L-iskart tal-fish farms barra Marsaskala

                

Nhar l-1 ta’ Mejju fit-tard, ircevejt din l-email minn sajjied part-time

Ghaziz Perit,

Qed nehmizlek ir-ritratti. Il-post huwa xi 6 kilometri l-barra minn Marsascala. Hemm borza  tal-plastic blu bl-isem ‘Coppens’ fuqha. Dik hija borza tal-ghalf tal-hut. Hemm kaxxa tal-jablo mimlija qxur u demm tal-hut. Il-bahar mimli skart tal-fish farm. Medda kbira b’hut mejjet u fdalijiet tal-hut, kollox jinten seba’ pesti. Il-wicc tal-bahar kien miksi b’liega ta’ zejt qisu mxahham. Jekk il-kurrenti u r-rih idahhluh lejn l-art, festa kbira jerga jkollna. Il-Borza u l-kaxxa gbarthom u hallejthom fuq il-luzzu (salt intiena), imma hemm hallejthom ghalissa, bhala evidenza. Il-vera nies irresponsabli!

Fil-kaz kellimni.  Tislijiet.

 

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Fl-aħħar, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tiċċaqlaq

fil-gagga

Mela fl-aħħar l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar iddeċidiet li tirtira l-permessi tal-gaġeġ tal-ħut. Daqsxejn tard. Imma aħjar tard milli qatt.

Ir-rappreżentant tal-Opposizzjoni fuq il-Bord tal-Awtorità, Ryan Callus, ukoll ivvota biex il-permessi jkunu irtirati. Tajjeb. Dan ngħidulu progress!

Jibqa’ biss il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni li ġimgħatejn ilu kellu riżervi kbar li tittieħed azzjoni, għax sfortunatament ma fehem xejn mill-ħsara kbira li qed jikkawżaw dawn l-irziezet fil-baħar.

Issa nistennew il-passi li jmiss. Li jsir ic-ċaqlieq tal-gaġeġ iktar il-barra fejn il-ħsara tkun minimizzata. Kif ukoll li l-awtoritajiet idaħħlu f’rashom darba għal dejjem li meta jitfaċċaw l-abbużi u l-irregolaritajiet għandhom jaġixxu mill-ewwel u mhux joqgħdu jipposponu.

Peró d-deċiżjoni tal-bieraħ tibqa’ waħda tajba.

 

Joseph inkwetat u Simon qalbu perżuta

fil-gagga

 

Joseph inkwetat għax l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ipposponiet bi ħmistax il-ġurnata d-deċiżjoni dwar l-irziezet tal-ħut. Simon ħa nifs il-ġewwa għax qalbu perżuta għall-ħaddiema li l-għixien tagħhom jiddependi minn dawn l-irziezet tal-ħut.

L-avukati li qed jiddefendu lil dawk li jrabbu l-ħut fil-baħar infurmaw lill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li l-egħluq ta’ dawn l-irziezet tal-ħut ikun ifisser daqqa kbira għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż għax fuq dawn il-gaġeġ kbar jiddependi 1.5% tal-prodott gross nazzjonali.

Il-Professur Victor Axiaq, li għall-grazzja t’Alla irkupra saħħtu, seta din id-darba jagħmel l-argument ambjentali dwar il-ħsara kbira li qed issir. Ħsara, emfasizza l-professor, li tista’ tittaffa biss jekk il-gaġeġ tal-ħut jinħarġu ħafna iktar il-barra mill-kosta.

Dawn ilhom iktar minn ħdax-il sena jafu li jeħtieġilhom li jiċċaqalqu għax qed jagħmlu l-ħsara. Imma meta hu magħruf li madwar nofs il-gaġeġ tal-ħut huma illegali (bla permessi jew ikbar mill-permess) bil-fors toħroġ il-mistoqsija dwar min kien qed jipproteġihom huma u jisfidaw il-liġi.

Ħdax-il sena huma iktar minn biżżejjed.

 

Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

 laudato_si_    Cry of the Earth

 

This is the title of Leonardo Boff’s seminal work on the inextricable link between social justice and environmental degradation, originally published in 1995.  Earlier, during the 1972 UN Human Environment Conference in Stockholm, it was also the rallying cry of India’s Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi who, on behalf of the developing world, forcefully insisted that poverty was inextricably linked with environmental degradation.  In Stockholm Mrs Gandhi had emphasised that “the environment cannot be improved in conditions of poverty  –  how can we speak to those who live in villages and slums about keeping the oceans, the rivers and the air clean, when their own lives are contaminated at the source?”

This is also the underlying theme of the encyclical Laudato Sì published by Pope Francis last June. It is not just a seasonal Latin American flavour at Vatican City.  The earth’s tears are continuously manifested in different ways depending on the manner in which she is maltreated .

Environmental degradation has a considerable impact on the quality of life of  us all except, that is, for the quality of life of  the select few who pocket the profits by appropriating for themselves advantages (economic or otherwise) and lumping the negative impacts on the rest.

Environmental degradation is an instrument of social injustice. Consequently, enhancing the protection of the environment is also essential to restore social justice.

The water table is subject to continuous daylight robbery: over the years it has been depleted by both authorised and unauthorised water extraction.  What is left is contaminated as a result of the impact of fertilisers as well as surface water runoff from the animal husbandry industry. Theft and acute mismanagement  are the tools used in the creation of this injustice.

The Malta Freeport has been quite successful over the years in contributing to economic growth and job creation. The price for this has, however, been paid by Birżebbuġa residents – primarily through being subjected to continuous noise pollution on a 24/7 basis. Various residential units in the area closest to the Freeport Terminal are vacant and have been so for a considerable time. A noise report commissioned as a result of the conditions of the Terminal’s environmental permit will be concluded shortly. Hopefully, the implementation of its conclusions will start the reversal of the Freeport’s negative impacts on its neighbours.

The Freeport, together with various fuel storage outlets, the Delimara Power Station (including the floating gas storage facility which will soon be a permanent feature) as well as fish-farms have together definitely converted Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port. As a result of various incidents during 2015, spills in Marsaxlokk Bay signify that Pretty Bay risks losing its title permanently.   Fortunately, Birżebbuġa residents have been spared additional impact originating from minor ship and oil-rig repairs after they reacted vociferously to a decision by the MEPA Board to permit such work at the Freeport Terminal.

Public Transport has made minor improvements but nowhere near what is required. It is essential that Malta’s congested roads are mopped up of the excessive number of cars. Improving the road infrastructure will just make it easier for more cars to roam about in our roads, thereby increasing the scale of the problem.  The major consequences are a reduced ease of access and the deterioration air quality.

We will soon be in a position to assess the impact of two other major projects: a business hub at the Malta International Airport as well as a car-racing track with various ancillary facilities. The former will take up land at the airport carpark but will have considerable impact on the surrounding villages. The car-racing track may take up as much as 110 hectares of land outside the development zone and have a considerable impact on both nature and local residents in the areas close to where it will be developed.

The list of environmental impacts that we have to endure is endless.

I could also have included the impact of the Malta Drydocks and the consequent squeezing out of residents from the Three Cities as a result of its operations, primarily as a result of sandblasting, in the 1970s and 1980s. I could also have added the impact of the waste recycling plant at Marsaskala and the refusal of the authorities to finance studies on the impact of its operations on the health of residents, or else the impact of the operation of petrol stations close to and within various residential areas.

The size of the Maltese islands is limited. A number of the abovementioned  activities/developments  are essential, but others are not. However, it stands to reason that we should not bear the brunt of non-essential activities or developments. This should lead us to plan more carefully so that  the impacts of the activities that are essential are adequately addressed.

As evidenced by the above list, unfortunately over the years those taking decisions betrayed their responsibilities towards the common good, seeking, instead the interests of the select few thereby compounding social injustices.

This is Malta’s contribution to the accumulated tears of Mother Earth.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 January 2016

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