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

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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

F’Birżebbuġa, issa l-pass li jmiss.

Noise Report 2015.draft

 

Nigel Mifsud, il-bieraħ, fuq TVM, spjega f’rapport konċiż u informattiv, kif issa, hemm il-provi li l-kontributur ewlieni għat-tniġġiż mill-ħsejjes f’Birżebbuġa hu l-Port Ħieles.

Biex inkun preċiż ir-rapport dwar l-impatti tal-ħsejjes mill-Port Ħieles fuq Birżebbuġa għadu mhux lest għal kollox. L-istudju lest u l-ewwel abbozz tar-rapport ġie diskuss. Jonqos issa li jsiru l-aħħar irtokki biex ikun konkluż ir-rapport finali.

Li sar l-istudju huwa importanti ħafna. Għax issa hemm il-provi li dak li ilhom jgħidu r-residenti hu minnu. Huwa ukoll ikkwantifikat.

Imma tajjeb li nifhmu li biex l-istudju sar kien hemm ħtieġa ta’ ħafna ħidma. Minnu innifsu kien ukoll proċess edukattiv li fih imxew flimkien il-MEPA, l-Port Ħieles u l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa.

Kienet triq twila, għax għal bidu mhux kulħadd kien konvint li dik kienet it-triq. Anke matul it-triq kien hemm min ġieli qata’ qalbu. Imma fl-aħħar wasalna. U biex wasalna għandhom mertu diversi persuni.

Dan hu awgurju tajjeb fi tmiem din is-sena. Li bil-paċenzja hu possibli li tasal.

Issa irridu bl-istess ħeġġa nagħmlu l-passi li jmiss: li jittieħdu l-miżuri neċessarji biex il-ħoss jonqos.

Għax, kif dejjem ngħid: hu tajjeb li l-Port Ħieles jagħti kontribut għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiz. Dan il-kontribut, iżda, m’għandux inaqqas il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa.

Hi rebħa kbira, mhux biss għal Birżebbuġa, li wasalna sa hawn. Inħarsu l-quddiem b’kuraġġ. I

ppubblikat ukoll fuq iNews : l-Erbgħa 30 ta’ Diċembru 2015

 

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

Symbolic gestures do not compensate for planning failures

MFT.4 new cranes

Last Thursday, the MEPA Board finally decided to approve the Freeport Terminal’s application to install four cranes with 140-metre high jibs at the terminal. This decision was taken after the Board, in an anticipated about-turn, accepted a second declaration from Transport Malta as a recommendation for approval of the proposal.

In August, Transport Malta had pointed out that the installation of these new cranes was “not desirable” as, due to their height, they would “penetrate one of the established aeronautical protection surfaces by circa 18m”. However notwithstanding the conclusion that, for this reason, the Freeport’s proposal was not considered as undesirable, “given the importance of this facility to the economy”  Transport Malta gave its go-ahead to the Freeport’s proposal subject to a number of mitigation measures.

The Freeport facilities are too close to the residential area of Birżebbuġa and, over the years, MEPA has not given sufficient consideration to the impact that this facility has had – and is still having – on the quality of life of the residential community.

At no point during its consideration of the various planning applications submitted over the years has MEPA considered it necessary to consider the social impact of this economic activity. In fact, primarily as a result of the Freeport’s operations, most of the sport facilities in the area, introduced by the British services over the years, have disappeared. It is only recently that the extensive damage to the waterpolo pitch was made good,  through the reconstruction of a new waterpolo pitch. The activities of the Sailing Club, which  borders the terminal, have also been badly affected as a result of the increase in the number of ships making use of the terminal. The Birżebbuġa Sailing Club, ironically sponsored by the Freeport itself, is the only one of its kind in Malta’s political south.

Last Thursday, MEPA, despite opposition from the Freeport Terminal management, decided on compensating the Birżebbuġa community through the creation of an ad hoc fund to the amount of €955,000 to fund environmental improvement projects in the Birżebbuġa area. It is the second time in six years that MEPA has considered it necessary to take such a symbolic decision. The first time was in 2009, when a fund of €741,820 was created for the same purpose. That decision was, however, quashed by the Lawrence Gonzi-led Cabinet as a result of the planning appeal process, even though the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal  in an 11-page recommendation, explained why the original decision was to be confirmed.

The decision to create this latest ad hoc fund is symbolic in that it recognises the Freeport’s negative impact on the local community. It will not, however, have any substantial effect. It is just a symbolic recognition of the fact that the contribution of the Freeport Terminal to Malta’s economic growth is being achieved at the expense of the quality of life of Birżebbuġa residents.

It  is known that a number of residential properties in the area closest to the terminal have been vacant for a considerable time, as the noise generated through its operation is at times unbearable, irrespective of the time of day.

This is certainly a major failure of land-use planning in Malta, a failure that will be compounded in the coming months when other major planning decisions –  such as the gas storage facilities for the Delimara Power Station just across the bay from the Freeport Terminal – come into operation.

The transformation of Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port is now practically complete and, gradually, a substantial number of residents will be squeezed out.  It is the same process as that experienced by the Three Cities at Cottonera as a result of the activities of Malta Drydocks. The results can be seen by all.  Soon, the shedding of crocodile tears will commence and then the rehabilitation of Marsaxlokk Bay may possibly be planned.

originally published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 December 2015

Il-krejnijiet tal-Port Ħieles

Freeport 2015

 

Għada l-Ħamis, il-Bord tal-MEPA ser jiddiskuti l-applikazzjoni  (PA 3859/14) biex ikunu stallati numru ta’ krejnijiet mill-kbar: b’għoli ta’ 140 metru.

L-applikazzjoni għadha mhiex deċiża, imma l-krejnijiet diġa huma stallati. Attitudni  arroganti ta’ min jippretendi li għalih l-applikazzjoni hi biss formalità. Waqt li l-applikazzjoni għad ma ġietx deċiża dawn il-krejnijiet ġew ordnati, inħadmu, u ġew trasportati lejn Malta u tqegħdu ukoll fuq il-post.

Il-Bord tal-MEPA għadu ma ħax deċiżjoni dwar dawn il-krejnijiet minħabba li l-parir li sal-lum tat Transport Malta kien wieħed ambigwu.

Fil-fatt, f’Awwissu li għadda Transport Malta f’ittra indirizzata lill-MEPA qalet li dawn il-krejnijiet jidħlu madwar 18-il metru fiż-żona riżervata għall-ajruplani, u li f’ċirkustanzi oħra ma jkunux permessi. Imma minħabba tal-importanza tal-Port Ħieles għall-ekonomija, għal darba biss, dawn ser ikunu kkunsidrati.

L-ittra tuża l-kliem “this situation is not desirable”.

Transport Malta, l-ewwel u qabel kollox, għandha responsabbiltà biex tħares is-sigurtà tan-nies. Mhux biss ta’ dawk li jagħmlu użu mill-ajruplani imma anke tal-ħaddiema tal-Port Ħieles u tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa. Ma jistax ikun għaldaqstant li tieħu din l-attitudni : li tikkomprometti s-sigurtà, u dan għall-ebda raġuni.

Nittamaw li Transport Malta tkun iktar ċara għax s’issa qagħdet iddur mal-lewża.

Freeport cranes advice 0815

 

Issa li l-MEPA stenbħet …………..

alarm clock 2

Id-deċiżjoni tal-Bord tal-MEPA nhar il-Ħamis li għadda hi deċiżjoni li għal darba tagħti każ tar-residenti.  Tajjeb li l-MEPA stenbħet, għax sal-lum konna drajna deċiżjonijiet li ftit li xejn jagħtu kaz tan-nies.

Hemm bżonn li jkun dejjem iktar ċar għal kulħadd li l-ħidma ekonomika trid tagħti każ in-nies, għax inkella iktar tagħmel ħsara milli ġid.

Tul is-snin, il-Port Ħieles tħalla jersaq dejjem iktar qrib ir-residenzi. L-impatt tal-istorbju tul 24 siegħa huwa esaġerat f’kull ħin, imma l-iktar matul is-siegħat tal-mistrieħ.

Għalhekk, meta nhar il-Ħamis il-MEPA ma ħallietx li jsir iktar tħammil mal-moll l-iktar viċin tar-residenzi (Terminal 1, West Quay) kienet qed jillimita l-attività ta’ vapuri ta’ daqs ikbar f’żona fejn joħolqu l-iktar impatt negattiv.

Jiena sodisfatt imma sorpriż b’din id-deċiżjoni, u nittama li jkun hemm iktar deċiżjonijiet bħal din. Għax issa li l-MEPA stenbħet ikun xieraq li ma terġax torqod.

Smelling the coffee

 

extract MT freeport crane clearancesmell the coffee

Last Thursday was one of those very rare occasions when the MEPA Board, considering two different development applications submitted by the Freeport Terminal operator, decided on the one which will be beneficial to Birżebbuġa residents.

I must confess that I was surprised at this, as I am accustomed to a MEPA which thinks and acts differently. I do not know whether Thursday’s sitting was a one-off or else whether it signals that the Authority has at last realised that the quality of life of our communities should be the real focus of its endeavours. Only time will tell.

The first application was to renew an approved permit in connection with  dredging work aimed at enabling larger ships to make use of the West Quay of Terminal 1. The second application proposed the installation of larger cranes with 140-metre jibs. The cranes currently in use have 110-metre jibs.

After repeated representations from the Birżebbuġa local council, as well as Birżebbuġa residents, MEPA-weeks before Thursday’s meeting- informed the Freeport Terminal Operator that siting these large cranes along the West Quay of Terminal 1 was unacceptable due to their impact on the quality of life of  residents, a number of whom live just across the road from the Freeport Terminal boundary wall.

The management of the Freeport Terminal complied with MEPA’s instructions to relocate the 140-metre jib cranes. This, however, begged the further question as to whether or not the pending dredging work was, in fact, now required.

The MEPA Board unanimously accepted the submission from the local council that, in view of the relocation of the cranes, there was no further need for the dredging permit and this was therefore not renewed.

Regarding the second application, seeking authorisation to replace a number of existing cranes with 110-metre jibs with more modern models having 140-jibs, the local council sought an explanation as to why a proposal for the siting of a power station close by – at il-Mara Bengħajsa (with an 80-metre high chimney) in the late 1980s was shot down by the Civil Aviation authorities, who are now accepting the installation of 140-metre high jibs.

During the discussion, it transpired that the clearance issued by Transport Malta was ambiguous. In fact, Transport Malta stated that the 140-metre jib cranes “will penetrate one of the established aeronautical protection surfaces by circa 18m and although this situation is not desirable, given the importance of this facility to the economy, on exceptional basis and without prejudice to any future request it is being considered acceptable subject to the following mitigations ………………”

You have read correctly. The 140-metre jib cranes are “not desirable” yet they are “being considered acceptable” by Transport Malta due to the importance of the Freeport to the economy.

The MEPA Chairman is insisting that Transport Malta owes us an explanation. He could have added that safety should not be compromised for any reason, including “economic importance”.

In a further twist in the whole saga, the Freeport Terminal management proceeded with the installation of the new cranes without waiting for a MEPA decision on the development permit requested.

Public opinion has been repeatedly critical of MEPA for its insensitivity to the impact of developments on residents in various localities. Economic operators were afforded  sufficient protection to be able to over-ride the growing environmental concerns of our communities.

The same MEPA Board which, last Thursday, unanimously decided to refuse the renewal of a development permit to carry out dredging work had, 18 months ago, voted by a large majority in favour of changes to the Freeport’s environmental permit such that it would have been permissible to carry out repairs to ships and oil rigs at the Kalafrana Terminal.  It was only at the insistence of the Birżebbuġa Local Council that the Freeport Terminal management opted not to use the permit issued.

The question to which I seek an answer to is whether Thursday’s events signify that MEPA has awoken up from its slumber and smelled the coffee  It would indeed be commendable if it is capable of standing up to corporate (and state) arrogance.

Ending MEPA’s Rip van Winkle phase would signify that, after all, the possibility to improve the quality of life in Malta through better environment protection does exist, after all. But time is running out.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 22 November 2015

Meta l-MEPA tiftaħ għajnejha

freeport.aerial viw

 

Il-bieraħ kont preżenti għal-laqgħa tal-Bord tal-MEPA fejn fost affarijiet oħra ġew diskussi żewġ applikazzjonijiet dwar il-Port Ħieles. Kont qed nassisti lill-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa.

Waħda minn dawn l-applikazzjonijiet kienet biex isir xogħol ta’ dredging ħdejn il-moll tal-Port Ħieles l-iktar viċin tar-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa (West Quay ta’ Terminal 1). L-oħra kienet dwar l-istallazzjoni ta’ krejnijiet ġodda ta’ għoli ta’ 140 metru.

Il-krejnijiet  il-ġodda għall-ewwel kienu destinati biex jitqegħdu fuq il-West Quay ta’ Terminal 1 ukoll. Imma wara li l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa u bosta residenti oġġezzjonaw għal dan, il-MEPA insistiet mal-Port Ħieles li post il-krejnijiet kellu jinbidel għax dak propost ma kienx aċċettabbli.

Il-maniġment tal-Port Ħieles aċċetta li l-krejnijiet jitqegħdu iktar il-bogħod mir-residenzi f’Birżebbuġa.

Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, il-konsegwenza logika kienet waħda ovvja : jekk il-krejniet ma kienux ser jitqegħdu fil-West Quay ta’ Terminal 1 xi ħtieġa kien għad baqa’ li jsir ix-xogħol tad–dredging?  Ir-residenti  kellhom id-dritt li jkollhom insurance minn attività fil-Port Ħieles li toħloqilhom inkonvenjent.  Dan il-permess li kienu qed jitolbu l-Port Ħieles ma kienx hemm iktar bżonnu.

Jiena ma ridtx nemmen lil widnejja iktar tard meta b’vot unanimu l-Bord tal-MEPA iddeċieda favur Birżebbuġa meta qal le għal iktar xogħol ta’ dredging fil-Port Ħieles. Flimkien miegħi taw kontribut kbir fid-diskussjoni s-Sindku ta’ Birżebbuġa Kevin Barun, il-predeċessur tiegħu r-“Ricky” Joseph Farrugia u l-Onor. Marlene Farrugia u John Grech mill-għaqda ambjentali Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group.

L-applikazzjoni dwar il-krejnijiet waqfet ukoll u dan minħabba li hemm bżonn li l-parir tal-awtoritajiet tal-avjazzjoni ċivili jkun wieħed ċar. S’issa jidher li dawn qed iduru mal-lewża għax il-krejnijiet huma għoljin wisq u x’aktarx li jinfdu l-flightpath riżervat għall-ajruplani. Jekk dan hu hekk jista’ jkun ta’ periklu.

Jiena għalija din kienet esperjenza ġdida. Ma nafx lill-MEPA taħdem b’dan il-mod. Is-soltu tibqa’ għaddejja qiesha romblu minn fuq id-drittijiet tar-residenti. Jidher li l-bieraħ il-MEPA fetħet għajnejha beraħ.

Nittama li ma tagħlaqhomx iktar. Għax meta l-MEPA tiftaħ għajnejha hemm ċans tajjeb li dan jirrifletti ruħu fi kwalità ta’ ħajja aħjar għalina lkoll.

Mhux biss f’Birżebbuġa, iżda kullimkien.