The debate on the National Environment Strategy

The human person forms an integral part of the eco-system.  We do not form part of “the economy”. The economy is the manner in which we organise ourselves, but the eco-system is our DNA.

This is what the ERA National Strategy for the Environment for 2050, currently in consultation phase, should be about.

The strategy is entitled “Wellbeing First”.  A strategy drafted only in the English language, once more ignoring Maltese. While our quality of life is of the utmost importance, an environmental strategy which is anthropocentric does not make sense. An anthropocentric environmental policy is short term in nature and does not lead to enhancing well-being. Environmental policy should be eco-centric: its subject matter should be the achievement of a healthy ecology, as free as possible from human toxicity. Ensuring a healthy ecology will definitely also enhance our quality of life too.

Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) Chairperson Victor Axiaq, in the forward to the consultation document, emphasises that we have yet to learn to live within our ecological limits. Obviously, as a result of his participation in the Planning Authority Board over the past seven years, he has first-hand experience of the manner in which these limits have been continuously stretched beyond any elastic limit. There is a need to reverse this trend the soonest.

The pursuit of economic growth as the single most important policy goal is in conflict with the earth’s limited resource base and the fragile ecosystem of which we are a part and on which we depend for our survival. While economic growth is supposed to deliver prosperity, it has instead delivered unbridled climate change, fuel insecurity, sky-high commodity prices, collapsing biodiversity, reduced access to depleted water resources and an ever-increasing global inequality. These are all issues the tackling of which cannot be postponed to the next generation.

Progress is measured through the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yet the GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.

The GDP is just concerned with material wealth ignoring in the process our health, education, the safety of our streets, the social tissue of society, the state of our families, the devastation caused by all forms of hatred…………… GDP includes the production of armaments and the destruction of the environment carried out in the name of “progress” as well as the television programmes that glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. The earth’s resources are limited and, consequently, they cannot fuel infinite economic growth. There are practical limits to growth, which should lead our economic planners to consider decoupling prosperity and economic growth.

The consultation document seeks to guide the national debate towards identifying the long-term objectives of the National Environmental Strategy. Once this is done ERA should be in a position to develop action plans for the achievement of such objectives.

It should be undoubtedly clear to all that a sustainable future will only be achieved when we start respecting the eco-system without any exception. Our eco-system determines our permissible limits which we only ignore at our peril. This is our challenge which must be addressed by the National Environment Strategy.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 30 August 2020

Kontradizzjonijiet

Jekk wieħed joqgħod biss fuq dak li jgħidu dawk li jitkellmu f’isem il-Gvern, malajr jasal għal konklużjoni żbaljata li qatt ma kellna Gvern favur l-ambjent daqs dan tal-lum. Sfortunatament l-affarijiet huma ferm differenti minn hekk!

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ġie fi tmiemu l-perjodu ta’ sitt ġimgħat konsultazzjoni dwar l-iskop tal-Istrateġija Nazzjonali tal-Biodiversità u l-Pjan t’Azzjoni dwarha li għandu jwassal sal-2030. Għal xi raġuni li s’issa għad mhiex magħrufa l-Awtorità dwar l-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA), għal dawn l-aħħar snin qed tikkonċentra l-konsultazzjonijiet importanti għax-xhur tas-sajf (b’mod partikolari tul Awwissu) meta hu magħrufa li n-nies tieħu l-vaganzi u allura tistrieħ!

L-Istrateġija Nazzjonali dwar il-Biodiversità u l-Pjan t’Azzjoni assoċjat magħha, bla dubju, meta jkun konkluż ser ifittex li jħares il-kapital naturali tal-pajjiż fit-totalità tiegħu.  

Imma iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, Clint Camilleri, l-Ministru għall-Kaċċa u l-Insib, ħabbar li l-Gvern, għal darb’oħra, ser jerġa’  jipprova jissabotaġġa l-implementazzjoni tal-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropea dwar l-Għasafar billi jipprova jisfrutta xi partijiet minnha!   Il-konsulenti tal-Gvern qed jippruvaw jagħmlu użu minn dik il-parti tad-Direttiva tal-Għasafar li tipprovdi dwar l-istudji xjentifiċi: din tippermetti  l-qbid ta’ numru żgħir ta’ għasafar ħajjin. Dan kollu, fil-fehma tal-Gvern u l-konsulenti tiegħu, jista’ jiġġustifika xi forma ta’ nsib!

Jidher li għadhom ma fehmu xejn: id-Direttiva tal-Għasafar tal-Unjoni Ewropea hi għodda Ewropeja dwar il-ħarsien tal-biodiversità u mhux strument biex jiġġustifika l-kaċċa jew l-insib!

Il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela, il-ġimgħa li għaddiet, waqt li kien qed jindirizza l-Kamra tal-Kummerċ ħabbar viżjoni msejsa fuq ħames punti. Wieħed minn dawn il-punti, li fl-aħħar induna bih, hu l-ħtieġa li naddottaw bħala mira li nilħqu n-newtralità fl-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju. Mira tajba, kieku dak li qed jgħid hu veru!

Dan hu każ ieħor fejn għal darb’ oħra, l-Gvern, ambjentalment qed juri wiċċ b’ieħor, kif wara kollox issa ilna li drajna!  Il-Gvern ilu s-snin iberbaq il-miljuni tal-euro fi żvilupp ta’ infrastruttura ta’ toroq li mhiex meħtieġa: l-iskop uniku hu li jirrinforza d-dipendenza fuq il-karozzi privati għax minnhom jiddipendi ammonti kbar tad-dħul tal-Gvern: minn taxxi fuq petrol u diesel sa taxxi u liċenzji assoċjati mal-karozzi.

Il-Gvern ikkummissjona studji, strateġiji u Pjani Nazzjonali u meta waslu għandu qalibhom ta’ taħt fuq.  Id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Robert Abela favur viżjoni bil-mira ta’ newtralità fl-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju hija f’kontradizzjoni mal-infieq massiċċ tal-Gvern fuq infrastruttura tat-toroq li mhix meħtieġa.  Il-Gvern ta’ Abela, bħal dawk ta’ qablu (ħomor u blu), jaħseb li l-problemi jistgħu jissolvew billi jkunu  bbumbardjati bil-miljuni tal-euro. Il-flus ċertament dejjem ikunu ta’ għajnuna, imma jeħtieġ li jintużaw tajjeb u mhux jitberbqu kif qed iseħħ presentement.

L-ispazju li għandi hu limitat u allura ma nistax nispjega mill-ġdid il-proposti kollha li Alternattiva Demokratika għamlet dwar dan kollu tul is-snin: proposti Ii jiswew farka mill-miljuni li l-Gvern qiegħed iberbaq.  

Ikun biżżejjed li niftakru li l-Pjan Nazzjonali dwar it-Trasport jispjega illi 50 fil-mija tal-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi privati fil-gżejjer Maltin għandhom tul li ma jaqbizx il-ħmistax-il minuta. Dan juri b’mod mill-iktar ċar  mobilità primarjament ta’ natura lokali u reġjonali!  Għal dan la hemm bżonn ta’ flyovers u l-anqas ta’ mini imma qafas biex fih jitħaddem transport lokali u reġjonali.  Huma inizjattivi ta’ din ix-xorta li jnaqqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq li jgħinuna fit-triq diffiċli lejn n-newtralità fl-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju!

Għaddew madwar tlett snin minn meta l-predeċessur ta’ Robert Abela ħa proposta mill-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika dwar il-ħtieġa li nistabilixxu data li minnha lil hemm ma jinbiegħux karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-diesel u dan flimkien ma proposti oħra dwar l-elettrifikazzjoni tat-trasport fit-toroq tagħna. Imma l-istudji mwegħda ma jidhrux b’nemes!

Il-kontradizzjonijiet fil-politika ambjentali tal-Partit Laburista jimxu fuq l-eżempju tal-predeċessuri tagħhom fil-Gvern li waqt li kienu jokorbu biex nipproteġu l-ilma fasslu proġett biex l-ilma tax-xita jispiċċa kważi kollu l-baħar. Proġett li spiċċa biex mal-ilma tax-xita, rema’ l-baħar, miljuni ta’ euro f’fondi Ewropej!

Il-paroli tal-Labour u tal-PN dwar l-ambjent qatt ma solva xejn. Għax dejjem jgħidu ħaġa u jagħmlu oħra.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: Il-Ħadd 23 t’Awwissu 2020

Contradictions

Taking government spokespersons at face value could lead to the mistaken conclusion that Labour in government is a defender of the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Earlier this week saw the end of a six-week consultation period relative to the Intent and Objectives of a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan leading to 2030. For some unknown reason the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), for the past years has been concentrating its most important consultations during the summer months, in particular August, the least productive months as they coincide with the holiday period. The National Biodiversity Strategy and relative Action Plan will, when concluded, strive to actively protect our natural capital in its widest sense.

Yet earlier this week Clint Camilleri, Minister for Hunting and Trapping, announced another government attempt to try and sabotage the implementation of the EU Birds’ Directive through seeking potential additional loopholes.  Government advisors are trying to use the provisions of the Birds’ Directive relative to scientific studies, which permit the live capture of a small number of birds, to make a case for local trapping! They seem to not have yet understood that the EU Birds’ Directive is a biodiversity protection tool and not an instrument to justify hunting or trapping in whatever form or shape.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, when addressing the Chamber of Commerce last week, deemed it fit to announce a five-point vision. One of the points which he has at last adopted is the aim of attaining carbon neutrality. Very laudable indeed, if it were true!

This is another case of environmental lip service which we have become accustomed to for a number of years. Government has over the past years been squandering millions of euros in large scale transport infrastructural projects with the specific aim of reinforcing our dependence on the private car. Private cars are the source of large chunks of government income, ranging from taxes on fuel to car licences and registration taxes. Government has commissioned studies, strategies and National Plans which it then turns on their head. Robert Abela’s late conversion to a vision of a carbon neutral Malta is in direct contradiction to the spending spree on road transport infrastructure. His government, like that of his predecessors, red and blue, thinks that problems can be solved by being bombarded with euros, millions of them. Euros certainly help but they must be well spent, not squandered as they currently are.

I haven’t got space today to go through all the proposals which Greens have brought forward over the years, costing a fraction of the millions currently going down the drains. It would suffice to point out that the National Transport Master Plan had identified that 50 per cent of trips using private cars in the Maltese Islands are of a duration of less than fifteen minutes, clearly indicating primarily a mobility that it is local or regional in nature!  We don’t need flyovers, tunnels or underpasses to address this but an efficient local and regional transport network which we currently lack. It is such initiatives which encourage reduction of cars from our roads and help us climb the steep road to carbon neutrality!

It is now almost three years since Robert Abela’s predecessor took a leaf out of the Green Electoral manifesto on proposing a cut-off date on the sale of vehicles operating with internal combustion engines, and on other measures relating to the electrification of our roads. Yet the promised studies are nowhere in sight!

The constant contradictions in environmental positions taken by Labour follow the path entrenched by its predecessors, who, while emphasising the need to protect our water resources devised a project to throw away our storm water directly into the sea, using millions of euros of EU funds which ended up down the drain, with the water.

The environmental lip-service of Labour and the PN has never solved anything, nor will it ever do.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 August 2020

Konsultazzjoni ħierġa minn widnejna?

cpd-external-emergency-plan

 

Bħalissa qed jikkonsultawna spiss. Jekk jagħtux kaz ta’ dak li ngħidu, imma, dik ħaġa oħra.

Kultant naħseb ukoll li ma jagħmilx ġid li numru ta’ affarijiet importanti issir id-diskussjoni pubblika dwarhom fl-istess ħin.

Bħalissa d-diskussjoni pubblika hi iffukata fuq ta’ l-inqas tlett affarijiet importanti: fuq il-budget, fuq il-Masterplan ta’ Paceville u fuq l-impjant tal-gass fil-power station ta’ Delimara.

Iż-żmien għal dawn il-konsultazzjoniet pubbliċi hu limitat.

Il-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar Paceville hi ikkumplikata minħabba it-tip ta’ proposti li ġew ippreżentati. Ir-rapport trid taqrah numru ta’ drabi biex tibda tifhmu mhux biss għax ikkumplikat minnu innifsu imma ukoll għax min kitbu qagħad jilgħab bil-kliem. Bil-konsegwenza li hemm numru ta’ proposti kważi moħbijin.

Min-naħa l-oħra l-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar l-impjant tal-gass tirrikjedi eżami ta’ dokumentazzjoni voluminuza imqassma f’madwar 300 file elettroniku. Il-konsultazzjoni pubblika ser iddum 4 ġimgħat: iktar kien jagħmel sens kieku kella iddum 4 xhur minħabba li biex issir sewwa tirrikjedi ħafna xogħol.

Meta wieħed iqis li ħafna drabi jkunu l-istess nies li jinvolvu ruħhom f’din il-konsultazzjoni pubblika malajr nifhmu id-diffikultajiet li jkollna għax il-ħin hu limitat għal kulħadd.

Ignoring residents and their local councils

strait street valletta 2

 

Government has published a consultation document dealing with the use of open public spaces by catering establishments, entitled Guidelines on Outdoor Catering Areas on Open Public Space : a holistic approach to creating an environment of comfort and safety.

This document was launched earlier this week at a press conference addressed by the Minister for Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis and the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for planning and simplification of administrative processes Michael Falzon.

The inter-Ministerial committee set up by government to draft the policy document was limited to representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, MEPA, Transport Malta, the Government Property Division, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (MHRA). Representatives of the local councils were excluded from participating.

It seems that when the matter was being considered by Cabinet, the Minister for Local Councils Owen Bonnici was fast asleep as otherwise he would undoubtedly have drawn the attention of his colleagues that the Local Councils Act, in article 33, deems it a function of local councils “to advise and, where applicable, be consulted by, any authority empowered to take any decisions directly or indirectly affecting the Council and the residents it is responsible for”.

Surely the use of public open spaces by catering establishments is a matter which is of considerable interest to local councils as it affects both the councils and the residents they represent. Yet the government has a different opinion as representatives of local councils were not invited at the drawing board where the guidelines on the use of public open spaces by catering establishments were being drafted.

The guidelines introduce a one stop shop at MEPA, thereby eliminating the need to apply for around four other permits for the placing of tables and chairs in public open spaces. This would be a positive development if MEPA can take on board all the considerations which are normally an integral part of the four other application processes.

If the utilisation of public open spaces was limited to the squares in our towns and villages, I do not think that there would be any issue. There is sufficient space in such areas and using part of it for open air catering activities there would not be cause for concern.

However, problems will definitely arise in areas of mixed use, that is, areas where the ground floor is used commercially and the overlying areas are used as residences. This is a common occurrence in many of the localities where there is a high demand by the catering business for the utilisation of public open space. The guidelines, however, ignore the impacts which placing chairs and tables at street level could have on the residents in such areas, in particular those living in the floors immediately above ground level. Such impacts would primarily be the exposure of residents to secondary cigarette/tobacco smoke as well as noise and odours. The issue of noise will undoubtedly arise, in particular during siesta time, as well as late into the evenings while secondary smoke from cigarettes/tobacco as well as odours will be an ever present nuisance. Maybe if the local councils were not excluded from the inter-Ministerial Committee, these matters would have been taken into consideration.

In such instances it would be necessary to limit the placing of tables and chairs at such a distance from residences where impacts on residents from secondary smoke, noise and odours are insignificant: that is if there is sufficient space.

The guidelines establish that a passageway of 1.50 metres on pavements is to be reserved for pedestrians. In addition they establish that where a permit is requested to place chairs and tables outside third-party property, specific clearance in front of doors and windows is to be observed. Isn’t that thoughtful of the inter-Ministerial Committee? Instead of categorically excluding the placing of chairs and tables along the property of third parties it seeks to facilitate the creation of what would inevitably be a nuisance to the users of such a property. This, too, is the result of the lop-sided composition of the inter-Ministerial Committee.

Nor are parking spaces spared. The inter-Ministerial Committee makes provision in the proposed guidelines for the possibility that catering establishments can also make use of parking spaces for the placing of tables and chairs when other space is insufficient. The guidelines leave no stone unturned in ensuring that tables and chairs get priority, even though this is worded in terms that make it appear that it would be an exception.

Enforcement, as usual, will be another headache. We already have quite a number of cases in various localities where passageways are minimal or inexistent and pedestrians, excluded from walking along the pavement have to move along with the traffic, right in the middle of the road. At times this may prove quite difficult and dangerous, in particular for wheelchair users or in the case of parents with small children. Enforcement to date is practically inexistent and I do not think that matters will change much in this respect.

Unfortunately, MEPA is a repeat offender in ignoring the interests of the residential community when faced with all types of development. The guidelines on the use of public open space by catering establishments are thus more of the same.

While cars have taken over our roads, catering establishments will now be guided on how to take over our pavements and open spaces, parking included!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 September 2015  

Il-bankina m’għadhiex tagħna lkoll : saret tagħhom biss

1.50 metres distance

Illum ġie ippubblikat għal konsultazzjoni pubblika dokument dwar il-kriterji li fuqhom jiġu ikkunsidrati permessi għal siġġijiet u mwejjed f’postijiet pubbliċi.

Ħlief għall-one-stop-shop, fis-sustanza ma hemm xejn ġdid fid-dokument għax diġà anke fil-preżent suppost li min għandu permess simili għandu ukoll l-obbligu li jħalli 1.50 metri passaġġ minn fejn jgħaddu n-nies.

Issa kieku jitħallew dan il-metru u nofs il-ħajja tkun iktar faċli għal kulħadd. Imma fil-fatt f’numru ta’ każi ma jitħallewx.

Mur fejn trid f’Malta u Għawdex u għandek issib numru mhux żgħir ta’ każi fejn jekk tipprova tgħaddi mill-ftit spazju li jħallu fuq il-bankina, jħarsulek bl-ikrah. Il-Belt, Tas-Sliema, in-Naxxar u San Pawl il-Baħar issib eżempji kemm trid. Bil-kemm tgħaddi bil-mixi aħseb u ara jekk tkun b’xi siġġu tar-roti inkella b’xi tarbija (fl-idejn jew fil-pram).

Fid-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni jingħad li jkunu ikkunsidrati applikazzjonijiet għall-permessi fil-pjazez u bankini bil-kundizzjoni tal-1.50 metri li għandhom jitħallew passaġġ. Imma meta tibda taqra tibda issib numru ta’ eċċezzjonijiet.

Per eżempju, fid-dokument jingħad li f’xi każijiet, jista’ jkun ikkunsrat li l-permess ma jkunx biss biex jitqegħdu imwejjed fuq il-bankina, imma jistgħu jkunu ikkunsidrati l-ispazji tal-parking ukoll!

Id-dokument fih ħafna logħob bil-kliem, bħall-ħafna dokumenti oħra konnessi mal-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

Id-dokument jgħid li d-drittijiet ta’ terzi [third party rights] għandhom ikunu imħarsa meta jinħargu dawn il-permessi. Din hi daħqa oħra għax nafu kemm fil-prattika jiġu mħarsa dawn id-drittijiet mill-awtoritajiet pubbliċi f’Malta.

L-eżerċizzju biex inħareġ dan id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni sar bil-koordinazzjoni ta’ Kumitat li kien fih parteċipazzjoni wiesa’ : kien hemm bosta minbarra dawk li huma l-iktar viċin in-nies: ma kien hemm ħadd mill-Kunsilli Lokali. Fil-fatt kien hemm rappreżentanti tal-Ministeru tal-Intern, tal-MEPA, ta’ Transport Malta, tad-Diviżjoni tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern u tal-Awtorità tat-Turiżmu, u l-Assoċjazzjoni tar-Restoranti u l-Lukandi (MHRA).

Il-Kunsilli Lokali u r-residenti ma kienux meqjusa ta’ importanza biex jipparteċipaw f’dan l-eżerċiżżju, bħal dak li qallu li l-bankini, t-toroq, il-parking spaces, u pjażez li ser jieħdu (jew ħadu diga) mhux ir-residenti jagħmlu użu minnhom s’issa. Issa s-siġġijiet u l-imwejjed ser jibdew jingħataw prijorità.

Il-permessi ser jibdew jinħarġu mill-MEPA. Ser jinħareġ bis-sistema ta’ one-stop-shop. Jiġifieri applikazzjoni waħda biss li ma tieħux ħafna żmien biex tkun deċiża. Din hi sistema li tiffavorixxi lin-negozji u dejjem taħdem kontra r-residenti. Għax biex permess joħrog malajr ifisser li ftit li xejn ikun hemm ċans li min ikun effettwat bih isir jaf (jew ikun infurmat).

Insomma nistgħu ngħidu li dan m’hu xejn ġdid. Il-bankina issa m’għadiex tagħna lkoll, ser tkun tagħhom biss.

It –trasport tal-iskejjel

School Opening Hours Consultation

Huwa tajjeb li l-Ministeru tal-Edukazzjoni ppubblika l-White Paper dwar it-trasport tal-iskejjel. Kieku ippubblika dan id-dokument bil-Malti kien ikun ferm aħjar milli ippubblikah bl-Ingliż bit-titlu ta’ School Opening Hours and Traffic Congestion.

Huwa fatt li fil-ġranet tal-vakanzi tal-iskejjel (kemm fis-sajf, kif ukoll fi żmien il-Milied u żmien l-Għid) ikun hemm ħinijiet kmieni fil-għodu u anke għall-ħabta tas-2pm meta t-traffiku jkun mexxej ferm iktar mill-bqija tas-sena.

Iżda jkun żball li naħsbu li l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku hi ikkawżata mill-iskejjel biss. L-iskejjel jagħtu l-kontribut tagħhom għall-problema, prinċipalment minħabba li l-hin li fih jibdew l-iskejjel huwa ukoll il-ħin li fih bosta jkun sejrin għax-xogħol fil-għodu. Il-problema hi ferm ikbar u għandha l-egħruq tagħha fin-nuqqas li jkollna transport pubbliku effiċjenti għal ħafna snin.

Il-White Paper tagħmel ħafna suġġerimenti validi.

Fiż-żoni madwar l-iskejjel tgħidilna l-White Paper, hemm ħtieġa li t-toroq li minnhom jgħaddu bil-mixi l-istudenti fi triqithom lejn l-iskola jkunu taħt superviżjoni (organisation of supervised walking routes in localities). Dan hu suġġeriment validu ħafna u jfisser emfasi ikbar fuq il-ħtieġa li innaqqsu l-perikli mit-toroq tagħna fil-lokalitajiet. Sal-lum (forsi) jkun hemm pulizija ħdejn l-iskola li jżomm il-karozzi milli joqorbu ż-żejjed lejn l-iskejjel. Din il-proposta li ż-żona protetta tinfirex lil hinn mill-iskola hi waħda tajba għax twassal il-protezzjoni mill-iskejjel saż-żoni residenzjali.

L-għadma iebsa li tindirizza l-White Paper hi l-ħtieġa li t-trasport tal-iskejjel jibda jitqies mhux iktar skola skola, iżda fuq livell nazzjonali b’mod li ma jiddistingwix bejn l-iskejjel tal-istat u dawk privati jew reliġjużi. Forsi wasal ukoll iż-żmien fejn l-istat jibda jħallas għat-transport tal-istudenti lejn l-iskejjel privati u religjużi.

B’mod żbaljat il-White Paper ma teżaminax ir-rwol li jista’ jkollhom il-Kunsilli Lokali f’dan l-eżerċizzju kollu. Il-Kunsilli Lokali huma f’posizzjoni unika li jagħtu kontribut effettiv għax qegħdin fil-lokalità, u hi sfortuna li l-Ministeru tal-Edukazzjoni dan jidher li għadu ma fehmux. L-organizzazzjoni tat-trasport tal-iskejjel għandu jsir flimkien mal-Kunsilli Lokali li individwalment jew fi gruppi (fil-każ ta’ Kunsilli Lokali żgħar) jistgħu jassiguraw ferm iktar minn kulħadd illi t-trasport tal-iskejjel ikun organizzat skond il-ħtiġijiet tal-istudenti u mhux skond il-kundizzjonijiet iddettati minn min jagħti s-servizz tat-trasport. F’dan il-kuntest il-White Paper fil-fatt titkellem dwar konflitt bejn service providers u service receivers: ġustament tgħid li l-ħinijiet tat-transport hu ħafna drabi ddettat fl-interess ta’ min jipprovdi s-servizz, mhux fl-interess tal-istudenti.

Organizzazzjoni aħjar tat-trasport tal-iskejjel taħt id-direzzjoni tal-Kunsilli Lokali għandha twassal għal titjib fil-kwalità tas-servizz tat-trasport. Dan jinkludi b’mod partikolari l-imġieba tax-xufiera u l-puntwalità tas-servizz.

Dawn il-fatturi kollha flimkien jistgħu jħajru iktar ġenituri jutilizzaw dan is-servizz flok ma jwasslu lill-uliedhom huma stess bil-karozzi privati tagħhom sal-iskola.

Il-ħinijiet tal-iskola m’għandhomx għalfejn jinbidlu. Imma f’dawk il-każijiet fejn l-istudenti jaslu kmieni l-iskola, flok ma jitħallew jiġru barra għandhom ikollhom il-possibiltà ta’ attività extra-kurrikulari, taħt superviżjoni fl-iskola.

B’dan il-mod l-iskejjel jistgħu inaqqsu t-traffiku li jiġġeneraw.

Konsultazzjoni fis-sajf

School Opening Hours Consultation                  pre-budget 2016

 

Ma nafx jekk hux apposta, imma f’dawn il-ġranet il-Gvern beda żewġ eżerċizzji ta’ konsultazzjoni.

L-ewwel wieħed, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa kien dwar il-Budget li jmiss. Dan sar bil-pubblikazzjoni tad-dokument ta’ qabel il-budget intitolat Delivering our Vision. Ma sibtx verzjoni bil-Malti ta’ dan id-dokument. Forsi għax tekniku. Imma xorta mhux aċċettabbli li materji ta’ importanza bħalma hi l-politika ekonomika u fiskali tal-pajjiż ma jkunux spjegati ukoll b’dokumenti bl-ilsien Malti. Suppost li qbiżna l-ħamsin sena bħala pajjiż indipendenti.

Ikolli ngħid l-istess ħaġa għall-White Paper li ħarġet dwar it-trasport għall-iskejjel. Din ħarġet il-bieraħ u hi intitolata School Opening Hours and Traffic Congestion. Hi parti minn eżerċiżżju importanti. Għalfejn bl-Ingliż? Għalfejn fi tmiem il-ġimgħa fis-sajf?

Kulltant jiġini d-dubju x’inhu l-iskop meta l-affarijiet isiru b’dan il-mod. Jekk hux kumbinazzjoni inkella jekk ikunux ippjanati.

L-aġenda ta’ Muscat hi kontra l-ambjent

joseph_muscat_in_zonqor

 

Għal min kellu xi dubju, l-każ taż-Żonqor juri ċar kemm il-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat hu Gvern li jiġi jaqa’ u jqum mill-ambjent.

Il-proposta ta’żvilupp għaż-Żonqor Joseph Muscat għamilha bil-parir stupidu tal-MEPA li insiet li qegħda hemm biex isservi lill-pajjiż u mhux lill-Gvern.

L-aħħar proposta tal-Gvern tagħmel inqas ħsara. Imma xorta tagħmel il-ħsara. Filwaqt li għandna nieħdu in-nifs li ġew salvati 72,000 metru kwadru xorta irridu niftakru li ser ikunu żviluppati 18,000 metru kwadru barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp.

L-eżerċizzju ta’ konsultazzjoni li għamel il-Gvern għamlu bil-fors u kontra qalbu. Għamlu għax ġie imġiegħel mill-opinjoni pubblika. Konsultazzjoni li saret wara li d-deċiżjoni kienet diġa lesta.

Dan hu l-metodu ta’ Joseph Muscat. Jgħaffeġ. U jekk ikun hemm min jiftaħ ħalqu jara x’jagħmel, skond kemm tkun kbira l-opposizzjoni għall-ħmerijiet u l-ħsara li jkun qiegħed ifassal.

Għax Joseph Muscat (u l-Gvern tiegħu) jiġi jaqa’ u jqum mill-ambjent. Dik hi l-aġenda tiegħu.

Muscat’s priorities : the environment not included

Labour u l-Ambjent

 

The manner in which the government is handling the Żonqor University issue is a failure in environmental governance. It is a mishandling of Malta’s natural resources.

How can the government say that the feasibility of the Żonqor project depends on the low monetary value of the ODZ land and expect to be taken seriously? Is this not placing the profits of the Jordanian businessman above everything else, including Malta’s interests?

After the government signed a preliminary agreement with Jordanian businessman Hani Hasan N Salah on what has been labelled as the “American University of Malta” (at Żonqor Point) civil society erupted. The site site earmarked for development will gobble up thousands of square metres of agricultural land. Earlier this week, Joseph Muscat  tried to minimise the impact by stating that only one per cent of the agricultural land to be taken up for the project is used for growing crops. He was immediately rubbished by the farmers themselves who told the Independent on Friday that most of the agricultural land in question was, in fact, used to produce potatoes for the export market.

The term ODZ (Outside Development Zone) is associated with rural areas where development is limited to what is necessary in the interests of agriculture. There have been a number of exceptions, but, so far, such exceptions have been made where ODZ development was considered to be in the national interest. Such instances included the state hospital, the airport terminal, Malta’s only University, the Freeport, a number of both state and private schools, a home for the elderly, industrial estates, sewage purification plants and waste management facilities.

We have also had the case of Smart City. This replaced the former Ricasoli Industrial Estate but the site was extended into ODZ territory.

The general feeling is that ODZ land should only be developed in exceptional cases which have a social policy dimension or else are required in the national interest. The proposed American University is not such a case.

The government has not done its homework: in particular, it has not, to date, examined alternative sites for the proposed University. The ongoing debate has identified a myriad of such alternatives, most of which are located in Malta’s political south. In some instances, the alternatives sites that have been identified are competing with other uses proposed through “expressions of interests” currently being assessed. Whilst this might be understandable at this point, the government needs to explain why it has issued these “expressions of interests” when it knew quite some time ago that it had this competing demand for a substantial area.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister  Muscat embarked on a damage limitation exercise through which he seeks to collect from the public a list of possible alternative sites for his consideration.   This is a farce in the making, because suitable sites for this type of project are not selected in this manner.  The government  should have embarked on a meticulous search months ago, and should have entrusted a group of experts with the study of all possible options, analysing in detail the advantages and disadvantages of each site, including the relative opportunity costs.

The fact that it did not proceed in this manner is a testimony to the amateurishness of the Muscat administration, an administration which clearly imagines that it knows it all. It is bad governance at its worst.

Malta has a right to land use planning that is sensible and sensitive. Each one of us has the right to expect as much from Labour, which promised that the environment would be its priority.

By now it should  be pretty obvious to everyone that the Audrey Harrison billboard stating that, for Labour, the environment is a priority is just another gimmick. The environment never was a Labour priority, and it will never be.

Published in the Independent on Sunday, 24 May 2015