Kaxxa tal-ittri

Uħud mill-awtoritajiet li jikkonċernaw l-industrija tal-bini draw jiffunzjonaw qieshom kaxxa tal-ittri, letter-box: jirċievu ittri u dokumenti mingħajr (ġeneralment) ma jieħdu passi dwarhom. Tant huma passivi li rrendew lilhom infushom ineffettivi.

Disa’ xhur ilu, propju minħabba dan il-fatt, il-Gvern ippubblika dokument konsultattiv bl-intenzjoni speċifka li jikkonsolida f’awtorità waħda r-Regolatur dwar il-bini u l-kostruzzjoni, l-entitajiet regolatorji eżistenti u ċioè l-l-BICC (Kumitat Konsultattiv dwar l-Industrija tal-Bini), l-BRO (l-Uffiċċju dwar ir-Regolamentazzjoni tal-Bini), the BRB (l-Bord li Jirregola l-Bini) u l-Bord tal-Bennejja. Proposta li bla dubju ilha tinħass li hi neċessarja!

Il-frammentazzjoni kurrenti tal-funzjonijiet regolatorji fuq l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni wasslet biex dawn saru ineffettivi. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-ilmenti kontinwi tar-residenti dwar kif l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni qed tħarbtilhom ħajjithom ġew ġeneralment injorati. Bosta drabi huma l-awtoritajiet infushom li ma jagħtux kaz tal-ilmenti li huma rifless ta’ ambjent urban ikkontaminat u li qiegħed jirriżulta mill-iżvilupp intensiv fiz-zoni residenzjali.

Il-kollass ta’ tlett binjiet, tnejn minnhom din il-ġimgħa stess, in konnessjoni ma skavar fuq siti ta’ kostruzzjoni bla dubju jnissel tħassib kbir. Imma ħadd ma għandu jkun sorpriż li ġraw. Fortunatament din id-darba ma miet ħadd!

Mhux l-ewwel darba li ġraw dawn l-inċidenti: drabi oħra mietu ukoll in-nies! Li dawn l-inċidenti ma jiġrux iktar spiss hu riżultat ta’ professjonisti dedikati li jagħmlu ħilithom biex jegħlbu l-problemi li jiffaċċjaw kontinwament. Ċertament li f’dan ma għandhom l-ebda mertu l-awtoritajiet li huma passivi għall-aħħar.

Is-sospensjoni temporanja da parti tal-Gvern ta’ kull xogħol ta’ twaqqiegħ ta’ bini jew skavar, apparti milli hi applikazzjoni abbużiva tal-liġi hi ukoll riżultat ta’ reazzjoni ta’ paniku li tipprova fatt wieħed bażiku: l-awtoritajiet regolatorji tal-industrija tal-bini m’għandhomx ir-riżorsi biex iwettqu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom u li minnhom ilhom is-snin li abdikaw.

Dwar kull waħda mit-tlett binjiet li waqgħu matul dawn il-ġimgħat hu fatt magħruf li r-residenti kienu ilhom jilmentaw żmien: l-ebda awtorità ma eżaminat l-ilmenti tagħhom u aġixxiet fuqhom, la direttament u l-anqas billi rreferiethom b’mod urgenti f’fora oħra addattati.

Il-Gvern issa hu ppreokkupat. Kien ikun ħafna aħjar kieku din il-preokkupazzjoni wrieha iktar kmieni billi pprovda r-riżorsi lill-Uffiċċju għar-Regolamentazzjoni tal-Bini (BRO) mhux biss biex ikun jista’ jaqdi l-inkarigu tiegħu, imma ukoll billi jassigura li l-awtoritajiet kollha jieħdu interess u jinvestigaw l-ilmenti li jirċievu mingħajr dewmien.

Disa’ xhur ilu, il-konsultazzjoni pubblika li saret kellha l-iskop li jkun assigurat li “l-inċidenti” tal-ġimgħat li għaddew ikunu evitati kemm jista’ jkun billi jkunu kkonsolidati u msaħħa l-istituzzjonijiet dgħajfa li għandna illum.

Dawn huma l-inċidenti li nafu bihom. Kemm kien ikollna iktar inċidenti li kieku dawn ma ġewx evitati b’intervent f’waqtu minn numru ta’ professjonisti ddedikati?

Ir-regolamenti ta’ emerġenza li l-Gvern ħabbar li ser jippubblika fil-ġranet li ġejjin jistgħu joffru rimedju għal żmien qasir. Li neħtieġu huma soluzzjonijiet fit-tul: riżorsi adegwati ffukati fuq il-ħtieġa li l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni tkun issorveljata b’mod kontinwu. Din hi l-unika triq li biha nistgħu naslu ħalli dawk li ma għandhom l-ebda rispett lejn il-komunità residenzjali fiz-zoni urbani tagħna jinġiebu f’sensihom.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 16 ta’ Ġunju 2019

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Letter-box authorities

A number of authorities involved with the construction industry have become accustomed to functioning as a letter-box: receiving letters and documents without (generally) taking any action. They are too passive to the extent that they have rendered themselves ineffective.

Nine months ago, in recognition of this basic fact, the government published a consultation document with the specific intent of consolidating into one authority – a Building and Construction Regulator – the existing regulatory entities, namely the BICC (Building Industry Consultative Council), the BRO (Building Regulation Office), the BRB (Building Regulation Board) and the Masons Board. This proposal is certainly overdue!

The current fragmentation of the regulatory functions over the building industry have led to their being ineffective. The end result is that the continuous complaints of residents regarding the damaging intrusion of the building industry in their daily lives are generally ignored. Often it is the authorities themselves that turn a blind eye towards these complaints – which are a reflection of a contaminated urban environment that is proliferating as a result of the intensive developments carried out in residential areas.

The collapse of three buildings, two of which in the first half of this very week, linked with excavation activity on building sites, is a cause of great concern. No-one should be surprised that these accidents actually did happen. We are indeed very lucky that no lives were lost this time!

It is not the first time that this type of accident has happened: on other occasions they even resulted in deaths. The fact that these accidents do not occur more frequently is due to the dedicated professionals in the building industry who do their best to work properly – at times and against all odds. It is certainly not the result of the authorities who, more often than not, are as passive as can be.

The temporary suspension by the government of all demolition and excavation work, is – apart from being an abusive application of the law – the result of a panic reaction and proves one basic fact: the building industry regulatory authorities do not have the resources to carry out their responsibilities, from which they have abdicated over the years.

In respect of each of the three buildings that have collapsed in recent weeks, it is common knowledge that the residents had been complaining for quite some time and no authority took up their complaints to have them acted upon, either directly or by being  urgently referred to more competent fora.

The government is now preoccupied. It would have been much better had this preoccupation was manifested previously – not only by ensuring adequate resourcing of the Building Regulation Office (BRO) to enable it to carry out its duties and responsibilities, but also by ensuring that all the authorities take an interest in, and investigate without delay, the complaints received.

Nine months ago, a public consultation was launched specifically to ensure that the “accidents” of the past weeks are avoided as much as possible through a consolidation of the existing weak institutions.

These are the accidents we know of. How many more accidents would have occurred, had they not been prevented as a result of the timely intervention of dedicated professionals?

The emergency regulations to be published by government in the coming days can temporarily patch up the current mess. What is required is a long-term vision: sufficient resources focused on the continuous and adequate monitoring of the construction industry. This is the only way to ensure that those who have no respect for the residential community in our urban areas are brought to their senses.

published in The Independent on Sunday : 16 June 2019

ODZ lessons : from  Żonqor to Għargħur

 

A planning application (PA3592/16)  to construct a home for the elderly in the area between Naxxar and Għargħur was due to be discussed by the Planning Authority Board on Thursday. Less than five hours before it was due to begin, however, the public hearing was postponed. There may be valid reasons for the postponement but, so far, such reasons – if they exist – are still unknown.

For the past few months, Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta, has been supporting the residents who are opposed to the development of this privately-owned  home in their neighbourhood since the planning application was first published.

There are various reasons which justify opposition to this proposed development. When faced with such a proposal, the first reactions understandably relate to the direct impact that it will have on the residential community – during both the construction phase and  the operational phase of the proposed facility. During the construction phase, this impact would include excavation noise and vibration, the nuisance caused by airborne dust during construction and the general inconvenience resulting from a large construction site very close to a residential community.

Once the home is in use, the traffic generated at all times of the day – as well as the occupying of residents’ parking spaces by visitors – will be one of the most pressing concerns to justify opposition to the proposal.

These are sensible reasons which justify opposition to the proposed development, even though some mitigation of these impacts is generally possible.

In my opinion, however, before even considering the proposal, it has to be emphasised that the construction of a home for the elderly outside the development zone (ODZ) between Naxxar and Għargħur is a good reason for objection in principle.

On the grounds of social policy, to continue encouraging the institutional care of the aged by way of residential homes does not hold water. It makes much more sense to help the older members of our society to remain in their homes as an integral part of the community, close to their roots, as long as this is possible. This should be the preferred option, rather than forcing them to abandon their roots and move away to the outskirts of our towns and villages.

The Social Policy Ministry harps on about the integration of the elderly in the community while the authority responsible for land use planning is facilitating their segregation. Obviously, somewhere there is a lack of understanding and coordination.

Locating homes for the elderly on the edges of our towns and villages is, in the long term, unsustainable. In addition to fostering segregation, instead of encouraging inclusion, it creates an environmental deficit by encouraging the displacement of a number of the residents of our town and village centres to what is now considered as ODZ land. As a result, this leads to an increase in the number of vacant residential properties while simultaneously adding to the built footprint of the Maltese islands – as if we do not have more than enough developed land!

The 2011 Census identified Għargħur as having a 28.5 per cent residential property vacancy rate. The rate for Naxxar was 24.5. These official statistics, which include both vacant properties and partially vacant properties, will undoubtedly get much worse.

This leads to another argument against the proposal to provide a home for the elderly in this particular area.  How can we justify taking up ODZ land for further development when even the site selection exercise, carried out as part of the application process, identified alternative sites within the development zone?

It seems that not enough lessons have been learnt as a result of the Żonqor debacle.  Is it not about time that the Planning Authority puts its house in order?

Policy coordination between the Ministries concerned with social policy, sustainable development, the environment and land use planning is obviously the missing link and should be addressed immediately.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 25 June 2017

Simon iwiegħed kollox lil kulħadd?

 busuttil-darmanin-demajo

Fdawn il-ġranet, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni qal li  jaqbel li l-għaqdiet sportivi għandhom ikunu mgħejjuna biex jimmassimizzaw il-potenzjal kummerċjali tal-faċilitajiet sportivi li jmexxu.

Proposta li tinstema tajba sakemm tiftakar li dan jista jkun il-kawża ta ħafna problemi.

Madwar sena ilu l-Gvern kien ħareg dokument intitolat The Commercialisation of Sports Facilities għal konsultazzjoni pubblika propju dwar dan is-suġġett.

Alternattiva Demokratika tirrikonoxxi l-intenzjonijiet tajba wara dawn il-proposti.

Imma biex jintlaħaq dan l-iskop, hemm iċċans, mhux żgħir, li nispiċċaw bxi grounds tal-futbol barra mill-irħula tagħna mibnijin bi ħwienet u uffiċini u bil-ground tal-futbol fuq il-bejt, bħalma diġa hemm fTignè! U jekk inti toqgħod fit-tarf tar-raħal hemm ċans tajjeb li tkun tista issegwi partita futbol minn fuq il-bejt. Jekk tkun iffurtunat tkun tista issegwiha ukoll mill-kamra tas-sodda! Anke l-floodlights jispiċċaw idawlulek il-kmamar tad-dar. Tispiċċa tiffranka l-konsum tal-elettriku! Dan apparti l-problemi ta parking u l-istorbju, sajf u xitwa. Dan eżempju wieħed. Hemm bosta oħra.

Fi stqarrija li ħriġna Alternattiva Demokratika sena ilu għidna li dak propost, jekk implimentat, jista jkun il-kawża ta ħafna ħsara ambjentali kif ukoll ikollu effett neġattiv fuq iżżoni residenzjali tagħna.

Daqqa ta ħarta oħra għall-ambjent.

Ovvjament Simon Busuttil donnu nesa li l-ħarsien tal-ambjent mgħandux ikun ristrett għad-dokumenti imma għandu jkun rifless ukoll fkull inizjattiva li nieħdu. Tajjeb li Simon Busuttil jiftakar sewwa kull hin li dak li wiegħed fid-dokument ambjentali A Better Quality of Life for You. Għax bih rabat idejh u bħala riżultat kellu jaħseb ftit iktar dwar il-konsegwenzi tal-proposti tiegħu għall-kummercjalizzazzjoni tal-facilitajiet sportivi. Alternattiva Demokratika ser tibqa’ tfakkru.

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.

Daqqa ta’ ħarta oħra għall-ambjent

Commercialisation of Sports Facilities

Id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni dwar il-kummerċjalizzazzjoni tal-faċilitajiet sportivi li dwaru l-konsultazzjoni pubblika ġiet fi tmiemha llum hi daqqa ta’ ħarta oħra lill-ambjent ta’ pajjiżna.

L-iskop tal-Gvern hu biex ikunu mgħejjuna assoċjazzjonijiet u klubbs sportivi ħalli dawn jimmasimizzaw il-potenzjal tal-faċilitajiet tagħhom u b’hekk ikunu jistgħu jiffinanzjaw lilhom infushom.

L-iskop hu wieħed tajjeb.

Imma biex jintlaħaq dan l-iskop, hemm iċ-ċans, mhux żgħir, li nispiċċaw b’xi grounds tal-futbol barra mill-irħula tagħna mibnijin bi ħwienet u uffiċini u bil-ground tal-futbol fuq il-bejt, bħalma diġa hemm f’Tignè! U jekk inti toqgħod fit-tarf tar-raħal hemm ċans tajjeb li tkun tista’ issegwi partita futbol minn fuq il-bejt. Jekk tkun iffurtunat tkun tista’ issegwiha ukoll mill-kamra tas-sodda! Anke l-floodlights jispiċċaw idawlulek il-kmamar tad-dar. Tispiċċa tiffranka l-konsum tal-elettriku! Dan apparti l-problemi ta’ parking u l-istorbju, sajf u xitwa. Dan eżempju wieħed. Hemm bosta oħra.

Fi stqarrija li ħriġna Alternattiva Demokratika għidna li dak propost f’dan id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni, jekk implimentat, jista’ jkun il-kawża ta’ ħafna ħsara ambjentali kif ukoll ikollu effett neġattiv fuq iż-żoni residenzjali tagħna. Daqqa ta’ ħarta oħra għall-ambjent.

Simon’s ODZ bluff

Simon Busuttil.Zonqor2

 

20 January is the closing date for the submission of expressions of interest in response to the call by the Privatisation Unit for the setting up of a Motorsports complex in Malta.

During the press conference that launched the call on 29 September, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Chris Agius emphasised the fact that the choice of location was up to the investors presenting the submissions, even though several sites were proposed in the consultation process leading up to the call for expressions of interest.

However, Sam Collins, writing on 25 April last year on an online motor-racing guide, under the heading Malta eyes Formula 1 with new circuit stated that a “110 hectare parcel of land has been earmarked for the development.”  It is pretty obvious that the as yet unidentified  “110 hectare parcel of land” to be used for this proposed motorsports complex will be situated outside the development zone (ODZ). Each hectare consists of 10,000 square metres, meaning that 110 hectares equals one million, one hundred thousand square metres.

Sam Collins describes the proposal in this manner: “The government documents relating to the circuit’s development point out that part of its purpose would be to attract major international racing series, including Formula 3 and similar classes. The proposed facility would also include facilities for concerts, conferencing and a racing school. A hotel and museum of motoring and transport heritage would also be built on site. Road safety and driver training would play a major part in the facility’s layout, with a dedicated area for these activities. A CIK Kart circuit would also be built alongside the main track.”

The basic question which had to be addressed – but which most obviously has not been addressed so far – is whether Malta can afford to waste this much land. The answer, in my opinion, irrespective of the number of motor-racing car enthusiasts on the island, is clear and unequivocal: Malta cannot waste any more of its limited land.

The sites that have been possibly earmarked are limited in number, as Malta’s size does not present too many options and the impact of the selected site will be substantial, irrespective of its current use.

Development on the  parcel of land selectedcould have a substantial impact on areas of ecological importance that are protected either in terms of local policy or else as a result of EU or international commitments. Knowing that most of the undeveloped land along Malta’s coastline from Bengħajsa right up to Ċirkewwa is protected for ecological purposes, this could be the case, particularly if the identified parcel of land is close to the coast.

The impact could be further increased in view of the possible proximity of the selected parcel of land to residential areas. A specific area, mentioned consistently through the grapevine, would lump these impacts on Malta’s political south, further adding to the disregard for residents’ quality of life in the region accumulated over the years.

There are, therefore, three issues on the basis of which the proposed facility is objectionable: firstly, that Malta is too small for such a development; secondly, that the environmental impact will be substantial and thirdly, that the neighbouring residents’ quality of life, as well as biodiversity and natural resources, will be bartered for short term economic gain.

Depending on the precise eventual location, it may be possible to mitigate and reduce the impact on residents. However, it is most probable that a reduced impact on residents would signify increased impact on natural resources and biodiversity. In my opinion, this signifies that even on the drawing board the project should have been a non-starter.

In recent months we have had the Żonqor “University” debacle. A major sticking point in that case was that the original proposal was to use land situated outside the ODZ and public opinion’s unifying reaction was “No to ODZ development”.

The Parliamentary Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, took a clear stand against the ODZ Development proposed at Żonqor. Yet in the case of the proposed motor track facility, the Opposition Spokesperson on Sport, David Agius, was invited to be present when the call for expressions of interest was launched. His presence confirms that, notwithstanding Simon Busuttil’s solemn declarations on the sanctity of ODZ land, the proposal for the (ODZ) motor track facility enjoys bipartisan support.

Which means that Simon’s talk on ODZ is just bluff.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 January 2016

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

Smelling the coffee

 

extract MT freeport crane clearancesmell the coffee

Last Thursday was one of those very rare occasions when the MEPA Board, considering two different development applications submitted by the Freeport Terminal operator, decided on the one which will be beneficial to Birżebbuġa residents.

I must confess that I was surprised at this, as I am accustomed to a MEPA which thinks and acts differently. I do not know whether Thursday’s sitting was a one-off or else whether it signals that the Authority has at last realised that the quality of life of our communities should be the real focus of its endeavours. Only time will tell.

The first application was to renew an approved permit in connection with  dredging work aimed at enabling larger ships to make use of the West Quay of Terminal 1. The second application proposed the installation of larger cranes with 140-metre jibs. The cranes currently in use have 110-metre jibs.

After repeated representations from the Birżebbuġa local council, as well as Birżebbuġa residents, MEPA-weeks before Thursday’s meeting- informed the Freeport Terminal Operator that siting these large cranes along the West Quay of Terminal 1 was unacceptable due to their impact on the quality of life of  residents, a number of whom live just across the road from the Freeport Terminal boundary wall.

The management of the Freeport Terminal complied with MEPA’s instructions to relocate the 140-metre jib cranes. This, however, begged the further question as to whether or not the pending dredging work was, in fact, now required.

The MEPA Board unanimously accepted the submission from the local council that, in view of the relocation of the cranes, there was no further need for the dredging permit and this was therefore not renewed.

Regarding the second application, seeking authorisation to replace a number of existing cranes with 110-metre jibs with more modern models having 140-jibs, the local council sought an explanation as to why a proposal for the siting of a power station close by – at il-Mara Bengħajsa (with an 80-metre high chimney) in the late 1980s was shot down by the Civil Aviation authorities, who are now accepting the installation of 140-metre high jibs.

During the discussion, it transpired that the clearance issued by Transport Malta was ambiguous. In fact, Transport Malta stated that the 140-metre jib cranes “will penetrate one of the established aeronautical protection surfaces by circa 18m and although this situation is not desirable, given the importance of this facility to the economy, on exceptional basis and without prejudice to any future request it is being considered acceptable subject to the following mitigations ………………”

You have read correctly. The 140-metre jib cranes are “not desirable” yet they are “being considered acceptable” by Transport Malta due to the importance of the Freeport to the economy.

The MEPA Chairman is insisting that Transport Malta owes us an explanation. He could have added that safety should not be compromised for any reason, including “economic importance”.

In a further twist in the whole saga, the Freeport Terminal management proceeded with the installation of the new cranes without waiting for a MEPA decision on the development permit requested.

Public opinion has been repeatedly critical of MEPA for its insensitivity to the impact of developments on residents in various localities. Economic operators were afforded  sufficient protection to be able to over-ride the growing environmental concerns of our communities.

The same MEPA Board which, last Thursday, unanimously decided to refuse the renewal of a development permit to carry out dredging work had, 18 months ago, voted by a large majority in favour of changes to the Freeport’s environmental permit such that it would have been permissible to carry out repairs to ships and oil rigs at the Kalafrana Terminal.  It was only at the insistence of the Birżebbuġa Local Council that the Freeport Terminal management opted not to use the permit issued.

The question to which I seek an answer to is whether Thursday’s events signify that MEPA has awoken up from its slumber and smelled the coffee  It would indeed be commendable if it is capable of standing up to corporate (and state) arrogance.

Ending MEPA’s Rip van Winkle phase would signify that, after all, the possibility to improve the quality of life in Malta through better environment protection does exist, after all. But time is running out.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 22 November 2015

Għall-MEPA, “l-iżvilupp” dejjem ġie qabel ir-residenti

MEPA_building

 

Fil-fehma tiegħi, għall-MEPA, r-residenti m’għandhom l-ebda importanza. Anzi, ħafna drabi l-attitudni hi li r-residenti qegħdin fin-nofs, joħolqu ostaklu għal dak li uħud isejħulu żvilupp.

Eżempji għandna kemm irridu. Il-power station ta’ Delimara, darbtejn. Kemm dik tal-BWSC kif ukoll tal-gass. L-iżvilupp massiċċ residenzjali ta’ Fort Cambridge, Pender Gardens, u l-Ponta ta’ Tigne (Tal-MIDI). Kollha kemm huma żvilupp insensittiv li ġie jaqa’ u jqum mir-residenti. Dan kollu hu mifrux fuq bordijiet differenti tul is-snin.

Hemm ukoll il-Port Ħieles li hu viċin wisq taż-żona residenzjali ta’ Birżebbuġa. Tant li l-istorbju tal-ħidma fit-terminal tal-Port Ħieles tinstema minn diversi partijiet ta’ Birżebbuġa. Bħalma jhezzez kull m’hemm id-dredging li jsir f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata, bla rispett lejn ħadd.

Il-bieraħ quddiem il-Bord tal-MEPA kien hemm laqgħa oħra imqanqla dwar waħda mill-applikazzjonijiet li għadhom pendenti dwar il-Port Ħieles. Kont hemm nassisti lill-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa. Diversi membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA għadhom ma jistgħux jifhmu għaliex kull min hu assoċjat ma’ Birżebbuġa ma tantx għandu opinjoni tajba tal-MEPA. Ilkoll niftakru kif f’April tal-2014 il-Bord tal-MEPA b’maġġoranza kbira kien approva emenda għall-permess ambjentali tat-terminal tal-Port Ħieles biex jippermetti tiswijiet fuq oil rigs u vapuri fil-Port Ħieles . Kien biss wara li qamu r-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa li l-Gvern ġie f’sensieh u li l-management tat-terminal tal-Port Ħieles irtira mill-posizzjoni tiegħu billi rrinunzja għall-emendi li kienu għadhom kif ġew approvati.

Dan kollu hu diffiċli li jintesa għax l-istess nies li ħadu dawn id-deċiżjonijiet għadhom hemm. L-hekk imsejjaħ żvilupp dejjem ingħata prijorità.  Għax r-residenti m’humiex meqjusa importanti.

Sadanittant il-bieraħ il-Bord tal-MEPA, wara li sema’ l-ilmenti kontra l-mod kif ftit ftit l-iżvilupp tal-Port Ħieles qed joħnoq lill-Birżebbuġa,  ma ħax deċizjoni għalissa u talab iktar informazzjoni. Din mhux l-ewwel darba li ġrat. Anke l-Bord ta’ qablu ġieli għamel hekk. Issa naraw xi jmiss!