which human life, health, quality of life and environmental issues are factored in (if at all) when important decisions are taken by Mepa.

Published in The Times, October 29,  2011

Il-Kunsilli Lokali : qed nagħtu kas tagħhom ?

 

Nhar is-Sibt kien ta’pjaċir għalija li nindirizza l-laqgha plenarja tal-Kunsilliera Lokali li tkun organizzata kull sena mill-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Kunsilli Lokali. Din is-sena din il-laqgħa saret fil-Lukanda Corinthia ġewwa Ħ’Attard.

Osservajt illi fid-dokument konsultattiv tal-Istrateġija Nazzjonali dwar l-adattament għall-Impatti tal-Klima l-Kunsilli Lokali la jissemmew u l-anqas jidher li hemm rwol maħsub għalihom.

Meta nqiesu illi uħud mill-impatti tal-klima jolqtu direttament lill-lokalitajiet dan jistona. Ġibt l-eżempju tal-kapaċita tal-infrastruttura tat-toroq tagħna li tilqa’ għal bidla fl-intensita’ u l-frekwenza tax-xita.  Xi ħaġa li naraw b’għajnejna ta’ spiss, kull meta jkollna maltempata mhux tas-soltu kif kellna reċentement.

Għad hawn awtoritajiet u kummissjonijiet maħtura mill-Gvern li m’humiex konxji biżżejjed tar-rwol importanti li għandhom il-Kunsilli Lokali. Din il-Kummissjoni dwar il-Klima hi waħda minnhom.

F’Birżebbuġa per eżempju kellu jkun l-intervent tas-Segretarju Parlmentari Chris Said biex il-MEPA tieqaf min-negozjati  li kienet għaddejja mal-Port Ħieles dwar il-kundizzjonijiet ta’ permess ambjentali. Dan sar minħabba li dawn in-negozjati kienu għaddejjin mingħajr l-involviment tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa. Issa li l-Kunsill ġie involut in-negozjati bdew mill-ġdid u qed jiġu ndirizzati issues li qabel mhux neċessarjament li kienu qed jitqiesu bl-istess profondita’.

Hemm iżda eżempji oħra li jixhdu illi mhux il-Kunsilli Lokali kollha huma impenjati bl-istess mod.

Meta l–MEPA ħarget il-permess għall-inċineratur tal-biċċerija il-Kunsilli Lokali tal-Marsa u r-Raħal Ġdid ġew mogħtija id-dritt li a spejjes tal-Wasteserve jistabilixxu sistema alternattva għall-monitoraġġ tal-arja fl-inħawi, kif ukoll d-dritt l jqabbdu espert li jgħinhom biex jifhmu l-informazzjoni li tkun ippubblikata dwar l-emissjonijiet. Il-parti relevanti tal-permess fil-fatt tgħid hekk :

”   1.3.2     Public access to emission data (most recent half hour average values and daily average values plus results from the most recent discontinuous measurements) shall be enabled via Internet.

1.3.3     The Marsa and Paola Local Councils may, jointly and in agreement with MEPA, establish an independent ambient air monitoring system covering particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides, as well as any other parameters that may be agreed with MEPA, at the expense of the permit holder.

1.3.4     The Marsa and Paola Local Councils may, in agreement with MEPA, jointly appoint an independent expert to assist in the interpretation of the emission data made publicly available pursuant to condition 1.3.2.”

Huwa ċar mill-kritika li ssir għall-operazzjoni ta’ dan l-inċineratur illi dawn iż-żewġ Kunsilli Lokali għadhom m’humiex konxji minn dan id-dritt li għandhom u s’issa jidher li m’għamlux użu minnu.

Jidher illi hemm bżonn illi l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Kunsilli Lokali tgħin lil dawn il-Kunsilli Lokali u oħrajn bħalhom biex jiżviluppaw il-kapaċita tagħhom biex ikunu jistgħu jkunu ta’ servizz aħjar.

Wara l-Bieb

F’pajjiż żgħir fid-daqs bħal tagħna kull żvilupp li jsir ikollu effett fuq xi ħaġa oħra.

Il-bieraħ f’Birżebbuġa indirizzajt konferenza tal-aħbarijiet dwar l-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles u kif din teffettwa lir-residenti. Il-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa u l-NGO ambjentali tal-lokal il-Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group f’isem ir-residenti qed jopponu l-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles minħabba li din teffettwa ħażin lir-residenti.

Hemm limitu għal dak li hu ġustifikabbli li nissaportu. B’dan l-iskop il-Pjan Lokali għall-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk approvat fl-1995 stabilixxa dan il-limitu billi identifika l-area ta’ Wied il-Buni bħala żona li l-Port Ħieles ma kellux jaqbiżha. Hi fil-fatt definita bħala buffer zone.

Il-permess għall-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles li l-MEPA approvat reċentement dan tinjorah.

Hawn diversi li jitkellmu b’passjoni mingħajr ma jkunu jafu l-fatti. Huwa faċli li tgħid li huwa neċessarju li l-Port Ħieles jespandi fl-interess tat-tkabbir tal-ġid ekonomiku imma min jgħid hekk ikun qed iħares biss lejn parti żgħira ħafna mill-istorja. Għax hemm bżonn ukoll li nħarsu lejn affajiet oħra : kif din l-estensjoni teffettwa l-ħajja tan-nies, u kif din teqred ukoll facilitajiet sportivi tal-baħar (sailing club) li jgawdu mhux biss ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa imma ukoll residenti min-nofsinnhar tal-pajjiż li għalihom Birżebbuġa huwa post ta’ villeġġatura.       

Hemm ukoll l-impatti ambjentali li akkumulaw tul is-snin mill-attivita’ industrijali fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Dawn huma sostanzjali. Jagħmel sens ħafna illi qabel ma biss nikkunsidraw estenzjoni tal-Port Ħieles nifhmu iktar l-impatti ambjentali akkumulati li per eżempju qerdu l-ħajja fil-bajja u nassiguraw li dawn ikunu indirizzati.

Il-Kunsill ta’ Birżebbuġa, il-Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group u l-Port Ħieles ilhom ix-xhur jiltaqgħu mal-MEPA biex flimkien insibu l-aħjar mod kif dawn l-impatti li akkumulaw tul is-snin ikunu indirizzati u possibilment jonqsu għall-ġid ta’ kulħadd.

Dan hu l-mod kif l-affarijiet isiru bis-serjeta’. Għalhekk nitkellmu dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Għax l-iżvilupp biex jagħmel sens ma jridx inissel biss titjib ekonomiku, iżda dan irid jagħmlu mingħajr ħsara : la ħsara ambjentali u l-anqas ħsara soċjali.  

Il-ħsara ħadd ma jridha wara biebu.

________________

Ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog :

12 ta’ Gunju 2010 : Past Mistakes ……. Present Day Decisions.

1 ta’ Frar 2010 : Malta Freeport : Impacts on Residents should be dealt with effectively.

21 ta’ Marzu 2009 : The Freeport : Will MEPA backtrack ?

26 ta’ Frar 2009 : Kisba Importanti wara suġġeriment ta’ AD – MEPA accepts AD proposal.

5 ta’ Marzu 2008 : Birżebbuġa u l-Port Ħieles.

Malta Freeport :Impacts on residents should be dealt with effectively

AD supports Birzebbuga Local Council in its actions to protect residents from the further deterioration of their quality of life.

Michael Briguglio AD Chairperson stated that the activities of the Freeport should not be further increased until such time that the present impacts on the residents are dealt with effectively. It is for this specific purpose that AD through its spokesperson for Sustainable Development  Carmel Cacopardo had proposed the need for an Environmental Management System to be adopted by the Freeport Terminal way back in February 2009 when MEPA was considering the development applications.

Carmel Cacopardo AD spokesperson on Sustainable Development and Local Government pointed out that MEPA has started meeting with the Freeport Terminal representatives in order to identify the environmental issues to be tackled. It is shameful, he added, that MEPA has not felt the need to involve the Birzebbuga Local Council in these crucial talks.

Carmel Cacopardo concluded by inviting Dr Gonzi as the Minister responsible for both the Environment and Local Councils to ensure that MEPA lives up to its obligations and involves the Birzebbuga Local Council in these meetings.

The Freeport : will MEPA backtrack ?

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published on Saturday, March 21, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

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On February 26, during a public session, the Mepa board discussed development proposed at Malta Freeport. It decided that the approved development was to include a condition that an environmental permit relative to Freeport operations was henceforth to be a requirement and that this was to be underpinned by an environmental management system (EMS).

I was fortunate enough to participate in this discussion on behalf of AD and in support of the Birżebbuġa local council. I stressed the need to address and contain the impacts of Malta Freeport on the local residents through an EMS, which would be subject to environmental auditing.

This decision by the Mepa board is of the utmost importance. For the first time, Mepa has intervened in order that local industry adopts an EMS into its control mechanisms. In Malta, to date, this has only been carried out by companies operating as part of an international set-up, such as ST and the pharmaceutical companies that have set up shop recently.

The Freeport needs to understand that it has to behave as a good neighbour to the Birżebbuġa community. Economic activity on its own, generating profits and employment, though essential, is not sufficient. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs to be factored in. CSR is not about corporate sponsorships and donations: it is about the responsible behaviour of business and industry. Acting responsibly includes ensuring that the impacts of industrial activity are addressed.

This would undoubtedly entail costs. Currently, these costs are inexistent on the Freeport balance sheet: they are being borne directly by the Birżebbuġa community and paid for through an inferior quality of life. These hidden costs (externalities) include but are not limited to the contamination of the bay, the emissions to air from the various activities going on within the Freeport perimeter and noise at all times of the day, most notably during the silent hours.

Malta Freeport Terminal has been assigned to CMA-CGM, the third largest shipping container company in the world. They have commenced direction of the terminal for a period of 65 years pursuant to a decision of Parliament.

Given its size, CMA-CGM operates from a large number of ports around the globe in which they have built a solid reputation. Their website proudly and justifiably reveals that they have an environmental policy which aims at “protecting the marine environment, fighting climate change and developing eco-friendly services and solutions”. The CMA-CGM group also prides itself with the award received for the second year running from the Port of Long Beach, California as part of its Green Flag Programme. This award, according to the CMA-CGM website, reflects their commitment to environmental protection!

The Green Port Policy of the Port of Long Beach has five guiding principles, the first one of which is “the protection of the community from harmful environmental impacts of port operations”. The latest available annual report (2007) for the Port of Long Beach, entitled Reshaping A Vibrant Community, emphasises that the port takes a leadership role in the development of strategies to mitigate security risks in the port complex. Of particular interest is the section in the said report (page 17) which speaks of “Exporting Green policy to seaports worldwide”. Linking with such a vision on the part of CMA-CGM should put the minds of Birżebbuġa residents at rest! Will it?

So far, globalisation and its cousin competition policy have been the vehicle for privatisation, deregulation and economic fundamentalism. The global players imported within our shores to take charge of sections of the Maltese economy have yet to bring along their best environmental practices such that it be ensured that the communities in which they operate are not burdened with the hidden costs of their operations. To date, it has been a globalisation of opportunities for profit seekers, responsibilities lagging far behind! CSR is hardly in sight!

The Mepa board decision of February 26 paves the way for Malta Freeport to be compelled to manage its environmental externalities. It is indeed noteworthy to see that Mepa has, following public participation, taken a leaf out of the CMA-CGM environmental policy and included this as one of the conditions of the development permit.

On February 26, the Mepa board, in addition to underlining the fact that Malta Freeport needs to address its environmental impact, refused one of its applications: that dealing with an extension of the Terminal One West Quay. It is hoped that the Freeport will be capable of deciphering the writing on the wall. By determining that an EMS should underpin an environmental permit regulating the Freeport operations, the Mepa board has identified the way forward. Its neighbours hope that Malta Freeport will move along that path and that Mepa will not backtrack after the June MEP elections!

Birżebbuġa u l-Port Ħieles

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  Flimkien mal-Inġinier Dr Patrick Attard, kandidat tal-Alternattiva fuq il-5 u it-12-il Distrett kelli laqgħa mas-Sindku ta’ Birżebbuġa Joseph Farrugia biex iddiskutejna l-estensjoni ta’ mollijiet tal-Port Ħieles kif proposti fl-applikazzjonijiet mal-MEPA bir-referenzi PA 3368/06 and PA 4819/07. Tal-ewwel ġja ġiet approvata filwaqt li t-tieni waħda għada pendenti. Il-baħar madwar il-Bajja is-Sabiħa f’Birżebbuġa għandu funzjoni doppja. Kemm dik kummerċjali konnessa mal-operazzjoni tal-Port Ħieles kif ukoll jintuża għall-għawm. L-operazzjoni tal-Port Ħieles hi importanti għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż u tajjeb li tkun kontinwament imsaħħa. Iżda ma nistgħux ninjoraw li n-nies tuża ukoll l-inħawi għall-għawm, u ilha tagħmel hekk għal ħafna snin, ferm qabel ma beda jopera l-Freeport.

Il-baħar fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk huwa imniġġes tant li huwa nieqes mill-ħajja marittima.

L-Alternattiva Demokratika ser isegwi l-iżviluppi konnessi mal-estensjoni tal-Port Ħieles u fil-ġimgħat li ġejjin tara x’inizzjattivi tista’ tieħu biex fil-Port Ħieles u l-Awtorita’ Marittima tkun imxettla kultura ta’ Responsabbilta Soċjali (CSR) konessa ma amministrazzjoni aħjar tal-Portijiet tagħna li tirrifletti l-użu kultant konfliġġenti tagħhom.