The Freeport: who pays the price for its economic success?

freeport.aerial viw

 

There are conflicting views on the acceptability or otherwise of the operations of the Freeport Terminal at Kalafrana, limits of Birżebbuġa. Throughout the years, governments have repeatedly emphasised that the Freeport’s contribution to Malta’s economic growth justifies practically anything. It has been implied that no sacrifice was to be spared for the Freeport to be transformed into an economic success.

As a result, the residential community of Birżebbuġa has been forced to sacrifice its quality of life.

Putting it briefly, it is the result of a lack of planning prior to the setting up of the Planning Authority. Land required for the Freeport was expropriated as far back as 1962, yet a considerable residential area was developed close by in the mid-1980s. No suitable buffer zones were created to shield the Birżebbuġa community from the operational impacts of the Freeport. Had this been done when the Freeport was not even on the drawing board, the present day problems would have been substantially less than what they actually are today.

A major issue is the noise generated, particularly during the quiet hours. Advisors to the Freeport Terminal recently submitted the results of a 12-month noise monitoring survey which was conducted over the period February 2014 to January 2015. The report lists a number of recommended remedial measures, both those required in the short term as well as those requiring a longer time frame to implement. The 15 short-term measures and the seven long-term ones are no guarantee that issues of acoustic pollution will disappear. Reductions in impacts are anticipated even though no projections have yet been made as to whether these will be cancelled out by impacts resulting from an increase in operations at the Freeport Terminal.

A major contributor to noise pollution originating from the Freeport Terminal during the quiet hours is the humming of the main and auxiliary engines of the berthed vessels in port. It is for this specific reason that the Environmental Monitoring Committee at the Freeport Terminal (which includes representation from the Birżebbuġa Local Council) has insisted right through that the shore to ship electrical supply to vessels berthed at the Freeport Terminal should be addressed.

The final report of the 12-month noise survey in fact points at the necessity of undertaking studies on the feasibility of this proposal. This is in line with the 8 May 2006 Recommendation of the Commission of the European Union on the promotion of shore-side electricity for use by ships at berth in community ports (Recommendation 2006/339/EC).

The EU recommendation is specifically intended to be considered by EU ports “where air quality limit values are exceeded or where public concern is expressed about high levels of noise nuisance, and especially in berths situated near residential areas” .

The above makes the point on a reduction of the quality of life of the residential community as a result of just one issue: noise. Then there are other issues amongst which light pollution (resulting from the floodlights at the terminal), which issue is being addressed, as well as the lack of availability of a substantial portion of Marsaxlokk Bay which cannot be adequately used for water sports. Add to this the large number of sports facilities which the British Services developed in the past in the Birżebbuġa Area, most of which have been gobbled up by the development of the Freeport and one gets a real feel as to what the Freeport has done to the quality of life of the Birżebbuġa community.

The development of a waterpolo pitch to replace that constructed in the 60s as well as the development of a football ground, both in the final stages of completion will reduce these impacts. But they will certainly not be sufficient for a community which had so many more sports facilities when it was so much smaller.

To be fair, the Freeport Terminal is not the only contributor to the reduction of the Birżebbuġa residents’ quality of life. Generally, it is the result of the gradual industrialisation of the Marsaxlokk Port over the last thirty years. The addition of the floating gas storage facility servicing the gas-fired Delimara Power Station in the coming weeks (or months) will further increase these problems.

The concerns of ordinary people have been ignored for far too long. Maybe this is why the Prime Minister commented earlier this week on the undesirability of any further expansion of the Freeport Terminal. Possibly he has, at this late hour, realised the extent of the mess which has been created.

The time to clean up is long overdue.

published  on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 July 2016

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Fir-Raħal Ġdid : il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti

Marsa Shipbuilding site

Tħabbar dak li ilu ftit magħruf ( 1 u 2). Ċjoe li s-sit tal-Marsa Shipbuilding ser ikun żviluppat f’ċentru għas-servizzi lill-oil rigs li qed jirreferu għalih bħala l-Mediterranean Maritime Hub.

Qed jingħad li dan ser ifisser investiment ta’ €55 miljun u li ser joħloq 150 impieg ta’ kwalità fil-qasam tal-industrija taż-żejt u tal-gass.

Ħadd ma hu ser jargumenta kontra l-ħolqien tal-ġid, imma tajjeb li anke f’dan l-istadju nemfasizza li s-sit magħżul hu viċin ħafna ta’ żona residenzjali – il-parti t’isfel tar-Raħal Ġdid. L-impatt fuq ir-residenti għandu jkun indirizzat minn issa meta d-dettalji tal-proġett għadhom fl-istadju ta’ ippjanar.

Dan ser jinkludi  prinċipalment storbju u tniġġiż tal-arja imma ukoll dwar kif ser ikun immaniġjat l-iskart tossiku li bla dubju ser joriġina mix-xogħolijiet ippjanati.

Għax il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti tar-Raħal Ġdid hi importanti daqs il-ħolqien tal-impiegi. Għandna diġa esperjenza qarsa fl-Isla u Birżebbuġa. Nittama li minn din l-esperjenza tgħallimna bħala pajjiż biex l-affarijiet isiru aħjar.

Minn Birżebbuġa sal-Isla: r-residenti jeħtieġu l-protezzjoni

oil rig

Alternattiva Demokratika semgħet l-ilmenti tar-residenti tal-Isla (prinċipalment dawk fi Triq is-Sur) dwar l-istorbju kontinwu pero’ prinċipalment bil-lejl bħala riżultat tal-oil rigs li qed isirulhom tiswijiet fit-Tarżna ta’ Palumbo. Ir-residenti tal-Isla tul Triq is-Sur sal-Ponta tal-Isla qed jgħaddu iljieli sħaħ bla mistrieħ minħabba l-istorbju prinċipalment iġġenerat minn xogħolijiet fuq dawn l-oil rigs.

Min ħa din id-deċiżjoni li jsir dan ix-xogħol mingħajr ma qabel eżamina l-konsegwenzi fuq ir-residenti?

It-Tarżna tul l-istorja  tagħha mhux l-ewwel darba li rritat lir-residenti kemm bi storbju kif ukoll bl-impatt tal-grit blasting.”   Il-fatt li t-Tarżna ta’ Palumbo  tmiss ma żona residenzjali titfa fuqha l-obbligu li tqis sewwa qabel ma tieħu deċiżjonijiet ta’ dawn it-tip. X’inhu jagħmel id-Direttorat tal-Ambjent tal-MEPA biex jipproteġi l-kwalita’ tal-ħajja tar-residenti tal-Isla? Kellu jkun id-Direttorat tal-Ambjent tal-MEPA li jissorvelja u jieħu passi immedjati hekk kif ikun meħtieġ biex ikun provdut ħarsien mit-tniġġiż ikkażat mill-ħsejjes.

Jidher, sfortunatament, li d-Direttorat tal-Ambjent tal-MEPA m’huwiex sensittiv għall-ħtieġijiet tar-residenti. Mhux biss għal dawk tal-Isla. Il-ġimgħa l-oħra rajna kif l-istess Direttorat tal-Ambjent irrakkomanda lill-Bord tal-MEPA biex l-istess attivita ta’ tiswijiet ta’ oil rigs tkun permessa fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk, mal-mollijiet tal-Port Ħieles. Għalkemm il-Bord tal-MEPA approva l-permess għal dawn l-attivitajiet fil-Port Ħieles kien ta’ sodisfazzjon li r-rapprezentant tal-għaqdiet ambjentali fuq il-Bord tal-MEPA ingħata l-appoġġ mir-rappreżentanti tal-Parlament fuq dan il-Bord fil-vot kontra dan il-permess.

Alternattiva Demokratika tinnota li l-ġimgħa l-oħra l-Gvern iddisassoċja ruħu mill-permess għat-tiswija tal-oil rigs fil-Port Ħieles. Ikun ferm għaqli kieku l-Gvern jikkommetti ruħu li din it-tip ta’ attivita’ ma issir ħdejn l-ebda żona residenzjali f’Malta jew Għawdex.

Nistennew li l-Gvern jieħu posizzjoni ċara f’qasir żmien għax ir-residenti ta’ kull parti ta’ Malta jeħtieġu din il-protezzjoni. Mhux biss dawk ta’ Birżebbuġa u l-Isla, imma f’kull rokna ta’ dawn il-gżejjer.

Local plans, and not regional

grand-harbouraerial

MEPA has embarked on a process which will lead to a revision of the seven existing  Local Plans. Five were approved in 2006. Two of them were approved earlier: the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan (1995) and the Grand Harbour Local Plan (2002).

With the exception of the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan (which regulates  Birżebbuġa, Marsaxlokk and their surrounding areas) all the Local Plans cover extensive areas. The Structure Plan, approved in 1990 and currently subject to revision, had identified the need for 24 Local Plans addressing urban areas, as well as other unspecified plans for Rural Conservation Areas. Initially when MEPA approved the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan it started along this path but then it opted for plans which are more regional than local in nature.

Local Plans are necessary in order that planning policy is appropriately applied at a local level where one can focus on practical considerations. Though there may be overlaps between Local Plans covering similar areas there will also be variations resulting from the specific nature of the different localities. There will be inevitable similarities between, for example, a Local Plan addressing Valletta and Floriana on one hand and another one addressing the Three Cities due to the fact that both contain vast stretches of fortifications.  However the planning issues arising may also lead to different considerations both in respect of what is to be prohibited as well as in what ought to be encouraged.

Local Plans are not neutral policy instruments. Departing from the common need to ensure a continuous maintenance programme for the fortifications (which programme is currently in hand)  Local Plans may explore different potential uses to which the fortifications in two completely different areas may be put. This would be dependent on the infrastructural services in the area  and on the impacts generated by the potential use  on the surrounding amenities and localities. It would be much easier to ensure that this is done through two separate local plans, one specifically addressing Valletta and Floriana and the other addressing just the Three Cities.

It is not just an issue of fortifications. The large number of vacant properties, currently totalling  over 72,000 cannot be addressed adequately at a regional level. Different policies and different targets have to be identified at a local level as both the causes as well as the extent of the problem vary from one locality to another.

Boundaries of a number of Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs) were substantially revised in 2006 on the understanding that it is better to limit the extent of a UCA to that which is necessary and essential. Consequently it should stand to reason that a smaller UCA is much better to regulate and monitor.

A number of vacant properties lie within UCAs as it costs much more to bring such properties to an adequate state compatible to modern standards of living. This is an area which has already been explored in the last years with various fiscal incentives being offered to encourage rehabilitaton and the reuse of such properties. Much more needs to be done. The revision of the Local Plans is another opportunity to re-examine the way forward in tackling the ever increasing number of vacant properties. The proposed policies must however be focused and local in nature as otherwise they will fail to have any impact at all.

As emphasised by eNGOs  the Local Plans should also be an opportunity to consider the integration of environmental policy and its applicability at a local level. Whilst all environmental policy is of relevance to our localities two particular areas easily spring to mind: air quality and noise pollution.

Both air quality and noise control standards can be undoubtedly upgraded if action is taken at a local level. Traffic generated is a major contributor to both. Heavy traffic through residential areas has to be reduced. If the Local Plans address this issue they will be simultaneously contributing to a better air quality and less acoustic pollution in urban areas.

From declarations made in the past weeks it is obvious that one of the controversial issues to be tackled, (most probably in a plan addressing rural areas) would be agro-tourism.  This is a very sensitive matter . If the point of departure is to seek to establish new development zones on the pretext of tourism than such proposals would be unacceptable. If on the other hand such a Rural Plan addresses the use of existing  agricultural holdings aiming to maximise the use of their existing footprint, provide a different touristic experience as well as  provide alternative or additional employment opportunities to our agricultural communities then there is room for considerable discussion.

The Local Plans to be produced will have an impact on our quality of life for the next ten years. It is hence imperative to not only ensure a high level of participation in the consultation process but that the resulting proposals are given due consideration.

This article was published in The Times of Malta, Saturday August 10, 2013

Barely scratching the surface

The Noise White Paper, just published for public consultation, identifies the need to coordinate the existing fragmented administrative structures as its first target. This is being done in the belief that it will eventually lead to a smoothening out of administrative inconsistencies. Better coordination could also ensure that, in the long term, issues in respect of which the authorities have, to date, been reluctant to act upon can be addressed in an appropriate manner. Hopefully.

The White Paper deals with the abatement of neighbourhood noise. Its reach should have been much wider. It postpones dealing with the noise generated by fireworks and village feasts to some future date. Cultural aspects and tradition are reasons used to justify this postponement. In reality, the government at this time cannot withstand the anticipated reaction of the fireworks lobby, which has yet to come to terms with restrictions based on safety as is evidenced by reactions to the findings and recommendations of the November 2011 inquiry report on accidents in fireworks factories. Clearly, the government considers that now is not the time to regulate excessive fireworks noise. On the eve of a general election, votes are considered to be a more important consideration.

We have been informed (correctly) that the EU Environmental Noise Directive is not applicable to our airport because the traffic it handles is below the established threshold.

The White Paper does not address the issue of noise generated by aircraft approaching or taking off from Malta’s only airport when flying over residential areas. In particular, the impact of approaching aircraft on Birżebbuġa’s residential area at all times of the day (including during the night) comes to mind.

Now, to be fair, one must state that the airport cannot be transferred to any other site. The flight paths leading to the airport are fixed and their use is determined by the prevalent winds. Malta needs its only airport to be operational. Yet, its operation must be such that it does not cause unnecessary hardship to residential areas along the approaches to and around the airport.

This leaves only one option: regulating the airport’s operating times to restrict aircraft movements during the silent hours as is done at Heathrow, Brussels and Fiumicinio, to mention three airports with which readers are familiar.

The airport authorities need to encourage the use of less noisy aircraft through the determination of differentiated aircraft landing charges dependent on the noise generated by the aircraft. It is about time that the airport authorities start respecting the surrounding communities. This is a missing but essential element of the airport’s sustainable development strategy.

The Noise White Paper draws up a list of those authorities that are empowered to regulate some aspect of noise control. One would expect that the police, the Malta Tourism Authority, the health authorities and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority coordinated by the Noise Control Board to now be in a better position to ensure that commercial outlets (particularly those in a mixed use area) are no longer a nuisance to residents in the vicinity.

It should also be less problematic to deal with nuisance caused by air conditioners fixed in the most awkward places.

But noise does not only impact the health of human beings. It also has a health impact on flora and fauna. This is partly regulated through the Habitats Directive of the EU, which is an integral part of Maltese law.

It is positive that the Noise White Paper recognises this and emphasises the need to ensure its implementation. This should now place more onus on Mepa to ascertain that open-air activities generating excessive noise are immediately brought to order. Examples that come to mind are open air discos at Buskett, Paradise Bay and Ta’ Qali. The first two impact biodiversity in Natura 2000 sites and the last is too close to residential areas, particularly Attard. The aborted Mistra “Spin Valley Disco”, which the Nationalist Party and its stooges at Mepa defended before the 2008 election, would also fall foul of these provisions as it was sited right in the middle of a special area of conservation.

Excessive noise also has a damaging impact on the welfare of animals, both farm animals and pets. The impact of noise on farms and agriculture is completely ignored by the White Paper.

Fireworks regulations, for example, are only concerned with residential areas and the distances to be observed from areas that serve as a residence for more than 100 humans.

Excessive noise in agricultural areas severely impacts agricultural production (like milk, poultry, eggs, rabbits…) and can have a considerable economic impact.

It is up to the minister in question to decide whether to prefer the fireworks at the expense of negative impacts on animal husbandry. He may not worry unnecessarily as animals do not vote!

While the White Paper on Noise Prevention is welcome, it barely scratches the surface. We need to go deeper and tackle areas ignored by the White Paper because noise pollution is an issue that has been neglected for far too long.

 

This article was published in The Times of Malta , April 14, 2012

 

on the same subject on this blog :

7th February 2009 : The value of silence

7th November 2009 : When pigs are able to vote

World Environment Day Message – Messaġġ għal Jum l-Ambjent

On the occasion of World Environment Day, commemorated annually on the 5 June, Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government has on behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika The Green Party in Malta  issued the following message :

 During the past twelve months the environment has topped the citizen agenda many times. Air Quality, energy security and flawed tendering processes, land use planning which leaves much to be desired, depleted water resources, excessive and uncontrolled noise and congested roads due to overdue public transport reform, issues relative to biodiversity loss,  have been some of the topics on which AD has repeatedly spoken throughout the past twelve months.  

Government continuously speaks in favour of environmental measures but then its actions do not always correspond to its statements. It is not the monies spent which indicate the level of environmental commitment but the impacts and the positive results attained in addressing the most pressing environmental problems. 

Whilst the “black dust” saga is still officially unresolved it is known that research carried out at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Malta as far back as the  year 2000 had already indicated that the Marsa Power Station was the possible source of this black dust. Not indentifying a solution to this problem in 10 years is a clear indication of the “green credentials” which this government  speaks about but does not manifest in its actions.   

On a positive note AD has noted the statement made over the weekend by new Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Environment, Dr Mario De Marco, on the need to be very cautious in tackling the proposed Hondoq ir-Rummien project. “Our environment is too small to afford to suffer any more mistakes than we have already committed in the past, sometimes even in the name of tourism and progress”  stated Dr De Marco (Sunday Times of Malta: Sunday 30 May 2010). Whilst AD endorses Dr De Marco’s statement, it invites government to realise that these mistakes have been committed by public authorities made up of appointees whose only credentials were their political allegiances. AD looks forward  to the day when decisions are taken by competent authorities and not by politicians in disguise or by proxy.  MEPA reform currently in hand unfortunately does not point in this direction.

In view of all this AD considers that it is time to stand up and be counted. We need to be ambassadors of a radically different future. This can be achieved if more resources are allocated to establish an administrative capacity for dealing with environmental issues as well as ensuring that a consensual environmental policy is developed for these islands.  AD as always is available to give its contribution.

AD reiterates that the environment is a political issue and the election of AD in local, national and European elections will ensure that it is given the priority it deserves through a vision of sustainable development.
_______________________________________________________________________

Fl-okkażjoni tal-Jum Dinji tal-Ambjent imfakkar kull sena nhar il-5 ta’ Ġunju,  Carmel Cacopardo kelliemi ta’ Alternattika Demokratika dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli  u l-Gvern Lokali ħareġ dan il-messaġġ  :

Matul dawn l-aħħar tnax-il xahar l-ambjent kien fuq quddiem nett fl-aġenda taċ-ċittadin Malti. Il-kwalita’ tal-arja, is-sigurta’ tal-enerġija u s-sejħiet għall-offerti b’elf difett, l-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art li ma jindirizzax dak mistenni min-nies, ir-riżorsi tal-ilma mhux imħarsa u dejjem jonqsu, l-istorbju eċċessiv u mhux kontrollat, it-toroq mimlija traffiku minħabba r-riforma tat-trasport pubbliku li dejjem ġejja u qatt ma tasal, telfin tal-biodiversita`: dawn kienu wħud mis-suġġetti li Alternattiva repetutament tkellmet dwarhom matul is-sena li għaddiet.  

Il-Gvern kontinwament jitkellem favur il-ħarsien ambjentali, imma mbagħad dak li jagħmel mhux dejjem jikkorrispondi ma’ dak li jiddikjara. Il-flejjes minfuqa ma jindikawx il-kredenzjali ambjentali tal-Gvern imma l-impatti tagħom u r-riżultati pożittivi li jinkisbu minnhom juru kredibilta.  

Il-każ tat-“trab iswed” għadu uffiċjalment ma issolviex. Iżda hu magħruf li riċerka li saret fid-Dipartiment tal-Kimika fl-Universita’ ta Malta fis-sena 2000 kienet diġa indika li l-Power Station tal-Marsa kienet probabilment il-kawża tiegħu. Meta wara għaxar snin għada mhix identifikajt l-oriġini u s-soluzzjoni għal din il-problema huwa indikazzjoni ċara ta’ kemm dan il-Gvern jitkellem biss favur il-ħarsien ambjentali, mingħajr ebda azzjoni pożittiva favur dan il-għan!….. anzi.

Fuq nota pożittiva Alternattiva Demokratika tinnota l–istqarrija fi tmiem il-ġimgħa mis-Segretarju Parlamentari l-ġdid responsabbli għall-Ambjent, Dr Mario De Marco, dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ attenzjoni kbira fuq kif jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet dwar il-proġett propost għal Ħondoq ir-Rummien. “L-ambjent tagħna hu żgħir wisq biex nistgħu nitgħabbew b’iktar żbalji bħal dawk li kkommettejna fil-passat, xi kultant anke’ f’isem it-turiżmu u l-progress” qal Dr De Marco (Sunday Times of Malta: 30 ta’ Mejju 2010). Filwaqt li Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel ma’ din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Dr De Marco, tistieden lill-Gvern biex jifhem li dawn l-iżbalji seħħew minn awtoritiajiet pubbliċi magħmula minn persuni li l-uniċi kredenzjali tagħhom kienu l-fehmiet politiċi. Alternattiva Demokratika taspira li jasal dak il-jum fejn dawn id-deċiżjonijiet ma jibqgħux jittieħdu mill-politiċi minn wara l-kwinti jew bil-ġbid tal-ispag. Sfortunatament ir-riforma tal-MEPA dan kollu tinjorah.     

Fid-dawl ta’ dan, Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li wasal iż-żmien li kulħadd isemma’ leħnu. Hemm ħtieġa li nkunu ambaxxaturi ta’ futur radikalment differenti mill-present li qed ngħixu fih. Dan jista’ jseħħ bl-allokazzjoni ta’ aktar riżorsi biex tinbena l-kapaċita amminsutrattiva u teknika meħtieġa għall-oqsma kollha ambjentali kif ukoll biex jiġi assigurat illi tkun żviluppata politika ambjentali konsenswali. Alternattiva Demokratika bħal dejjem hi lesta u disposta biex tagħti sehemha.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li l-ambjent hu materja ta’ politika u li l-elezzjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika f’-elezzjonijiet lokali, nazzjonali jew Ewropej tkun l-assigurazzjini li l-ambjent jingħata prijorita’ li jixraqlu f’viżjoni ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli.

The Value of Silence

times_of_malta196x703

published on February 7, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

________________________________________________________

 noisepollution

Sound can be pleasant or annoying depending on personal preferences and moods. It becomes noise, acoustic pollution or maybe even sonic violence when it breaches the individual threshold of tolerance.

Through the Environmental Management Construction Site Regulations of 2007, an attempt has been made to regulate sound emanating from construction sites. While this was a step in the right direction it is to be pointed out that these regulations have not yet been rigorously applied.

The European Union, through Directive 2002/49 known as the Environmental Noise Directive (END), dealing with the “assessment and management of environmental noise”, went one step further: It established common criteria to assess and manage noise throughout the EU. It seeks to establish common criteria relative to the assessment of noise generated by main airports, roads carrying more than six million vehicle passages per year, urban areas having a population exceeding 250,000 and railways. The criteria relative to roads are clearly applicable; those relative to major airports would be applicable when flight movements at Malta International Airport exceed 50,000 per annum (29,972 flight movements in 2008), while the other criteria are obviously inapplicable.

The aim of END is three-fold. Firstly, to define a common approach in noise mapping by EU member states and, thus, to determine exposure to environmental noise through common methods of assessment. Secondly, to ensure that information on environmental noise and its effects is made available to the public. Thirdly, subject to public consultation, to adopt action plans on the basis of the noise-mapping results. These aims had to be attained by specific dates, all of which have now expired.

At AD’s request last week, the Meusac core group was informed by the director of Environment Protection, that Mepa does not have the know-how to implement END and that it intends to issue a tender to farm out the technical expertise required. This decision could easily have been taken more than four years ago such that Malta would now be in the phase of implementation. It seems, however, that this is still far away as the tender is yet to be issued!

When END is finally implemented, various noise sources would still be unregulated. Other jurisdictions have tackled such noise sources as the leisure industry, industrial activity that lies close to residential areas as well as the impacts of noise sources within residential areas themselves.

A court report in The Times some days ago highlighted the impacts which noise, generated by air-conditioning units used by a bank in Sliema, has on overlying residences. This particular case highlighted the friction generated within areas wherein commercial and residential use intermingles. Similar friction exists in residential areas due to the fixing of air-conditioning units servicing ground-floor tenements in such a manner as to be a nuisance to residents of overlying tenements. There is no easy solution to this problem if the point of departure is not the seeking of good neighbourly relations.

In September 2008, the Irish government, faced with similar problems, published a Noise Issues Consultation Paper. This was an initiative taken by John Gormley, Green minister for the Environment in the Irish coalition government. Through specific legislation it was proposed to regulate infrastructural, planning, construction, commercial, industrial, recreational and anti-social noise.

Infrastructural noise would be that related to road traffic as well as low-flying aircraft. Regulating noise from planning/construction does not only concern construction sites but also the noise resulting from the use of a property (say, air conditioners). The regulation of noise emanating from commercial and industrial establishments would address the use of equipment in these establishments, noise resulting from clients of bars, nightclubs and discos both when the premises is in use as well as when exiting.

Noise relative to industrial installations, especially those situated close to residential areas, is another area needing to be tackled! Recreational noise would address for example the sonic impact of jet-skis and festa fireworks while anti-social noise would include continual and persistent sounding of alarms (car and house/shop alarms), noise from neighbourhood parties, animal noise in residential areas, in particular the persistent barking of dogs, as well as noise generated by large groups loitering in residential areas late into the night.

Not all of these issues are regulated in Malta. Enabling powers are spread in various laws, which generally authorise the Commissioner of Police to take the necessary action. The police, however, at times are powerless when they consider that a sonic nuisance brought to their attention could not fall within their competence, the issue of air conditioners being a case in point.

This points to the need to consolidate and update Maltese legislation regulating acoustic pollution such that an immediate administrative remedy is available to ensure that the value of silence, where appropriate, is appreciated by all.

Inqas ħsejjes

 aircraft

 

 

Jiena u Arnold Cassola dalgħodu iltqajna mas-Sindku u uħud mill-kunsilliera tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa. Iddiskutejna kif il-komunita ta’ Birżebbuġa hi effettwata mill-Port Ħieles u mill-ajruplani li jinżlu lejn l-ajruport tal-Gudja minn fuq Birżebbuġa.

 

Alternattiva Demokratika tappoġġa lill-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa huwa u jfittex soluzzjoni għal dawn l-impatti.

 

L-ewwel nett ngħid li kemm l-ajruport kif ukoll il-Port Ħieles huma essenzjali għall-ekonomija Maltija. Imma dan ma jfissirx illi għax dawn iż-żewġ entitajiet jiġġeneraw ix-xogħol allura nistgħu bħala pajjiż nagħlqu għajnejna għall-impatti li jiġġeneraw. Irrid ngħid li bi ftit ħsieb l-impatti fuq ir-residenti jistgħu jiġu mitigati.

 

Ser nillimita ruħi għall-ħsejjes ġenerati (acoustic pollution).

 

Il-Port Ħieles jiġġenera bosta ħsejjes kemm bin-nhar kif ukoll bil-lejl. L-inżul ta’ l-ajruplani minn fuq Bengħajsa għal fuq iż-żona residenzjali Tal-Papa ukoll jiġġenra ħafna ħsejjes minħabba li l-ajruplan ikun viċin li jmiss l-art. Tant ikun viċin li mill-art ikun possibli li jinqara n-numru ta’ registrazzjoni tiegħu !

 

Irrid ngħid li matul dan l-aħħar żmien kien hemm żvilupp posittiv mid-Dipartiment tal-Avjazzjoni Ċivili u dan billi fin-Noise Abatement Procedures tiegħu ifittex illi matul is-siegħat ta’ bil-lejl (11pm sas-6am) kull meta jkun possibli ma jawtorizzax li ajruplani jgħaddu minn fuq Birżebbuġa. Jiena infurmat li l-unika eċċezzjonijiet iseħħu meta l-qawwa u/jew d-direzzjoni tar-riħ ma jippermettux l-użu ta’ rota alternattiva.

 

Huwa neċessarju li l-ħsejjes li niġġeneraw ikunu regolati. Il-Gvern diġa għamel pass żgħir il-quddiem meta permezz ta’ avviż legali ppubblika regolamenti dwar is-siti ta’ kostruzzjoni li fihom fost oħrajn illimita l-ħoss massimu li jista’ jkun ġġenerat sa kilometru l-bogħod minn post residenzjali.

 

Jeħtieġ li nimxu iktar il-quddiem u nassiguraw li l-ħsejjes li niġġeneraw jonqsu għall-ġid ta’ kulħadd.

 

Bħala l-ewwel pass hemm id-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropea (Direttiva 2002/49 tal-25 ta’ Ġunju 2002) intitolata Directive on the Assessment and Management of Environmental Noise.  Il-Gvern Malti waqa’ tlett snin u nofs lura u fil-fatt jidher li għadu ma bediex jimplimenta din id-Direttiva.

 

Għalhekk f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika fil-MEUSAC (Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee) jiena tlabt li l-Gvern jispjega kif fi ħsiebu jġib il-ħin li tilef u kif ser jimplimenta din id-Direttiva.

 

Meta l-Gvern jiċċaqlaq inkunu nistgħu nibdew noqorbu lejn tnaqqis tal-ħsejjes li qed idejqu lil kulħadd. 

L-espansjoni ta’ Heathrow

 

 

Illum fir-Renju Unit qed issir dimostrazzjoni kontra l-proposti tal-Gvern Ingliż biex issir espansjoni tal-ajruport ta’ Heathrow. Il-proposta hi dwar is-sitt terminal u t-tielet runway. 

 

Saru konsultazzjonijiet estensivi b’rapporti b’mijiet ta’ paġni aċċessibli fuq l-internet għal min irid jaqra u jinforma ruħu. Konsultazzjoni li ġiet fi tmiemha nhar is-27 ta’ Frar 2008.

 

 

Il-proposti ser jeffettwaw ta’ l-anqas villaġġ sħih ta’ 700 dar, il-villaġġ ta’ Simpson. Dan irid jagħmel il-wisa’ għall-proġett.

 

It-tibdil fil-klima, it-tniġġiż mill-ħsejjes (acoustic pollution) u l-konġestjoni li ser tinħoloq huma r-raġunijiet għall-oġġezzjonijiet għal dak li qiegħed jippjana l-Gvern Ingliż.

 

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra l-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar is-Sostenibilita fir-Renju Unit immexija minn Jonathon Porritt ipproponiet li għalissa l-Gvern għandu jiffriża l-pjani tiegħu. Id-Dipartiment tat-Trasport immexxi mill-Ministru Ruth Kelly ma qabilx. Sadanittant numru mhux żgħir ta’ Membri tal-Parlament mill-Partit Laburista Ingliż li jitilgħu minn kostitwenzi f’Londra ma jaqblux ma dawn il-pjanijiet għall-espansjoni ta’ Heathrow.

 

Jekk it-tielet runway tinbena, it-titjiriet minn Heathrow jiżdiedu minn 480,000 għal 700,000 fis-sena.

 

Informazzjoni meħuda mill-Guardian