Planning for the foreseeable future

Human nature has always been preoccupied with the future. However, at times we tend not to realise that we mould a substantial part of the future through our actions today. Unfortunately, sometimes our actions today and the future we want, point towards completely different directions.

Our future is necessarily a common one, as explained in the 1987 report of the UN Commission on Environment and Development -, the Brundtland report – aptly entitled Our Common Future. Drafted by an international commission led by former Norwegian Socialist Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, this report placed sustainable development on the global discussion platform, emphasising that we are responsible not only for each other’s welfare today but also for that of future generations. We need to consider carefully that our actions today have a considerable impact and can possibly limit the choices that future generations would have to make.

The impact of our behaviour on the climate is one such example. The impact of climate change is causing havoc in weather patterns and consequently also impacting on all areas of human activity. The patterns and intensity of rainfall is unpredictable. Our road infrastructure never coped, and now it is getting worse.

Earlier this week The Guardian reported that the planet has just a five per cent chance of reaching the Paris climate goals. Rather than avoiding warming up by more than 2oC by the end of the century, it is more likely that Mother Earth will heat up to around 5oC beyond the pre-industrial era.

The predicted consequences are catastrophic. Another report published in April this year had informed us that there are worrying signs for Greenland ice sheet which covers 80 percent of its 1.7 million square kilometres surface area: it has been observed melting faster than ever before. On its own, this factor could potentially cause a rise of many meters in sea level – as many as seven metres.

This is certainly not the future we want. Any rise in sea level rise, even if minimal, would threaten the functionability of all coastal areas and facilities. It would also wipe out entire coastal communities and islands worldwide would disappear. It would be a future of climate- change refugees pushed to higher ground by a rising sea-level. This will not only have an impact low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean: it will also hit closer to home.
Take a look at and consider the places along the Maltese coast: Msida, Ta’ Xbiex, Pietá, Sliema, Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk, San Pawl il-Baħar, Burmarrad, Birżebbuġa, Marsalforn, Xlendi and many more.
Readers will remember the occasional rise in sea-level at Msida. In one such instant – on 11 May last year – the change in sea level was of more than a metre as a resulting flooding the roads along the coast. This phenomenon is known as seiche (locally referred to as “Il-Milgħuba”) and reported in this newspaper under the heading “Phenomenon: sea-water level rises in Msida, traffic hampered.” It also occurs at St George’s Bay in Birżebbuġa – on a small scale but on a regular basis, causing quite a nuisance to car users.

Now this phenomenon only occurs temporarily, yet it still substantially affects traffic movements when it does. Imagine if the rise in sea level rise is of a permanent nature?

Large parts of our coast are intensively developed – with roads and residential properties, as well as substantial sections of the tourism infrastructure and facilities. In addition, there is also the infrastructure of our ports which we have developed as a maritime nation over the centuries. All this points to the need for adequate planning to implement urgent adaptation measures in order to reinforce Malta’s coastal infrastructure. If we wait too long it may be too late.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 August 2017

Meta l-Parlament jistenbaħ

Noise Report 2015.draft

 

It-Times online irrappurtat dwar rapport li l-Ministru Manwel Mallia qiegħed fuq il-mejda tal-Kamra wara talba li saret għal dan mill-Membru Parlamentari Anthony Agius Decelis. Rapport li ilna nafu bih xhur twal!

Huwa tajjeb, anzi tajjeb ħafna, li l-Parlament jistenbaħ għar-realtá ta madwarna. U din ir-realtá hi sempliċi ħafna. Mhux diffiċli biex tinftiehem.

Is-suċċess ekonomiku tal-Freeport, tgħid din ir-realtá, qed iħallsu għalih ir-residenti ta Birżebbuġa. Għal ħafna snin ħadd ma kienet qiegħed jagħti kaz. Huwa tajjeb li fl-aħħar hemm min qiegħed jistenbaħ.

Imma waqt li l-Onorevoli Agius Delicata (u oħrajn) kien rieqed, ħaddieħor kien qiegħed jaħdem biex iktar persuni jirrealizzaw xinhu jiġri. Għax ir-rapport dwar il-ħsejjes ma sarx waħdu. Sar għax il-Kunsill Lokali ta Birżebbuġa ħadem kemm felaħ ħalli l-Freeport jerfa r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu.

L-isfida reali hi li l-Freeport iwettaq ir-rakkomandazzjonijiet li fih dak ir-rapport! Hi triq twila u anke hemm naslu!

A farce in the making

external-emergency-plan-censored

 

Public consultation on the Delimara operational permit has commenced. This permit has to be issued in terms of the provisions of the EU Directive  on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC).

Feeding this public consultation exercise, last week the Environment and Resources Authority released 293 reports detailing information on different aspects of the Delimara power station. These reports are available on the authority’s website as well as at the offices of Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa local councils. They run into thousands of pages – varying from those which are very short to others which are substantial in length.

Originally, the public consultation exercise was planned to last 30 days – the minimum time  established by law. After a number of protests, this was increased to 40 days, which is still too short,  given the substantial amount of information that must be digested and analysed. Common sense should have dictated a much longer consultation period as the lack of sufficient time to examine the information released will bring into question the validity of the whole exercise.

The  reports require considerable time to be examined in order that their contents are understood in their proper perspective. Most of these reports were submitted to the Environment and Resources Authority many months ago and in the intervening period have been examined by officials of the Authority, who, in a number of cases, requested amendments or additions. These changes were identified by the Authority’s officers as a result of their examination of the said reports over a number of months.

It stands to reason that the Environment and Resources Authority is, on the basis of its own work,  fully aware that the real time required for  this public consultation would be in the region of four months and that anything less is insufficient.

There is, however, one exception. The report entitled “External Emergency Plan” drawn up by the Civil Protection Department, has been censored. A whole section has been removed and, as such, is not being subjected to the current public consultation exercise. Page 21 of the report contains the tile of the section : Section B Operational. On the following page we then have a note which informs us that “Information in the Operational Section (Section B) of this document is being withheld from publication on grounds on national security”.

This is a farce. The most important part of the document that requires dissemination and feedback has been withheld. This report should have been placed in the public domain in its entirety, as it is essential for those members of the public who are interested (or preoccupied) on the issue as they live too close for comfort to the Delimara power station. They  need the whole report in order to be informed and thus be in a position to give their reactions. Familiarity on the part of Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa residents with the Operational Section of the External Emergency Plan would eventually be put into use in the civil protection drills and simulation exercises which have to be organised by the Civil Protection Department on a regular basis at both Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa.

The Civil Protection Department leadership team should realise, even at this stage, that the local population must own the operational plans. These plans will not work if the local population is not aware of at least the basic contents of these plans.

The public consultation process is a basic and essential component of the workings of a democratic society. Tampering with the required information, or unnecessarily restricting the consultation period, will transform it into a farce.

It is for these reasons that the Delimara power station consultation process is a farce in the making!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 30 October 2016

Bejn il-Freeport u t-tanker tal-gass : min jagħmel l-iktar ħsara?

gas at Marsaxlokk

 

Bħalissa għaddejjin numru ta’ argumenti bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista dwar il-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk. Dwar il-kuntrast bejn l-impatti tal-Freeport u dawk tat-tanker tal-gass li dalwaqt ikun qiegħed fi triqtu lejn Malta minn Singapore!

Il-Partit Laburista fl-aħħar induna li l-Freeport għandu impatt negattiv fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Qed ngħid li fl-aħħar induna, għax għal numru kbir ta’ snin ħadd mill-Partit Laburista ma fetaħ ħalqu dwar dan is-suġġett. Inkluż meta l-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista kollu, unanimament, ivvota favur li l-konnċessjoni tat-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles lis-CMA-CGM tiżdied minn 30 għal 65 sena. Dakinnhar ħadd mill-Partit Laburista ma kellu riżervi favur ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Imma biż-żmien il-Partit Laburista fetaħ għajnejħ. Iktar għall-konvenjenza milli b’konvinzjoni. Imma fetaħhom.

Allura issa li l-Partit Laburista fetaħ għajnejh dwar il-Freeport qed jakkuża lill-Partit Nazzjonalista li hu ma jimpurtahx mill-impatti fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Kif kien il-Partit Laburista sa ftit ilu!

Ir-risposta tal-Partit Nazzjonalista, kif antiċipat, hi emfasi fuq it-tanker tal-ħażna tal-gass li ser ikun sorġut fil-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk għal numru ta’ snin sakemm isir il-pipeline tal-gass bejn Malta u Sqallija.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista jridu jdaħħqu dwar min għamel l-iktar ħsara!

Ir-realtà hi li l-ħsara jagħmluha t-tnejn imma din m’hiex ħsara komparabbli.

Il-ħsara kkawżata mill-Freeport Terminal hi riżultat ta’ ippjanar ħażin li ma qiesx l-impatti tal-operat tal-Freeport Terminal fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Huwa nuqqas li jmur lura sal-1962, li seta jkun ikkoreġut fis-snin tmenin u li minflok sar agħar bil-plots għad-djar li ħareġ il-Gvern fil-viċinanżi!

Il-ħsara li jista’ jikkawża t-tanker tal-gass hi li jqarreb il-periklu (anke jekk remot) lejn ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Hawn ukoll hawn nuqqas ta’ ippjanar. Imma tajjeb, for the record, niftakru li l-Gvern Taljan permezz tal-ENI fl-1999 ried jagħmel il-pipeline tal-gass bejn Malta u Sqallija. Imma l-Gvern, dakinnhar immexxi mill-PN, ma wasalx għal ftehim!

Kieku l-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista ippjana l-politika tal-enerġija sewwa ilna iktar minn 10 snin li qlibna għall-gass u bla dubju ma jkunx hemm bżonn l-ebda tanker tal-gass!

Allura, ser jibqgħu għaddejjin biha dwar min għamel l-iktar ħsara?

Wara t-tejatrin ta’ Singapore …………….. lil hinn mill-partiġjaniżmu politiku

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

 

Qed joqrob il-jum li fih it-tanker għall-ħażna tal-gass tal-power station jidħol u jitqiegħed fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Qed jgħidulna li dan ser ikun temporanju, jiġifieri għal ftit taż-żmien, sakemm jitlestew l-istudji dwar il-pipline tal-gass bejn Sqallija u Malta. Ovvjament trid iżżid ukoll iż-żmien biex il-pipeline jitqieghed f’qiegħ il-baħar inkluż ukoll il-perjodu tal-finanzjament, tendering u commissioning. Mhux xahar u tnejn.

Kemm ser ikun twil dan il-perjodu temporanju? Jiddependi mix-xogħol li sar diġà. Peró ma neħodiex bi kbira jekk dan iż-żmien ikun bejn 5 u 8 snin.

Sadanittant hemm il-ħtieġa li jkun ikkunsidrat il-permess operattiv tal-power station taħdem bil-gass f’Delimara. Dan il-permess ikun irid jissodisfa tlett tipi ta’ direttivi/regolamenti. Dawk dwar l-impjanti industrijali, dawk dwar l-impatti ambjentali (IPPC – Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) u dawk dwar il-ħarsien minn inċidenti industrijali u l-impatti kemm ambjentali kif ukoll dawk ta’ protezzjoni ċivili (Direttivi ta’ Seveso).

Dan kollu jkun ikkunsidrat mill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u Riżorsi flimkien ma’ awtoritajiet oħra, prinċipalment id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili u l-Awtorità għall-Ħarsien tas-Saħħa fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol. Imma ser ikun hemm ukoll bla dubju ħtieġa  ta’ eżami sewwa ta’ issues ta’ navigazzjoni minn Trasport Malta minħabba kemm it-tanker stazzjonarju (marbut mal-moll) fil-bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk kif ukoll minħabba li madwar 8 darbiet fis-sena ser jidħlu tankers bil-ħtiġijiet tal-gass skond kemm tkun qed tikkonsma gass il-Power Station ta’ Delimara.

Dawn huma kollha affarijiet li ġew diskussi f’ċerta dettall madwar sentejn ilu meta kien qed ikun diskuss il-permess ta’ żvilupp quddiem il-MEPA. Dakinnhar kien intqal li dawn kollha kienu affarijiet li riedu jkunu deċiżi iktar tard. Preċiżament issa hu dak il-mument, matul dawn il-ġimgħat u xhur li ġejjin.

Ser naraw matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ sigurtà huwa u jkun trasferit il-gass mit-tankers ġejjin u sejrin għal ġot-tanker stazzjonarju. Jekk hux veru li għal ċertu ħin il-port ikun jeħtieġlu illi jkun magħluq u kif dan (jekk minnu) ser jeffettwa l-operat tal Freeport u tas-sajjieda.

Irridu naraw kemm il-miżuri ta’ sigurtà fl-operazzjoni tal-power station huma f’posthom u xi drills ser ikunu meħtieġa (inkluż il-frekwenza tagħhom) biex ikun assigurat illi l-popolazzjoni residenzjali fil-viċinanzi tkun imħejjija għal kull eventwalità, anke jekk remota.

Wara l-inċidenti ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa fil-ħruq tan-nar tal-festa ta’ Marsaxlokk bla dubju jridu jittieħdu prewkazzjonijiet ħafna iktar biex ikun assigurat li dawn it-tip ta’ inċidenti, jekk iseħħu, jinżammu l-bogħod kemm jista’ jkun mill-power station ta’ Delimara u l-ħażna tal-gass.

Dan kollu dwaru hemm l-obbligu li jkun hemm konsultazzjoni pubblika mar-residenti effettwati, dawk ta’ Marsaxlokk prinċipalment, imma probabbilment ukoll dawk ta’ Birżebbuġa.

L-operazzjoni tal-power station bil-gass bla dubju ser tnaqqas it-tniġġż tal-arja u b’mod ġenerali ittejjeb l-impatti ambjentali. Il-kostruzzjoni tal-pipe tal-gass eventwalment tnaqqas u tbiegħed il-perikli. Imma sa ma jasal dak il-jum, il-possibiltà tal-perikli, anke jekk remoti xorta qegħda wara l-bieb tagħna.

Lil hinn mill-partiġġjaniżmu politiku għandna l-obbligu li nassiguraw li l-affarijiet isiru sewwa. Biex dan isir għandna l-obbligu li neżaminaw kull pass li jsir. Għax b’hekk biss kulħadd joqgħod attent li jagħmel xogħolu sewwa.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tlieta 2 t’Awwissu 2016

Political calculation or environmental principle?

calculator

 

Joseph Muscat’s declaration that the Freeport Terminal will not be permitted to expand in Birżebbuġa’s direction due to its impacts on the residential community will inevitably have an effect on the Planning Authority. Viewed in the context of the recent Planning Authority decision not to approve the proposed Ħondoq ir-Rummien development, a pattern seems to be developing.

Given the fact that these two decisions are closely associated with localities that politically support the Labour Party it is still not clear whether this newly discovered sensitivity to restrict development which negatively impacts residential communities is based on political calculation or on environmental principle. This consideration is inevitable, in particular due to the report in this newspaper on 22 June that the Prime Minister had stated, in a discussion with environmental NGO Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, that he does not care about impact assessments, as residents get used to everything. As far as I am aware, the Office of the Prime Minister never corrected this report.

The Freeport Terminal debate clearly indicates that Birżebbuġa residents are determined to deliver a different message: they have had enough. During the last seven years there has been an ongoing tug-of-war between Birżebbuġa Local Council, MEPA and the Freeport Terminal Management. This has led to a number of improvements, the most important of which was the setting up of a tripartite Environmental Monitoring Committee that has served to build some bridges and to explore solutions to existing problems caused by the operation of the Freeport Terminal.

There was a time, around two years ago, when pressure was put on Birżebbuġa Local Council to drop its objections to specific operations. I distinctly remember representatives from the oil-rig repair industry  trying to convince the Council of the “benefits” that an oil-rig industry based at the Freeport Terminal could generate.

When these representatives realised that no one was convinced, an amendment to the environmental permit was forced through the then MEPA Board. To their credit, only three of the then board members understood the real issues and voted against the proposal: the two MPs (Joe Sammut and Ryan Callus) and the environmental NGO representative Alex Vella of the Ramblers Association.

The amended environmental permit would have permitted minor repairs to ships and oil-rigs berthed at the Freeport Terminal. However, after the MEPA Board meeting all hell broke loose, leading Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to disassociate himself from its decision and publicly align himself with the minority on the board opposing the changes. He then stated that he was in agreement with “his representative”, Labour MP Joe Sammut.

While the Freeport Terminal, faced with the reaction of residents, eventually relinquished the newly-acquired permit, the internal debate within the Labour Party continued, leading to the recent statement by Joseph Muscat that he is not in agreement with an expansion of the Freeport Terminal operations that would have a negative impact on the Birżebbuġa community.

Irrespective of whether it is a matter of principle or a political calculation which has led the Prime Minister to make such a statement, I submit that this is still a significant turning point that has been achieved as a direct result of Birżebbuġa Local Council’s persistent lobbying. It contrasts with the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition, who looks forward to an increase in the operations of the Freeport Terminal, without batting an eyelid over the resulting, continuously increasing, impact on the residential community.

The Prime Minister’s statement, while being a positive first step, is certainly not enough. It needs to be translated into policy as an integral part of the revised Local Plans currently under consideration. It is also important that the Prime Minister’s newly identified sensitivities are exported to other areas in Malta and Gozo. It is essential that, in a small country such as ours, third party rights opposing “development” are reinforced.

The issue at stake is far larger than Birżebbbuġa or the Freeport Terminal. It is a tug-of-war between those supporting “development” at all costs and our residential communities. The government must, through planning policy, be supportive of all our residential communities without exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 31st July 2016

Il-Freeport : il-ħmar iwaħħal f’denbu!

MEPA Board April 2013

Matul dawn il-ġranet kienu ppubblikati diversi artikli b’kummenti dwar id-deċiżjoni li ħa l-Gvern u kkomunikata mill-Prim Ministru li mhux għaqli li l-Port Ħieles jitħalla jikber fid-direzzjoni ta’ Birżebbuġa minħabba l-impatti fuq ir-residenti.

Id-deċiżjoni hi waħda tajba imma ………………. tfisser li l-awtoritajiet li wassluna sa dan il-punt m’għamlux xogħolhom sewwa. B’mod partikolari l-MEPA li repetutament ħadet deċiżjonijiet mingħajr ma qieset sewwa l-impatti fuq in-nies, residenti f’Birżebbuġa.

Sentejn ilu, f’April 2014, il-MEPA kienet anke ddeċidiet li tagħti permess biex isiru xogħolijiet ta’ tiswija żgħira ta’ vapuri u oilrigs fil-Port Ħieles. Deċiżjoni li kienet wasslet għal dikjarazzjoni pubblika kuntrarja minn Joseph Muscat.

Quddiem dan kollu hemm mistoqsija waħda: kemm ser idumu jinħatru dawn it-tip ta’ nies fit-tmexxija tal-awtoritajiet jekk m’humiex kapaċi jmexxu? Għax dawk magħżul sal-lum ftit li xejn għandhom sensittività dwar kif dak li huma ser jiddeċiedu dwaru jeffettwa lir-residenti.

Dawn min jagħżilhom? Mhux kollha bil-barka tal-Prim Ministru jintagħżlu? Hemm xi cans li jintagħżlu persuni aħjar? Forsi ma nibqgħux bil-ħmar iwaħħal f’denbu!

 

Il-Freeport : tagħlima kbira

BBugia. two Mayors

Jekk Simon Busuttil  inħasad, jiena xejn ma kont sorpriż bid-dikjarazzjoni tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat li huwa ma jaqbilx li l-Port Ħieles jibqa’ jespandi fid-direzzjoni ta’ Birżebbuġa. Dan għaliex osservajt id-deċiżjoni tinbena biċċa biċċa. Kultant b’sogru kbir għal dawk involuti.

Forsi l-iktar mument kritiku kien meta l-Bord tal-MEPA kien iddiskuta emenda għall-permess ambjentali tal-Port Ħieles u dan il-Bord kien ivvota fil-maġġoranza kbir tiegħu favur din l-emenda. Ħlief tlieta: iż-żewġ membri Parlamentari (Joe Sammut u Ryan Callus) u r-rappreżentant tal-NGOs ambjentali Alex Vella tar-Ramblers Association.

L-emenda kienet biex ikun permess fil-Port Ħieles xogħol żgħir ta’ tiswija ta’ vapuri u oilrigs! Il-Kunsill ta’ Birżebbuġa dakinnhar kien għamel lobbying qawwi kontra l-emenda, imma din xorta kienet approvata mill-Bord tal-MEPA.

Imma wara l-laqgħa tal-Bord tal-MEPA qamu l-irwiefen kollha. Ir-residenti semmgħu leħinhom b’mod mill-iktar ċar u irnexxielhom joħolqu diskussjoni mqanqla anke fil-Partit Laburista tant li wasslu lil Joseph Muscat biex b’mod ċar jgħid fil-pubbliku illi hu ma kienx jaqbel mad-deċiżjoni li kien ħa l-Bord tal-MEPA. Kien iddikjara publikament li kien jaqbel mal-vot kontra (fil-Bord tal-MEPA) tal-Membru Parlamentari Laburista Joe Sammut, inċidentalment li jirrappreżenta lid-Distrett li minnu jifforma parti Birżebbuġa fil-Parlament. Eventwalment minħabba r-reażżjoni pubblika l-Port Ħieles ma baqax jinsisti għall-permess li kien kiseb għal xogħol ta’ tiswijiet minuri fuq vapuri u oilrigs.

Wara dan l-inċident jidher li kompla id-dibattitu fil-Partit Laburista li wassal għad-deċiżjoni li n-nies f’Birżebbuġa jixirqilhom li jkunu mħarsa mill-impatti tal-Port Ħieles ħafna iktar milli kienu sal-lum.

Jiena naħseb li dan huwa punt importanti ħafna u l-mertu għalih huwa prinċipalment tal-Kunsilliera Laburisti fil-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa: fuq quddiem nett is-Sindku tal-lum, Kevin Barun, imma ukoll Joseph Farrugia ir-Ricky li bħala l-ewwel Sindku ta’ Birżebbuġa ħejja t-triq illi wasslet għal din id-deċiżjoni.

Imma issa huwa importanti li din ma tkunx biss rebħa ta’ Birżebbuġa. L-effetti tagħha jeħtieg li jinfirxu billi minnha l-Partit Laburista jieħu tagħlima kbira: il-konsiderazzjoni tal-impatti fuq in-nies ta’ kull proġett ta’ żvilupp (hi x’inhi n-natura tiegħu) hija fundamentali daqs, jekk mhux iktar, mill-konsiderazzjonijiet ekonomiċi.

Ikun tajjeb li naraw jekk u kif din it-tagħlima ser tkun applikata tul ix-xhur li ġejjin. Taqbida bejn is-saħħa tan-nies u s-saħħa tal-flus.

ippubblikat ukoll fuq iNews : l-Erbgħa 27 ta’ Lulju 2016

Simon Busuttil għadu ma fehem xejn

Simon Busuttil 11

Simon Busuttil inħasad. Hekk irrapportat il-Malta Today dwar ir-reazzjoni tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni għad-deċiżjoni tal-Gvern li mhux ser jinkoraġixxi l-espansjoni tal-Port Ħieles.

Simon Busuttil għadu mhux qed jirrealizza illi l-impatti li qed joriġinaw mit-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles qed jifnu lir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa . L-iktar li qed jinħass presentment hu l-istorbju matul il-ħin tal-mistrieħ. Imma mhux dan biss.

Kif diġa kelli l-opportunità illi nispjega f’artikli oħra, hemm ukoll impatti li huma kkawżati mid-dawl eċċessiv fit-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles kif ukoll impatti li joriġinaw min-nuqqas ta’ aċċess għall-baħar għall-isports u d-divertiment b’mod ġenerali.

L-impatti ambjentali għandhom effett immedjat kif ukoll effetti fit-tul fuq il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Hekk qiegħed jagħmel il-Port Ħieles: qiegħed bil-mod il-mod jherri l-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Fi ftit kliem is-suċċess tal-Port Ħieles qed iħallsu għalih ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa billi tul is-snin, sal-lum ukoll, qed jiġu mġiegħela jissagrifikaw il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħhom.

Pajjiż serju ma jittratta lil ħadd miċ-ċittadini tiegħu b’dan il-mod. Alternattiva Demokratika ilha titkellem żmien twil dwar dan. Għalhekk huwa ta’ sodisfazzjon għalina li l-Gvern u l-Partit Laburista fl-aħħar fehmu dan. Huwa ukoll tal-mistħija li Simon Busuttil li jippoppa sidru bħala l-paladin il-ġdid tal-ambjent għadu ma fehem xejn.

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

freeport.aerial viw

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The time to clean up is long overdue.

published  on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 July 2016