Il-mina t’Għawdex: ħmar il-lejl

Il-Ministru Ian Borg, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, infurmana li kien qed jaħdem biex iwettaq il-ħolma ta’ diversi Għawdxin billi jmexxi l-quddiem il-proċess tal-mina taħt qiegħ il-baħar bejn Malta u Għawdex. Wara dibattitu li ilu għaddej is-snin hu ċar li iktar milli jwettaq il-ħolm ikun aħjar jekk Ian Borg jipprepara ruħu għal ħmar il-lejl.

Saru studji ġejoloġiċi imma lanqas il-konklużjonijiet ġenerali dwarhom ma nafu. Għadhom mistura qieshom xi sigriet tal-istat. Tliet snin ilu l-ġejoloġista Peter Gatt kien ġibed l-attenzjoni għall-fatt li l-mina tal-Enemalta bejn il-power station tal-Marsa u Delimara kienet swiet id-doppju ta’ dak ippjanat u dan minħabba kollass tal-blat f’diversi punti matul il-mina nnifisha. Dan kien seħħ bħala riżultat tan-nuqqas ta’ informazzjoni ġejoloġika meta ġiet imfassla l-mina. Kieku dan kellu jseħħ waqt li jkun għaddej ix-xogħol fuq il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex hu inevitabbli li jkollna problemi kbar, inkluż possibilment numru ta’ mwiet.

Hu fatt magħruf li fil-Fliegu hemm diversi kisriet ġejoloġiċi (geological faults). Tajjeb li nirrealizzaw li tnejn mill-proposti għall-mina, li saru minn Mott MacDonald, il-konsulenti ta’ Transport Malta, jgħaddu minn dawn il-kisriet.

Li jkunu eżaminati l-kampjuni tal-blat f’laboratorju, anke jekk għal ftit ġimgħat, bla dubju jżid l-għarfien tal-ġejoloġija taż-żona imma dan mhux biżżejjed biex fuqu jittieħdu deċiżjonijiet dwar id-diżinn tal-proġett. Biżżejjed nifhmu li minkejja l-istudji ġejoloġiċi dettaljati fuq numru kbir ta’ snin, ix-xogħol fuq il-mina bejn l-Ingilterra u Franza, iċ-Channel Tunnel, kellu jieqaf u jkun devjat diversi drabi minħabba li t-tħaffir iltaqa’ ma problemi ġejoloġici li ma kien hemm l-ebda indikazzjoni tagħhom fl-istudji dettaljati!

L-istudji serji jieħdu ż-żmien biex isiru: ma jistgħux ikunu mgħaġġla minħabba data determinata minn agenda politika.

Tliet snin ilu, Transport Malta, flimkien mal-Kamra tal-Kummerċ Għawdxija kkummissjonaw studju ekonomiku, ferm qabel ma biss bdew l-istudji ġejoloġiċi. L-istudju kien intitolat Establishing a Permanent Link between the Island of Gozo and Mainland Malta: An Economic Cost Benefit Analysis of Available Strategic Options, li kien sar minn E-Cubed Consultants. Dan l-istudju kien argumenta li t-traffiku bejn il-gżejjer kien ipproġettat li fuq perjodu ta’ 15il sena jiżdied minn medja ta’ 3000 moviment kuljum għal 9000 moviment kuljum. Argument li jmur kontra l-Pjan Nazzjonali għat-Trasport approvat fl-2015 ukoll.

Il-mina proposta teħtieġ ammont kritiku ta’ movimenti ta’ karozzi li jħallsu biex jgħaddu mill-mina u per konsegwenza minn fuqhom jinġabru l-ispejjes tal-mina kif ukoll il-profitti tal-operaturi. Fi ftit kliem il-mina, biex tirnexxi tiddependi minn moviment kbir ta’ karozzi kuljum. Dan imur kontra l-politika dwar it-trasport tal-lum, li ta’ l-inqas fuq il-karta, timmira għal tnaqqis ta’ karozzi mit-toroq tagħna. Din hi materja li bla dubju għandha tkun eżaminat mill-istudju fuq l-impatti ambjentali (EIA) dwar il-mina proposta. Dan l-istudju għadu fl-istadji inizzjali tiegħu u dan wara li l-Awtorità dwar l-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi ftit ġimgħat ilu approvat dak li għandu jkun indirizzat (terms of reference) minn dan l-istudju. L-EIA hu stadju essenzjali li minnu jeħtieġ li jgħaddi l-proġett.

Għaldaqstant, kien irresponsabbli l-Ministru tat-Trasport, meta, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, ħabbar li fi żmien sitt xhur kienet ħierġa sejħa internazzjonali għall-offerti għall-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex. Dan ifisser li dawn l-istudji huma irrelevanti? Fl-opinjoni tiegħi il-Ministru  qiegħed jagħti  dan il-messaġġ ċar u tond.

Din hi l-agħar forma ta’ governanza ħażina għax jimmina l-isforzi tal-awtoritajiet fil-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom. B’dan il-ħsieb jiena ktibt lill-Ombudsman u tlabtu jinvestiga dan in-nuqqas ta’ governanza tajba. Il-Gvern għandu jkollu l-paċenzja li jistenna sakemm ikunu konklużi l-istudji ambjentali qabel ma jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 16 ta’ Diċembru 2018

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Gozo tunnel nightmares

Minister Ian Borg informed us, earlier this week, that he seeks to turn into reality a Gozitan “long-held dream” by starting the process for a Malta-Gozo tunnel below the seabed. After debating the matter for years, it is clear that rather more than dreams, Ian Borg should prepare himself for a nightmare.

Geological studies have now been carried out and the results therof are being treated as some state secret. Three years ago, geologist Peter Gatt had drawn attention to the fact that the Enemalta tunnel between the Marsa power station and Delimara had a cost overrun of 100 per cent as a result of rock collapse along several points of the tunnel. This had occurred due to inadequate geological information fed into the design process. If the same were to happen during the Malta-Gozo tunnel works, a series of disasters, including possibly loss of life, would be inevitable.

It is a known fact that the Gozo channel is full of geological faults. It is pertinent to note that two of the tunnel options put forward by Transport Malta advisors Mott MacDonald pass through an active fault in the Gozo channel.

Taking borehole samples and examining them in a laboratory over a few weeks certainly increases our knowledge of the geology of the area but it is nowhere near the sufficient knowledge on the basis of which one can conclude the design parameters of the project. Suffice it to point out that notwithstanding the detailed geological studies spanning over many years and underpinning planning for the Channel Tunnel linking Folkestone in Kent and Coquelles near Calais, the drilling of the tunnel had to be deviated at certain points because of unpredicted geological formations.

Serious studies take years to conclude: they cannot be rushed to meet a deadline set by a political agenda.

Feasibility studies have been carried out some time ago, long before the geological studies were even taken in hand. Three years ago, the Gozo Business Chamber in conjunction with Transport Malta commissioned a study entitled Establishing a Permanent Link between the Island of Gozo and Mainland Malta: An Economic Cost Benefit Analysis of Available Strategic Options. In the study, which was carried out by E-Cubed Consultants, it was argued that the average annual daily traffic (AADT) between the islands is projected to increase from 3000 to 9000 vehicle movements over a 15-year period.

This feasibility study makes assumptions which run counter to the National Transport Master Plan objective of reducing cars from our roads.

Basically, the proposed tunnel requires a critical mass of vehicular movements which would be subject to the payment of a toll and hence contribute to the recovery of the capital outlay, maintenance costs and profits. This runs counter to current Maltese Transport policy, which (at least on paper) aims to reduce the use of private cars from our roads.

This is an issue which would undoubtedly be examined by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the proposed Tunnel which study is currently in its initial stages after the Environment and Resources Authority recently approved the terms of reference of such a study. The EIA is an essential stage of the assessment of the project.

It was therefore irresponsible for the Minister of Transport, earlier this week, to announce that within six months an international call for tenders would be issued relative to the Malta-Gozo undersea Tunnel. Does this mean that the government considers the EIA irrelevant? This, in my opinion is the clear message being conveyed.

It is the worst form of bad governance as it undermines the efforts of the established authorities in carrying out their responsibilities. With this in mind, I have written to the Ombudsman and asked him to investigate this breach of good governance. Government should have the patience of awaiting the outcome of the EIA before taking any further decisions.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 16 December 2018

The Freeport’s neighbours at Birżebbuġa

freeport.aerial viw

 

 

Two incidents occurred at the Freeport Terminal last week. The first led to the spill of an oily-like chemical when a container was accidentally hit and part of its contents spilled out into the sea. The second concerned odours resulting from the handling of fuels at the Oil Tanking Terminal.  The second accident led to the precautionary hospitalisation of six employees. The first incident, on the other hand, led to the suspension of bathing activities at Pretty Bay, Birżebbuġa for a number of days.

The accident leading to the spill occurred on Monday, 8 June at around noon. Yet on Friday, 12 June, personnel from the Civil Protection Department were still dealing with the spill as by this time water currents had moved it from the Freeport Terminal to Pretty Bay. It was only late on Tuesday, 16 June that the Environmental Health Department certified that Pretty Bay was once more fit for swimming.

 

Unfortunately, such accidents are bound to happen. That they do not happen more often is only due to adequate training and the availability of the adequately maintained equipment available on  site.

The Freeport Terminal extension – approved five years ago by MEPA and currently in hand – is intended to tap into the container movement market in the Mediterranean even further. In the coming years, this will lead to a increased activity and, consequently, the likelihood of similar but more frequent accidents happening in the future is possible.

The Freeport Terminal activity is only one of a number which, over the years, have transformed Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port. Delimara Power station and fish- farming  as well as the ever-present fuel reception points at the San Luċjan and Enemalta stations are other examples of industrial activity along the Marsaxlokk Bay coastline. We should also remember that, at some time in the near future, bathers at Pretty Bay will also have an enhanced landscape: they will be able to enjoy in full view a gas storage tanker permanently anchored just opposite the sandy beach, along the Delimara part of the Marsaxlokk Bay coastline. The spectacle will include its refuelling between eight and 12 times a year, with possibly three of such refuelling instances occurring during the summer bathing season.

The compatibility of this situation with the EU Seveso Directives is debatable.

All this industrial activity may be healthy when considering the general economic requirements of the country on its own. It is, however, generally incompatible with the needs of Birżebbuġa both as a residential community as well as a touristic venue.

Efforts to mitigate the impacts of this industrial activity on the residential community  of Birżebbuġa (and to an extent even on the locality of Marsaxlokk) are in place. Yet with so much going on, the effects of these mitigation measures are necessarily limited. In fact, one wonders why the decision to locate all this industrial activity in the area was not also accompanied by a decision to restrict the development of land for residential use so close to these industrial facilities. In one particular case, at il-Qajjenza in the 1980s,  residential development was accelerated in the vicinity of the then Enemalta Gas Depot. Fortunately the Gas Depot has now been closed down and decommissioned, however it has been moved to the other side of Birżebbuġa, close to the entrance of Marsaxlokk Bay at Bengħajsa.

 

The Freeport Terminal management, supported by MEPA, had also decided to extend the permissible facilities at the Freeport Terminal to include minor repair work to ships and oil rigs. The decision was only reversed when it was faced with the vociferous opposition of the Birżebbuġa residential community led by its local council.

Recently, Transport Malta has added to the summer pleasures at Birżebbuġa. It has planned a mooring area for pleasure craft and small boats adjacent to the swimming zone, right in the middle of Pretty Bay. It seems that Transport Malta does not give a fig about the impact of anti-fouling agents used on a large number of craft berthed very close to a swimming zone.

 

With all this activity going on around Pretty Bay, it is inevitable that that there will be an increase in unacceptable environmental impacts on land, air and sea. Some accidents will also be inevitable.

As a result, however, it is very possible that in future there will be further restrictions on the use of Pretty Bay as a bathing venue. One hopes that this will not be often. It is, however, unavoidable and is the direct result of the ongoing activity which is definitely incompatible with the needs and requirements of the Birżebbuġa residents.

One interesting development at the time of writing is that Hon. Marlene Farrugia, as Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on the Environment and Development Planning, has placed last week’s incidents at the Freeport Terminal on the Parliamentary Committee’s agenda. For the time being, a request for information has been sent out. The resulting discussion will hopefully direct the spotlight on the manner in which successive governments have transformed Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port, in the process at times ignoring – and at other times not giving sufficient attention to the plight of the residents in the area.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 21 June 2015

Ħtieġa ta’ kalma u attenzjoni

 Gas Cloud Freeport Fairway

Madwar il-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk diġa hemm attivita’ diversa li hi ta’ riskju.

Matul din l-aħħar sena għadu kif għalaq l-impjant tal-gass tal-Enemalta fil-Qajjenza. Impjant li kien imdawwar b’residenzi għal snin twal. L-impjant ingħalaq u sar wieħed ġdid f’Bengħajsa u dan wara snin kbar ta’ ilmenti.

Ġo nofs Birżebbuġa hemm l-impjant tal-fuel tal-Enemalta. Ilu hemm snin kbar. Imdawwar bir-residenzi. L-Enemalta ilha s-snin tħabbel rasha biex tagħlaq dan l-impjant. Imma s’issa għadu hemm qalb in-nies.

Hemm ukoll il-ħażna tal-fuel f’San Luċjan bejn Birżebbuġa u Marsaxlokk w il-ħażna taż-żjut fil-kumpless tal-Freeport, l-Oil Tanking.

Dawn ir-riskji diġa qegħdin hawn u dan flimkien mal-ħażna tal-fuel (HFO u gasoil) presentement użat mill-Enemalta f’Delimara.

L-istudji li diġa saru dwar l-impjant tal-gass f’Delimara jinkludu studju minn Roberto Vaccari li għalkemm huwa studju preliminari diġa juri numru ta’ diffikultajiet u riskji ġodda li l-ħażna tal-gass tista’ toħloq. Riskji li meta tieħu in konsiderazzjoni r-riskji li diġa hawn fil-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk ikomplu jagħmlu is-sitwazzjoni agħar milli diġa hi.

Huma riskji li pajjiżi oħra sabu tarf tagħhom billi madwar is-sors ta’ riskji joħolqu żona li fiha l-aċċess ikun wieħed limitat u ikkontrollat. Il-ħolqien ta’ żona bħal din issolvi l-problema: ma teliminax ir-riskju imma tnaqqas sostanzjalment l-impatt tiegħu.

Id-diffikulta f’Delimara hi li l-ispazju li hemm hu limitat u ma jidhirx li hu possibli li tinħoloq din iż-żona b’aċċess  limitat u kkontrollat. Għalhekk il-proposta tal-ħażna tal-gass hi waħda problematika.

Li l-Gvern jgħid illi ser jagħmel iktar studji biex jipprova jsib tarf tal-problema hu pass tajjeb.  Irridu nħarsu iktar fil-fond mhux biss lejn l-impjant propost f’Delimara, imma ukoll lejn l-impatt fuq is-sajjieda, fuq il-komunitajiet ta’ Marsaxlokk u Birżebbuga kif ukoll fuq il-Port Ħieles.

Ir-riskju li jkun hemm inċident hu wieħed żgħir u rari. Imma l-konsegwenzi jekk iseħħ l-inċident ikunu kbar ħafna. Għalhekk jeħtieg li nimxu b’kalma u b’attenzjoni kbira.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tlieta 25 ta’ Frar 2014

Il-gass għal Delimara: nħarsu s-saħħa u s-sigurta tar-residenti

Delimara.gas terminal

Il-ħidma biex il-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku ma tibqax bl-użu ta’ żejt li jħammeġ (Heavy Fuel Oil) iżda bil-gass, minn dejjem kienet appoġġjata minn-Alternattiva Demokratika.

Kwalita’ aħjar tal-arja u traħħis fil-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma huma l-konsegwenzi diretti ta’ dan il-pass.

F’dawn il-ġranet għaddejja d-diskussjoni dwar l-istudju fuq l-impatt ambjentali ta’ dan il-proġett. Hemm qbil ġenerali fuq ħafna mill-kontenut ta’ dan l-istudju.

Mill-istudju dwar l-impatt soċjali tal-power station bil-gass iżda, toħroġ b’mod ċar il-preokkupazzjoni tar-residenti ta’ Marsaxlokk għall-ħażna tal-ġass fuq opra tal-baħar speċjalizzata (floating gas storage facility). Huwa stmat li 91% tar-residenti ta’ Marsaxlokk ma jaqblux li l-gass għall-użu tal-power station jinħażen ġol-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk.

L-istudju ippreżentat dwar ir-riskju li l-ħażna tal-gass fil-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk, biswit il-power station u faċċata r-raħal ta’ Marsaxlokk, ma jikkonvinċi lil ħadd. In-nies m’hiex konvinta illi r-riskju għal saħħithom, għal ħajjithom u għall-propjeta’ tagħhom hu wieħed minimu. Mhux konvinti li r-riskju hu wieħed minimu. Mhux konvinti li r-riskju hu aċċettabbli.

Kien għalhekk f’waqtu dak li qal il-koordinatur tal-EIA li ser isir studju iktar approfondit tar-riskji involuti. Huwa tajjeb li ser isir dan l-istudju addizzjonali imma hu meħtieġ ukoll illi ma jittieħdux deċiżjonijiet mgħaġġla  qabel ma jkun konkluż dan l-istudju.  Għax sakemm ma jkunx konkluż studju konvinċenti, l-anqas temporanjament m’hu aċċettabbli li l-ħażna tal-gass għall-użu tal-power station tkun ġol-Bajja ta’ M’Xlokk.

Waqt il-konsultazzjoni pubblika ta’ nhar it-Tnejn intqal illi l-Enemalta m’għandiex flus għal soluzzjonijiet oħra, li jiswew ferm iktar kif ukoll li jieħdu iktar żmien biex jitwettqu.

Il-ħarsien tas-saħħa u l-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ M’Xlokk u Birżebbuġa kif ukoll is-sigurta’ tagħhom u ta’ ħwejjiġhom huma importanti iktar minn kollox, inkluz mill-flus li jkun meħtieġ illi jintefqu għall-proġett. Nittama biss li qabel ma jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet ikollna f’idejna l-studju li jgħarbel sewwa r-riskji u dan biex ħadd ma jibqagħlu iktar dubji.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha żmien tgħid li din hi d-diffikulta unika u reali tal-proġett tal-Power Station f’Delimara li jaħdem bil-gass. Is-saħħa u s-sigurta’ tar-residenti jiġu qabel kollox.

ippubblikata fuq iNews l-Erbgħa 29 ta’ Jannar 2014

The circus has come to town

  

 

When considering the draft National En­vironment Policy some patience is required. On one hand it is a detailed document covering a substantial number of environmental issues. However, its exposition of the issues to be tackled contrasts starkly with the government’s environmental performance throughout its long term in office.

The draft policy says more about the government than about the environment. It collates together the accumulated environmental responsibilities the government should have been addressing throughout the past years. The draft policy tells us: this is what the government ought to have done. It further tells us that in the next 10 years, the government will try its best to remedy its past failures by doing what it should do.

The government’s words and action are in sharp contrast, as I have been repeatedly pointing out in these columns. In late 2007, Cabinet approved the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which, although being less detailed than today’s draft National Environment Policy, says practically the same things. It also covers a 10-year period (2007-2016), half of which has elapsed without the set targets having been addressed. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi is the Cabinet member politically responsible for this failure. Having failed repeatedly, I find it difficult to think how he could be trusted to deliver on environmental or sustainability issues.

On the basis of this experience, it is reasonable to dismiss the government’s media circus at Xrobb l-Għaġin where the draft National Environment Policy was launched as just another exercise in rhetoric.

It is definitely not a sudden conversion in favour of environmental issues that moved the government to act. The present exercise is the result of society’s metamorphosis, which came about as a direct consequence of years of environmental activism in Malta. Civil society has pushed a reluctant Nationalist-led government to this point.

No one in his right senses can quarrel with the proposed National Environment Policy in principle. Yet, it is a fact that the environment has always been the Cinderella of government business. All talk and little walk. A clear example is the adjudication process of the Delimara power station extension. When the submitted tenders were adjudicated, it resulted that the submissions that were technically and environmentally superior were considered less favourably than the tender that was perceived as being economically more advantageous. When push comes to shove, environmental issues are not given priority, the adjudication criteria being skewed in favour of perceived economic gain.

All this contrasts with the declarations in favour of green procurement in the draft National Environment Policy. In defending the decision on the use of heavy fuel oil in the power station extension, government spokesmen are in fact stating that while the environment is the government’s political priority it still retains the right to have second thoughts whenever it takes an important decision.

When the government plays around with its declared environmental convictions with the ease of a juggler, it sows serious doubts on its intentions. Even if the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment is doing his best to convince that, under his watch, the environment carries weight it is clear to all that he has not succeeded in wiping the slate clean. He is still conditioned by the attitudes and the decisions taken by his boss and colleagues in the recent past. Their attitudes have not changed at all. Old habits die hard.

On a positive note, I have to state that the process leading to the draft National Environment Policy submitted for public consultation was one which involved civil society. A number of proposals submitted by civil society, including those in an AD document submitted to Mario de Marco, were taken on board. I also had the opportunity to discuss the draft policy and AD’s views with Dr de Marco on more than one occasion. The discussions were, in my opinion, beneficial.

The problem the government has so far failed to overcome is that it preaches one thing and continually does the opposite. The only times when it carries out positive environment action is when it is forced on this course by EU legislation or by threats of EU infringement proceedings. Within this context, declarations that Malta aims to go beyond the requirement of the EU’s acquis are, to say the least, hilarious. It would have been much better if the basics of the EU environmental acquis are first put in place.

The environmental initiatives taken during the past seven years have been mostly funded by the EU.

They would not have been possible without such funding.

By spelling it out, the draft National Environment Policy defines the government’s past failures. Hopefully, it also lays the groundwork for the required remedial action. The environmental destruction the government has facilitated and encouraged will take a long time to remedy. In some cases, the damage done is beyond repair.

Beyond the entertainment value of the media circus at Xrobb l-Għaġin, these first steps are just the beginning of a long journey. For the sake of Malta’s future generations I hope that the government does not go astray once more.

Delimara għall-Kabinett

Sirna nafu illi l-Ministru tal-Ambjent (jiġifieri Lawrence Gonzi) iddeċieda illi l-appell li l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaxlokk ippreżenta dwar il-permess li jikkonċerna l-estensjoni tal-Power Station ta’ Delimara għandu jkun deċiż mill-Kabinett u mhux mill-Bord tal-Appell dwar l-Ippjanar.

Din m’hiex proċedura komuni u ftit li xejn ġiet użata fil-passat.

Sal-lum hi proċedura regolata mill-artiklu 15A tal-Att dwar l-Ippjanar ta’ l-Iżvilupp li ġie introdott  9 snin ilu permezz tal-Att XXI tal-2001 bl-emendi li kien introduċa George Pullicino, dakinhar Segretarju Parlamentari responsabli mill-Awtorita’ tal-Ippjanar (l-ambjent kien għandu ma żdiedx mar-responsabbiltajiet tagħha).

Din il-proċedura tagħti d-dritt lill-Gvern li jirreferi appell għal deċiżjoni mill-Kabinett wara li l-Bord tal-Appell dwar l-Ippjanar ikun ġabar il-provi w iffinaliza rakkomandazzjoni dwar il-kaz meta :

1)      l-applikant ikun Dipartiment tal-Gvern jew korp imwaqqaf b’liġi u

2)      l-applikazzjoni kollha sinifikat strateġiku, jkollha x’taqsam mas-sigurta’ nazzjonali, teffettwa l-interessi ta’ xi Gvernijiet oħra jew tirrikjedi studju tal-impatt ambjentali.

Din il-proċedura fiha innifisha ma fiha xejn ħażin u naħseb li teżisti f’diversi pajjiżi oħra ukoll. Id-diffikulta m’hiex għalhekk fid-dover tal-Kabinett li jieħu deċiżjoni imma l-fatt li f’Malta l-Gvern sa l-istadju tal-appell diġa huwa mdaħħal sa għonqu fid-deċiżjoni.

Kif ?  forsi jistaqsu uħud.

Il-membri kollha tal-Bord tal-MEPA li ddeċidew il-każ huma kollha appuntati mill-Gvern. L-ebda wieħed minnhom ma kien kritiku la ta’ din l-applikazzjoni u l-anqas ta’ kwalunkwe’ applikazzjoni oħra li ssottometta l-Gvern jew xi entita’ oħra tiegħu. B‘żieda ma dan, il-każ kien wieħed ikkargat b’deċiżjonijiet politiċi li dwarhom mhux dejjem kien hemm spjegazzjoni li tikkonvinċi. L-iktar importanti fosthom it-tibdil fir-regolamenti dwar x’tip ta’ emissjonijiet huma permissibli. Żid l-involviment tal-Lehmayer International bħala konsulenti tal-Enemalta minkejja li l-Bank Dinji poġġihom fuq il-Black List minħabba korruzzjoni ippruvata.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu l-proċedura użata għalkemm skond il-liġi tista’ tkun inġusta.

Nawgura lill-Kunsill ta’ Marsaxlokk li appella mid-deċiżjoni tal-estensjoni tal-Power Station f’Delimara illi jsib soluzzjoni li biha jkun jista’ jsemma’ leħnu b’mod effettiv.

The Delimara Inquiry: unfinished business

by Carmel Cacopardo

published on May 1, 2010

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Many unanswered questions arise from the National Audit Office (NAO) report entitled Enemalta Corporation Tender for Generating Capacity. The conclusions are certainly damning and with no stretch of the imagination can they be considered as pointing at mere shortcomings.

Was there any corruption involved in the Delimara tender? The NAO report is clear: “The NAO’s inquiry did not come across any hard and conclusive evidence of corruption…” (page 8). In my opinion this means that the evidence of wrongdoing encountered and documented does not lead to a definite conclusion. Evidence is still there awaiting further investigations.

It would be worthwhile to recollect that in the few cases in Malta’s recent history where it was concluded that corruption had been proven this had resulted because someone directly involved had spilt the beans.

As reported in other sections of the press, the commissions in play in connection with the Delimara tender are substantially higher than what is normal in this business. When this is coupled with the lack of cooperation encountered by the NAO during its investigations as well as the selective leakages identified, it is reasonable to conclude that much more could yet be unearthed.

But then there is also a related case of proven corruption: Lahmeyer International (LI), Enemalta’s advisers, were found guilty of corruption relative to two World Bank contracts and, as a result, on November 6, 2006, they were added to the World Bank’s blacklist. The tainted contracts refer to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project in respect of which LI had responsibilities for detailed design work, construction supervision, project studies and technical assistance in connection with water delivery tunnels.

LI offered their services to Enemalta in April 2008, 17 months after being included on the World Bank blacklist. Initially, the unsolicited services of LI were refused by Enemalta but one month later someone had second thoughts and their services were accepted. Why?

When queried by the NAO, senior Enemalta officials declared that they were not aware that LI was blacklisted by the World Bank. The NAO report declares (page 115) that it “was not convinced of the explanations given”.

In the meantime, LI is still advising the Malta Resources Authority, which has not yet publicly reacted to the news that its adviser is currently on the World Bank blacklist for corruption. But maybe we will hear about that at some later stage when the energy interconnection between Malta and Sicily is scrutinised.

In my opinion, the fact that Enemalta did not check into LI’s ethical credentials indicates that Enemalta does not consider these to be of any relevance to its operations. This is not a shortcoming but a serious error of judgment.

Some may point fingers at “inexperienced officers” who dealt with the case. Enemalta board has a duty towards taxpayers to ensure that it engages only the best available staff. It was for this reason that, in the past, we were informed of the substantial emoluments being paid to some of the senior officers. We have been reminded that if you employ the best you cannot pay peanuts. Much more than peanuts has been paid but Enemalta has ended up with monkey business just the same!

There is then the issue of changing the rules mid-way through the process. Enemalta had initiated the tendering process in November 2006 through a Request for Proposals. During the adjudication, in January 2008, the government changed the rules relative to the permissible emissions. The NAO states that while this change is permissible in terms of the relative EU Directive (page 22) the tendering process should have been aborted and the tender reissued in view of the fact that the original specifications were based on different emission levels. Such a line of action, says the NAO, would have ensured a greater degree of transparency and equity (page 53).

There are many other issues the report unearths but the space allotted for this article is very limited.

The NAO-led inquiry was a tough job the Auditor General has done honourably. I have no doubt that he will take the criticism by Enemalta’s chairman and members of the Cabinet in his stride. It is, after all, an occupational hazard that goes with his job.

In view of the damning NAO report, in a democracy, the politician responsible for the Enemalta Delimara tender would stand up, accept political responsibility and resign. So far, he has not done so, which means that all Cabinet has now been forced to collectively shoulder the responsibility instead of their colleague. The only positive note is that he has been relieved of his Enemalta duties some weeks ago!

The NAO report is not the end of the story as many answers are still awaited. This is a business yet unfinished.

original article at : The Times

Waste update : back to the drawing board

times_of_malta196x703

by Carmel Cacopardo

published on Saturday February 28, 2009

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The Solid Waste Management Strategy update published recently, identifies a zero waste scenario as a long-term aim. It refers to a number of studies commissioned and proceeds to a selective use of conclusions from the said studies, which are still under wraps.

A Situation Audit of the strategy was carried out in 2005. Yet, the only conclusion that has found its way into the proposed update is a statement on the practical non-existence of the interministerial committee set up to coordinate the strategy’s implementation across government. The full Situation Audit should see the light of day. The public has the right to be informed as to the manner in which targets were attained and the reasons as to why others were missed.

The update is incomplete; it postpones updating the strategy on hazardous waste, promising instead a Topic Paper in the future. The management of hazardous waste includes the implementation of the WEEE Directive (Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment), which is way behind schedule.

Producers and their representatives in terms of the WEEE Directive assume full responsibility for the waste generated by their products. Yet, the government, through the simultaneous application of the eco-contribution and the WEEE Directive, has placed them in a situation where they have to pay twice for the handling of electric and electronic waste: The payment of an eco-contribution and shouldering producer responsibility in terms of EU legislation. The result is that while, on paper, the WEEE Directive in Malta has been transposed, in practice its implementation is being obstructed. It is an area of responsibility that EU legislation assigns specifically to the private sector, yet the government is reluctant to lose a substantial chunk of eco-contribution revenues and is consequently applying the brakes.

The regulation of scrap yards does not feature in the update. They are required in order to recycle scrap metal. However, they should operate within a regulatory framework, in particular in conformity to the WEEE and the ELV (End of Life Vehicle) Directives. Recently, it was reported that, during testimony submitted in a planning appeal, concerning the enforcement order relative to the Ta’ Brolli scrap yard in Birzebbuga, it was revealed that part of its business originates from the custom of government departments and corporations!

Some scrap yards process scrap from disused refrigerators! Processing? They just crush them, as a result releasing refrigeration gases to air. These gases are CFCs (chloroflorocarbons), contributors to the depletion of the ozone layer. In a regulated environment in terms of the WEEE Directive, processing disused refrigerators for waste would include the careful collection of the CFCs as a first step. Instead, some Maltese scrap yards are contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer in contrast to the provisions of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which Malta has bound itself to observe and implement.

The proposal for an updated strategy encourages a policy favouring waste incineration. It proposes that the use of bio-digestion to convert waste to energy is complemented by a policy favouring incineration. Specifically, it proposes a waste to energy incinerator to be sited at Delimara next to the power station. This could also mean that on waste recovery sites (currently in operation or projected) the two technologies could co-exist.

Incineration is undoubtedly a waste management tool. In my opinion, it should however, only be used as the last option.

Relying on incineration to produce electricity would, on the plus side, reduce required landfill space and the fuel bill. It would still, however, contribute to the production of greenhouse gases and, hence, cannot be described as a source of clean energy. On the minus side, it negates the need to reduce waste generation and produces other possibly toxic emissions, which would vary dependent on the composition of the RDF (refuse derived fuel).

The regulation of these emissions is normally established through a permit issued by Mepa in terms of the EU Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control. The acceptability or otherwise of an incineration facility even as a tool of the last resort would in my view result from two points: The quality of emissions control imposed by Mepa through the conditions established in the IPPC permit, and the enforceability of these conditions.

If the manner in which the Marsa incinerator has operated in the past months is a reliable indicator on the workings of Mepa and Wasteserv, this is sufficient on its own to discard the incinerator option even as a tool of last resort.

These are just a few of the points indicating reasons as to why the proposed waste strategy update needs to go back to the drawing board. Together with the fact that a Strategic Environmental Assessment has not to date been carried out, this is clear evidence of its poor quality. Such a document cannot lead to a fruitful public discussion.