Free public transport

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is right when he emphasises the need to have free public transport. Public transport is much better today than when we were subject to the Arriva fiasco piloted by Austin Gatt and his sidekick Manwel Delia.

In the past, government had introduced free public transport which it made available to a limited number of categories, notably young people and pensioners. The number of people using of public transport has increased significantly from 39.9 million in 2015 to 53.4 million during 2018: a staggering increase of 33.8 per cent in four years.

The numbers are significant and hats off to Malta Public Transport. These numbers signify that we can have hundreds, possibly thousands, of cars off our roads thanks to these millions of commuters who have opted to use public transport. This is a basic fact that must feed the implementation of a Transport Policy.

The Transport Master Plan 2025, which runs for a ten-year period that began in 2016, identified the basic problem of Maltese Transport policy: we think in the short term. As a result, positive policy initiatives are not as effective as intended because they seek to resolve the problem being considered without considering its long-term impact. Four years is the maximum span of our vision, opines the Transport Master Plan 2025.

Consider, for example, the Prime Minister’s statement in favour of free public transport for everyone. How does this statement fit in with large-scale road infrastructure projects such as the Central Link project?

In my view, the two are contradictory. The Prime Minister’s statement signifies that more of us will be encouraged to take the plunge in favour of public transport, occasionally or on a regular basis. As a result, there is great potential for a further reduction in the number of cars on our roads. So what, may I ask, what is the purpose of the Central Link project in view of this laudable initiative? Is this not a textbook case of one branch of government not being aware of what is going on elsewhere, within government?

We are aware, courtesy of the Transport Master Plan 2025, that 50 per cent of journeys by private cars are of a short duration: less than 15 minutes. These would be short distances either within the same area or between neighbouring areas. Imagine transport policy effectively targeting these journeys through, for example, well-planned regional public transport, or frequent circular bus routes in the large localities. Isn’t the prize of being able to reduce traffic by a staggering 50 per cent worth the effort? We do not need fly-overs and massive investment in road infrastructure to achieve this target. Just some common sense and the ability to plan long-term is all that is needed. The alternative will further increase traffic, and, consequently, congestion on our roads.

The long-term aim of Maltese transport policy is spelled out in the Transport Master Plan 2025: it is a reduction in the number of cars from our roads. This will increase mobility through the use of sustainable alternatives such as public transport, cycling, walking and even sea transport between places in our harbour areas.

We may remember that a study carried out by the University of Malta in 2015 indicated that, on average, we spend 52 hours a year stuck in traffic. Congestion can be tackled without resorting to meddling with our road infrastructure.

Transport Minister Ian Borg needs to sort out his priorities as soon as possible. We are still awaiting his commitment to his own government’s Transport Master Plan!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 27 January 2019

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Żmien il-bużullotti għadu magħna

paramount coaches

Fil-qasam tat-transport pubbliku, minkejja l-paroli w it-tejatrin, żmien il-bużullotti għadu magħna. Jekk hux ser idum jew le għad irridu naraw.

Wasalna sa hawn għax il-Gvern ta’ Gonzi kellu fiduċja f’esperti li ma jifhmux u f’Ministru li jeċċella fil-bluff.

It-Trasport Pubbliku falla diversi snin ilu u r-riforma tiegħu kienet teħtieġ attenzjoni u sensittivita. It-tnejn li huma kienu nieqsa mir-riforma li wikkewlna. Għax filwaqt li kien hemm titjib fil-kwalita’ tal-karozzi tal-linja użati din ma kienitx riflessa ukoll fil-kwalita’ tas-servizz.

Il-puntwalita’, li f’diversi lokalitajiet kienet l-unika ħaġa tajba fis-servizz l-antika tat-trasport pubbliku, kienet l-iktar ħaġa li spikkat. Issa l-puntwalita’ hi l-iktar ħaġa bażika fis-servizz pubbliku. Flimkien mal-firxa tas-servizz hi l-iżjed fattur essenzjali li a bażi tagħha n-nies tagħżel li titlaq il-karozza privata d-dar.

Il-kejl tas-suċċess tat-trasport pubbliku m’huwiex biss li dan ikun ta’ kwalita’ iżda fuq kemm jirnexxilu jħajjar lin-nies jagħmlu użu minnu. It-tnaqqis tat-traffiku mit-toroq, għaldaqstant hu wieħed mill-modi kif nistgħu inkejlu s-suċċess jew le tat-trasport pubbliku. Jekk dan iseħħ inkunu nistgħu ngħidu li qed noqorbu lejn soluzzjoni. Jekk le, żmien il-bużullotti jibqa’ magħna.

A complaint to Arriva sent today

This is the text of a complaint sent to Arriva customer care earlier today and copied to the Office of the Prime Minister

_______

To: Arriva Customer Services <customer.services@cs.arriva.com.mt>,

Fenech Pace Mikela at OPM <mikela.fenech-pace@gov.mt>

Dear Sir/Madam,

I  am filing a complaint regarding the bus service from Kalkara to Valletta this morning. I was on the bus stop at Ix-Xatt this morning at 8.15  with the hope of getting on the 8.30 bus to Valletta. There were already about 20 people on the bus stop, apparently still waiting for the 8 o’clock bus which never arrived.  At 8.35 bus no. 213 to Mater Dei arrived (which was meant to arrive at  8.00) so everyone got on this bus and changed at Paola. At 9.00 we got on another bus from Paola  but the Kalkara bus was nowhere to be seen. Both the 8.00 and 8.30 buses never arrived at Kalkara. This is not my first email to you and I think the situation is utterly disgusting when you boast that our transport service is a Sterling Service. Already 15 months have passed and the situation at Kalkara is still unreliable.

Issa x’imiss li jiġri ?

Il-bieraħ il-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN iddeċieda li tlieta mill-Membri Parlamentari tiegħu: JPO, Franco Debono u Jesmond Mugliette ma jkunux kandidati tiegħu u f’ismu fl-elezzjoni ġenerali li jmiss. Fuq tnejn minnhom (JPO u Jesmond) ġja kien hemm dikjarazzjoni mill-kandidati infushom li ma riedux jerġgħu jkunu kandidati.  It-tielet wieħed, Franco, qal lill-media u riedna nemmnu li hekk kien, li Lawrence Gonzi riedu jerġa’ jkun kandidat. Ħalliha li Gonzi ċaħad dan.

Din tal-kandidaturi m’hi xejn. Kulħadd kien jistenniha għax kienet ovvja. Bħalma kienet ovvja li Austin Gatt kien ser ikun wieħed mill-iżjed li ser jopponi l-kandidatura ta’ Franco, kif l-istess Franco informa lill-media! X’tistenna? Wara l-kritika ħarxa lilu u lill-assistent tiegħu Manwel Delia (avolja kienet ġustifikata) fuq il-froġa tal-Arriva dan kien mistenni. Forsi Franco jirrealizza issa li l-astensjoni fil-vot ta’ sfiduċja dwar Austin Gatt kien żball da parti tiegħu. Għax il-konsegwenza loġika tal-argumenti tiegħu kellha tkun li Austin Gatt kellu jwarrab minn Ministru. Imma għal xi raġuni li s’issa għadni ma fhimtx Franco iddeċieda mod ieħor!

Fl-isfond ta’ dan kollu  Lawrence Gonzi irid li jtemm il-leġislatura sħiħa. Jiġifieri li l-Gvern immexxi minnu jibqa’ jiffunzjona sas-sena d-dieħla. Il-Parlament jista’ jibqa’ jiltaqa’ sad-9 ta’ Mejju 2013 u jekk jagħmel hekk l-iktar tard li tissejjah elezzjoni jista’ jkun is-Sibt ta’ qabel id-9 t’Awissu 2013. Dak il-massimu. Probabilment li Gonzi għandu f’moħħu li jġebbed sa Marzu 2013.

Imma l-mistoqsija hi : ser iwassal s’hemm?

L-aġenda parlamentari li hemm imħejjija għal wara l-vaganzi tas-sajf kif ukoll il-proġetti li jimmaturaw lejn l-aħħar tas-sena u l-bidu tad-dieħla jindikaw li Gonzi u l-PN ser jagħmlu sforz biex iġebbdu kif jistgħu. Imma dan ma jiddependix minnhom biss.

L-ewwel punt li jista’ jeffettwa hu x’ser jiġri mill-fattur RCC. Diġa jidher li JPO ser ikollu d-diffikultajiet. Il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija, ġustament, qal li m’għandux ikollu x’jaqsam f’materja purament politika. Gordon Pisani hu ostili għal JPO u m’hu ser jgħid jew jagħmel xejn li jista’ jkun ta’ l-iċken ħsara għal Gonzi. Karmenu Vella diġa kixef idejh, u dak li qal jiddependi fuq il-kelma tiegħu kontra l-kelma ta’ RCC. Jibqa’ biss ix-xhieda ta’ Joe Mizzi u John Dalli!

Jiena m’hux qed nistenna li l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN joħroġ b’xi kundanna għal RCC meta jidher ċar li l-argument prinċipali  ser ikun dwar il-kuntatti bejn RCC u uffiċjali tal-Gvern ta’ Alfred Sant dwar l-iskorta li kellu RCC minħabba l-attentat kważi fatali li kien seħħ fuq ħajtu fl-Imdina. Dan ta’ l-inqas joħrog minn dak li qal Joe Mizzi tal-Labour u f’dan il-kuntest hi relevanti x-xhieda tal-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija.  Il-kuntatti li qed jurtaw lil JPO probabilment żviluppaw minħabba li l-Gvern ta’ Sant irtira l-iskorta u RCC ħass (ġustament) li din kienet meħtieġa.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan jiena nistenna li l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN joħroġ b’eloġju għal RCC u kundanna oħra għal JPO. Dan ikun ifisser li tiħrax il-kampanja pubblika ta’ JPO kontra l-PN u magħquda mar-reazzjonijiet ta’ Franco Debono ifisser li l-ewwel seduti tal-Parlament f’Ottubru jistgħu jkunu determinanti.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan Gonzi jista’ jikkunsidra li jxolji immedjatament biex jevita konfront ieħor. Bosta qed jgħidulu biex jagħmel hekk, imma jidher daqstant ieħor ċar li ser jibqa’ jirresisti sakemm ma jkollux triq oħra. Sakemm ikun inevitabbli li jwarrab.

Sakemm jibqa’ imqar l-iċken tama li jista’ jibqa’ għaddej fil-Parlament naħseb li ser jibqa’ mkaħħal mas-siġġu f’Kastilja.

Austin taħt il-lenti (3)

(3)  Ir-responsabbilta’ politika

Hu ċar li r-riforma tat-trasport pubbliku s’issa għad ma rnexxietx. Għax min kien inkarigat mir-riforma għaffiġha. 

Min hu responabbli?

L-assistent tal-Ministru? Dan offra r-riżenja. Il-Ministru ma aċċettax li Manwel Delia  jirreżenja avolja dan kien ilu jippoppa sidru u jiftaħar bir-riforma li ser issolvi kollox. Meta kien ċar li għaffiġha sparixxa għal xi jiem.

Qed jingħad li fil-bidu t’Ottubru Austin Gatt offra r-riżenja waqt laqgħa tal-Kabinett. Iżda l-Prim Ministru ma aċċettax.

Avolja Austin kien ilu jiftaħar li issa daqshekk ċajt. Iċ-ċajta sadanittant tkompli!

Issa għandna waħda aħjar. Austin Gatt qed jgħidilna li qed jassumi r-responsabbilta’ politika. Qed jingħad li ser jagħmel xi forma ta’ apoloġja fil-Parlament. U mbagħad?

Xi tfisser ir-responsabbilta’ politika? Li tieħu żball, tiskuża ruħek u tibqa’ għaddej, qiesu ma ġara xejn?

Safejn naf jien fil-ħajja pubblika jekk tieħu dawn it-tip ta’ żbalji, wara li tiskuża ruħek, tippakkja u tirreżenja.

Imma f’dan il-pajjiż il-politiku li jiżbalja jibqa’ hemm.

Ministru wieħed biss naf f’Malta li rreżenja wara li ħa żball. Kien in-Nutar Charles Mangion, li minkejja li l-iżball tiegħu sar minħabba li ma nagħtax l-informazzjoni korretta, xorta mexa ta’ raġel u rrezenja, għax id-deċiżjoni kien hu li ħadha. 

M’għandix dubju li Austin Gatt fuq ir-riforma tat-trasport pubbliku m’huwiex ser jagħmel bħal Charles Mangion. Min jaf  forsi r-riżenja ser iħalliha għal meta tibda d-diskussjoni pubblika dwar Smart City. Li hemm ukoll falla u minn proġett intenzjonat għall-ħolqien tal-impiegi fl-IT spiċċa bi proġett tar-Real Estate. Imma dik storja oħra.

(ikompli għada : (4)  wara l-vot fil-Parlament)

Austin taħt il-lenti (2)

(2) Il-bulldozer jagħmel il-ħsara

 

Minflok ma wettaq bidla gradwali fit-trasport pubbliku, l-Ministru tat-Trasport baqa’ għaddej bħal bulldozer minn fuq kollox u minn fuq kulħadd. Ma iddistingwiex bejn dak li kien meħtieġ li jinżamm u dak li ried jispiċċa immedjatament. Fil-perjodu inizzjali ma ra l-ebda valur illi kien hemm numru ta’ elementi mis-sistema l-qadima li kellhom jibqgħu, ta’ l-inqas għall-bidu.

Fost dawn ir-rotot li kien hemm.

Inħoloq rebus billi r-rotot ġew diżinjati mill-ġdid.  Biex issa wara 4 xhur il-Ministru Austin Gatt reġa’ lura għar-rotot oriġinali. Ir-rotot li riedu in-nies u li tneħħew kontra l-volonta’ tagħhom ġew lura. Din hi l-ikbar ammissjoni li l-mod kif ġiet implimentata r-riforma kien falla. Għax il-bulldozer ġie jaqa’ u jqum u kisser kollox.

Kienet meħtieġa li ssir riforma. L-oġġettiv tagħha kien servizz aħjar li jagħmel l-inqas ħsara ambjentali possibli. Is-servizz aħjar kien ifisser ukoll rotot ġodda u xi tibdil f’rotot eżistenti. Imma ma kienx hemm il-ħtieġa li jsir kollox f’daqqa.

In-nuqqas ta’ qbil m’huwiex mal-oġġettivi tar-riforma iżda mal-fatt li flok ma din bdiet tiġi implimentata b’mod gradwali daħlet fis-seħħ f’daqqa.

Il-mod kif ġiet implimentata r-riforma serviet biex flok ma iktar nies qed jużaw it-trasport  pubbliku għandna iktar karozzi fit-triq b’żieda fenomenali fit-traffiku fl-iktar ħinijiet li diġa kien diffiċli ħafna biex tgħaddi mit-triqat tagħna.

Il-konsegwenza hi li b’rotot itwal u li allura jieħdu iktar ħin u b’iktar traffiku fit-toroq kulħadd beda jasal tard, għax-xogħol jew għall-iskola. Waqt li Michael Frendo kien qalilna li b’tal-linja jaqbillek, Austin Gatt ikkonvinċa lil kulħadd li b’tal-linja ma jaqbillekx.

Dan hu ħażin għax transport pubbliku efficjenti għandu jwassal biex jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq għax idejalment iżjed nies jagħmlu użu minn tal-linja.

L-effett ta’ inqas karozzi fit-toroq hi arja iktar nadifa għal kulħadd. Effett li għad baqa’ ftit biex ingawduh.

(ikompli għada : (3)  ir-responsabbilta’ politika)

Austin taħt il-lenti (1)

(1) Il-konsulenti u l-Ministru

 Id-dibattitu li għaddej preżentement dwar ir-riforma tat-trasport pubbliku huwa ta’ importanza. Ir-riforma ilha żmien twil tinħass neċessarja imma kull min ipprova qata’ qalbu.

 Beda Michael Frendo f’nofs is-snin disgħin meta kien Ministru tat-Trasport. Tiftakruh jgħidilna li b’tal-linja jaqbillek?

Komplejna bil-bdil tal-karozzi tal-linja, low floor, biex ikunu iktar aċċessibli. Intefqu l-miljuni (mit-taxxi s’intendi).

Ġew u marru diversi Ministri. Wara Michael Frendo kellna lil Joe Debono Grech, Ċensu Galea u Jesmond Mugliette. Issa għandna lill-Austin Gatt.

Huwa ċar li n-nuqqas ta’ azzjoni għal snin twal mhux biss għamlet kull riforma diffiċli iżda fuq kollox kif kien jidher tul is-snin l-operaturi dan kienu jafuh u bħala riżultat rabbew l-arja. Tant rabbew arja li ma tagħti tort lil ħadd li kien jaħseb li l-unika soluzzjoni għat-trasport pubbliku kienet dik tal-bulldowzer. Li jkaxkar kollox u lill-kulħadd.

Iż-żoni l-ġodda li sviluppaw mis-snin 50 lil hawn ftit li xejn kienu moqdijin bit-trasport pubbliku. Tal-linja kienu fil-parti l-kbira mhux miżmuma sewwa. Numru ta’ xufiera ma kellhomx manjieri addattati.

Imma kien hemm ukoll affarijiet oħra, tajbin, li kien meħtieġ li jinżammu.

Il-bidla kellha tkun waħda li filwaqt li tagħżel operatur kapaċi li jidħol għall-ħidma immedjatament, fl-istess ħin iżda tibdel is-sistema ftit ftit. Il-bidla fi ftit kliem kellha tkun bulldowzer fil-konfront tal-operatur iżda waħda gradwali fil-konfront tal-konsumatur. Mhux faċli. Iżda għalhekk jintużaw it-taxxi biex jitħallsu l-konsulenti. L-affarijiet il-faċli jsiru waħedhom, jew jagħmluhom il-Ministri!

(ikompli għada : (2) Il-bulldozer jagħmel il-ħsara)

Living on Ecological Credit

published

Saturday July23, 2011

An informal meeting of EU ministers of the environment held in Poland earlier this month reminded us that we are living on ecological credit. Our balance sheet with nature is in the red. It is healthy that EU politicians have recognised this fact.

Environmentalists have been campaigning for ages that the world is living beyond its means. International NGO WWF, for example, publishes information relative to ecological footprint analysis. From the information available, Malta’s ecological footprint is 3.9 hectares per person. This can be compared to an EU average of 4.9 hectares per person (ranging from a minimum of 3.6 for Poland and Slovakia to a maximum of 7.0 for Sweden and Finland) and a world average of 2.2 hectares per person.

This adds up to a total impact for Malta of about 50 times the area of the Maltese islands. A clear indication of the extent of Malta’s reliance on ecological credit.

Malta’s environmental impacts are accentuated due to the islands’ high population density.

Malta’s small size is in some respects an advantage but this advantage has been generally ignored throughout the years. The reform of public transport, currently in hand, could someday put the issue of size to good use by developing an efficient system of communication. This reform, however, has to be properly managed. Preliminary indications point to a completely different direction. I do not exclude the possibility of the achievement of positive results even if, so far, I am disappointed.

The results the Greens hope to be achieved from the public transport reform would be the increased use of public transport and, consequently, a reduction in the number of cars on the road. This will come about if bus routes are more commuter-friendly. A reduction of cars on the road will lead to less emissions and a reduction of transport-generated noise. It would also cut a household’s expenditure through the reduction of fuel costs.

Water management in Malta also contributes considerably to the island’s ecological deficit.

The commissioning of the Ta’ Barkat sewage purification plant means that Malta is now in line with the provisions of the EU Urban Wastewater Directive. But the actual design of the sewage purification infrastructure means that by discharging the purified water into the sea an opportunity of reducing the pressure on ground water and the production of reverse osmosis-produced water has been lost. The purified water could easily be used as second-class water or it could be polished for other uses. When the Mellieħa sewage purification plant was inaugurated it was announced that studies into the possible uses of the purified water were to be carried out. These studies should have been undertaken before the sewage purification infrastructure was designed as they could have led to a differently designed infrastructure. The system as designed means that any eventual use of the purified water will require its transport from the purification plants to the point of use. A properly designed system could have reduced these expenses substantially by producing the purified water along the route of the public sewers and close to the point of use.

Public (and EU) funds have been wrongly used. Water planners have not carried out their duty towards the community they serve through lack of foresight and by not having an inkling of sustainability issues.

It also means that those who advised the head of state to inform the current Parliament’s inaugural session in May 2008 that “the government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development” were not aware what that statement signifies. Repeatedly, the government, led by Lawrence Gonzi, falls short of addressing adequately environmental impacts, as a result pushing these islands further down the road of dependence on ecological credit.

The government could have opted for a fresh start in May 2008 by implementing the National Sustainable Development Strategy, approved by Cabinet some months prior to the 2008 election. Instead, I am reliably informed that the National Commission for Sustainable Development has not met a single time during the past 42 months. As a consequence, the strategy has been practically shelved and discarded.

I cannot and will not say that there have not been any environmental initiatives. While various initiatives have been undertaken, some only address impacts partially. Others have been embarked upon half-heartedly. It is also clear to all that government environmental action does not form part of a holistic vision. It rather resembles the linking up of loose pieces of unrelated jigsaw puzzle bits.

This contrasts sharply with the public’s awareness and expectations. The public is one step ahead awaiting its representatives to act in a responsible manner in accordance with their much-publicised statements.

Excessive ecological credit will inevitably lead to ecological bankruptcy. No EU or IMF will bail us out. It’s better to take our environmental responsibilities seriously before it is too late.

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.
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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.

Transport Reform : Assessing the impacts

published August 2, 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo

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 The overhaul of public transport is long overdue. It is required because the current set-up is not capable of fulfilling its objectives, namely facilitating our mobility efficiently and at the least expense. Expenses are not just monetary but include social and environmental impacts, which result from the various transport modes available for our use.

It is clear that the 292,000 cars on the road, rather than a sign of affluence, are the clearest available indicator on the lack of availability of an adequate public transport system. One of the first results an efficient public transport will deliver is a reduction of cars on the road, followed by an improvement in air quality, a reduction of traffic-related respiratory diseases and reduced time to move from one point to another during rush hours.

Through the minister responsible for transport, the government has submitted for public discussion a set of ideas that should lead to a public transport reform plan. This consists in a radical overhaul of what goes by the name of “public transport” in Malta. It is proposed to integrate the various forms of transport, land and sea, national and regional, thereby ensuring that a wider area of Malta and Gozo is within easier reach. The government document lists nine reasons that have led to the present mess. It outlines 15 points on the basis of which a detailed plan for the reform of public transport in Malta is to be drawn up. Studies are still being carried out: On a newly-proposed network, on the type of vehicles to be used and a financial analysis of the proposals. It is planned that these would be available between August and October.

No mention has yet been made of cycling as a possible means of transport especially in the short distances involved between adjacent towns and villages. A reduction of cars on the roads through an increased patronage of public transport would increase road safety and make cycling a realistic means of transport. A healthier population could be a welcome result.

A gradual reform could have been initiated much earlier, nibbling away the resistance to change nurtured by the accumulated vested interests of those who, rather than offering a service to the community, prefer to focus on the status quo. The present mess is the result of state intervention at its worst: Subsidising the sector and permitting a free-for-all at the same time. The reform of the public transport sector has to put an end to all this.

The government’s proposed reform plan puts forward a number of valid suggestions. When all the studies have been concluded, it is assumed that the finalised reform plan will be subjected to an assessment to determine its environmental, social and economic impacts both when fully operational as well as during the transition period. The matter could be considered through a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) in terms of EU directive 2001/42 entitled On The Assessment Of The Effects Of Certain Plans And Programmes On The Environment. This EU directive ensures that, when plans and programmes whose implementation have a significant effect on the environment are proposed, these are subject to an environmental assessment. The proposed transport reform will, when fully implemented, result in positive environmental impacts. But it also needs to be ensured that any negative social impacts which may result are mitigated.

The SEA Directive, transposed into Maltese legislation in 2005, has one important objective. It aims to ensure that prior to the public consultation on a proposed “plan or programme” political decision-making is made more accountable for decisions that effect the environment. It requires the assessment of plans and programmes and through making the said assessment available for public scrutiny it creates the basis for better decision-making and the integration of environmental considerations in the process.

There should not be any difficulty in carrying out such an assessment. It is necessary in order that the information available for the public consultation exercise is complete. It is pretty obvious that a reformed public transport system in Malta would bring along substantial environmental benefits.

A proper public consultation however includes an analysis of the environmental and social impacts of the reform proposals made. All issues need to be quantified and be clear for the public to be able to digest. The Maltese public needs to be informed in detail not only as to what is being planned but also on all the impacts thereof throughout the implementation period.

Transport policy in Malta stands to gain a lot through the implementation of the SEA Directive. The exercise of political power through the formulation of plans and programmes for reform needs to be kept in check through informed public opinion. The tools are available. We only ignore them at our peril.