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

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It-tanker tal-gass waqt il-maltemp: fil-port jew barra?

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

Il-bieraħ fil-gazzetti kellna żewġ rapporti li jgħidu affarijiet bil-maqlub dwar it-tanker tal-gass.

Is-Sunday Times tgħidilna li waqt il-maltemp it-tanker ikollu joħroġ barra mill-port, waqt li l-Malta Independent on Sunday tgħidilna li ser jibqa’ hemm imma li ser jittieħdu miżuri biex ikun protett.

Huwa fatt li l-maltemp fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk jista’ jkun qalil. Fil-fatt fil-Freeport stess, minkejja l-protezzjoni parzjali mill-breakwater ukoll ikun hemm id-diffikultajiet tant li  jkollhom jissejħu t-tugboats għall-għajnuna.

L-Independent tikkwota lill-project manager tal-Electrogas li min-naħa tagħha tispjega dwar il-miżuri addizzjonali li huma ippjanati li jittieħdu matul il-ġimgħatejn li ġejjin. Il-project manager Catherine Halpin spjegat lill-Independent li ser tkun stallata fil-port sistema speċjali ta’ rmiġġ (mooring system) magħrufa bħala Spread Mooring System li huwa ippjanat li tagħti protezzjoni addizzjonali lit-tanker li ser ikun fil-port b’mod permanenti meta jkun hemm il-maltemp.

Tajjeb li issa għandna din l-informazzjoni għax s’issa ma jidhirx li huma aċċessibli r-rapporti li jeżistu dwar dawn il-miżuri.

Nistennew u naraw eżattament x’ser jiġri.

Bejn il-Freeport u t-tanker tal-gass : min jagħmel l-iktar ħsara?

gas at Marsaxlokk

 

Bħalissa għaddejjin numru ta’ argumenti bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista dwar il-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk. Dwar il-kuntrast bejn l-impatti tal-Freeport u dawk tat-tanker tal-gass li dalwaqt ikun qiegħed fi triqtu lejn Malta minn Singapore!

Il-Partit Laburista fl-aħħar induna li l-Freeport għandu impatt negattiv fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Qed ngħid li fl-aħħar induna, għax għal numru kbir ta’ snin ħadd mill-Partit Laburista ma fetaħ ħalqu dwar dan is-suġġett. Inkluż meta l-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista kollu, unanimament, ivvota favur li l-konnċessjoni tat-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles lis-CMA-CGM tiżdied minn 30 għal 65 sena. Dakinnhar ħadd mill-Partit Laburista ma kellu riżervi favur ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Imma biż-żmien il-Partit Laburista fetaħ għajnejħ. Iktar għall-konvenjenza milli b’konvinzjoni. Imma fetaħhom.

Allura issa li l-Partit Laburista fetaħ għajnejh dwar il-Freeport qed jakkuża lill-Partit Nazzjonalista li hu ma jimpurtahx mill-impatti fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Kif kien il-Partit Laburista sa ftit ilu!

Ir-risposta tal-Partit Nazzjonalista, kif antiċipat, hi emfasi fuq it-tanker tal-ħażna tal-gass li ser ikun sorġut fil-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk għal numru ta’ snin sakemm isir il-pipeline tal-gass bejn Malta u Sqallija.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista jridu jdaħħqu dwar min għamel l-iktar ħsara!

Ir-realtà hi li l-ħsara jagħmluha t-tnejn imma din m’hiex ħsara komparabbli.

Il-ħsara kkawżata mill-Freeport Terminal hi riżultat ta’ ippjanar ħażin li ma qiesx l-impatti tal-operat tal-Freeport Terminal fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Huwa nuqqas li jmur lura sal-1962, li seta jkun ikkoreġut fis-snin tmenin u li minflok sar agħar bil-plots għad-djar li ħareġ il-Gvern fil-viċinanżi!

Il-ħsara li jista’ jikkawża t-tanker tal-gass hi li jqarreb il-periklu (anke jekk remot) lejn ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Hawn ukoll hawn nuqqas ta’ ippjanar. Imma tajjeb, for the record, niftakru li l-Gvern Taljan permezz tal-ENI fl-1999 ried jagħmel il-pipeline tal-gass bejn Malta u Sqallija. Imma l-Gvern, dakinnhar immexxi mill-PN, ma wasalx għal ftehim!

Kieku l-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista ippjana l-politika tal-enerġija sewwa ilna iktar minn 10 snin li qlibna għall-gass u bla dubju ma jkunx hemm bżonn l-ebda tanker tal-gass!

Allura, ser jibqgħu għaddejjin biha dwar min għamel l-iktar ħsara?

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

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

Symbolic gestures do not compensate for planning failures

MFT.4 new cranes

Last Thursday, the MEPA Board finally decided to approve the Freeport Terminal’s application to install four cranes with 140-metre high jibs at the terminal. This decision was taken after the Board, in an anticipated about-turn, accepted a second declaration from Transport Malta as a recommendation for approval of the proposal.

In August, Transport Malta had pointed out that the installation of these new cranes was “not desirable” as, due to their height, they would “penetrate one of the established aeronautical protection surfaces by circa 18m”. However notwithstanding the conclusion that, for this reason, the Freeport’s proposal was not considered as undesirable, “given the importance of this facility to the economy”  Transport Malta gave its go-ahead to the Freeport’s proposal subject to a number of mitigation measures.

The Freeport facilities are too close to the residential area of Birżebbuġa and, over the years, MEPA has not given sufficient consideration to the impact that this facility has had – and is still having – on the quality of life of the residential community.

At no point during its consideration of the various planning applications submitted over the years has MEPA considered it necessary to consider the social impact of this economic activity. In fact, primarily as a result of the Freeport’s operations, most of the sport facilities in the area, introduced by the British services over the years, have disappeared. It is only recently that the extensive damage to the waterpolo pitch was made good,  through the reconstruction of a new waterpolo pitch. The activities of the Sailing Club, which  borders the terminal, have also been badly affected as a result of the increase in the number of ships making use of the terminal. The Birżebbuġa Sailing Club, ironically sponsored by the Freeport itself, is the only one of its kind in Malta’s political south.

Last Thursday, MEPA, despite opposition from the Freeport Terminal management, decided on compensating the Birżebbuġa community through the creation of an ad hoc fund to the amount of €955,000 to fund environmental improvement projects in the Birżebbuġa area. It is the second time in six years that MEPA has considered it necessary to take such a symbolic decision. The first time was in 2009, when a fund of €741,820 was created for the same purpose. That decision was, however, quashed by the Lawrence Gonzi-led Cabinet as a result of the planning appeal process, even though the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal  in an 11-page recommendation, explained why the original decision was to be confirmed.

The decision to create this latest ad hoc fund is symbolic in that it recognises the Freeport’s negative impact on the local community. It will not, however, have any substantial effect. It is just a symbolic recognition of the fact that the contribution of the Freeport Terminal to Malta’s economic growth is being achieved at the expense of the quality of life of Birżebbuġa residents.

It  is known that a number of residential properties in the area closest to the terminal have been vacant for a considerable time, as the noise generated through its operation is at times unbearable, irrespective of the time of day.

This is certainly a major failure of land-use planning in Malta, a failure that will be compounded in the coming months when other major planning decisions –  such as the gas storage facilities for the Delimara Power Station just across the bay from the Freeport Terminal – come into operation.

The transformation of Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port is now practically complete and, gradually, a substantial number of residents will be squeezed out.  It is the same process as that experienced by the Three Cities at Cottonera as a result of the activities of Malta Drydocks. The results can be seen by all.  Soon, the shedding of crocodile tears will commence and then the rehabilitation of Marsaxlokk Bay may possibly be planned.

originally published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 December 2015

Birżebbuġa : waħda wara l-oħra

Il-Qajjenza.San Lucjan

 

Il-ħruġ taż-żjut mit-terminal ta’ San Luċjan fil-baħar nhar l-Erbgħa wara nofsinnhar wassal biex għal-darba oħra ġie pprojibit l-għawm f’Birżebbuġa, din id-darba l-Qajjenza viċin fejn sa ftit ilu kellna l-impjant tal-gass.

Din mhiex l-ewwel darba. Xahar ilu kellna l-inċident fil-Port Ħieles fejn inċident ieħor kien wassal biex likwidu f’container jispiċċa l-baħar. Il-Bajja s-Sabiħa kienet damet ġranet magħluqa għall-għawm.

Kull darba li jkollna dawn l-inċidenti jbatu bosta.

L-ewwel ibatu r-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa li jkunu mċaħħda minn rikrejazzjoni mistħoqqa. Ibatu magħhom dawk li jkunu Birżebbuġa villeġġatura. Ibatu ukoll bosta residenti mid-diversi lokalitajiet fin-nofsinnhar tal-pajjiż li f’Birżebbuġa isibu post fejn jistgħu jqattgħu ftit ħin ta’ mistrieħ.

Ibatu ukoll dawk li l-għixien tagħhom jiddependi mill-baħar inkella mill-ħwienet diversi mxerrdin ma’ Birżebbuġa.

Dawn l-inċidenti għandhom impatt fuq dawn kollha.

F’dan l-istadju ħadd għadu ma jaf eżatt x’ikkawża l-inċident u jiena mhux ser noqgħod nispekula x’setgħet kienet il-kawża. Il-fatti imma huma magħrufa minn kulħadd. Iktar ma jgħaddi żmien iktar qed tiżdied l-attività industrijali fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Din l-attività nisslet kritika mhux żgħira tul is-snin, mumenti li għixniehom flimkien, xi drabi ukoll b’opinjonijiet li jikkuntrastaw.

Illum qegħdin f’mument fejn l-attività industrijali li kienet proposta fl-interess ta’ ħidma ekonomika mixtieqa biex tnissel il-ġid qed tagħtina ukoll l-impatti negattivi tagħha. Kulħadd jippreferi kieku l-impatti negattivi ma jiġu qatt. Għalhekk għandna naħdmu.

Jekk bħala pajjiż m’aħniex ser jirnexxielna nassiguraw kontrolli stretti biżżejjed biex dawn l-impatti negattivi jkunu mill-inqas possibli ser ikollna iktar problemi. Wisq nibża’ li bħala riżultat taż-żieda tal-attività industrijali mhux il-bogħod li t-tgawdija tal-baħar f’Birżebbuġa tkun biss attivita’ tal-passat li tista’ issir biss mir-ritratti.

Forsi huwa ukoll il-mument li nifhmu li dawn huma l-konsegwenzi ta’ nuqqas ta’ ħarsien ambjentali adegwat kif ukoll ta’ konċentrazzjoni esagerata ta’ ħidma industrijali fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk.

Issa min irid jibqa’ b’rasu fir-ramel affari tiegħu.

ippubblikat fuq iNews il-Gimgħa 24 ta’ Lulju 2015

The Freeport’s neighbours at Birżebbuġa

freeport.aerial viw

 

 

Two incidents occurred at the Freeport Terminal last week. The first led to the spill of an oily-like chemical when a container was accidentally hit and part of its contents spilled out into the sea. The second concerned odours resulting from the handling of fuels at the Oil Tanking Terminal.  The second accident led to the precautionary hospitalisation of six employees. The first incident, on the other hand, led to the suspension of bathing activities at Pretty Bay, Birżebbuġa for a number of days.

The accident leading to the spill occurred on Monday, 8 June at around noon. Yet on Friday, 12 June, personnel from the Civil Protection Department were still dealing with the spill as by this time water currents had moved it from the Freeport Terminal to Pretty Bay. It was only late on Tuesday, 16 June that the Environmental Health Department certified that Pretty Bay was once more fit for swimming.

 

Unfortunately, such accidents are bound to happen. That they do not happen more often is only due to adequate training and the availability of the adequately maintained equipment available on  site.

The Freeport Terminal extension – approved five years ago by MEPA and currently in hand – is intended to tap into the container movement market in the Mediterranean even further. In the coming years, this will lead to a increased activity and, consequently, the likelihood of similar but more frequent accidents happening in the future is possible.

The Freeport Terminal activity is only one of a number which, over the years, have transformed Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port. Delimara Power station and fish- farming  as well as the ever-present fuel reception points at the San Luċjan and Enemalta stations are other examples of industrial activity along the Marsaxlokk Bay coastline. We should also remember that, at some time in the near future, bathers at Pretty Bay will also have an enhanced landscape: they will be able to enjoy in full view a gas storage tanker permanently anchored just opposite the sandy beach, along the Delimara part of the Marsaxlokk Bay coastline. The spectacle will include its refuelling between eight and 12 times a year, with possibly three of such refuelling instances occurring during the summer bathing season.

The compatibility of this situation with the EU Seveso Directives is debatable.

All this industrial activity may be healthy when considering the general economic requirements of the country on its own. It is, however, generally incompatible with the needs of Birżebbuġa both as a residential community as well as a touristic venue.

Efforts to mitigate the impacts of this industrial activity on the residential community  of Birżebbuġa (and to an extent even on the locality of Marsaxlokk) are in place. Yet with so much going on, the effects of these mitigation measures are necessarily limited. In fact, one wonders why the decision to locate all this industrial activity in the area was not also accompanied by a decision to restrict the development of land for residential use so close to these industrial facilities. In one particular case, at il-Qajjenza in the 1980s,  residential development was accelerated in the vicinity of the then Enemalta Gas Depot. Fortunately the Gas Depot has now been closed down and decommissioned, however it has been moved to the other side of Birżebbuġa, close to the entrance of Marsaxlokk Bay at Bengħajsa.

 

The Freeport Terminal management, supported by MEPA, had also decided to extend the permissible facilities at the Freeport Terminal to include minor repair work to ships and oil rigs. The decision was only reversed when it was faced with the vociferous opposition of the Birżebbuġa residential community led by its local council.

Recently, Transport Malta has added to the summer pleasures at Birżebbuġa. It has planned a mooring area for pleasure craft and small boats adjacent to the swimming zone, right in the middle of Pretty Bay. It seems that Transport Malta does not give a fig about the impact of anti-fouling agents used on a large number of craft berthed very close to a swimming zone.

 

With all this activity going on around Pretty Bay, it is inevitable that that there will be an increase in unacceptable environmental impacts on land, air and sea. Some accidents will also be inevitable.

As a result, however, it is very possible that in future there will be further restrictions on the use of Pretty Bay as a bathing venue. One hopes that this will not be often. It is, however, unavoidable and is the direct result of the ongoing activity which is definitely incompatible with the needs and requirements of the Birżebbuġa residents.

One interesting development at the time of writing is that Hon. Marlene Farrugia, as Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on the Environment and Development Planning, has placed last week’s incidents at the Freeport Terminal on the Parliamentary Committee’s agenda. For the time being, a request for information has been sent out. The resulting discussion will hopefully direct the spotlight on the manner in which successive governments have transformed Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port, in the process at times ignoring – and at other times not giving sufficient attention to the plight of the residents in the area.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 21 June 2015

L-għawm fil-Bajja s-Sabiħa ta’ Birżebbuġa

pretty-bay

 

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra kellna żewġ inċidenti fil-Freeport.

L-ewwel inċident seħħ it-Tnejn 8 ta’ Ġunju meta ntlaqat container li nfaqa’ u parti mill-kontenut likwidu tiegħu spiċċa l-baħar. Sal-Ġimgħa 12 ta’ Ġunju, tard fil-għaxja, l-ħaddiema tad-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili kienu għadhom sejrin bil-ħidma ta’ tindif. Sadanittant il-Bajja s-Sabiħa baqgħet magħluqa sakemm it-testijiet tal-kwalità tal-ilma baħar li qed isiru mid-Dipartiment tas-Saħħa Ambjentali jagħtu riżultati tajbin, ċjoe li jista’ jsir l-għawm.

Sadanittant kellna inċident ieħor u s-Sibt waranofsinnhar sitt ħaddiema tal-Freeport iddaħħlu l-isptar bħala prewkazzjoni minħabba rwejjaħ ta’ gass li x’aktarx ikkawżaw uġiegħ ta’ ras u dardir.

Fortunatament ftit li xejn kellna inċidenti ta’ din ix-xorta, u dan  minħabba li kemm il-management kif ukoll il–ħaddiema tal-Freeport jaħdmu sewwa u bil-galbu. It-taħriġ kontinwu li jingħata lill-ħaddiema kollha tal-Freeport, kif ukoll l-apparat addattat li jintuża jgħinu biex inaqqsu l-possibilità ta’ inċidenti. Imma huwa inevitabbli li iktar ma jiżdied ix-xogħol fil-Freeport [u bl-estensjoni tal-Freeport, ix-xogħol ser jiżdied] tiżdied ukoll il-probabiltà ta’ iktar inċidenti.

Ma dan trid iżżid ukoll il-ħidma bil-gass tal-Power Station ta’ Delimara. Faċċata tal-Bajja s-Sabiħa suppost li jkollna tanker permanenti fil-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk biex fih jinħażen il-gass. Bejn tmien u tnax-il darba fis-sena jidħol ukoll tanker ieħor biex iġib iktar provisti ta’ gass.

Jiġifieri fil-bajja l-problemi ser jiżdiedu mhux ser jonqsu.   Ma noħodiex bi kbira li l-ġranet li fihom ma jkunx possibli li jsir l-għawm fil-Bajja s-Sabiħa ukoll ser jiżdiedu. L-inċidenti tal-ġimgħa l-oħra huma indikazzjoni ta’ x’hemm lest għalina.

Dan hu l-prezz ta’ dak li uħud isejħulu progress jew żvilupp. Huwa l-prova ta’ kemm kellhom raġun dawk kollha li opponew l-estensjoni tal- Freeport.