Going on a diet

The health problems we face by being overweight are not resolved by changing our wardrobe or loosening our belt but by going on a reasonable diet. And it is the same with our roads.

Addressing traffic congestion will not be resolved by road-widening or large road infrastructure projects but by addressing the root cause of such congestion: the number of cars that are using of our roads.

The opposition to the Central Link project is not about trees. Trees, symbolic of environmental vitality, are an important detail in the project that Infrastructure Malta is undoubtedly only too willing to concede through promises of substantially increasing their availability, even though the plans of the project have, at various times, indicated otherwise. This is apparent from the current bombardment of TV adverts by Infrastructure Malta. The opposition to the project is rather about the short-sighted transport policy that ignores the causes of traffic congestion and deals exclusively with the effects thereof. Avoiding the root cause of traffic congestion will only result in temporary relief.

The Environment Impact Assessment on the Central Link project considers six different scenarios: Scenario 0 to Scenario 5. Scenario 0 is defined as the “do-nothing option” with the other five scenarios being different combinations of interventions in the road infrastructure. The “do-nothing option”, as implied, signifies that no infrastructural interventions are involved: everything remains as is.

Infrastructure Malta’s brief is limited to infrastructural interventions. As a consequence, the authors of the Environmental Impact Assessment did not consider it worthwhile to examine whether it is at all possible to address traffic congestion through focused policy interventions over a suitable time frame. The government has already taken some positive steps in this regard through the offering of various carrots enticing different sectors to use alternative means of mobility, which include initiatives on both land and sea transport alternatives.

In the pipeline is the proposal to widen the appeal of public transport through making it free for everyone. Various other policy proposals have been implemented, including the provision of school transport to all schools, with the aim of reducing traffic during peak hours. This is all positive and could form the basis of an exercise to realistically address traffic congestion without the need for substantial infrastructural interventions.

What is the anticipated environmental impact of all this and possibly more? We are none the wiser through reading the Environment Impact Assessment.

The Transport Master Plan emphasises that the average journey length of a private car trip in Malta is 5.5 kilometres and that 50 per cent of trips take no more than 15 minutes. This obviously leads to the important consideration that regional and local public transport, if organised efficiently, could address the movement of a substantial number of cars on our roads with considerable environmental benefits. The EIA is silent on this basic information, which, if properly acted upon, could result in a substantial number of cars being removed from our roads without the need of any infrastructural intervention!

What role does environmental taxation have in encouraging a change in behaviour of those who can address their mobility needs in a reasonable manner without the need of using a private car?

Scenario 0, which considers environmental impacts without any infrastructural interventions, does not consider this. In so doing, the EIA is incomplete as it does not assess all the available options that can have an impact on traffic congestion. This contrasts with the provisions of the EIA Regulations which broadly regulate the process of analysing and reporting on the environmental impacts of major projects and emphasise that a “sufficiently detailed and reasonably exhaustive initial appraisal of potentially suitable alternatives” is essential.

This signifies that the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has not carried out its role in moderating the contents of the EIA appropriately. This could possibly explain why, very strangely, Professor Victor Axiaq did not utter one single word during the public hearing of the Planning Authority Board during which he voted in favour of the Central Link project!

The long-term aim of Malta’s 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 locations in our harbour areas.

Transport studies carried out all over the world indicate that major road works always end up generating additional traffic. The Central Link project will not be an exception and consequently, it will not follow the direction spelt out by Malta’s Transport Master Plan approved by government in 2016!

published on The Independent on Sunday : 28 July 2019

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Victor Axiaq : meta ser jirreżenja?

Victor Axiaq

L-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi immexija minn Victor Axiaq s’issa qegħda hemm għal xejn. Suppost li l-Ippjanar infired mill-Ambjent biex flok MEPA għandna żewġ awtoritajiet prinċipalment biex l-ambjent ikun iktar b’saħħtu.

Imma, sfortunatament qatt daqs illum ma kien daqshekk dgħajjef l-amministrazzjoni tal-ambjent f’pajjiżna. Meta hu magħruf li fil-memo mibgħuta mill-Professur Victor Axiaq lil Dr Timothy Gambin l-EIA dwar Townsquare f’Tas-Sliema kien deskritt bħala farsa (a sham) bil-fors tistaqsi għalfejn s’issa l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent għadha ma għamlet xejn.

L-anqas ma kellha toqgħod tistenna sa wara li tittieħed id-deċiżjoni biex l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent tiċaqlaq. Għax jekk kienet taf li l-EIA kien farsa kellha l-obbligu li tiċċaqlaq ħafna qabel. L-anqas biss indenja ruħu jinkariga uffiċjali tal-awtorità li jmexxi biex jippreżentaw il-kaz ambjentali kontra it-torri ta’ Gasan (Townsquare) f’tas-Sliema. Għax dawn l-uffiċjali, nhar l-4 t’Awwissu 2016 kienu preżenti għas-seduta pubblika tal- Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, imma kollha baqgħu b’ħalqhom magħluq. Dan minkejja l-memo li ħejja Victor Axiaq u li inżammet mistura minn Dr.Timothy Gambin.

Kif qalu l-attivisti ambjentali li iddimostraw quddiem l-uffiċini tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u Riżorsi dalgħodu :  l-Awtorità hi baħħ. S’issa jidher li biha u mingħajrha xorta. Ma nafx x’inhu jistenna l-Professur Victor Axiaq biex jirreżenja.

Fejn xejn m’hu xejn, m’hemmx konflitt ta’ interess

Timothy Gambin2                        Victor Axiaq

Bħalkom qrajt id-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-Professur Victor Axiak u tal-arkejologu marittimu Dr Timothy Gambin fejn qalu li minkejja li taw il-kontribut professjonali tagħhom fl-EIA tal-Power Station tal-gass f’Delimara huma qatt ma irrappurtaw lill-membri individwali tal-konsorzju.

Huma qalu li jirrappurtaw direttament lill-koordinatur tal-EIA u qatt lill-applikant.

Din il-kontroversja ma bdietx b’Axiaq u Gambin imma ilha sejra is-snin. Ir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ dawk li jħejju l-EIA, irrispettivament lil min jirrappurtaw, m’humiex kompatibbli mar-responsabbiltà li tkun membru tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jew tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi.

Ma jagħmilx sens illi fuq kaz jagħmlu r-rapport tal-EIA u ma jeħdux sehem fid-deċiżjoni imma fuq każi oħra jibqgħu hemm. Jeħtieġ li jifhmu illi l-funżjoni tal-membri ta’ dawn iż-żewġ awtoritajiet (Ippjanar u Ambjent/Riżorsi) hi waħda li jgħidulha kważi-ġudizzjarja. Meta terfa’ l-piz li tagħti d-deċiżjonijiet ma tagħżilx inti li f’xi każi tħejji r-rapporti u f’oħrajn tiddeċiedi. Qiesu avukat li għal xi kazi jirrappreżenta lill-klijenti tiegħu u għal oħrajn joqgħod fuq il-pultruna ta’ imħallef!

Ma jistgħux ikunu fuq iż-żewġ naħat, anke jekk jiddefinixxu lilhom infushom bħala “indipendenti”. Għax hekk jippretendu li huma. Indipendenti dejjem. Meta jħejju r-rapport jgħidu li huma indipendenti u meta jkunu fuq l-awtorità biex jiddeċiedu jippretendu li huma indipendenti ukoll. Indipendenti minn xiex?

Fil-fehma tiegħi u ta’ ħafna ambjentalisti oħra, l-indipendenza tal-membri individwali tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar u tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi hi kompromessa kull darba li dawn jaċċettaw l-inkarigu li jħejju parti mir-rapport tal-EIA għal xi proġett partikolari.

Iridu jagħżlu. Jew membri indipendenti tal-awtorità inkella esperti indipendenti li jħejju r-rapporti. Imma dawn iridu jagħmlu it-tnejn, kif jgħidu l-Inġliżi: running with the hares and hunting with the hounds!

Kif jista’ membru tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jippretendi li waqt li hu membru ta’ din l-awtorità jibqa’ jipprattika ta’ konsulent dwar l-EIAs? Kif jista’ membru jippretendi li meta titla’ applikazzjoni dwar proġett għal deċiżjoni  quddiem l-Awtorità dwar persuna li kienet “klijent” tiegħu, qiesu ma ġara xejn.

F’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna m’huwiex aċċettabbli li l-membri tal-awtoritajiet ikunu fuq ix-żewġ naħat anke jekk f’każi differenti. Hemm konflitti kbar li m’humiex ser jissolvew bid-dikjarazzjonijiet li għalihom kollox sar sewwa.

Għax saru sewwa l-affarijiet biss, fejn xejn m’hu xejn.

Il-klijenti ta’ Victor Axiak u Timothy Gambin

Delimara EIA contents

 

Fl-artiklu tagħha tal-bieraħ il-Ħadd fuq is-Sunday Times intitolat Of hats and despicability, Claire Bonello identifikat problema oħra kbira konnessa mal-proċess tal-permessi tat-torrijiet tal-Imrieħel u Tas-Sliema (Townsquare).

Victor Axiak u Timothy Gambin fil-passat riċenti kellhom fost il-klijenti tagħhom lill-gruppi ta’ Gasan u ta’ Tumas li jiffurmaw parti mill-konsortium li twaqqaf għall-Power Station tal-Gass f’Delimara. Għalihom Victor Axiak u Timothy Gambin għamlu xogħol li kien jikkonsisti fi studji dwar impatti ambjentali ta’ dak il-proġett. Axiak dwar l-ekoloġija marittima u Gambin dwar l-arkejoloġija marittima. Ir-ritratt ta’ hawn fuq juri paġna mir-rapport tal-EIA dwar il-power station li taħdem bil-gass f’Delimara bl-ismijiet ta’ Axiak u Gambin u l-oqsma li rrappurtaw dwarhom.

Il-mistoqsija ċara hi jekk hux etiku li Axiak u Gambin jieħdu sehem f’laqgħat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li fihom jagħtu l-opinjoni u jiddeċiedu dwar applikazzjonijiet tal-klijenti tagħhom.

Axiak ma attendiex għal uħud mil-laqgħat. Imma la hu u l-anqas Gambin ma ħassew il-ħtieġa li jgħidu li għandhom xi konflitt ta’ interess. Din x’serjetà hi?

L-imġieba korretta mhiex qegħda għall-politiċi biss iżda ukoll għal kull min hu involut fit-teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet.

The professor who messed things up

Victor Axiaq

 

Professor Victor Axiaq, Chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, is not at fault for being absent at a Planning Authority public meeting on the 4 August which discussed the Mrieħel and Sliema high-rise applications. By now everyone is aware that he had just been discharged from hospital and was instructed to rest for 15 days.

There were various officers of the Environment and Resources Authority present for the 4 August public meeting, yet instead of entrusting one of them with presenting the environment’s case on the Sliema high-rise, Professor Axiaq preferred to entrust Dr Timothy Gambin with a memorandum which Gambin opted to keep to himself.

There were various environmentalists, Sliema Local Councillors and civil society activists present for the public hearing. Those of us who were present for the public hearing presented the environment case and managed to convince six out of 13 Planning Authority members to vote against the proposed high-rise at TownSquare Sliema. Support for the environment case from a representative of the Environment and Resources Authority during the public hearing would have been most welcome. It could also have had a determining impact.  Yet it was not forthcoming notwithstanding the presence of a number of the Environment and Resources Authority employees at the public hearing.

The split of MEPA into two separate and distinct authorities, we were irresponsibly told by Government representatives some months ago, would ensure that the environmental issues would be more easily defended when considering land use planning applications. Yet prior to the split, an official of The Environment Protection Directorate would have addressed the public hearing. On the 4 August none were invited. The only person who was briefed to speak (Dr Timothy Gambin) opted instead to ignore his brief and instead openly supported the development proposal for a high-rise at TownSquare.

Professor Victor Axiaq, as Chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, missed the opportunity to contribute to convince the majority of members of the Planning Authority due to his two basic mistakes. He entrusted his memorandum to another Planning Authority member (Dr Timothy Gambin) who had opposing views and hence had no interest in communicating Professor Axiaq’s memorandum on TownSquare to the Planning Authority. Professor Axiaq also failed to engage with his own staff at the Environment and Resources Authority as none of those present for the public hearing uttered a single word in support of the case against the high-rise proposal. The person sitting on the chair next to me, for example, preferred to communicate continuously with his laptop correcting with track changes some report he was working on. I have no idea why he even bothered to be present for the public hearing.

Unfortunately, Professor Axiaq, as chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, messed up the first opportunity at which the input of the authority he leads could have made a substantial difference in the actual decision taken. It would have been much better if a proper decision was taken on the 4 August instead of subsequently considering whether to present an appeal, as this will be an uphill struggle as anyone with experience in these matters can confirm.  This could only have happened if Professor Axiaq had acted appropriately, which he unfortunately did not.

Next Wednesday, the Sliema Local Council will be convened for an extraordinary session in order to discuss the planning appeal relative to the TownSquare high-rise development permit. Environmental NGOs will also be meeting presently to plot the way forward and consider whether they too will appeal the decision.

Even the Environment and Resources Authority will be shortly considering whether to appeal. In view of the way in which Professor Axiaq handled the whole issue, the Sliema Local Council and the environmental NGOs would do well if they do not place any trust in the Authority led by Professor Victor Axiaq. They will avoid ending up in another mess.

After creating this mess, there is only one option left for Professor Victor Axiaq in my opinion. He should immediately resign from his post as chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority. The sooner he resigns the better.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 14 August 2016

L-ambjent marid bħall-Professur Axiaq

Stethoscope

 

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra ċ-Ċhairman tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi, l-Professur Victor Axiaq għax kien marid, kien jaf li ma kienx ser jattendi għal-laqgħa tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Il-laqgħa kellha tiddiskuti it-torrijiet tal-Imrieħel u ta’ Townsquare f’tas-Sliema. Huwa għaldaqstant  kiteb il-fehmiet tiegħu dwar dawn it-torrijiet f’email. Din l-email għaddiha lil Dr Timothy Gambin, membru huwa ukoll tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar u awtorizzah biex, fid-diskrezzjoni tiegħu, jaqra dawn il-fehmiet waqt il-laqgħa tal-Awtorità.

Għaliex il-Professur għadda l-kummenti tiegħu lil Dr Gambin? Mhux aħjar kieku għaddihom liċ-Ċhairman tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar Vince Cassar biex b’hekk il-membri kollha tal-Awtorità jkunu jafu l-fehmiet tiegħu?  Għaliex kien jaf Dr Timothy Gambin biss? Stramba! Mhux soltu għall-Professur li joqgħod lura milli jkun ċar ma kulħadd.

Il-Professur Axiaq inħatar membru tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar biex jirrappreżenta lill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent. Fid-dibattitu biex il-MEPA tinqasam fi tnejn, b’falsità kbira, diversi esponenti tal-Gvern kienu qalu li l-ambjent kien ser ikollu leħen iktar determinanti u b’saħħtu meta jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet. Imma fis-siegħa tal-prova, il-leħen tal-ambjent kien marid bħall-Professur Victor Axiaq, u allura ma nstemax. Bid-differenza li fil-waqt li lill-Professur nawguralu li ma jdumx ma jgħaddilu, għall-ambjent jidher li għad hemm ħafna diffikultajiet.

Il-Malta Today dan l-aħħar tkellmet dwar il-fatt li nafu x’qal il-Professur Axiaq dwar it-torrijiet tal-Imrieħel. Dan minħabba li Dr Timothy Gambin waqt il-laqgħa tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar qara silta mill-email fis-seduta ta’ fil-għodu, waqt id-diskussjoni dwar l-applikazzjoni għat-torrijiet tal-Imrieħel. Imma waranofsinnhar, meta kien hemm is-seduta pubblika dwar l-applikazzjoni għat-torri ta’ Tas-Sliema, Dr Gambin ma qarax fil-pubbliku dak li qal il-Professur Axiaq dwar Townsquare.

Il-mistoqsija hi għaliex Dr Timothy Gambin ma qalilniex x’jaħseb il-Professur Victor Axiaq dwar it-Torri ta’ Tas-Sliema? Dr Gambin biss jista’ jgħidilna għaliex huwa żamm l-informazzjoni għalih. Għaliex għamel hekk, hu biss jaf, s’issa. Dejjem sakemm ma jkollux il-kuraġġ li jitkellem il-Professur Victor Axiaq.

Imma, forsi, l-Professur għadu marid, bħall-ambjent. Nawguralu fejqan ta’ malajr. Mhux biss lill-Professur, immafuq kollox anke lill-ambjent.

Logħba Ċess fil-Kurja tal-Arċisqof

Ratzinger .chess

 

Mill-kummenti diversi fil-gazzetti jidher ċar li fil-Kurja tal-Arċisqof għaddejja logħba Ċess.

Il-kliem li qed jintuża fil-kitba hu indikattiv ta’ dak li għaddej minn moħħ min qed jgħidu. Ir-Rev. Joe Borg per eżempju jiddeskrivi lill-Knisja Maltija bħala li qegħda fl-istess stat li kien il-Partit Nazzjonalista wara l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-1976. Jiġifieri, r-Rev  Joe Borg qed jgħid li l-Knisja hi b’Kap iżda bla tmexxija, b’viżjoni imċajpra u bis-segwaċi imgerfxin.

Analiżi iebsa li iżda taqbel mad-deskrizzjoni tal-Knisja Maltija bħala waħda li ġiet imsikkta. Din hi deskrizzjoni ta’ Simon Busuttil u ta’ oħrajn fil-PN xi xhur ilu.

Minbarra din il-kritika hemm oħra bħal dik tar-Rev Rene Camilleri dwar il-prokrastinazzjoni tal-Arċisqof biex jagħmel it-tibdil meħtieġ fil-Kurja kif ukoll il-kummenti validissimi ta’ Fr Joe Inguanez fuq l-istess linja.

It-tmexxija tal-Knisja f’Malta kienet komda għal ħafna snin. Għax minbarra l-Arċisqof fil-Kurja kellha ukoll ieħor jilgħaba tal-Arċisqof, għal ħafna snin, fil-Berġa’ ta’ Kastilja.  Il-protezzjoni li l-“Arċisqof Lawrence Gonzi” , kif ukoll il-predeċessur tiegħu ta lill-Knisja Maltija tul is-snin billi rreżista t-tibdil soċjali spiċċa iktar għamel ħsara mhux biss lill-Knisja imma anke lis-soċjeta’ Maltija. Għax it-tibdil li seta tħalla jseħħ bil-pass tiegħu, minflok qiegħed iseħħ f’daqqa u b’ritmu mgħaġġel. Mhux kulħadd hu ippreparat għal dan it-tibdil.

Il-protezzjoni artifiċjali tagħtik sens falz ta’ sigurta’. Sigurta’ li fil-fatt ma teżistix. Meta l-poplu allura xeba’ u ivvota favur l-introduzzjoni tad-divorzju nhar it-28 ta’ Mejju 2011 il-protezzjoni tal-Arċisqof Lawrence Gonzi spiċċat.

It-tmexxija tal-Knisja li jrid r-Rev Joe Borg tikkuntrasta ma dik tal-Prof Victor Axiaq. Ta’ l-ewwel irid Knisja mhiex siekta fuq materji ta’ interess pubbliku. Tat-tieni jrid Knisja mhedija fl-ispiritwalita. Ikolli ngħid li dawn iż-żewġ veduti m’humiex inkompatibbli. Id-diffikultajiet iżda jmorru lura s-snin sa żmien l-Arċisqof Gonzi l-ieħor.

Għax dan pajjiż li mhux dejjem tista’ tifhmu: kellna Arċisqof li kien politiku u politiku li iktar kien jidher qiesu l-Arċisqof!

Sadanittant għaddejja l-logħba ċess. Uħud iżommu s-skiet bi prudenza jew iktar b’makakkerija. U l-Arċisqof Pawlu Cremona, skond Joe Borg, qiesu George Borg Olivier, jistenna li jew jitlaq inkella itellquh.

Wara kollox anke fiċ-ċess hemm 4 isqfijiet, tnejn fuq kull naħa  !

bishop.chessbishop.chess

Ippubblikat fuq iNews, il-Ħamis 21 t’Awwissu 2014