Ktibt lill-Ombudsman dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex

 

Għadni kif, madwar siegħa ilu tajt ittra lill-Ombudsman biex jiftaħ investigazzjoni dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex.

Il-bieraħ il-Ministru Ian Borg ħabbar li fi żmien sitt xhur oħra ser joħroġ it-tender dwar il-mina taħt qiegħ il-baħar bejn Malta u Għawdex. Dan għamlu minkejja li l-istudju dwar l-impatti ambjentali (EIA) li dwaru s’issa ġiet konkluża biss il-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar it-Terms of Reference għadu bil-kemm beda.

Apparti li dan hu l-ikbar diżrispett lejn l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi da parti tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika tal-pajjiż, din id-dikjarazzjoni tal-Onorevoli Ministru hi ukoll indikazzjoni ċara ta’ nuqqas ta’ governanza tajba u twassal il-messaġġ ċar li l-proċess ta’ studju tal-impatti ambjentali hu meqjus bħala wieħed irrelevanti u li qed isir għalxejn għax id-deċiżjonijiet lesti irrispettivament minn dak li jista’ jirriżulta mill-istudji.

Fil-dawl ta’ dan għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika jiena dal-għodu tlabt lill-Ombudsman biex jinvestiga u jieħu dawk il-passi li jidhirlu meħtieġa.

Ma nistgħux nibqgħu sejrin hekk. Kif nippretendu lin-nies jagħtu kaz u jsegwu il-liġi, jekk il-Ministru b’imġiebtu jiġi jaqa’ u jqum?

Making hay …….. in St George’s Bay

The 23-storey Pender Gardens high-rise is nearly completed, after nearly 10 years of continuous construction activity. The application for the 31-storey Mercury House was approved last month and next Thursday, the Planning Authority Board will consider planning application PA2478/16 submitted by Garnet Investments Limited in respect of a substantial stretch of land along St George’s Bay on the outskirts of Paceville St Julian’s.

The applicant has requested the following: “Demolition of all existing buildings forming part of St. George’s Bay Hotel and ancillary facilities, Dolphin House, Moynihan House and Cresta Quay. Construction of Parking facilities, Hotels and ancillary facilities, Commercial Area, Multi Ownership holiday accommodation, Bungalows, Language school with accommodation. Restoration of the Villa Rosa and upgrading of the facilities including parking facility, kitchen and toilets all below existing site levels within the Villa Rosa Area to address catering facilities/wedding hall.”

The project includes mixed-uses covering a total site area of 48,723 square metres, a building footprint of 18,345 square metres and a total gross floor area of 82,917 square meters.

It is a small part of the area that was tentatively tackled by a draft Masterplan for Paceville which, after being rejected by public opinion was sent back to the drawing board. I consider it highly unethical for the Planning Authority to proceed with considering this application after the clear and resounding verdict of public opinion. As a minimum, the consideration of this application should have been postponed until a new, reasonable and acceptable Masterplan has received the go-ahead. A minimum effort at achieving consensus as to what development is acceptable is essential.

The Planning Authority is unfortunately insensitive to public opinion. It is amply clear that it, and those who appoint most of its Board members, are on the same wavelength as the development lobby, which is hell-bent on making hay while the sun shines. At this point in time, it is the turn of the St George’s Bay area.

The project is obviously recommended for approval in the 43-page report from the Planning Directorate.

The basic point of contention with such large-scale projects is that they are considered in isolation. Most of them would never get off the drawing board (real or virtual) if the consolidated impact of all neighbouring projects (existing or in the pipeline) are taken into account. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to address similar concerns to the EIA public consultation on the db Group ITS site project.

Five large-scale projects are earmarked for St George’s Bay. Each will generate considerable havoc from excavation throughout construction and right through operation in the whole St George’s Bay area. Cumulatively it will be hell. Who cares?

Way back in 2006, when the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive of the EU was about to be implemented in Malta, the Lawrence Gonzi – George Pullicino tandem rushed through the approval of the Local Plans in such a manner as to ensure that the accumulated environmental impact resulting from their implementation was not scrutinised and acted upon. The present state of affairs is the direct result of that irresponsible Gonzi-Pullicino action 12 years ago.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) occasionally tries to patch things up. For example, within the framework of the ITS EIA exercise ERA suggested that the traffic assessment of the ITS and the Villa Rosa projects be consolidated. This has, however, been avoided: a case of too little, too late.

So where do we go from here?

The development lobby is maximising its efforts to make hay while the sun shines. In reality, a consolidated mess is taking shape with massively built-up areas in a relatively restricted space punctured by high rises mimicking phallic symbols of all shapes and sizes spread all over the place. Pender Place has 23 floors. Mercury House will have 31. The ITS phallus will have a 37-floor residential tower. The Villa Rosa/Cresta Quay project will have more modest heights.

Next Thursday, the Planning Authority has the opportunity to scrutinise the proposal for this Villa Rosa-Cresta Quay project. We will see once more the extent to which the concrete lobby still holds the Authority by its balls – obviously where this is applicable.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 18 February 2018

Is-sit tal-ITS f’Pembroke : l-art pubblika, profitti tal-privat

L-iżvilupp tas-sit preżentement okkupat mill-Istitut tal-Istudji Turistiċi f’Pembroke reġa’ fl-aħbarijiet. Is-settur pubbliku jipprovdi l-art filwaqt li l-Grupp dB jimpala l-euro, bil-miljuni.

Matul din il-ġimgħa l-media tkellmet dwar il-miljuni li qed jiġi miftieħem li jitħallsu għall-bejgħ eventwali ta’ sulari sħaħ fit-torrijiet tal-Grupp dB. Dawn m’humiex flejjes li ser jitħallsu għal xiri ta’ propjetà fuq il-pjanta, għax s’issa la hemm permessi u l-anqas għad m’hemm l-ebda pjanta ffinalizzata. L-awtoritajiet tal-ippjanar għadhom fl-istadji inizzjali fl-eżami tagħhom tal-proġett propost: l-Awtorità għall-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA) għadha kif bdiet il-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni statutorja dwar l-Istudju tal-Impatt Ambjentali (EIA) li għandu għaddej sat-12 ta’ Frar. Minkejja li l-ERA għad tista’ tirrakkomanda tibdil, żgħir jew kbir, fil-proġett wara li tkun ikkunsidrat bir-reqqa l-EIA, qiesu li l-iżviluppaturi huma ċerti li mhu ser ikun hemm l-ebda konsiderazzjoni ta’ ippjanar jew ambjent li ser ixxekkel dak li bosta jqiesu li hu proġett żejjed u mhux meħtieġ.

Id-dokumenti ppreżentati għall-iskrutinju pubbliku huma sostanzjali u voluminużi. Imma possibilment fihom in-nieqes u għaldaqstant diġa ktibt lill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi biex tirrimedja u tippubblika dak li ġie identifikat bħala nieqes s’issa.

Dokument ta’ interess li insibuh fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-ERA huwa l-Project Description Statement (PDS) li tħejja minn ditta (partnership) ta’ periti li ftit kienet magħrufa s’issa. Din id-ditta iġġib l-isem ta’ Landmark Architects u jirriżulta li titmexxa mill-ekx-Ministru tat-Trasport il-Perit Jesmond Mugliett.

Fil-paġna 5 ta’ dan id-dokument, il-Perit Mugliett jikteb hekk “Nhar it-2 ta’ Frar 2017, il-Gvern u s-soċjetà dB San Gorg Property Limited iffirmaw il-kuntratt għat-trasferiment tal-art li dwarha ħarġet sejħa pubblika għall-proposti. Kemm il-Gvern ta’ Malta kif ukoll is-soċjetà dB San Gorg Property Limited jaqblu li l-evalwazzjoni tal-proġett ta’ żvilupp m’għandhiex iddum iktar mill-perjodu minimu stabilit mill-leġislazzjoni tal-ippjanar. (On the 2nd of February 2017, the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited signed the contract for the granting of the RFP site. Both the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Ltd. agree that evaluation of the project development should not extend beyond the minimum time frames established by Planning Law.) Fil-fehma tiegħi dan ifisser li l-Gvern diġa rabat idejn l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar dwar kif din għandha topera f’dan il-kaz.

L-iżviluppatur donnu mhux inkwetat li l-Masterplan imfassal għal Paceville ġie skartat u beda l-proċess biex dan jitfassal mill-ġdid u dan wara l-konsultazzjoni pubblika mqanqla li kellna lejn tmiem l-2016. L-awtur tal-PDS fil-fatt jinfurmana li “L-Gvern ta’ Malta u s-soċjetà dB San Gorg Property Limited komplew bin-negozjati, u eventwalment qablu li ma kienx fl-interess tal-proġett, tal-industrija Maltija tat-Turiżmu u tal-ekonomija Maltija li joqgħdu jistennew li jkun konkluż dan il-Masterplan.” (The Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited continued with negotiations, eventually coming to an agreement that it was not in the interest of the project, the Maltese Tourism Industry and the Maltese economy to wait for the conclusion of this masterplan.)

Dan, fil-fehma tiegħi jimmina l-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika. Għax liema huma r-regoli u policies tal-ippjanar li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ser isegwi fuq is-sit illum okkupat mill-Istitut tal-Istudji Turistiċi? Il-proposta diġa tidher ċar li tmur kontra dak li jipprovdi l-pjan lokali tal-2006 li hu applikabbli. Allura fuq liema kriterji ser tkun ivvalutata l-proposta ta’ żvilupp?

Xi żmien ilu konna infurmati li l-ebda żvilupp fl-inħawi m’hu ser jitħalla jibda sakemm ikun konkluż Masterplan ġdid għal Paceville. Dakinnhar kien emfasizzat li l-proposti dwar is-sit tal-ITS f’Pembroke seta jkun evalwat biss wara l-approvazzjoni tal-Masterplan ġdid għal Paceville.

Din hi wegħda li kienet skartata kompletament!

Kien ukoll ġie mwiegħed li l-Masterplan il-ġdid ma kienx ser ikun imniġġes minn kunflitti ta’ interess. Tgħid din il-wegħda ser tkun injorata ukoll?

 

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd : 21 ta’ Jannar 2018

Pembroke ITS site : public land – private profits

 

The redevelopment of the site currently occupied by the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) in Pembroke is again in the news: the public sector is providing the land while the dB Group will rake in the profits – amounting to millions of euro.

During the week various media outlets focused on the millions being forked out for the eventual purchase of entire floors in the dB Group towers. These are not the price for purchase of property still on plan, because no permits have yet been issued, nor have the plans as yet been finalised. The examination of the proposed development by the planning authorities is still in its initial stages: the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has just kicked off the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) statutory consultation period, which is scheduled to run until 12 February. Notwithstanding the fact that the ERA may recommend changes to the planned project as a result of its consideration of the EIA, it seems that the developers are sure that there will be no planning or environmental issues which can put the breaks to what most people consider an ill-advised project.

The documents presented for public scrutiny are voluminous, but possibly incomplete, and I have already written to ERA to complete the missing information gaps, at least those identified to date.

A basic document of interest, available on the ERA website, is the Project Description Statement (PDS) – the work of an as yet unknown partnership of architects going by the name of “Landmark Architects”. It transpires that this partnership is headed by former Transport Minister Jesmond Mugliett, who writes on page 5 of the PDS : “On the 2nd of February 2017, the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited signed the contract for the granting of the RFP site. Both the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Ltd. agree that evaluation of the project development should not extend beyond the minimum time frames established by Planning Law.” To my mind this signifies that the government has already tied the Planning Authority’s hands as to how it should operate in this case.

The developer is not (apparently) worried that the Paceville Master Plan was sent back to the drawing board after the agitated public consultation late in 2016. The author of the PDS, in fact, informs us that “The Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited continued with negotiations, eventually coming to an agreement that it was not in the interest of the project, the Maltese Tourism Industry and the Maltese economy to wait for the conclusion of this masterplan.”

Does this not undermine the whole consultation process? What planning rules and/or policies will the Planning Authority follow at the former ITS site? On what criteria will the development proposal be evaluated – it already clearly goes beyond what is permitted in the applicable 2006 local plan.

Some time ago, we were informed that no new developments in the area would be given the go-ahead until such time as a new draft Paceville Master Plan was launched. It was then emphasised that the proposals for the Pembroke ITS site can only be properly assessed when the Paceville Master Plan is in place.

This pledge has been blatantly ignored by the development proposal.

It was also pledged that the new proposed Master Plan will not be tainted by conflicts of interest as was the original one. Will this pledge also be ignored?

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 21 January 2018

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

Timothy Gambin2                        Victor Axiaq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Land use planning : beyond rhetoric

Freeport 2015

 

There is a common thread running through a number of local land-use planning controversies: they are tending to either ignore or give secondary importance to environmental, social and/or cultural issues, focusing instead on economic considerations.

On this page I have discussed the impact of the Freeport Terminal on  Birżebbuġa a number of times. The basic problem with the Freeport is that its impact on the Birżebbuġa community were ignored for a very long time. In fact, an attempt to include a Social Impact Assessment as an integral part of the EIA which was carried out some years ago was given the cold shoulder by MEPA. The end result was that the decision-taking process was not adequately informed of the impact of the terminal extension, both those already apparent and those which were yet to come. In particular, no assessment was made of the disintegration of the sports infrastructure in the area that has  slowly been eaten up – primarily by the Freeport.

Most of this could have been avoided through an active engagement with the local community over the years at the various stages of the project’s planning and implementation. This is why plans for the Freeport’s expansion, as indicated by the Freeport Corporation’s CEO  earlier this week in an interview with The Business Observer, should be explained  immediately. Even at this early stage it must be ascertained that the situation for  Birżebbuġa residents will not deteriorate any further.

No one in his right mind would deny that, over the years, the Freeport has made a significant contribution to Malta’s economic growth. Few, however, realise that the price paid for this economic success has been the erosion of the quality of life of the Birżebbuġa community. This is certainly unacceptable but it will only get worse, once the gas storage tanker for the Delimara Power Station is parked within Marsaxlokk Bay in the coming months, very close to the Freeport terminal.

The same story is repeating itself in other areas. Consider, for example, the 38-floor tower proposed at Townsquare and the 40-floor tower proposed for the Fort Cambridge project, both on the Tignè Peninsula in Sliema. The Townsquare assessment process is reaching its conclusion, whilst the one in respect of Fort Cambridge is still in its initial stages. Yet both are linked to the same fundamental flaw: the lack of consideration of the cumulative impact of the development of the Tignè Peninsula – which includes the MIDI development as well as the individual small scale projects in the area.

The adoption of plans and policies which have made it possible for the authorities to consider the development of the Tignè Peninsula were not subject to a Strategic Impact Assessment and, as a result, the cumulative impact of implementing these plans and policies were not identified and assessed. The end result is that the proposed towers are justifiably considered as another disruptive and unwelcome intrusion by the Tignè and Qui-Si-Sana communities.

The developers and their advisors focus exclusively on the impacts which are generated by their proposals, with the authorities generally avoiding the consideration of the big picture at the earliest possible stage.

Preliminary indications from the proposed Gozo Tunnel and the Sadeen “educational” setup at Marsaskala/Cottonera are already pointing in the same direction. In both cases, the alternatives that were generally brushed aside are the very options that need to be examined in detail in order to ensure that the challenges that will be faced in 2016 and beyond have not been prejudiced by myopic considerations in 2015.

Planning failures have serious consequences on those of our local communities that have to bear the brunt of the decisions taken for a long period of time. These can be avoided if the authorities refocus their efforts and realise that the economy is a tool which has to be a servant, and certainly not a master.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 20 December 2015

Il-MEPA………….għaġġelija

kittens

 

Il-laqgħa tal-bieraħ li fiha l-Bord tal-MEPA approva l-applikazzjoni tal-Enemalta għall-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku bil-gass b’9 voti kontra 2 kienet waħda ġeneralment ċivili. Anke meta kien hemm xi interruzzjonijiet, ma kien hemm xejn gravi.

Ħadd ma argumenta kontra l-użu tal-gass. L-uġiegħ ta’ ras hi l-ħażna tal-gass: jekk din għandhiex tkun ġol-port jew barra mill-port.

L-istudju dwar ir-riskji marittimi għadu ma sarx. Meta jsir inkunu nafu ftit aħjar dak li ser inħabbtu wiċċna miegħu. Hemm mumenti meta l-ebda vapur m’hu safe fil-port. X’ser jiġri f’dawn il-mumenti?

Diversi sajjieda qalulna li l-qawwa tal-baħar tista’ tkun waħda sostanzjali. Ħaġa li nistgħu naraw b’għajnejna meta l-elementi jkunu fl-aqwa tagħhom.

Il-breakwater fid-daħla tal-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk ġie diżinjat mit-team Ċiniż f’Kalafrana. Id-diżinn hu ibbażat fuq osservazzjonijiet u studji dwar il-mewġ. A bażi ta’ standards internazzjonali u studji u testijiet fuq mudelli kien konkluż diżinn li jilqa’ għal mewġ ta’ 8.50 metri. Il-breakwater inbena fil-bidu tas-snin tmenin, tletin sena ilu. Matul dawn it-tletin sena qeda lill-pajjiż u lill-Port Ħieles.

Imma issa t-temp beda jinbidel, bil-mod. Fil-waqt li mewġ għola minn 8.50 metri sa ftit snin ilu kien xi ħaġa rari, issa beda jżid ftit fil-frekwenza. Dan ifisser li qed joqrob iż-żmien meta l-breakwater m’hux ser joffri protezzjoni biżżejjed la lill-Port Ħieles u l-anqas lill-Oil Tanking. Dak li kien rari, jista’ jsir iktar frekwenti. Il-konsegwenzi jistgħu jkunu gravi. Iżidu r-riskju ta’ inċident fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk.

Studju dwar ir-riskji marittimi kien jeżamina dan u iktar u kien ikun ta’ għajnuna ikbar biex il-Bord tal-MEPA jiżen sewwa r-riskji.   Dan l-istudju il-MEPA m’għamltux minkejja li fit-terms of reference dwar l-istudju ambjentali kienet hi stess li insistiet li l-istudju dwar ir-riskji għall-impjant tal-gass kellu jkun wieħed dettaljat.

Imma l-MEPA kienet mgħaġġla. Bħall-qattusa tal-proverbju.

ippubblikat fuq iNews: it-Tlieta 25 t’Ottubru 2014

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

Better safe than sorry

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

Its been twelve months since Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party pointed out that safety and risk assessment will be the sticking point for the liquid natural gas (LNG) driven power station at Delimara. We were then told  that Labour’s plan had already factored in all issues pertaining to the Seveso Directive.

Well, plans have been changed. What were originally plans to have land based LNG storage facilities have been changed to a floating gas storage facility. The issue of safety has however remained. It was unaddressed then and is still not addressed now.

Other countries have taken the matter quite seriously. In Livorno, for example,  as a result of proper risk assessment studies a floating gas storage facility of a size comparable to that being considered for Delimara was sited 22.5 kilometres from the coastline. In addition a security area of an 8 kilometre radius was established. This security area which is under strict control to ensure that no unauthorised access occurs serves the purpose of reducing and containing the damage caused by a possible incident.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday February 22, 2014

No such security areas have been established in the Delimara proposal such that whilst the probability of an incident has been identified as 1 in 10,000 years its impacts on the residential community as well on economic facilities could be devastating if such an accident occurs.

A thorough reading of the risk assessment study carried out by Roberto Vaccari and forming part of the Environment Impact Assessment for the Delimara LNG driven power station clearly identifies serious risks. Whilst Vaccari defines his study as being of a preliminary nature his conclusions, however, are clear enough pointers that the apprehension of 91% of the local population documented in the Delimara project Social Impact Assessment is more than justified.

Roberto Vaccari, for example, concludes on the possibility of an incident as a result of which a cloud of gas accumulates in the area in front of the Freeport Terminal, the fairway,  precisely where ships manoeuvre prior to their berthing to unload their shipment of containers. Just this possibility, on its own, should have been sufficient to lead to the conclusion that the proposed solution for the generation of electricity through the use of gas stored on a ship is a serious threat to the secure operation of the Freeport Terminal.

Roberto Vaccari justifiably points out that Marsaxlokk Bay, very close to the residential communities of Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk,  already harbours most of the Maltese sites subject to Major Hazard Regulatory control under the provisions if the EU Seveso Directive. The Delimara Power Station itself, the Birżebbuġa fuel storage depot, Oil Tanking facilities, the Wied Dalam installation, the Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering and the San Lucian facilities as well as the recent addition of the Gasco facilities at Bengħajsa are too close for comfort. Roberto Vaccari points out to the domino effect potential which could be triggered on each of these sites by an LNG incident at Delimara.

The mooring of the floating gas storage unit along the Delimara coast also gives rise to a serious conflict with existing uses in Marsaxlokk Bay. It conflicts with the operational requirements of the Freeport Terminal situated at the entrance to the Bay. The conflicts are of a navigational nature as the area currently utilised by container vessels to manoeuvre until they berth, the fairway, overlaps with the navigational requirements of the floating gas storage unit in particular during refuelling. It is known that container vessels at the Freeport Terminal do require tugboat assistance particularly when strong North-Easterly winds are prevalent. The navigational requirements in such circumstances for an increased activity require much more space (and tugboats) than is available in Marsaxlokk Bay. As far as is known this has not yet been considered.

Both the authorities as well as the EIA have also been particularly silent on the impacts which the floating gas storage unit will have on the fishing community in Marsaxlokk. It is unofficially known that plans are in hand to severely curtail all maritime movements within Marsaxlokk Bay during refuelling of the floating gas storage unit. The refuelling process which may take up to 48 hours  ten times annually will be a severe handicap not just on the operations of the Freeport Terminal but it may also deal a fatal blow to the livelihood of the fishing community at Marsaxlokk.

All of the above should have led to the conclusion that the unloading and storage of LNG at Marsaxlokk Port is an unnecessary source of danger to both residents and the country’s economy.

Malta is still in time to seriously explore other options. Ignoring political pique the only practical solution is to utilise a gas pipeline which a PN led Government had unfortunately refused when offered by Italy in 1999.

What is sure is that safety is priceless. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Aħjar uff inkella aħħ

Gas Cloud Freeport Fairway

Bħal daż-żmien sena, waqt il-kampanja elettorali, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ċara ħafna dwar il-proposta tal-Partit Laburista li jgħaddi biex jipproduċi l-elettriku bl-użu tal-gass. Għidna li l-kwalita’ tal-arja ser titjieb sostanzjalment kif ukoll li tista’ traħħas il-kontijiet tal-elettriku u l-ilma.

Imma għidna ukoll anke tnax-il xahar ilu illi ma kienx ċar x’kien qed jiġi propost dwar ir-riskji li l-ħażna ta’ kwantita’ kbira ta’ gass daqshekk qrib kemm tal-power station innifisha kif ukoll viċin l-abitat u viċin ħafna ta’ operazzjonijiet marittimi.

Alternattiva Demokratika rat l-istudju dwar l-impatti ambjentali (EIA) u in partikolari l-istudju ta’ Roberto Vaccari dwar l-analiżi tar-riskji  liema studju jifforma parti integrali mill-imsemmi EIA.

L-istudju dwar ir-riskji huwa inkonklużiv minħabba illi fil-waqt li jagħmel analiżi ma jwassalx din l-analiżi għal konklużjoni loġika tagħha, in partikolari kif b’mod prattiku l-impjant li jiġġenera l-elettriku bil-gass għandu impatt fuq l-attivitajiet l-oħra li presentement hemm fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk.

Vaccari per eżempju jikkonkludi dwar il-possibilita’ ta’ inċident li bħala riżultat tiegħu joħroġ kwantita’ kbira ta’ gass illi s-sħaba (ta’ gass) riżultanti  takkumula fl-area quddiem il-Port Ħieles u preċiżament fil-fairway, l-area fejn jimmanuvraw il-vapuri qabel ma jidħlu jħottu t-tagħbija tal-containers. (ara pjanta hawn fuq) Din biss kellha twassal għal konklużjoni li s-soluzzjoni proposta għall-impjant tal-enerġija li jaħdem bil-ġass  maħżun fuq vapur hi theddida kbira għas-sigurta’ tal-operazzjoni tal-Port Ħieles.

Pajjiżi oħra joħolqu żona ta’ sigurta madwar l-impjant b’mod illi jiżolaw il-possibilita’ ta’ periklu u ma jħalluħx jinfirex. B’hekk inaqqsu l-impatt fuq il-ħajja tan-nies u fuq il-propjeta’ u jimminimizzaw il-ħsara ekonomika li tista’ tirriżulta. Hekk għamel per eżempju l-Gvern Reġjonali tat-Toscana barra l-Port ta’ Livorno meta stabilixxa żona ta’ sigurta f’distanza ta’ tmien kilometri madwar il-ħażna tal-gass fuq vapur li ġie ankrat 22.5 kilomteri l-barra mill-kosta.

Bl-iskuża li r-rapport tal-analiżi tar-riskju hu wieħed preliminari r-rapport ta’ Vaccari ma jagħmel xejn minn dan. Filwaqt li jsemmi l-possibilita ta’ impatt fuq stallazzjonijiet oħra fil-port ta’ Marsaxlokk (domino effect) la Vaccari u l-anqas l-EIA ma janalizzax kif  dan jista’ jseħħ.

Filwaqt li hu magħruf illi l-movimenti maritiimi fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk ikollhom jonqsu drastikament, inkluż il-movimenti mis-sajjieda l-EIA hu sieket dwar dan.

Dan kollu kellu jwassal  għal rakkomandazzjoni li s-soluzzjoni tal-ħatt u ħażna tal-gass fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk huma ta’ periklu kemm għar-residenti kif ukoll għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż.

Pajjiżna għadu fil-ħin biex jimxi lejn soluzzjonijiet oħra. Lil hinn mill-piki politiċi l-unika soluzzjoni prattika hi dik ta’ pipeline li dwaru l-Gvern kien sfortunatament irrifjuta offerta mill-Italja fl-1999.

Li hu żgur hu li ħajjet in-nies hi imprezzabbli.

Aħjar uff inkella aħħ.