Lil hinn mill-ġebla u l-kaċċa

 

Illum l-ambjent sar parti essenzjali mil-lingwaġġ politiku li jużaw il-partiti politiċi ta’ kuljum. Imma jekk dan hux kaz ta’ konvinzjoni jew konvenjenza, hu storja oħra.

L-ippjanar bl-addoċċ tal-użu tal-art tul is-snin flimkien mal-kaċċa irresponsabbli u insostenibbli kienu fuq quddiem fl-agenda ambjentali għal ftit taż-żmien mhux ħażin. Ġa ktibt b’mod estensiv dwar dan. Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent iżda, jfisser ħafna iktar minn hekk, avolja fiċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari ta’ pajjiżna kemm l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art kif ukoll il-kaċċa ser jibqgħu fuq nett fl-aġenda ambjentali.

Żewġ oqsma li bla dubju ser ikunu fuq quddiem nett fl-aġenda ambjentali tal-pajjiż fix-xhur u s-snin li ġejjin huma l-kwalitá tal-arja u l-iskart li niġġeneraw.   Materji li ilna nitkellmu dwarhom is-snin bħala oqsma kruċjali li għandhom impatt fuq il-kwalitá tal-ħajja.

Il-kwalitá tal-arja f’pajjiżna hi effettwata prinċipalment mill-emmissjonijiet tal-karozzi. Teħtieġ li tkun indirizzata permezz  ta’ strateġija nazzjonali dwar it-trasport li tinkoraġixxi forom alternattivi ta’ aċċess sostenibbli bejn l-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna.

Il-metro li qed tiġi proposta ta’ min jikkunsidraha minkejja li s’issa għad ma hemmx dettalji biżżejjed dwar il-proposta nnifisha. Din il-proposta tal-metro, għandu jkun sottolinejat, tista’ tagħmel sens biss jekk tkun marbuta ma azzjoni simultanja li l-ewwel tnaqqas il-karozzi mit-toroq b’mod sostanzjali u li sussegwentement tassigura li fit-toroq tagħna jkun hemm biss karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku.

Ma jagħmilx sens li tipproponi l-introduzzjoni ta’ metro u fl-istess ħin tibqa’ għaddej bi programm ta’ bini ta’ flyovers jew twessigħ ta’ toroq għax programm ta’ din ix-xorta filwaqt li jnaqqas il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku b’mod temporanju jżid il-kapaċitá tal-istess toroq li jieħdu iktar traffiku u dan minn innifsu jwassal għal iktar konġestjoni tat-traffiku.

L-użu ikbar tar-rota tradizzjonali kif ukoll tal-pedelecs ukoll jagħti kontribut sostanzjali għal iktar mobilitá u anke għal kwalitá tal-ħajja aħjar. Imma dan jeħtieġ investiment sostanzjali fl-infrastruttura. Dan jinkludi mhux biss toroq aħjar għal dawk li jużaw ir-rota imma ukoll faċilitajiet ta’ showers fil-post tax-xogħol flimkien ma postijiet addattati fejn titqiegħed ir-rota fiż-żoni riżervati għall-parkeġġ.

Il-mezzi differenti ta’ trasport pubbliku għandhom ikunu imħeġġa biex jagħmlu użu minn sorsi nodfa ta’ enerġija. Dan jista’ jsir billi, pereżempju l-karozzi tal-linja eżistenti jkunu konvertiti biex jaħdmu bil-metan.

L-iskart li niġġeneraw huwa wġiegħ ta’ ras ambjentali kbira li fl-aħħar qed jingħata iktar attenzjoni. Presentement qed ikun indirizzat l-iskart organiku ġġenerat mill-qasam domestiku. Jekk dan l-iskop jintlaħaq dan jista’ jagħti riżultati tajbin għax l-iskart organiku jammonta għal madwar nofs l-iskart li niġġeneraw mid-djar tagħna. Imma hemm ħtieġa urġenti ukoll li l-awtoritajiet tat-turiżmu jiffukaw ftit attenzjoni fuq l-iskart organiku li jiġġeneraw ir-restoranti u faċilitajiet simili għax dan il-qasam kien traskurat għal ftit taż-żmien mhux ħażin.

Il-qasam tal-iskart jista’ jiġġenera ħafna impiegi ambjentali (green jobs) f’industrija tar-riċiklaġġ li għad tista’ tikber għax għandha potenzjal kbir. Din hi problema li kibret magħna tul is-snin minħabba traskuraġni: nistgħu bi ftit attenzjoni nittrasformawha f’opportunitá li mhux biss tissarraf fi kwalitá tal-ħajja aħjar imma ukoll f’ġid ekonomiku.

ippubblikat fl-Illum  – 28 ta’ Mejju 2017

Green and clean :  beyond land use planning and hunting

It is obvious to everyone that the environment is nowadays an integral part of the political lexicon of all the political parties in Malta. Whether this is out of conviction or out of convenience is,  however, another story altogether. Irrespective of the objective, it is still however positive to observe this development.

Reckless land use planning over the years, as well as irresponsible and unsustainable hunting, have been at the forefront of the environmental agenda for quite some time and I have already written extensively on these topics. Caring for the environment signifies much more than this, even though both land use planning and hunting will, of necessity remain at the top of Malta’s environmental agenda.

However, competing for attention and resources, the quality of the air we breath – as well as the waste we generate – are two specific areas which will undoubtedly be on the environmental action agenda in the months and years ahead. These are areas which the environmental lobby has been emphasising for years on end as being crucial in determining a better quality of life for all.

Air quality has to be tackled head on through the formulation of a transport strategy that seeks to encourage alternative forms of sustainable access between our towns and villages. This will most probably be a combination of various means and actions.

The proposed metro is an option worth considering, even though details are currently not available. The metro will only be feasible if it is linked with focused action on reducing the number of cars from the road and ensuring that all remaining cars on the road, after a reasonable transition, are electric cars. It is useless promoting a metro and simultaneously retaining a substantial programme of road-widening and/or construction of flyovers. Improving the road network will only ease traffic congestion temporarily but it will simultaneously increase the capacity for more traffic leading in turn to more traffic congestion.

Encouraging the use of bicycles and pedelecs will contribute substantially to improved mobility and a better quality of life, including ever-improving air quality. Substantial investment in the bicycle infrastructure  is however required. This must include the provision of more bicycle friendly roads and shower facilities at places of work as an essential pre-requisite, together with more bicycle parking areas.

Different forms of public transport using clean energy should also be encouraged – for example, converting existing public buses to the use of methane as their primary fuel.

Waste management is another environmental headache, and which has, of late, been receiving more attention. An effort is currently under way to address the organic fraction of the household waste generated. If properly managed this could lead to substantial results as organic waste accounts for around 50 per cent of all the household waste generated. The tourism authorities must, however, seek to focus on the organic waste generated by bars and restaurants as MTA has neglected this matter for far to long.

Proper waste management can result in the generation of green jobs in the recycling industry – which is still in its infancy but holds a lot of potential.  It is an opportunity to transform a problem caused by neglect over the years  into an opportunity which will be both green and clean.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 28 May 2017

It-toroq tagħna wkoll

 

AD.cycling

Il-bieraħ, it-Tlieta, flimkien ma Ralph Cassar, Segretarju Ġenerali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika kif ukoll ma’ rappreżentanti tal- Bicycling Advocacy Group (BAG) indirizzajt konferenza stampa f’Marsaskala dwar id-deċiżjoni tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaskala li jneħħi għal kollox il-passaġġ għar-roti (cycle lane) fi Triq is-Salini.

Ngħiduha kif inhi: il-passaġġ kien wieħed part-time, għax ma kienx jista’ tintuża kuljum u f’kull ħin, u dan apparti meta kien ikun imblukkat mill-karozzi. Il-passaġġ seta jintuża biss matul il-ġimgħa sal-ħamsa ta’ waranofsinnhar. Ovvjament dan kien fil-ħin li l–parti l-kbira tan-nies tkun għax-xogħol. Allura hu ovvju li ftit intuża jekk la wara l-ħin tax-xogħol u l-anqas fi tmiem il-ġimgħa ma seta jintuża.

Flok ma tejjeb il-passaġġ tar-roti u estenda l-ħin li fih seta jintuża, l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaskala neħħieħ għal kollox. Għamel dan bla ma ikkonsulta ma ħadd. Qiesu li t-toroq huma għall-karozzi, biss.

Hija ħasra u riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ viżjoni fit-tul li l-Kunsill ta’ Marsaskala, minflok ma’ jżid il-faċilitajiet għal forom ta’ trasport differenti kif ukoll għal eżercizzju fiżiku fi spazji pubbliċi, ineħħi l-uniku triq mal-kosta f’żona urbana b’passaġġ għar-roti.

 

B’din id-deċiżjoni l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaskala qed jagħti messaġġ ħażin.  M’huwiex jifhem li anke jekk il-passaġġ kien wieħed part-time kien fih innifsu messaġġ simboliku ta’ inkoraġġiment liċ-ċiklisti u liċ-ċikliżmu. Kien messaġġ favur l-użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport. Messaġġ qawwi kontra l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku. It-toroq, wara kollox huma tagħna wkoll, mhux tal-karozzi biss.

F’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna fejn id-distanzi bejn lokalità u oħra fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom huma żgħar huwa importanti li ninkuraġġixxu ċ-ċikliżmu. Meta nagħmlu dan inkunu qed nagħtu kontribut għal kwalità tal-arja aħjar kif ukoll inkunu qed innaqqsu l-kontribut tal-pajjiż għat-tibdil fil-klima kif ukoll nieħdu ħsieb ta’  saħħitna.

Biex naslu irridu ntejbu l-infrastruttura meħtieġa għaċ-ċikliżmu. Fosthom iktar passaġġi għar-roti u bicycle racks (fejn jintrabtu r-roti).

Illum qabel għada. Għax it-toroq huma tagħna wkoll.

cycle laneTwo Tier-Cycle-Rack-3

Beijing’s bicycles

A comment in the Times online relative to my article published yesterday reminded me of the following article which I published in 2007.

times_of_malta196x70

published in the Times August 11, 2007

by Carmel Cacopardo

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A popular song points out that “there are nine million bicycles in Beijing”. Unfortunately, the advent of “progress” in Beijing is also affecting their use as cars are taking over. Ten to 15 years ago Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was still quite a sight with interminable rows of bicycles in their racks awaiting their users’ return close to the same spots which had seen military tanks squash the students’ revolt in June 1989.

Locally, we can easily do away with the use of a car when travelling short distances. Yet, notwithstanding, bicycle use in Malta is surprisingly limited. It is unfortunately not part of our way of life.

The bicycle’s benefits are multifold: physical fitness, cleaner air to breath , quieter and safer roads and a healthier balance of payments through the use of less fossil fuels and cars! It is a sustainable means of transport.

According to ADT (the Transport Authority), only 0.3 per cent of all trips in Malta are carried out through the use of a bicycle. ADT has in the recent past introduced bicycle lanes in a number of localities. In addition, within the context of the Park and Ride Project between Blata-l-Bajda and Valletta, commuters have been given the option of using a bicycle instead of making use of the mini-bus service. The number making use of this option is apparently very small.

ADT’s initiative of introducing bicycle lanes was appropriate and could easily be extended. On its own it is, however, insufficient. It requires a coordinated effort involving the ministries responsible for sports, health, environment and local councils in addition to the ministry responsible for transport. As a first step they should get their heads together to encourage cycling as a sport, simultaneously encouraging us to use bicycles to improve our health, thereby reducing pollution and laying the foundations for a sustainable transport policy even at a local level. It should not involve any substantial expense. Local councils could take the initiative through drafting and implementing a local environmental programme of action within the framework of Local Agenda 21 which 15 years after the Rio Earth Summit is still missing from our local policies. Very little information on cycling in Malta is available on the web. An exception being ADT which has posted an informative feature on its introduction of cycle lanes and also comments on the issue in its 2006 Annual Report.

The National Sustainability Strategy (still in draft form) recognises the need to promote a sustainable transport system. Land-use activities, states the Sustainable Development Strategy should “be located in such a way as to reduce the need for travel or such that travel can be carried out by transport modes with reduced environmental impacts” (paragraph 3.1.9). Cycling is one such transport mode.

Encouraging cycling is a challenge not just for central government but also for local councils. Especially those councils which are within a short distance of each other. They can cooperate and encourage cycling instead of the use of cars when travelling short distances. They have, however, to ensure that cyclists are not exposed to unnecessary dangers when on the road.

Our roads and streets have been designed more for the car and less for the human person. We need to claim them back for our use. More of our roads and streets need to be off limits to cars. Our local councils should claim back on our behalf streets and roads such that together with our children we can walk or cycle without fear and be able to breathe some fresh air in our urban environment. This is an area in which neighbouring local councils can cooperate through developing a common local transport policy.

Improvements in our quality of life will be just one of the results! We will certainly not have nine million bicycles on our roads, but a substantial number just the same.

Green Icing on half-baked cake

times_of_malta196x703published on 15 November 2008

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by Carmel Cacopardo

 

 

The budget environmental initiatives can best be described as green icing on the cake. However,once you cut through the icing there is not much to be overjoyed with. These initiatives could be considered as a declaration of intent: the good intentions being severely hampered by the government’s lack of action in the past, even the very recent past. As a result it is very difficult for these initiatives to yield positive results at the present time.

A number of initiatives are linked to transport. While the proposal to refund 15.25 per cent of a bicycle’s cost is welcome, it lacks the support of the necessary infrastructure thereby severely diluting its significance and possible impact. There are very few cycle lanes on our roads, and those that exist are frequently obstructed or else end abruptly. Few bicycle racks were installed in our towns and villages, the most notable being the ones in Birkirkara installed by the local council on the initiative of Green local councillor Mario Mallia during his term of office some years ago.

Others exist in Attard, a credit to Attard Green councillor Ralph Cassar. But very few exist elsewhere. AD is insisting through its local councillors in Attard (Ralph Cassar), Sliema (Michael Briguglio) and Ta’ Sannat (John Mizzi) for more initiatives which would make our roads bicycle friendly. It is only thus that the budget bicycle initiative could make any sense. What about some action by ADT?

The new car tax regime (both registration tax and circulation tax) could have been designed in a better manner. The age of a car, for example, is not necessarily conducive to increased environmental impacts.

The actual emissions as resulting from the VRT test would have been a much better point of reference than vehicle age in determining car taxation. This would encourage and reward those who keep their cars in good working order.

The budget also increased the licence fees (circulation tax) to be paid relative to cars currently on the road. When viewed within the context of the practical inexistence of a reliable public transport service, in the short term this is bad policy.

In the long term, however, it could be an adequate policy tool to encourage the reduction of the 295,000 cars currently on the road. In order to function properly eco taxation requires the existence of an alternative to what is being taxed: the alternative in this case being public transport. In the absence of an alternative the end result will be socially regressive: reduced accessibility to those at the lower end of the social ladder. If the real objective of the new car licence rates (circulation tax) is environmental, it would have been much better for all if they were not applicable immediately. Their applicability should be linked to the reform of the public transport system.

Government’s encouragement of photovoltaic panel installation is very limited. It is generous but due to financial constraints it will be limited to around 200 households.

It is also hampered by other issues which have not yet been addressed. Issues of ownership of airspace have to be examined and new concepts as to its use have to be developed. Likewise from a land use planning point of view any future increase of permissible building heights has to be balanced against the right of access to solar energy.

The direct subsidy of photovoltaic panel purchase is not the only way to encourage installation. The government should explore schemes through which the purchase price is paid through the electrical energy generated. An initiative such as this would render solar energy accessible to those who do not have the required capital outlay readily available.

The eco tax applicable to incandescent light bulbs and the increase in eco tax payable on plastic bags were long overdue. However, the government must explain how it will tackle its major loophole in this respect. It is a known fact, at times documented in the media, that the manner in which eco taxes are being evaded is through overland supplies from neighbouring Sicily. It is eco tax versus the free movement of goods. Will checks be introduced at the border to control blatant and obvious tax evasion?

It is also amusing to note that the government is a late convert to the applicability of eco taxation in the tourism sector. The rate to be applied as from 2010 is insignificant but at last this green principle, which was under attack on the eve of the 2004 European Parliament elections, has now been accepted. Tourism has to date been excluded from the applicability of the polluter pays principle. Hopefully it will slowly come in line. Next to follow should be MTA encouragement of eco and agro tourism. These are forms of tourism with substantially lower environmental impacts than conventional tourism.

The green icing may be fine, but if the cake is half-baked what’s the use?

Dak il-bicycle

bike_rack_project

 

 

Mela issa jekk tixtri bicycle ser tieħu lura 15.25% ta’ dak li tħallas. Din hi miżura tajba intenzjonata biex tħajjar l-użu tal-bicycle għal distanzi qosra. Miżura posittiva.

 

Imma l-bicycle fejn sr ikun ipparkjat ? Ma hawnx bicycle racks biżżejjed. Safejn naf jien ġew istallati bicycle racks f’B’Kara (fi żmien li kien kunsillier Mario Mallia f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika) u f’H’Attard (bl-inizzjattiva ta’ Ralph Cassar – kunsillier ieħor ta’ Alternattiva).

 

Fit-toroq l-anqas ma għandna sigurta’ biżżejjed għax ftit li xejn għandna cycle lanes. Uħud minn dawk li saru jieqfu ħesrem.

 

Il-miżura ta’ refużjoni ta’ 15.25% tal-prezz ta’ bicycle hi waħda tajba. Imma hemm ħtieġa ta’ ħafna iktar.

 

cyclelane