The environmental deficit

 

traffic jam Malta

 

Going by the information available on the increased incidence of various types of cancers, both common and rare types, it is evident that the accumulated environmental impacts originating from human action is exacting its toll. Few make the link between the increased incidence of rare diseases,  cancers and environmental neglect accumulated over the years.  

Over the Christmas period, as a result of the never-ending humanitarian operations of the Community Chest Fund, we hear of the ever-increasing demand on state resources by those struck by cancer. The demand is such that the resources of the state have to be supplemented by the annual telethon which this year raised a record €5.5 million.

The advertising blitz on the switching over of Malta’s power generation from one dependent on heavy fuel oil to natural gas informs us that air quality in Malta will improve substantially as a result. This statement is only partially correct as the major contributor to Malta’s poor air quality was not power generation but the ubiquitous and exponential increase of cars on our roads.

The cars on our roads are part of the real “cancer factory” in operation on Maltese territory.

As is evidenced by the substantial investments channeled towards the improvement of the road infrastructure, it is clear that the political will to address this issue is very weak. Improved road infrastructure, such as the construction of flyovers to ease traffic congestion, will only increase the dependence on cars. In the long term, this improvement to the road network will hamper the drive to shift custom to public transport. Consequently, it will serve to further increase cars on our roads and will hence contribute to an increase in the output of the “cancer factory”.

Public transport has been improved as is evidenced by a gradual increase in its use. Various initiatives to encourage the use of public transport have been introduced. However, the Maltese state is sending conflicting signals when it simultaneously speaks in favor of public transport yet invests heavily to facilitate the continued domination of our roads by private cars.

Lack of adequate environmental protection in the past has contributed to an ever-accumulating environmental deficit which in turn will lead to total and complete bankruptcy as no one is in a position to bale out Mother Earth.

Environment protection is multifaceted. Addressing the different waste streams and seriously plotting the path to the 2050 zero waste targets established by Malta’s Waste Management Strategy would definitely signify that we are in earnest. However, it is certainly not enough. What about the excessive use of pesticides which still end up contaminating our food chain? Or what about our water table, which in addition to being depleted is also contaminated with pesticides and fertilisers?   I could go on and on with a never-ending list of examples.

The environmental deficit is constantly on the increase. Each generation creates additional environmental impacts without in any way adequately addressing the accumulated impacts handed down by the previous generations. Governments are worried by economic deficits, yet few seem to be worried by the accumulating environmental deficit. We are using the earth’s resources as if tomorrow will never come.

No one will bail us out from the consequences of this deficit, yet nature has its own way of extracting its dues. Climate change, the collapse of agriculture in various countries and a higher incidence of common and rare forms of cancers are all different forms of payment which nature is extracting. These bills can only be avoided (in the long term) if we switch back to operating in a manner which is compatible with nature.

Otherwise the accumulating environmental deficit will bankrupt humanity.

published on The Independent on Sunday – 1 January 2017

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L-iżbilanċ ambjentali

 

traffic.Marsa

 

Minn dak li hu magħruf dwar l-inċidenza dejjem tikber tal-cancer, jidher li l-impatti ambjentali tal-ħidma tal-bniedem qed ikollhom effett qawwi. Ftit huma dawk li huma konxji dwar ir-rabtiet li hemm bejn il-ħsara ambjentali u uħud mill-mard rari li s-soċjetá tagħna qegħda tiffaċċja.

Fil-ġranet tal-Milied, riżultat tal-ħidma bla heda tal-Community Chest Fund, nisimgħu dwar id-domanda ma tieqaf qatt għas-servizzi li jagħti l-istat lil dawk milquta minn kull forma ta’ cancer. Id-domanda hi tant kbira li riżorsi tal-istat huma mgħejjuna mill-ġbir li jsir waqt l-Istrina, li, din is-sena laħaq is-somma record ta’ €5.5 miljuni.

Il-Gvern qed ixandar riklami dwar il-qalba tal-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku minn waħda dipendenti fuq il-heavy fuel oil għal waħda dipendenti fuq il-gass naturali. F’dawn ir-riklami qed jgħidulna li ser ikollna titjib fil-kwalitá tal-arja bħala riżultat ta’ din il-qalba. Din id-dikjarazzjoni (tar-riklami) hi biss parzjalment korretta. Dan minħabba li l-kontributur ewlieni għall-kwalitá tal-arja f’Malta qatt ma kienet il-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku iżda n-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq li donnu ma jispiċċa qatt. Huma dawn il-karozzi fit-toroq li jiffurmaw parti mill-fabbrika reali tal-cancer f’Malta.

Kif anke jidher mill-investimenti sostanzjali dedikati għal titjib fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq huwa ċar li r-rieda politika biex dan ikun indirizzat hi dgħajfa. Għax iktar ma titjieb l-infrastruttura tat-toroq, iktar ikunu inkoraġġiti karozzi fit-toroq, għax it-triq għalihom tkun iffaċilitata. It-titjib fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq, iżżid id-dipendenza tagħna lkoll fuq il-karozzi u bħala riżultat ta’ dan, tostakola l-ħidma biex iktar nies tuża t-trasport pubbliku.

Sar titjib fit-trasport pubbliku, anke bħala riżultat ta’ diversi inizzjattivi li ttieħdu. Imma l-pajjiż qed jagħti sinjali konfliġġenti, għax filwaqt li qiegħed jinkoraġixxi l-użu tat-transport pubbliku, fl-istess ħin qed jinvesti flejjes sostanzjali biex jiffaċilita l-kontinwazzjoni tad-dominazzjoni tat-toroq tagħna mill-karozzi.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent jinvolvi ħafna ħidma diversa. Jinkludi ħidma biex ikunu indirizzati b’serjetá s-sorsi differenti ta’ ġenerazzjoni tal-iskart biex b’hekk infasslu t-triq li biha rridu naslu ħalli nilħqu l-mira ta’ “skart zero”. Din hi mira stabbilita mill-Istrateġija Nazzjonali tal-Iskart u trid tintlaħaq sal-2050. Dan ċertament li mhux biżżejjed. X’ngħidu għall-użu eċċessiv ta’ pestiċidi li mhux biss qed jikkontamina dak li jkun prodott fir-raba’ imma parti minnu jispiċċa ukoll f’dak li baqa’ mill-ilma tal-pjan?

L-iżbilanċ ambjentali qiegħed dejjem jiżdied. Kull ġenerazzjoni qed tispiċċa żżid l-impatti mingħajr ma tindirizza sewwa l-impatti akkumulati li tkun wirtet mill-ġenerazzjoni ta’ qabilha.

Il-Gvernijiet qed jinkwetaw fuq l-iżbilanċ finanzjarju imma ftit wisq minnhom jinkwetaw fuq l-iżbilanċ ambjentali li iktar ma jgħaddi żmien iktar qed imur għall-agħar. Ir-riżorsi tad-dinja qed jintużaw qieshom bir bla qiegħ.

In-natura għandha l-modi tagħha kif iġġiegħlna nħallsu għal dan l-iżbilanċ ambjentali. It-tibdil fil-klima, l-kollass tal-agrikultura f’diversi pajjiżi kif ukoll iż-żieda qawwija ta’ kull xorta ta’ cancer huma kollha tweġiba tan-natura li biha kull wieħed minnha qiegħed jerfa’ l-piz tal-ħsara li saret lin-natura. Dawn il-kontijiet li qed tibgħatina n-natura jistgħu jonqsu fil-futur jekk nibdew minn issa ngħixu b’mod li joħloq inqas ħsara ambjentali. Jekk dan ma jseħħx il-kontijiet tan-natura, bla ebda dubju, jwasslu għal kollass totali.

ippubblikat fuq Illum – Is-Sibt 31 ta’ Diċembru 2016

Simon Busuttil għadu ma fehem xejn

Simon Busuttil 11

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

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

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

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

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

Tall Buildings : the advice ignored by the Maltese authorities

Ali report

 

“Tall buildings cannot be avoided in our times. The choice we have is whether to control them or else whether to put up with their future growth.” These were the concluding comments of a report drawn up by Professor Mir Ali from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign USA after a visit to Malta in 2008 during which he met with and advised MEPA on the future of tall buildings in Malta.The report is entitled Urban Design Strategy Report on Tall Buildings in Malta.

Professor Ali’s report contains recommendations most of which are as relevant today as when they were originally drafted. Central to these recommendations, way back in 2008, was the need to draw a master plan addressing tall buildings and their impacts. “Lack of a master plan,”  Professor Ali stated, “results in uncontrolled developments and unpredictable impacts on urban life.”  The developed master plan,  Prof. Ali emphasised, should be “for Malta as a whole and for the selected sites for tall buildings, individually.”  Drawing up such a master plan with a reasonable level of detail will take time to carry out, a considerable portion of which should be utilised in consultation, primarily with the residents to be impacted. Certainly much more time would be required than the November 2016 target indicated by the government earlier this week.  A moratorium on the issuing of any development permit for high-rises until such time that a master plan has been discussed and approved would be a very reasonable course of action.

Professor Ali considered six sites, which were indicated to him by MEPA, as having the potential of hosting high-rise development. He proposed the following rank order : Qawra, Gżira, Tignè, Paceville, Pembroke and Marsa.  Such a ranking order by Prof. Ali is qualified by an emphasis on the substantial infusion of public monies which is required. Prof. Ali commented that if the number of sites are reduced to less than six it would be much better for Malta.

Professor Ali made a number of incisive remarks.

There is a need for an objective market and feasibility study for each project, which study should include the life cycle cost of the project. In view of the high vacancy rate of existing residential units, Prof. Ali queried the kind of occupancy expected of high-rises. Failure of high-rises will impact the economy of the whole of Malta which has no safety valve because of its size and lack of adequate elasticity, he stressed.

An efficient public transport is a fundamental requirement for the Maltese islands irrespective of whether high-rises are developed or not. But for the success of tall buildings “an integrated sustainable public transport system” is absolutely necessary. Yet, surprise, surprise, Professor Ali observed that “there is no efficient public transport system that is efficient and that covers the whole of Malta”

Sounds like familiar territory!

Infrastructural deficiencies must be addressed. If the existing infrastructure is inadequate or in a state of disrepair it must be upgraded and expanded to meet future needs. Tignè residents in Sliema have much to say about the matter, not just with reference to the state of the roads in the area but more on the present state of the public sewers! Residents of the Tignè peninsula are not the only ones who urgently require an upgrade of their infrastructural services. Residents in many other localities have similar requirements.

Social and environmental impacts of tall buildings must be considered thoroughly at the design stage. However Maltese authorities have developed the habit of ignoring the social impacts of development projects. In addition, it is very worrying that, as reported in the press earlier during this week,  Prime Minister Joseph Muscat does not seem to be losing any sleep over the matter.

People living in a low-rise environment consider high-rises as intrusive. Unless public participation is factored in at a very early stage through planned beneficial impacts on the community in terms of economic benefits, upgrade of services and the general benefits of the redevelopment of the surroundings, such projects do not have a future.

The upkeep of high-rises is quite a challenge which requires skills that are different from low-rise buildings. Notwithstanding changes to the relevant provisions of the law, there already exist serious difficulties in bringing together owners of low-rise multi-owned properties in order that they can ensure that maintenance of such properties is addressed. The challenge of high-rises is exponentially more complex.

The above is a snap-shot of Prof. Ali’s report. From what I’ve heard from a number  of people who met Professor Ali, he was more vociferous in his verbal utterances. Unfortunately,  his advice has been largely ignored.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 26 June 2016

Simon’s ODZ bluff

Simon Busuttil.Zonqor2

 

20 January is the closing date for the submission of expressions of interest in response to the call by the Privatisation Unit for the setting up of a Motorsports complex in Malta.

During the press conference that launched the call on 29 September, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Chris Agius emphasised the fact that the choice of location was up to the investors presenting the submissions, even though several sites were proposed in the consultation process leading up to the call for expressions of interest.

However, Sam Collins, writing on 25 April last year on an online motor-racing guide, under the heading Malta eyes Formula 1 with new circuit stated that a “110 hectare parcel of land has been earmarked for the development.”  It is pretty obvious that the as yet unidentified  “110 hectare parcel of land” to be used for this proposed motorsports complex will be situated outside the development zone (ODZ). Each hectare consists of 10,000 square metres, meaning that 110 hectares equals one million, one hundred thousand square metres.

Sam Collins describes the proposal in this manner: “The government documents relating to the circuit’s development point out that part of its purpose would be to attract major international racing series, including Formula 3 and similar classes. The proposed facility would also include facilities for concerts, conferencing and a racing school. A hotel and museum of motoring and transport heritage would also be built on site. Road safety and driver training would play a major part in the facility’s layout, with a dedicated area for these activities. A CIK Kart circuit would also be built alongside the main track.”

The basic question which had to be addressed – but which most obviously has not been addressed so far – is whether Malta can afford to waste this much land. The answer, in my opinion, irrespective of the number of motor-racing car enthusiasts on the island, is clear and unequivocal: Malta cannot waste any more of its limited land.

The sites that have been possibly earmarked are limited in number, as Malta’s size does not present too many options and the impact of the selected site will be substantial, irrespective of its current use.

Development on the  parcel of land selectedcould have a substantial impact on areas of ecological importance that are protected either in terms of local policy or else as a result of EU or international commitments. Knowing that most of the undeveloped land along Malta’s coastline from Bengħajsa right up to Ċirkewwa is protected for ecological purposes, this could be the case, particularly if the identified parcel of land is close to the coast.

The impact could be further increased in view of the possible proximity of the selected parcel of land to residential areas. A specific area, mentioned consistently through the grapevine, would lump these impacts on Malta’s political south, further adding to the disregard for residents’ quality of life in the region accumulated over the years.

There are, therefore, three issues on the basis of which the proposed facility is objectionable: firstly, that Malta is too small for such a development; secondly, that the environmental impact will be substantial and thirdly, that the neighbouring residents’ quality of life, as well as biodiversity and natural resources, will be bartered for short term economic gain.

Depending on the precise eventual location, it may be possible to mitigate and reduce the impact on residents. However, it is most probable that a reduced impact on residents would signify increased impact on natural resources and biodiversity. In my opinion, this signifies that even on the drawing board the project should have been a non-starter.

In recent months we have had the Żonqor “University” debacle. A major sticking point in that case was that the original proposal was to use land situated outside the ODZ and public opinion’s unifying reaction was “No to ODZ development”.

The Parliamentary Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, took a clear stand against the ODZ Development proposed at Żonqor. Yet in the case of the proposed motor track facility, the Opposition Spokesperson on Sport, David Agius, was invited to be present when the call for expressions of interest was launched. His presence confirms that, notwithstanding Simon Busuttil’s solemn declarations on the sanctity of ODZ land, the proposal for the (ODZ) motor track facility enjoys bipartisan support.

Which means that Simon’s talk on ODZ is just bluff.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 January 2016

Gozo Channel: tunnelling discounts

discounts

 

When the current Gozo Channel tunnel debate was initiated around five years ago, the then Minister Chris Said went on record to emphasise that the proposed tunnel, to be bored under the seabed would cost approximately €150 million. This estimate has now been upped to €300 million.

This is one of the basic assumptions underlying the study commissioned by Transport Malta, together with the Gozo Business Chamber, and carried out by E Cubed Consultants Ltd, commonly referred to as the “economic and financial feasibility study”.

The study makes interesting reading as it considers the economics of the so-called permanent link between the islands of Gozo and Malta. I respectfully submit that the conclusions of this study are as valid as the basic assumptions which underpin it.

I draw the attention of readers to the fact that proposals for various tunnels are currently under consideration in other countries.

The first is the proposed Trans-Pennine tunnel, intended to improve the transport links between Sheffield and Manchester in the UK. The ambitious 18- mile (29km) tunnel would be built under the A628 Woodhead Pass. After having established that the geology of the Pennines was suitable for such a project, it was estimated that the approximate cost would be a staggering £6 billion (€8.40 billion).

The second UK project is the much-debated and controversial tunnel at Stonehenge. Intended to upgrade the A303 road, it is projected to have a length of 1.8 miles (2.9 km) and is currently estimated to cost £490 million (€700 million).

Another projected tunnel, recently given the green light, will pass between the Danish island of Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn. Construction work on this 19 km tunnel should start next January and it is estimated to cost €8.7 billion.

The estimates for the proposed tunnels in the United Kingdom indicate that the cost of a 10 km tunnel would exceed the €2 billion mark, even before taking into account the fact that excavating below the seabed would cost substantially more. In addition, the Danish/German tunnel indicates a pro-rata cost of €4.7 billion for a 10 kilometre tunnel.

In addition, the geological parameters below the Gozo Channel are still largely unknown: geological studies have to be carried out and examined in detail in order to establish the facts. Without these facts, the basic information necessary to take essential design decisions is still unavailable. What is known is worrying enough: the presence of active geological faults running right through the proposed route of the tunnel.

The study’s conclusions – that the proposed tunnel is economically viable – have  been reached prior to the carrying out of geological studies. Even the estimated costs used in the economic viability study have been established before these essential geological studies.

In this type of project, no estimate of costs can be precise – especially if it is not based on adequate and essential information.

This indicates that the conclusion of the economic viability study was premature.

In addition to the geological studies, additional important (and essential) studies have (as far as is known) not yet been commissioned. These include studies on the environmental impact, business impact and social impact.

Once concluded, such studies will inevitably point to other issues that will require detailed consideration, including the extent to which the projected permanent link between Malta and Gozo will toll the death knell for holiday accommodation in Gozo: hotels, flats and farmhouses.

The above indicates that, unless the promoters of the tunnel have some cast-iron guarantee of substantial discounts on the costs, the proposal is a non-starter even before any consideration of the environmental, business and social impact. It is about time to begin serious work on the practical alternative: a fast ferry service between Gozo and the Grand Harbour.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 December 2015

Tunnel vision

cart-horse

 

Gozo’s connectivity issues are considered as a problem when in reality they define Gozo and determine its distinct features. Unfortunately, in this respect both the government and the opposition have developed a tunnel vision, that is they tend to focus on just one view and ignore everything else.

The latest twist in the current debate is the declaration by the Finance Minister in his budget statement earlier this month that the feasibility study commissioned by Transport Malta, together with the Gozo Business Chamber has been concluded positively  and that the next step would be  the commissioning of a technical and geological study relative to the projected tunnel across the Gozo Channel.

Transport Malta, prodded by the Gozo Business Chamber, seems to be bent on putting the cart before the horse as it is inconceivable how a feasibility study could be concluded without first having identified all the geological issues and examined them in detail.  Knowing that the Gozo Channel contains a number of geological faults, including active ones, leads to the logical preliminary conclusion that geological studies of the area proposed to be tunnelled could have a substantial bearing on the technical parameters of the project. This would include the specific  route to be selected, the actual works to be carried out and the costings. The geological studies could also lead to a technical recommendation to select an alternative solution other than boring a tunnel below the seabed .

When the PN-led government placed the issue on the national agenda, former Minister Chris Said gave his guesstimate that the tunnel would cost in the region of €150 million. We have recently been informed that this guesstimate has increased substantially to between €250 and €300 million.

These guesstimates are on the low side, because when the geological issues have been examined the estimate could well shoot up to over €1 billion- this being around 4 times what has been taken into consideration in the so-called “feasibility study”.

These type of project very rarely follow estimated costs. The tunnel linking the Marsa and Delimara powers stations in Malta, for example, overshot its projected costs by around 100% due to the absence of adequate geological information. As a result, parts of the  tunnel caved in during works, necessitating substantial additional work, including redirecting parts of it. On the other hand,  expenditure on the Channel Tunnel linking Folkestone in Kent to Coquelles near Calais exceeded the projected estimates by around 80% notwithstanding the availability of detailed geological studies.

Last week, one of the Sunday newspapers referred to a survey carried out by the Gozo Tourism Association which indicates that 64% of tourism operators in Gozo are adamantly against the proposed tunnel because the direct result of this would be to render Gozo as an appendage of Malta. Gozo would be transformed into a one- day destination, just like most of the other tourism attractions spread over the Maltese islands.

Gozitan tourism operators have a very valid point, as the direct result of this tunnel vision is that Gozo would be transformed from an island into a remote village. Most hotels in Gozo as well as the flats and farmhouses available to let, could then require the identification of another use.

This matter has not yet been examined and yet it is fundamental to the decision-making process and should have been the first step in the whole exercise.

All this muddle and I have not yet commenced discussing the environmental impacts of the proposed tunnel!

The tunnel will generate large quantities of rock which require disposal. The precise amount would depend on the route to be followed (and consequently the length of the tunnel) as well as the selected design (the cross sectional area) and could be anything between one and two million cubic metres of fragmented rock.

In addition, the proposed point of entry of the tunnel at Iċ-Ċumnija on the outskirts of Mellieħa, would most probably be accessed through a new road network in the area immediately behind the Għadira Nature Reserve and bird sanctuary. This means that all the environmental issues which were discussed when the proposed TEN-T network was being debated will once more be of relevance.

There are many other ways through which Gozo’s connectivity issues can be addressed and there are certainly more cost effective ways than the proposed tunnel. The costs to be considered are not just financial: they include social and environmental costs, which should be considered on the drawing board and not as an afterthought.

This is the problem with the tunnel vision – you just have one view, excluding all the others.

€miljun għal Birżebbuġa

marco polo

Id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar tal-MEPA għadu kif ikkonkluda r-rapport dwar l-applikazzjoni tal-management tal-Port Ħieles biex jinġiebu krejnijiet ġodda. Dawn il-krejnijiet fil-fatt waslu l-bieraħ.

Dan ir-rapport jikkonferma li l-MEPA, wara li rċiviet diversi oġġezzjonijiet, kemm mill-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa kif ukoll mir-residenti, insistiet li jinbidlu l-pjanti u jitneħħew il-krejniet mill-parti tal-Port Ħieles li hi l-iktar viċin taż-żona residenzjali. Dan hu pass il-quddiem. Għax ir-residenti huma bir-raġun mxebbgħin bl-impatti tal-Port Ħieles fuq il-ħajja tagħhom, anke jekk tul dawn l-aħħar ħames snin ittieħdu passi biex dan ikun indirizzat.

Id-Direttorat tal-Ippanar qed jirrakkomanda ukoll li minħabba l-impatti tal-Port Ħieles fuq Birżebbuġa, jsir ħlas mill-Port Ħieles ta’ €955,000 biex jintużaw fuq xogħolijiet f’Birżebbuġa. Eżatt liema ser ikunu dawn ix-xogħolijiet għadu mhux ċar imma dawn affarijiet li jiġu ċċarati matul il-ġranet u l-ġimgħat li ġejjin bejn il-MEPA u l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa.

Fil-waqt li din hi aħbar tajba għal Birżebbuġa tajjeb li niftakru li sitt snin ilu, fl-2009, il-MEPA kienet ukoll ħadet deċiżjoni simili. L-ammont dakinnhar kien ta’ €741,820. Imma dakinnhar il-Port Ħieles kien appella minn dik id-deċiżjoni u l-Kabinett ta’ Lawrence Gonzi kien żamm mal-Port Ħieles u lill-Birżebbuġa ċaħħada minn dawn il-flus u Birżebbuġa tħalliet tittewweb .

Wara l-esperjenza qarsa ta’ sitt snin ilu nistennew u naraw kif ser jiżviluppaw l-affarijiet.

Korsa għat-tagħlim tas-sewqan tal-karozzi?

Driving-Test-Track

 

Is-sejħa għal espressjoni ta’ interess għaċ-ċirkwit tal-karozzi qanqlet diskussjoni fil-pajjiż. Id-diskussjoni iffukat fuq it-tlielaq u kif il-proposta ser tuża 800,000 metru kwadru. Dan il-qies qed jissemma issa, għax qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2013 kien jissemma qies iżgħar, madwar in-nofs.

Id-diskussjoni żviluppat dwar l-ammont konsiderevoli ta’ art li tista’ tuża din il-proposta kif ukoll li proġett bħal dan inevitabilment isir barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp. L-impatt tal-istorbju kemm fuq in-nies kif ukoll fuq in-natura ikunu sinifikanti.

Apparti l-faċilitajiet marbuta maċ-ċirkwit tat-tlielaq, iżda, irrid ngħid li hemm parti mill-proġett li hi pożittiva u din hi dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ faċilità professjonali f’Malta dwar it-tagħlim tas-sewqan. Il-proposta li qed issir tinkludi kollox flimkien u allura m’huwiex ċar x’art tkun meħtieġa kieku kellha issir biss il-faċilità għat-tagħlim tas-sewqan. Imma nifhem li din il-faċilità għat-tagħlim, waħedha, probabbilment tkun tirrikjedi ferm inqas art.

Il-problema tal-għażla ta’ sit xorta tibqa’ imma tkun problema iżgħar u allura iktar hemm ċans li tinstab soluzzjoni. Anke l-problema tal-istorbju tibqa’ magħna imma tkun f’kuntest differenti.

Iż-żewġ elementi tal-proposta jwasslu għall-konsiderazzjonijiet differenti. Dan minħabba li korsa għat-tagħlim tas-sewqan hi ġustifikabbli fil-waqt li l-korsa għat-tlielaq, in vista taċ-ċokon tal-pajjiz u tal-impatti ambjentali, m’hiex ġustifikabbli. Il-lobby tad-dilettanti tal-karozzi għaldaqstant poġġew iż-żewġ proposti flimkien biex jippruvaw, permezz ta’ simpatija għall-proposta tat-tagħlim tas-sewqan, iżellqu ukoll il-proposta għat-tlielaq tal-karozzi.

Nagħmlu tajjeb jekk nifirdu l-proposti għax il-facilitajiet għat-tagħlim tas-sewqan m’għandhomx jispiċċaw jintużaw biex jiġġustifikaw il-korsa tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi. Tibqa’ dejjem l-uġiegħ ta’ ras tal-impatti ambjentali li jkunu jiddependu kemm mid-daqs tal-art meħtieġa kif ukoll minn fejn din l-art tkun. Imma jekk il-proposta tkun limitat għat-tagħlim tas-sewqan iktar hemm cans li tinstab soluzzjoni.

Il-petrol u d-diesil ser jorħos?

 

petrol

Nafu, għax il-medja tfakkarna l-ħin kollu, li l-prezz taż-żejt fis-swieq internazzjonali niżel sewwa. Għalfejn mela f’Malta għad ma raħsux il-prezz tal-petrol u d-diesel għall-konsumatur? Il-prezz għadu għoli meta tqabblu mal-prezzijiet fil-parti l-kbira tal-pajjiżi l-oħra tal-Unjoni Ewropea.

Għandu l-Gvern iraħħas il-prezz, jew għandu jħallih kif inhu?

Sa issa l-Gvern permezz tal-Korporazzjoni Enemalta mexa billi perjodikament aġġusta l-prezzijiet skond kemm il-petrol u id-diesel kienu ser jiġu jiswew lilu.

Il-prezz tal-petrol bla ċomb bħalissa hu ta’ €1.35 il-litru li minnhom €0.73 huma taxxi. Min-naħa l-oħra, l-prezz tad-diesel bħalissa hu ta’ €1.28 li minnhom €0.543 huma taxxi. It-taxxi fuq il-petrol u d-diesel ivarjaw minn pajjiż għall-ieħor, bħalma jvarjaw ukoll il-prezzijiet. Il-prezz tal-petrol bla ċomb f’xi pajjiżi jinbiegħ għola minn Malta. Hemm iżda diversi pajjiżi fl-Unjoni Ewropea fejn jinbiegħ orħos, fosthom is-segwenti : l-Polonja (€1.116-il litru), l-Estonia (€1.129), l-Awstrija (€1.142), il-Latvia (€1.146), il-Litwanja (€1.17), l-Ungerija (€1.173), il-Bulgarija (€1.176), il-Lussimburgo (€1.195), ir-Repubblika Ċeka (€1.221), ir-Rumanija (€1.222),  Spanja (€1.251), il-Kroatja (€1.275), Ċipru (€1.286) u s-Slovenja (€1.331).

Il-lista ta’ pajjiżi tal-UE fejn id-diesel jinbiegħ irħas minn Malta hi ferm itwal. L-irħas prezz huwa dak tal-Litwanja fejn jinbiegħ €0.93 il-litru. Min-naħa l-oħra fl-Italja jinbiegħ €1.458 u fir-Renju Unit jinbiegħ €1.509 il-litru.

Għandu jorħos il-prezz tal-petrol bla ċomb u tad-diesel f’Malta?

L-argumenti favur li jorħos il-prezz tal-petrol u d-diesel huma ta’ spejjes inqas għall-konsumatur.

L-argumenti kontra tnaqqis fil-prezz huma argumenti ta’ natura ambjentali. Għax prezz għoli ifisser attenzjoni iżjed fil-konsum filwaqt li prezz li jitbaxxa jinkoraġixxi l-laxkezza fil-konsum.

Dan l-argument biex il-prezz tal-petrol u d-diesel ma jorħosx ikun validu, anzi validu ħafna, meta jkollna transport pubbliku li jaħdem sewwa, u b’hekk ikun jista’ joffri servizz effiċjenti u alternattiv. Ilkoll nirrikonoxxu li hemm titjib fis-servizz imma dan għadu mhux biżżejjed biex iħajjar lin-nies jagħmlu iktar użu mit-trasport pubbliku flok ma jutilizzaw karozzi privati u b’hekk jonqsu l-karozzi fit-toroq tagħna.

Ilkoll nafu li l-kwalità tal-arja f’Malta l-iktar li hi effettwata hi mill-emissjonijiet tal-karozzi, kemm dawk li jużaw il-petrol kif ukoll dawk li jagħmlu użu mid-diesel. Jekk jonqsu dawn l-emmissjonjijiet ser ikollna titjib fil-kwalità tal-arja. Dan jista’ iseħħ billi jintużaw karozzi li jagħmlu użu minn teknoloġija differenti, bħall-karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku jew bil-gass, inkella billi jintuża t-trasport pubbliku flok il-karozzi privati. Dan ovvjament apparti li nimxu fejn possibli inkella li tintuża r-rota.

L-għażla, eventwalment trid issir min-nies individwalment. Imma l-Gvern dejjem jista’ jimbotta ftit biex jinkoraġixxi lil dak li jkun biex jibdel l-imġieba tiegħu u b’hekk jagħti l-kontribut tiegħu għall-kwalità tal-arja aħjar.

Tnaqqis ta’ taxxi fuq il-karozzi li ma jniġġsux hi għajnuna li bosta gvernijiet jużaw għal dan l-iskop. Il-Gvern jista’ ukoll juża l-prezz tal-fuel, kemm dak tal-petrol bla ċomb kif ukoll dak tad-diesel bħala għodda biex iħajjar inqas nies jużaw dawn il-fuels. Hemm gvernijiet li meta għandhom trasport pubbliku li jaqdi sewwa lill-pubbliku jħallu l-prezz tal-petrol bla ċomb u tad-diesel għoli. Hekk għamel għal diversi snin il-Gvern Laburista Ingliż fil-passat billi żied t-taxxi fuq il-petrol u d-diesil.

F’dak il-każ ikun jaqbillek b’tal-linja. Ikun sinjal tajjeb meta aħna ukoll naslu sa dan il-punt, nittama f’data mhux il-bogħod. Peró naħseb li għad baqa’ ftit ieħor sa ma naslu. Imma ikun għaqli kieku l-Gvern anke f’dan l-istadju jħabbar meta jippjana li naslu f’dan l-istadju, għax ma jistax ikun li jibqgħu jiżdiedu n-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq.

B’dan il-mod, anke f’Malta kif jitjieb is-servizz ikun possibli li jkun inkoraġġit in-nuqqas ta’ konsum ta’ petrol u diesel, użu iktar frekwenti tat-trasport pubbliku u inqas karozzi fit-toroq u allura ngawdu arja iktar nadifa.