Il-qerda madwarna, dejjem tikber

L-applikazzjoni bin-numru PA11067/17 għall-iżvilupp ta’ faċilitá oħra ta’ McDonalds fil-periferija ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar huwa attentat ieħor biex tiġi mnaqqra l-art li nirreferu għaliha bħala ODZ. S’issa nimmaġina li kważi kulħadd jaf li l-ittri ODZ ifissru Outside (O) the Development (D) Zone (Z). Jiġifieri barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp. Dan ifisser li dik l-art, preferibilment m’għandiex tkun żviluppata.

Imma s-sit li ntagħżel biex possibilment ikun żviluppat fuq faċilitá ta’ McDonalds qiegħed f’żona li żviluppat bil-mod fil-passat. Meta l-Pjani Lokali ġew imfassla u ppubblikati tnax-il sena ilu, is-sit fi Triq Salvu Pulis ġewwa Ħaż-Żabbar u l-iżvilupp ta’ madwaru kien definit bħala żona residenzjali rurali (rural settlement): li jfisser li kienet żona residenzjali barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp imma li m’għandiex titħalla tikber.

Lil hinn mill-lingwaġġ tekniku għandna nagħmlu kull sforz biex art barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp tibqa’ mhux sviluppata u li fejn diġa hemm l-iżvilupp, dan ma jikbirx. Il-pjani lokali huma supplimentati minn biżibilju ta’ regoli u linji gwida li sfortunatament, imma ċertament b’mod intenzjonat u ikkalkulat, joħolqu kuntrasti jew kunflitti li jwasslu għall-konklużjoni loġika li kważi kollox hu b’xi mod ġustifikabbli.

Li jkun hemm faċilitá ta’ McDonalds fuq l-art li ntagħżlet f’Ħaż-Żabbar żgur li mhux kompatibbli man-natura residenzjali tal-inħawi. Imma xejn ma nkun sorpriż jekk ikollna ftit akrobazija ta’ livell olimpiku li twassal għall-approvazzjoni tal-applikazzjoni. Il-problema li għandhom numru mhux żgħir ta’ dawk li qed jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet fl-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar hi li huma nieqsa minn kull sensibilitá ambjentali jew dwar l-ippjanar (ta’ l-użu ta’ l-art). Din l-insensittivitá hi l-kawża tal-qerda bil-mod tal-kampanja u tal-identitá tal-lokalitajiet residenzjali żgħar bil-konsegwenza tal-ħolqien ta’ uġiegħ soċjali kbir.

Ħarsa anke ħafifa lejn il-lista ta’ dawk il-każijiet li għamlu l-aħbarijiet tagħtina idea tajba ta’ dak li wassal għall-qagħda preżenti. Il-problema bażika hi dawk l-irġiel u n-nisa li ntagħżlu biex jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet. Dawk tal-lum m’humiex wisq differenti minn tal-bieraħ: (b’xi eċċezzjonijiet) ġeneralment ma jiswew għal xejn, avolja xi minn daqqiet uħud jippruvaw ikunu raġjonevoli.

Hu rari ħafna li jkun hemm xi deċiżjoni li tkun ser taqbżilhom: pereżempju dik dwar il-pompa tal-petrol u d-dijsil fi Triq is-Salini fil-Magħtab. Ir-regoli dwar kif jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet huma mfassla biex jassiguraw li meta jkun hemm min jażżarda jaqbes il-linja, b’mod kważi awtomatiku, jiskatta proċess ta’ awto-difiża tas-sistema: il-vot ma jittieħidtx dak il-ħin iżda fis-seduta ta’ wara. Dakinnhar imbagħad ikun possibli li jissejħu r-riżervi (dawk li bosta drabi ma jattendux għal-laqgħat) biex b’hekk fis-siegħa tal-prova jkun hemm kulħadd. Ikun hemm biżżejjed ħin biex dawk li jdumu jew ibatu biex jifhmu jiftħu ftit moħħhom u jikkonvinċu ruħhom. Imbagħad ikun hemm maġġoranza li tista’ tagħmel xogħolha bil-kumditá.

Dan kollu ħoloq ostaklu istituzzjonali doppju kontra l-ħarsien tal-ambjent. Kien speċifikament maħluq għal dan l-iskop minn min kiteb l-Att tal-2016 dwar l-Ippjanar tal-Iżvilupp. B’dan il-mod hemm kontroll istituzzjonali kontra dawk li kapaċi (anke jekk rari jażżardaw) jaħsbu b’moħħhom. Hi l-mewt bil-mod tal-kampanja u l-wirt ambjentali tagħna. Mhux biss f’ Ħaż-Żabbar, iżda madwar il-gżejjer tagħna.

Uħud minn dawk li jgorru u kontinwament jimlew il-gurnali, inkluż dawk elettroniċi, bil-fehmiet tagħhom jeħtieġilhom jikkunsidraw is-sehem tagħhom f’dan kollu. Għandhom jikkunsidraw jekk huma stess ikkontribwewx biex kibret il-froġa billi repetutament eleġġew li dawk li kewsu fil-borma.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum – Il-Ħadd 25 ta’ Frar 2018

Advertisements

Fast food, slow death

Planning application with reference number PA 11067/17 for the development of a new McDonalds outlet on the outskirts of Żabbar is one of the latest attempts to nibble at our ODZ land. As readers are aware, the letters “ODZ” stand for Outside the Development Zone, meaning that the land in question should ideally not be developed at all.

However, the site selected for the possible development of the McDonalds fast food chain outlet lies in an area that has been slowly developed over the years. When the Local Plans were finalised 12 years ago, the site at Salvu Pulis Street in Żabbar and the surrounding development were defined as an ODZ (rural) settlement: meaning that it was an existing residential development outside the development zone that was to be contained and not allowed to spread any further.

Beyond the technical jargon, ODZ land should remain outside the development zone. The Local Plans have been supplemented by a myriad of additional policies and guidelines which unfortunately, but clearly intentionally, create so many policy contrasts and conflicts that it would not be amiss to conclude that practically anything can be justified on the basis of existing policy.

Having a McDonalds outlet in the chosen site at Żabbar is not compatible with the residential nature of the area, but I would not be surprised at all if another planning somersault of Olympic proportions leads to the approval of this application. The problem with most of the decision-takers at the Planning Authority is that they have little, if any, planning or environmental sense. This insensitivity is contributing to the slow and painful death of our countryside as well as that of our small settlements.

Just go slowly through the list of cases which have made it to the front pages of our newspapers and you will get a good idea of what has slowly but surely led to the current state of affairs. The basic problem is the men and women selected to be the decision-makers. The present ones are not much different from the previous ones: (although with some exceptions) generally they are useless. Some of them occasionally try to be reasonable.

Very rarely, a reasonable decision threatens the current order of things and looks likely to slip out: as the recent case on the Magħtab fuel station. The decision-taking rules are designed to trigger an automatic self-defence mechanism against those who dare overstep their brief: the definite decision is postponed to the next sitting. It is then possible to call in the reserves to vote and the habitual absentees turn up, thereby ensuring a full house at the next Board meeting. There is also sufficient time to convince those who may have “misunderstood” matters and dared speak their mind. It is then possible to ensure that the majority falls in line.

This has created an institutional double hurdle against the environment and its protection. It is specifically designed to be so by the author of the 2016 Development Planning Act, clearly intended to introduce an institutional check on those who dare sing from a different hymn sheet from the one available. It is the slow death of our countryside and our environmental heritage – not just at Ħaż-Żabbar, but all over the islands.

Some of those who grumble and fill the comments sections of our newspapers with their views need to consider whether they have contributed to all this by repeatedly electing those who have designed this mess.

Published on The Malta Independent on Sunday – 25 February 2018

A future for our past

Fort-Ricasoli

 

The proposal for the setting up of an American University at Marsaskala  as presented  by the government is not one that is sustainable.  DePaul University of Chicago has denied involvement in the selection of the site: it is a responsibility that has to be shouldered exclusively by the government and its advisors.  Whilst the proposal itself may be beneficial, the selected site should be discarded and replaced.

At the time of writing we are aware from media reports that the site at iż-Żonqor in Marsaskala, outside the development zone, was selected by MEPA on the basis of parameters identified by the government. We have been informed that  the government opted for an ODZ site in order to reduce the financial outlay for the project. In fact, 89% of the land is government-owned whilst the remaining 11% belongs to private individuals, a number of whom are well known for their activities in previous years.

This points to a serious shortfall in the reasoning of the government which  apparently considers that the costs that need to be taken into consideration are limited to those of a financial nature. Environmental costs do not seem to be factored in at this stage – except in the form of a nature park sweetener accompanying the proposed destruction of agricultural land. On the other hand, by identifying the site in the political south, the government thinks that it is addressing social considerations as it is trying to imply that this will lead to the generation of employment opportunities in the area.

Employment opportunities will definitely be created both directly by the academic activity of the University and through the presence on the islands of the foreign students who will be attracted here.  These employment opportunities will certainly be a long term benefit for the Maltese economy.

Hopefully, other impacts on the local population will be considered in detail at a later stage when the detailed plans of the project are analysed. However, even at this point it is obvious that the generation of increased traffic will be problematic and will create considerable difficulties for the localities of Ħaż-Żabbar and Marsaskala.

Earlier this week, Alternattiva  Demokratika-The Green Party proposed to the government that instead of considering the site at Żonqor Point in Marsaskala it should look at Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara. This proposal was also reflected in separate comments made by environmental NGOs as well as by Labour MP Marlene Pullicino, who emphasised the need to make use of forts, coastal towers and buildings of huge historical significance which, if adequately restored, could provide much more space than is needed for the campus of this American University.

In addition to Fort Ricasoli, Dr  Pullicino referred to Fort St Leonard,  Fort St Rocco, The Cottonera Lines  and Fort San Salvatore in Vittoriosa.

I understand that there is some reluctance regarding the Fort Ricasoli proposal – currently partly utilised by the film industry, which considers it as an essential backbone of its infrastructure. Whilst this may be the case, unfortunately this use of the Fort has not to date led to any visible improvement on the state of repair of this national treasure.  I am informed that currently  sections of the fort require immediate intervention as they are considered to be in a dangerous state. Information available also indicates that the film industry has been drawing the attention of the authorities for years on end to the state of Fort Ricasoli but unfortunately no action has been taken.

These proposals to utilise Malta’s historical heritage as an alternative to the planned destruction of 90,000 square metres of agricultural land is much more than a proposal to change the location of the American University in Malta. It aims to channel the available investment into regenerating our historical heritage by restoring it and identifying a use of relevance to the 21st century. Using restored buildings appropriately is the best way in which we can protect our historical heritage.

Other countries have been there before us with considerable success.  Many Universities in Europe are situated on a campus consisting of immaculately preserved buildings, combined with state-of-the-art facilities for research, learning and recreation.

All the above Maltese  historical buildings offer easy access to the infrastructural services which will be required on a university campus.

Why proceed with the destruction of agricultural land when the proposal for an American University in Malta can be achieved through creating  a future for our past? This is a unique opportunity which should not be discarded.

published in The Independent on Sunday, 10 May 2015

Nies bħal Quinton min qed jagħtihom l-arja?

Quinton Scerri

 

Il-Bord ta’ Governanza Lokali immexxi mill-Avukat Joe Mifsud għadu kif ikkonkluda investigazzjoni dwar il-Kunsill ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar.  Nhar it-Tlieta 8 ta’ Lulju 2014 ippubblika r-rapport bil-konklużjonijiet tiegħu.

Il-konklużjonijiet huma ta’ serjeta’ kbira u juru li għad hawn min għad m’għandux idea dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet li għandu is-Sindku u r-responsabbiltajiet li għandu s-Segretarju (jew is-Segretarja) fil-Kunsilli Lokali.

Is-Sindku hu l-politiku u flimkien mal-Kunsilliera kollha għandu l-obbligu li jfassal il-policies u jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet biex tinġieb il-quddiem il-Lokalita. Is-Segretarju/a min-naħa l-oħra m’huwiex qiegħed hemm biex jiddeċiedi iżda biex jimplimenta d-deċiżjonijiet tal-Kunsill kif ukoll biex jara li dawn id-deċiżjonijiet ikunu jaqblu ma dak li jgħidu il-liġijiet u r-regolamenti.

Ir-rapport dwar il-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar iqabbadni l-bard. Li ġġib ħafna voti ma jagħtik l-ebda dritt li tikkunsidra lilek innifsek il-fuq mil-liġi. Iġġib kemm iġġib voti xorta għandek l-obbigu li timxi mar-regolamenti finanzjarji. Jekk is-Segretarju/a tal-Kunsill jiġbidlek l-attenzjoni li ċertu affarijiet ma tistax tagħmilhom ifisser li trid tieqaf u jekk ikun hemm bżonn tagħmel il-verifiki u mhux tibqa’ għaddej qiesek bulldowzer.

Mhux ta’ b’xejn li Quinton irreżenja minn Sindku u mill-Kunsill ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar ftit minuti wara li ħareġ ir-rapport.

Osservazzjoni f’waqtha tar-rapport dwar il-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar hi din:

“Minħabba li dan l-istharriġ beda wara li sar rapport minn Partit Politiku, il-Bord iħossu fid-dmir li jindirizza lill-Partiti Politiċi dwar għażliet ta’ kandidati sabiex jikkontestaw għall-elezzjonijiet tal-Kunsilli Lokali.

Il-Partiti li jagħżlu kandidati sabiex joħroġu f’isimhom għandhom jagħmlu skrutinju aktar sever fuqhom qabel jippreżentawhom bħala kandidati tagħhom.

Ma jfissirx li għax ikollok persuna popolari ħafna kif kien f’dan il-każ, dan ikun idejali u adekwat għall-kariga ta’ Kunsillier u wisq iktar ta’ Sindku. Min jikkontesta elezzjoni għall-Kunsill Lokali għandu jkun team player u mhux jaħdem għal rasu u ‘l fuq minn dak li tipprovdi l-liġi.”

Fid-dawl ta’ dan ta’ min jistaqsi: nies bħal Quinton min qed jagħtihom l-arja?

____________________

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog: Wara San Pawl il-Baħar u l-Munxar……………. qed iberraq f’Ħaż-Żabbar

Wara San Pawl il-Baħar u l-Munxar……………. qed iberraq f’Ħaż-Żabbar

Zabbar.l-itwal mejda

L-istorja tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ San Pawl il-Baħar għadha friska.

Kunsillier tefa’ l-offerta għal Works Manager, meta dan ma jistax isir mhux biss għax mhiex imġieba korretta, imma ukoll għax il-liġi dan tobbliga li ma jsirx.

Il-Kunsillier involut refa’ ir-responsabbilta ta’ dak li ġara u irreżenja. Ma nafx kemm kellu jerfa’ ir-responsabbilta’ hu biss. Għax fil-waqt li veru li huwa mexa ħażin, naqas ukoll is-Sindku tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ San Pawl il-Baħar li b’għoxrin sena esperjenza fil-Kunsilli ma nistax nifhem kif ma ndunax. Huwa responsabbli ukoll is-Segretarju Eżekuttiv li messu induna mill-ewwel, iżda ma ndunax. Meta rreżenja l-Kunsillier għaldaqstant ftit issolvew affarijiet. Għax min messu induna u żamm l-iżball milli jsir għadu ma refax ir-responsabbilta’ tiegħu.

Issa tfaċċa l-każ tal-Munxar. Fejn skoprew li l-kuntrattur li ħa l-offerta għadda din l-offerta (b’sub-contract) lil wieħed mill-kunsilliera tal-istess Kunsill! Flok mill-bieb dan għadda mit-tieqa.

Jidher li hemm iktar affarijiet għaddejja.

Qiegħed iberraq f’Ħaż-Żabbar. Għaddej xi ħaġa bejn is-Sindku w is-Segretarju Eżekuttiv tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar. Jidher li is-Segretarju Eżekuttiv bi snin ta’ esperjenza qiegħed attent li l-ħidma tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar timxi sewwa, mar-regoli. Imma f’waħda minn l-aħħar laqgħat tal-Kunsill Lokali kien hemm ilment mis-Sindku li d-deċiżjonijiet qed idumu wisq ma jitwettqu. Is-Segretarju Eżekuttiv qiegħed fil-mira tal-attakki fid-deher u fl-imwarrab. Qaluli li qed jinġabru xi firem ukoll kontra dan is-Segretarju Eżekuttiv .

Hawn min rasu qed tikbirlu malajr. Il-ħidma tal-Kunsilli Lokali ma tistax issir jekk ma timxi bl-ordni u f’rispett sħiħ tar-regoli. B’mod partikolari ir-regoli ta’ kif isir l-infieq.

Is-Segretarju Parlamentari għall-Kunsilli Lokali u l-Kultura, José Herrera, jidher li ser ikollu x’jagħmel mhux ħażin.

Min għandu jifhem ħa jifhem.