The farce continues

gas at Marsaxlokk

Tomorrow, the Environment and Resources Authority will meet in public to consider the approval of an amendment to the IPPC permit regulating the operations of the power station at Delimara. It is an amendment to an already existing permit as a result of which a definite decision concerning the switch-over to gas-operated turbines will be taken.

The Environment and Resources Authority has been in operation for some months – since February – but this will be the first time it will be possible to observe it in action in a public session.

Last Thursday the Authority, through its secretary to the ‘Environmental permitting-Development Control Commission’ informed those who had taken part in the public consultation that a 71-page document containing responses to feedback received during the public consultation was available online at http://era.org.mt/en/Pages/IPPC-Public-Consultation.aspx.

We are now accustomed to having important information being made available (if at all) at a very late hour and at a time when most people interested in the Delimara public debate are preparing for a well-earned Christmas break.

The document made available last Thursday afternoon, just one working day before the public hearing, is the only document containing the views of the Authority on the subject, even though these views are mostly expressed telegraphically. At the time of writing, I am not aware of the recommendation which the Environment Directorate has submitted for the consideration of the Board of the Authority, that is whether and to what extent it is satisfied with the documentation submitted for its consideration.

The said documentation runs to over 15,000 pages spread into around 300 files of different sizes which could not be adequately examined during the short time available for public consultation, even though this was slightly extended.

Public opinion is not worried about the change to LNG in the operation of the power station. It is, however, still worried about issues of safety. These worries are compounded by the fact that a document prepared by the Civil Protection Department regarding the External Emergency Plan for the Delimara Power Station has been partly excluded from the public consultation exercise. As already stated in a previous article (TMIS, 27 November: A Secret Plan for Delimara) this runs counter to the provisions of the Seveso III Directive of the European Union which has been transposed into the Maltese Statute book through the Control of Major Hazard Regulations of 2015 which provides that: “The Civil Protection Department shall ensure that the public concerned is given early opportunity to give its opinion on external emergency plans when they are being established or substantially modified.”

The Civil Protection Department is failing in its duty to consult. However, by failing to act on the Civil Protection Department’s dereliction of duty, the Environment and Resources Authority, as the ultimate regulator on the matter, is transforming this failure into an abusive exercise of its authority.

How is it possible to voice your opinion on a document that is still shrouded in secrecy?

This is only possible if what should be public consultation is transformed into a farce. The farce continues tomorrow – Monday.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 18 December 2016

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Konsultazzjoni ħierġa minn widnejna?

cpd-external-emergency-plan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ir-riskji tat-tanker tal-gass

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

Ilna iktar minn tliet snin nargumentaw fuq il-ħażna tal-gass għall-power station ġdida li kienet issue ċentrali fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali.

Qabel l-elezzjoni l-ħażna kienet proposta li issir fuq l-art. Wara l-elezzjoni nbidlu l-pjani u saret il-proposta għall-ħażna fuq il-baħar.

Tajjeb li niftakru li fi tmiem is-snin 90 kien hemm diskussjonijiet dettaljati mat-Taljani tal-AGIP dwar il-kostruzzjoni ta’ pipeline tal-gass bejn Gela fi Sqallija u Marsaxlokk. Il-ftehim ma twettaqx għax kieku ilna 20 sena bil-gass u t-tanker ma kienx ikun hemm bżonnu.

Il-Gvern ħabbar xi xhur ilu li t-tanker tal-gass sorġut fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk ser ikun qiegħed hemm temporanjament sakemm ikunu iffinalizzati l-proċeduri kollha neċessarji biex isir il-pipeline tal-gass.

Meta kien hemm id-diskussjoni dwar il-power station il-ġdida quddiem il-Bord tal-MEPA xi sentejn ilu konna iddiskutejna f’ċerta dettall id-diffikultajiet li konna qed nantiċipaw dwar dan it-tanker tal-gass. Dawn essenzjalment kienu tnejn. L-ewwel l-impatt tal-maltemp fuq it-tanker innifsu kif ukoll fuq il-vapuri  fil-viċinanzi, prinċipalment dawk fil-Port  Ħieles imma ukoll l-impatt fuq is-sajjieda. It-tieni dwar il-miżuri ta’ sigurtá biex ikunu evitati inċidenti u f’kaz li dawn xorta jseħħu jkunu minimizzati l-konsegwenzi.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ser ikunu ippubblikati r-rapporti li saru u terġa tiftaħ beraħ id-diskussjoni.

Naħseb li kulħadd jieħu pjaċir kieku dawn il-problemi jissolvew.

L-istandards ta’ sigurtá fl-industrija tal-gass ifissru li dwar issues ta’ sigurtá u periklu, r-riskju possibilment ikun minimizzat kif kienu rrappurtaw l-esperti George Papadakis u Roberto Vaccari, kwazi tlett snin ilu. Hemm ukoll il-materja tas-sigurtá marittima li għad irridu naraw x’miżuri effettivi ser jittieħdu. Għax s’issa ftit huwa magħruf sakemm naraw ir-rapporti u naqrawhom sew.

Ir-riskji ħadd ma hu ser jeliminhom. Bla dubju hemm kull interess li dawn jonqsu l-iktar possibli. Imma kemm fil-fatt jonqsu  għad irridu naraw. Kif wara kollox irridu naraw min ser iħallas il-prezz. U l-prezz, tajjeb li niftakru, ma jitħallasx biss bl-euro.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : 17 t’Ottubru 2016

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.

Il-klijenti ta’ Victor Axiak u Timothy Gambin

Delimara EIA contents

 

Fl-artiklu tagħha tal-bieraħ il-Ħadd fuq is-Sunday Times intitolat Of hats and despicability, Claire Bonello identifikat problema oħra kbira konnessa mal-proċess tal-permessi tat-torrijiet tal-Imrieħel u Tas-Sliema (Townsquare).

Victor Axiak u Timothy Gambin fil-passat riċenti kellhom fost il-klijenti tagħhom lill-gruppi ta’ Gasan u ta’ Tumas li jiffurmaw parti mill-konsortium li twaqqaf għall-Power Station tal-Gass f’Delimara. Għalihom Victor Axiak u Timothy Gambin għamlu xogħol li kien jikkonsisti fi studji dwar impatti ambjentali ta’ dak il-proġett. Axiak dwar l-ekoloġija marittima u Gambin dwar l-arkejoloġija marittima. Ir-ritratt ta’ hawn fuq juri paġna mir-rapport tal-EIA dwar il-power station li taħdem bil-gass f’Delimara bl-ismijiet ta’ Axiak u Gambin u l-oqsma li rrappurtaw dwarhom.

Il-mistoqsija ċara hi jekk hux etiku li Axiak u Gambin jieħdu sehem f’laqgħat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li fihom jagħtu l-opinjoni u jiddeċiedu dwar applikazzjonijiet tal-klijenti tagħhom.

Axiak ma attendiex għal uħud mil-laqgħat. Imma la hu u l-anqas Gambin ma ħassew il-ħtieġa li jgħidu li għandhom xi konflitt ta’ interess. Din x’serjetà hi?

L-imġieba korretta mhiex qegħda għall-politiċi biss iżda ukoll għal kull min hu involut fit-teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet.

Bejn il-Freeport u t-tanker tal-gass : min jagħmel l-iktar ħsara?

gas at Marsaxlokk

 

Bħalissa għaddejjin numru ta’ argumenti bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista dwar il-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk. Dwar il-kuntrast bejn l-impatti tal-Freeport u dawk tat-tanker tal-gass li dalwaqt ikun qiegħed fi triqtu lejn Malta minn Singapore!

Il-Partit Laburista fl-aħħar induna li l-Freeport għandu impatt negattiv fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Qed ngħid li fl-aħħar induna, għax għal numru kbir ta’ snin ħadd mill-Partit Laburista ma fetaħ ħalqu dwar dan is-suġġett. Inkluż meta l-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista kollu, unanimament, ivvota favur li l-konnċessjoni tat-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles lis-CMA-CGM tiżdied minn 30 għal 65 sena. Dakinnhar ħadd mill-Partit Laburista ma kellu riżervi favur ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Imma biż-żmien il-Partit Laburista fetaħ għajnejħ. Iktar għall-konvenjenza milli b’konvinzjoni. Imma fetaħhom.

Allura issa li l-Partit Laburista fetaħ għajnejh dwar il-Freeport qed jakkuża lill-Partit Nazzjonalista li hu ma jimpurtahx mill-impatti fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Kif kien il-Partit Laburista sa ftit ilu!

Ir-risposta tal-Partit Nazzjonalista, kif antiċipat, hi emfasi fuq it-tanker tal-ħażna tal-gass li ser ikun sorġut fil-Bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk għal numru ta’ snin sakemm isir il-pipeline tal-gass bejn Malta u Sqallija.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista jridu jdaħħqu dwar min għamel l-iktar ħsara!

Ir-realtà hi li l-ħsara jagħmluha t-tnejn imma din m’hiex ħsara komparabbli.

Il-ħsara kkawżata mill-Freeport Terminal hi riżultat ta’ ippjanar ħażin li ma qiesx l-impatti tal-operat tal-Freeport Terminal fuq ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Huwa nuqqas li jmur lura sal-1962, li seta jkun ikkoreġut fis-snin tmenin u li minflok sar agħar bil-plots għad-djar li ħareġ il-Gvern fil-viċinanżi!

Il-ħsara li jista’ jikkawża t-tanker tal-gass hi li jqarreb il-periklu (anke jekk remot) lejn ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Hawn ukoll hawn nuqqas ta’ ippjanar. Imma tajjeb, for the record, niftakru li l-Gvern Taljan permezz tal-ENI fl-1999 ried jagħmel il-pipeline tal-gass bejn Malta u Sqallija. Imma l-Gvern, dakinnhar immexxi mill-PN, ma wasalx għal ftehim!

Kieku l-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista ippjana l-politika tal-enerġija sewwa ilna iktar minn 10 snin li qlibna għall-gass u bla dubju ma jkunx hemm bżonn l-ebda tanker tal-gass!

Allura, ser jibqgħu għaddejjin biha dwar min għamel l-iktar ħsara?

Wara t-tejatrin ta’ Singapore …………….. lil hinn mill-partiġjaniżmu politiku

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

 

Qed joqrob il-jum li fih it-tanker għall-ħażna tal-gass tal-power station jidħol u jitqiegħed fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Qed jgħidulna li dan ser ikun temporanju, jiġifieri għal ftit taż-żmien, sakemm jitlestew l-istudji dwar il-pipline tal-gass bejn Sqallija u Malta. Ovvjament trid iżżid ukoll iż-żmien biex il-pipeline jitqieghed f’qiegħ il-baħar inkluż ukoll il-perjodu tal-finanzjament, tendering u commissioning. Mhux xahar u tnejn.

Kemm ser ikun twil dan il-perjodu temporanju? Jiddependi mix-xogħol li sar diġà. Peró ma neħodiex bi kbira jekk dan iż-żmien ikun bejn 5 u 8 snin.

Sadanittant hemm il-ħtieġa li jkun ikkunsidrat il-permess operattiv tal-power station taħdem bil-gass f’Delimara. Dan il-permess ikun irid jissodisfa tlett tipi ta’ direttivi/regolamenti. Dawk dwar l-impjanti industrijali, dawk dwar l-impatti ambjentali (IPPC – Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) u dawk dwar il-ħarsien minn inċidenti industrijali u l-impatti kemm ambjentali kif ukoll dawk ta’ protezzjoni ċivili (Direttivi ta’ Seveso).

Dan kollu jkun ikkunsidrat mill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u Riżorsi flimkien ma’ awtoritajiet oħra, prinċipalment id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili u l-Awtorità għall-Ħarsien tas-Saħħa fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol. Imma ser ikun hemm ukoll bla dubju ħtieġa  ta’ eżami sewwa ta’ issues ta’ navigazzjoni minn Trasport Malta minħabba kemm it-tanker stazzjonarju (marbut mal-moll) fil-bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk kif ukoll minħabba li madwar 8 darbiet fis-sena ser jidħlu tankers bil-ħtiġijiet tal-gass skond kemm tkun qed tikkonsma gass il-Power Station ta’ Delimara.

Dawn huma kollha affarijiet li ġew diskussi f’ċerta dettall madwar sentejn ilu meta kien qed ikun diskuss il-permess ta’ żvilupp quddiem il-MEPA. Dakinnhar kien intqal li dawn kollha kienu affarijiet li riedu jkunu deċiżi iktar tard. Preċiżament issa hu dak il-mument, matul dawn il-ġimgħat u xhur li ġejjin.

Ser naraw matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ sigurtà huwa u jkun trasferit il-gass mit-tankers ġejjin u sejrin għal ġot-tanker stazzjonarju. Jekk hux veru li għal ċertu ħin il-port ikun jeħtieġlu illi jkun magħluq u kif dan (jekk minnu) ser jeffettwa l-operat tal Freeport u tas-sajjieda.

Irridu naraw kemm il-miżuri ta’ sigurtà fl-operazzjoni tal-power station huma f’posthom u xi drills ser ikunu meħtieġa (inkluż il-frekwenza tagħhom) biex ikun assigurat illi l-popolazzjoni residenzjali fil-viċinanzi tkun imħejjija għal kull eventwalità, anke jekk remota.

Wara l-inċidenti ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa fil-ħruq tan-nar tal-festa ta’ Marsaxlokk bla dubju jridu jittieħdu prewkazzjonijiet ħafna iktar biex ikun assigurat li dawn it-tip ta’ inċidenti, jekk iseħħu, jinżammu l-bogħod kemm jista’ jkun mill-power station ta’ Delimara u l-ħażna tal-gass.

Dan kollu dwaru hemm l-obbligu li jkun hemm konsultazzjoni pubblika mar-residenti effettwati, dawk ta’ Marsaxlokk prinċipalment, imma probabbilment ukoll dawk ta’ Birżebbuġa.

L-operazzjoni tal-power station bil-gass bla dubju ser tnaqqas it-tniġġż tal-arja u b’mod ġenerali ittejjeb l-impatti ambjentali. Il-kostruzzjoni tal-pipe tal-gass eventwalment tnaqqas u tbiegħed il-perikli. Imma sa ma jasal dak il-jum, il-possibiltà tal-perikli, anke jekk remoti xorta qegħda wara l-bieb tagħna.

Lil hinn mill-partiġġjaniżmu politiku għandna l-obbligu li nassiguraw li l-affarijiet isiru sewwa. Biex dan isir għandna l-obbligu li neżaminaw kull pass li jsir. Għax b’hekk biss kulħadd joqgħod attent li jagħmel xogħolu sewwa.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tlieta 2 t’Awwissu 2016

The Freeport: who pays the price for its economic success?

freeport.aerial viw

 

There are conflicting views on the acceptability or otherwise of the operations of the Freeport Terminal at Kalafrana, limits of Birżebbuġa. Throughout the years, governments have repeatedly emphasised that the Freeport’s contribution to Malta’s economic growth justifies practically anything. It has been implied that no sacrifice was to be spared for the Freeport to be transformed into an economic success.

As a result, the residential community of Birżebbuġa has been forced to sacrifice its quality of life.

Putting it briefly, it is the result of a lack of planning prior to the setting up of the Planning Authority. Land required for the Freeport was expropriated as far back as 1962, yet a considerable residential area was developed close by in the mid-1980s. No suitable buffer zones were created to shield the Birżebbuġa community from the operational impacts of the Freeport. Had this been done when the Freeport was not even on the drawing board, the present day problems would have been substantially less than what they actually are today.

A major issue is the noise generated, particularly during the quiet hours. Advisors to the Freeport Terminal recently submitted the results of a 12-month noise monitoring survey which was conducted over the period February 2014 to January 2015. The report lists a number of recommended remedial measures, both those required in the short term as well as those requiring a longer time frame to implement. The 15 short-term measures and the seven long-term ones are no guarantee that issues of acoustic pollution will disappear. Reductions in impacts are anticipated even though no projections have yet been made as to whether these will be cancelled out by impacts resulting from an increase in operations at the Freeport Terminal.

A major contributor to noise pollution originating from the Freeport Terminal during the quiet hours is the humming of the main and auxiliary engines of the berthed vessels in port. It is for this specific reason that the Environmental Monitoring Committee at the Freeport Terminal (which includes representation from the Birżebbuġa Local Council) has insisted right through that the shore to ship electrical supply to vessels berthed at the Freeport Terminal should be addressed.

The final report of the 12-month noise survey in fact points at the necessity of undertaking studies on the feasibility of this proposal. This is in line with the 8 May 2006 Recommendation of the Commission of the European Union on the promotion of shore-side electricity for use by ships at berth in community ports (Recommendation 2006/339/EC).

The EU recommendation is specifically intended to be considered by EU ports “where air quality limit values are exceeded or where public concern is expressed about high levels of noise nuisance, and especially in berths situated near residential areas” .

The above makes the point on a reduction of the quality of life of the residential community as a result of just one issue: noise. Then there are other issues amongst which light pollution (resulting from the floodlights at the terminal), which issue is being addressed, as well as the lack of availability of a substantial portion of Marsaxlokk Bay which cannot be adequately used for water sports. Add to this the large number of sports facilities which the British Services developed in the past in the Birżebbuġa Area, most of which have been gobbled up by the development of the Freeport and one gets a real feel as to what the Freeport has done to the quality of life of the Birżebbuġa community.

The development of a waterpolo pitch to replace that constructed in the 60s as well as the development of a football ground, both in the final stages of completion will reduce these impacts. But they will certainly not be sufficient for a community which had so many more sports facilities when it was so much smaller.

To be fair, the Freeport Terminal is not the only contributor to the reduction of the Birżebbuġa residents’ quality of life. Generally, it is the result of the gradual industrialisation of the Marsaxlokk Port over the last thirty years. The addition of the floating gas storage facility servicing the gas-fired Delimara Power Station in the coming weeks (or months) will further increase these problems.

The concerns of ordinary people have been ignored for far too long. Maybe this is why the Prime Minister commented earlier this week on the undesirability of any further expansion of the Freeport Terminal. Possibly he has, at this late hour, realised the extent of the mess which has been created.

The time to clean up is long overdue.

published  on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 July 2016

Pass il-quddiem għal Joseph Muscat dwar il-Port Ħieles

freeport.aerial viw

Il-kumment ta’ Joseph Muscat il-bieraħ  waqt il-konferenza ta’ Ernst & Young li huwa [jiġifieri li l-Gvern immexxi minnu] jippreferi li l-Port Ħieles itejjeb l-effiċjenza tiegħu flok ma jespandi kien kumment addattat.

B’dan il-kumment issa ġie jaqbel ma Alternattiva Demokratika f’xi ħaġa oħra. Għax kif għidna bosta drabi aħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika l-Port Ħieles huwa viċin wisq in-nies u m’huwiex fl-interess tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa li jibqa’ jespandi. Diġa l-Port Ħieles għandu impatt qawwi fuq il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti: bit-tniġġiż li joriġina mill-ħsejjes, bit-tniġġiz li joriġina mid-dwal qawwija kif ukoll bl-impatti sostanzjali fuq il-bajja. Huwa importanti li dawn l-impatti jonqsu mhux jiżdiedu.

Bid-dikjarazzjoni tiegħu Joseph Muscat qed jaċċetta dan kollu. Prosit. Pass kbir il-quddiem favur il-komunità ta’ Birżebbuġa. Fl-aħħar nista’ ngħid li mhux Alternattiva Demokratika biss qed tisma’ l-karba tan-nies!

L-aħħar punt: mhux il-Port Ħieles biss qiegħed inaqqas il-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies ta’ Birżebbuġa. Issa daqt ikollna ukoll it-tanker tal-gass. Imma dwar dan ma naqblux. Tkellimna dwaru fil-passat u jkollna l-opportunità li ngħidu iktar fil-futur.

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