L-Ippjanar rasu l-isfel

Nhar l-Erbgħa, l-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar beda d-diskussjoni dwar jekk għandux ikun hemm tibdil fil-politika dwar il-pompi tal-petrol (u d-disil) (Fuel Service Stations Policy) tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Bla dubju kien xprunat mid-deċiżjonijiet riċenti tal-istess awtorità dwar pompi tal-petrol f’f’Burmarrad, Marsaskala u l-Magħtab. Hemm applikazzjonijiet pendenti għal pompi ġodda f’Ħ’Attard, l-Imqabba u l-Iklin fil-waqt li hemm madwar 60 pompa oħra qed jistennew il-permessi mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar biex itejbu l-faċilitajiet inkluż protezzjoni ambjentali u dan minn total eżistenti ta’ 85 pompa.

Il-kummenti validi kienu bosta. Ikkonċentraw l-iktar fuq il-ħtieġa li l-pompi tal-petrol fiż-żona urbana jingħalqu u li dawn jiċċaqalqu xi mkien ieħor. Ftit iżda kien hemm ħeġġa biex tkun diskussa l-qalba tal-materja: xi bżonn għandna tal-pompi tal-petrol?

Madwar ħames xhur ilu, il-Prim Ministru, wara li għal darba oħra ħares ħarsa sewwa lejn il-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tal-2017, ħabbar, li l-Gvern immexxi minnu kien ser jagħti bidu għal process ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika. Dan biex jistabilixxi data minn meta karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-disil ma jkunux jistgħu jinbiegħu iktar biex minflok ikollna karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku. Ma smajna xejn iktar dwar dan ħlief artiklu miktub mill-Ministru tat-Trasport Ian Borg entużjażmat li fis-snin li ġejjin ser nimxu fuq il-passi ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej oħra.

Il-Prim Ministru, bir-raġun kollu emfasizza li din il-bidla fil-politika tal-Gvern kienet meħtieġa minħabba li l-emmissjonijiet tal-karozzi kienu l-ikbar sors ta’ tniġġiż tal-arja fil-pajjiż. Għalfejn dan id-dewmien kollu biex ikunu stabiliti u mħabbra d-dettalji ta’ din id-deċiżjoni tajba? Uħud mill-pajjiżi Ewropej ilhom żmien li għamlu dan. In-Norveġja u l-Olanda stabilew is-sena 2025, il-Ġermanja qed tikkonsidra s-sena 2030, fil-waqt li Franza u r-Renju Unit huma mħajra għas-sena 2040 biex iwaqqfu l-bejgħ ta’ karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-disil.

Id-diskussjoni dwar il-politika li tikkonċerna l-pompi tal-petrol/disil għandha issir f’kuntest wiesgħa tal-politika tat-trasport inkluż l-elettrifikazzjoni tal-mezzi privati tat-trasport.

Il-punt ewlieni tad-diskussjoni huwa li bħala riżultat tal-elettrifikazzjoni n-numru ta’ pompi tal-petrol/disel meħtieġa mhux ser jiżdied imma ser jonqos fuq medda ta’ snin u dan sakemm jasal għal xejn jew kważi xejn. Allura għalfejn nibnu u ninkoraġixxu l-bini ta’ iktar pompi tal-petrol/disil? Ikun ferm iktar għaqli kieku l-investiment nindirizzawh lejn is-soluzzjoni tal-problemi, mhux lejn it-tkattir tagħhom!

Il-pompi tal-petrol eżistenti fiż-żoni urbani qed jintużaw bħala skuża biex jippruvaw jiġġustifikaw it-tħarbit ta’ 3000 metru kwadru ta’ art. Fil-fatt dan hu l-iskop ewlieni tal-politika dwar il-pompi tal-fjuwil approvata fl-2015.

Ma jkunx aħjar li flok ma jingħalqu l-pompi tal-petrol fl-abitat ikunu konvertiti f’lok fejn tiċċarġja l-batteriji tal-karozzi? Dawn il-pompi qegħdin fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom f’żoni ċentrali u huma ġeneralment ta’ qies żgħir. Kull pompa tal-petrol urbana li tkun salvata u konvertita biex fiha niċċarġjaw il-batteriji tfisser ukoll li nkunu salvajna 3000 metru kwadru ta’ art minn spekulazzjoni. Fl-istess ħin inkunu qed nippovdu servizz li ser ikun essenzjali eżatt fejn hu meħtieġ.

Dan ikun użu tajjeb għall-investiment, aħjar milli jintuża f’bini ta’ pompi ġodda barra miż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp. Jekk dan isir inkunu qed nittrasformaw problema eżistenti f’diversi lokalitajiet f’soluzzjoni addattata għall-bini tal-infrastruttura meħtieġa għall-eletrifikazzjoni tat-trasport privat f’Malta.

Dan ovvjament ifisser li nkunu qed naqilbu ta’ taħt fuq il-politika dwar il-pompi tal-fjuwil. Flok ma nużaw il-pompi urbani bħala skuża biex tkun ġustifikata l-ispekulazzjoni tal-art inkunu qed nagħtu spinta tajba lill-ħarsien ambjentali.

Hu eżattament dan li għandna bżonn f’dan il-mument: naqilbu l-ippjanar rasu l-isfel.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 4 ta’ Frar 2018

 

Turning the Fuel Service Stations Policy on its head

Last Wednesday, the Parliamentary Environment and Land Use Planning Committee discussed the possible revision of the Fuel Service Stations Policy. The three development permits issued in the past weeks by the Planning Authority for fuel service stations at Burmarrad, Marsaskala and Magħtab without doubt was the spark that motivated the discussion. Among the pending applications, Attard, Mqabba and Iklin are queuing for new service stations, while over 60 more, from a current total of 85 stations are awaiting the Planning Authority go-ahead for upgrading.

A number of valid observations were made. Most of the discussion dealt with the need to relocate service stations currently within urban areas but there was, however, a reluctance to address head-on the real issue: do we need fuel service stations?

Almost five months ago, the Prime Minister – taking a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s 2017 election manifesto – announced that his government will be launching a public consultation to establish a cut-off date for the sale of diesel and petrol cars in Malta and the use of only electricity-driven vehicles instead. We have not heard much more about this proposal, apart for an article by Transport Minister Ian Borg who wrote about following in the footsteps of other European countries in “phasing out new petrol and diesel vehicles in the next few decades”.

The Prime Minister has rightly emphasised that this change in policy is required in view of the fact that vehicle emissions are the largest source of pollution in Malta, but why wait so long to put flesh on the bare bones of the declared policy? Other European countries have already determined their cut-off date. Norway and the Netherlands are considering the year 2025, Germany is considering 2030, while France and the United Kingdom are opting for the year 2040 by which to halt the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles.

Revisiting the Fuel Service Stations Policy should not be discussed in a vacuum. It has to be placed in the context of related transport policies and in particular the fact (hopefully) that Malta should now be going electric.

The main issue clearly is that, as a result of going electric, the number of fuel service stations required will at some point in the future – hopefully the not so very distant future – will be next to nil. So why build more of them? Why encourage investment in something that is not needed? It would be much better to channel investment into resolving problems instead of adding to them.

The relocation of urban area fuel service stations – the main thrust of the Fuel Service Stations Policy approved in 2015 – is being used to justify the uptake of 3,000 square metres of land. But instead of relocating the existing service stations in urban areas, would it not be much better if these were converted into charging stations? These service stations are centrally located and mostly of a relatively small size. Every conversion one into a charging station would potentially save 3000 square metres of land in the middle of nowhere and simultaneously provide the service of electrically charging vehicles right where that service is required: in our urban areas.

It is towards the conversion of these fuel stations that investment should be channelled. They can be transformed from being a problem in our residential communities to being an integral and focal part of the strategy to develop a suitable, reliable and – above all – sustainable infrastructure so necessary for the electrification of private transport.

This would obviously turn the Fuel Service Stations policy upside down. Instead of using urban service stations as an excuse to trigger more land speculation, it is about time to inject some environmental considerations right where they are most needed.

This is what we need right now: the turning of the Fuel Service Stations Policy on its head.

 

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 4 February 2018

Thank-you Ryan; thank-you, Clayton.

I was present for both public sessions of the Planning Authority Board’s meetings to discuss the planning application for a petrol station at Salini Road Magħtab.

The first meeting, on 7 December, was attended by eight members of the Board. At the meeting on the 11 January, however, an additional five members made an effort and were present. These additional five members voted in favour of the application, but they had not followed the detailed public discussion held on 7 December, as is their duty.

At the first meeting, two of the Board members publicly indicated their intention to vote against the application but, at the second meeting, both changed their mind and decided to vote in favour. However, no public explanation was forthcoming as to what caused them to change sides.

The Planning Authority Board includes two Members of Parliament: Ryan Callus (PN) and Clayton Bartolo (PL). Both of them consider it to be desirable to have more petrol stations and both voted in favour of the Magħtab Petrol Station. Ryan Callus was clearly observed raising his hand very reluctantly to vote in favour of the development application: apparently he wanted those present to note that he was not sure of what he was doing.

More worrying was Clayton Bartolo’s behaviour. He had already publicly indicated his opposition to giving the permission for the petrol station on 7 December. However, last Thursday he switched sides and voted in favour. Obviously, he had every right to vote in whichever way he chooses, but he owes the public an explanation for his change of heart. No such explanation was forthcoming.

Of the 14 members of the Planning Authority Board, 13 are regular members and the additional member is an ad hoc member representing the Local Council of the locality involved – in this case Naxxar. Eight members of the Board were present for both meetings. Five turned up only for the second meeting. The 14th member of the Board, although present for both meetings, left the room as soon as the subject of the petrol station came up for discussion on both occasions! Clearly he did not want to participate in this latest planning farce.

This is the third new petrol station to be approved by the Planning Authority in a short period of time: approval for the Magħtab petrol station came immediately after the approval of those at Marsaskala and Burmarrad in the past weeks.

Do we need so many petrol stations?

Last September, the Prime Minister announced that government would shortly carry out a consultation exercise to determine the cut-off date beyond which all new cars purchased would have to be electric or similar vehicles. This signified one thing: that soon we will start the count-down leading to no more petrol and/or diesel cars on our roads. Bearing this policy declaration by the Prime Minister leads to one inevitable question: what do we need new petrol stations for? Each new petrol station gobbles up approximately 3,000 square metres of land.

A big thank-you to Ryan and Clayton.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 14 January 2018

Tal-mistħija Onorevoli

 

Il-Bord tal-Awtorita tal-Ippjanar ftit tal-ħin ilu approva permess ta’ żvilupp għal pompa tal-petrol fil-Magħtab. Din hi l-istess applikazzjoni li xahar ilu kienu ikkonkludew li kellhom jirrifjutaw. Imma skond ir-regoli ma setgħux jieħdu deċiżjoni finali dakinnhar u aġġornaw għal-lum.

Illum l-applikazzjoni ġiet approvata. Attendew għal-laqgħa tal-Bord diversi membri li l-aħħar darba ma kienux hemm kif ukoll kien hemm min bidel l-opinjoni tiegħu. Kien hemm min l-aħħar darba ivvota kontra l-pompa tal-petrol imma illum ivvota favur!

Fost dawk li bidlu l-fehma tagħhom kien hemm il-Membru Parlamentari Laburista Clayton Bartolo li nhar is-7 ta’ Diċembru 2017 ivvota kontra l-pompa tal-petrol imma illum bidel fehmtu u ivvota favur.

Kien hemm ukoll il-Membru Parlamentari Nazzjonalista Ryan Callus li l-aħħar darba ma kienx preżenti imma illum ġie u vvota favur il-pompa tal-petrol huwa ukoll. Għaliex bidlu l-fehma tagħhom jiena ma nafx. Probabbilment li kkonvinċew ruħhom li “kellhom żball”!

Tajjeb li tiftakruha din: ir-rappreżentant tal-Partit Nazzjonalista Ryan Callus kif ukoll ir-rappreżentat tal-Partit Laburista fuq il-Bord tal-Awtorita tal-Ippjanar ivvutaw favur pompa tal-petrol oħra.

Tinsewx tgħidulhom grazzi lill-Onorevoli.

L-ODZ w it-tidwir mal-lewża

nut

 

Il-proposta tal-PN biex deciżjonijiet dwar l-ODZ jibdew jittieħdu mill-Parlament b’maġġorana ta’ żewġ terzi hi politika ta’ min qata’ qalbu li jista’ jindirizza l-kawza tal-problema u minflok jinfex fl-effett. Hija ukoll dikjarazzjoni li din is-sitwazzjoni mistennija li tkun fit-tul jew permanenti.

Kif diġa kelli l-opportunità li nikteb, id-diżastru akkumulat fl-ODZ hu riżultat ta’ falliment tal-istituzzjonijiet li la l-bieraħ u l-anqas illum ma jispiraw fiduċja. Ir-rapport li kien tħejja mill-MEPA dwar iż-Żonqor u l-posizzjoni li ħadet il-MEPA dwar per eżempju l-pompa tal-petrol li kienet proposta għall-Magħtab huma tnejn mid-diversi eżempji dwar dan.

L-awtoritajiet għandhom l-inkarigu li jipproteġu dak li hu għażiż għalina. F’dan l-inkarigu, b’mod ġenerali fallew. M’għandhomx joqgħodu jistennew liċ-ċittadini individwali jew lill-għaqdiet ambjentali biex jirrealizzaw il-gravità tas-sitwazzjoni.

Il-proposta tal-PN hi politika ta’ min qata’ qalbu għax flok ma tindirizza l-problema tfittex illi toħloq mekkaniżmu li jimblokka d-deċiżjonijiet temporanjament. Għax dik hi r-relevanza tal-mekkaniżmu tal-vot ta’ żewġ terzi fil-Parlament li ultimament jikkonverti ruħu għal deċiżjoni b’maġġoranza sempliċi kif stqarr il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni fl-artiklu tiegħu llum. Issa din it-tip ta’ proposta tista’ tagħmel sens biss jekk tkun għal perjodu qasir ta’ żmien u dan sakemm jitnaddfu l-awtoritajiet u jinħolqu l-mekkaniżmi biex dawn jaħdmu sewwa bla tfixkil jew indħil mill-politika partiġjana.

Dan hu ir-rwol tal-Parlament: li jfittex l-aħjar mod kif ikun amministrat il-ġid komuni u li fejn ikun hemm problema dwar dan jidentifika soluzzjonijiet li jindirizzaw l-issues mingħajr tidwir mal-lewża.

Sfortunatament il-Parlament Malti, tul is-snin wera li hu bla snien fit-twettiq ta’ waħda mill-iktar funzjonijiet importanti tiegħu, dik li jgħarbel il-ħidma tal-Gvern. Din la saret u l-anqas qegħda ssir. Mhux ma issirx sewwa, imma sempliċiment ma issirx għax numru mhux żgħir ta’ Membri Parlamentari għadhom ma fehmux li din hi responsabbiltà tagħhom. Kieku dan fehmuh, dawk il-Membri Parlamentari li aċċettaw ħatriet fuq bordijiet u awtoritajiet ma kienux jagħmlu dan. Għax meta aċċettaw dawn il-ħatriet huma kkompromettew il-ħidma tagħhom bħala Membri Parlamentari għax poġġew lilhom infushom fis-sitwazzjoni ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess kontinwu u dan minħabba li issa suppost li jridu jissorveljaw il-ħidma tagħhom stess.

Din hi is-sitwazzjoni. Bla tidwir mal-lewża l-qagħda tal-ODZ f’Malta u Għawdex hi rifless tal-qagħda ġenerali tal-governanza fil-pajjiż.

______________

fuq dan il-blog, dwar l-istess suġġett ara ukoll :

Froġa oħra ta’ Simon Busuttil.

L-ODZ u l-Parlament.

Nifs għall-Magħtab …….. bil-bibien magħluqin

Maghtab PS2

Iktar kmieni illum, wara nofs siegħa jiddiskutu bil-bibien magħluqin, il-membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA qalu le għal pompa tal-petrol fil-Magħtab. Dehrilhom li kellhom jiddiskutu bil-magħluq. Għalkemm kellhom dan id-dritt jiena ma niftakarx li dan qatt sar fis-snin li għaddew. Ma nafx għalfejn għamlu hekk għax ma ingħatat l-ebda raġuni għal dan. Id-diffikulta li tinħoloq f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi hi li m’għandix idea x’kienu l-argumenti li ġiebu l-membri tal-Bord. Għax meta d-diskussjoni tkun fil-magħluq il-feedback ikun zero.

Mid-9 membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA li kienu preżenti 2 ma ħadux sehem fil-votazzjoni. Billi ma segwejniex id-diskussjoni allura ma nafux għaliex għażlu din it-triq.

Id-deċiżjoni tfisser li l-maġġoranza tal-membri tal-Bord taw kaz tal-argumenti kollha li inġiebu, inkluż dawk tar-residenti. Dan juri kemm kien utli l-argument, f’xi mumenti jaħraq ħafna, li żviluppa waqt il-laqgħa pubblika tal-Bord tal-MEPA li saret il-ġimgħa l-oħra.

Din id-deċiżjoni tagħti nifs liz-zona rurali tal-Magħtab. Mhux nifs fit-tul għax probabbilment ma ndumux ma jkollna niffaċċjaw l-appell.

Il-MEPA u l-pompa tal-petrol proposta għall-Magħtab

Maghtab PS

Il-bieraħ quddiem il-Bord tal-MEPA bdiet tiġi diskussa l-applikazzjoni dwar il-pompa tal-petrol fil-Magħtab. Id-diskussjoni kella issir xi ġimgħat ilu, imma kienet posposta minħabba proċeduri fil-Qorti mir-residenti għax ir-rapport li kien ikkonkluda sa dakinnhar id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar kien qed jinjora l-fatt li l-Pjan Lokali kellu policy li ż-żona fejn kienet proposta l-pompa tal-petrol kien jirriżervaha bħala Category 2 Rural Settlement.

Meta  bdiet id-diskussjoni ma saret l-ebda referenza għal din l-istess policy mill-esperti u professuri li ppreżentaw power points elaborati f’isem l-iżviluppatur u f’isem il-MEPA. Kien hemm minnhom min qalilna biss li l-policy ma tapplikax u waqaf hemm. Ħadd ma indenja ruħu jispjega għaliex.

Iffaċċjati b’dan jiena flimkien mal-persuni l-oħra li f’isem ir-residenti konna qed nippreżentaw il-każ kontra l-proposta ta’ żvilupp tal-pompa spjegajna għaliex il-policy fil-Pjan Lokali kellha tiġi applikata.

Jiena spjegajt għaliex skond il-Pjan Lokali l-permess għall-pompa tal-petrol ma setax joħroġ. Ha nikkwota dak li irrapporta Kevin Schembri Orland fl-Independent :

“He delivered a brief presentation against the project. “The central issue, which seems to have been missing from most presentations given, is that the site forms part of Rural settlement Category 2 (Policy CG04 in the Central Malta Local Plan). If some basic research was conducted, one would see that wall to wall with the site, there is an application refused as it forms part of Rural Settlement Category 2, and this was also confirmed in the appeal of that case. “This is basic information which you must take into consideration”. “Looking at CG04, it specifies what can be built in a rural settlement, and a petrol station is not one of the developments allowed under this policy” Cacopardo read from MEPA policy and said that the aim of this designation as a Category 2 Rural Settlement is to prevent further development of incompatible uses in the area, due to the disorganized state of the settlement. He said that since this is part of a rural settlement, this Board has its hands tied and cannot allow another use that conflicts with policy CGO4.”

Wara li konna spiċċajna nippreżentaw il-każ f’isem ir-residenti, l-esperti li kien hemm bdew iwieġbu xi punti. L-Independent jirrapporta hekk dwar dak li ġara :

“Mr Cacopardo, as well as residents in the area, had been arguing that a particular policy was not taken into consideration. After residents made these arguments, the representative of the Planning Directorate argued that it was considered, and began making his arguments. At this point, Carmel Cacopardo stood up asked why none of these reasons were included in the DPAR report and accused him of professional disloyalty for not including these arguments in their documents.”

Id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar  għandu l-obbligu li jispjega b’mod ċar u eżatt il-posizzjoni dwar kull applikazzjoni li tkun qed tiġi ikkunsidrata. Irrispettivament xi tkun l-opinjoni professjonali tal-uffiċjali tad-Direttorat għandhom l-obbligu li ma joqgħodux iduru mal-lewża jew li jevitaw xi argument. Imma sfortunatament spiss qed jagħmlu dan.  Għalhekk għidt li dan kien każ ta’ slealta.

Il-MEPA permezz tad-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar għandha l-obbligu li tiskuża ruħha mar-residenti tal-Magħtab.

 

Our waste has good value

organic waste

 

Our waste can be put to good use, which is why we are encouraged to separate and recycle what we would otherwise throw away. Our waste contains plenty of useful resources which can be recovered and re-circulated in our economy and we separate paper, glass, metals and plastic, all of which can be reused.

We also recycle electric and electronic equipment such as televisions, radios, refrigerators,  PCs and laptops. Instead of being thrown away, disintegrating into a chemical soup in a landfill, this equipment will be dismantled into its component parts, most of which can be reused. Most  electronic equipment  nowadays makes use of some rare metal and it is in everybody’s interest that such resources are recycled.

Next Friday, 30 October, state waste management operator WasteServe, in conjunction with the five local councils of Mdina, Ħal-Għaxaq, Ta’ Xbiex, Bormla and Birkirkara will commence the separate collection of organic waste in Malta. This pilot project will run for a number of weeks during which separated organic waste will be collected twice weekly (on Mondays and Fridays) after which it will be extended to the rest of our localities.

The organic fraction of our waste may be as high as 52 per cent of the waste discarded by each household in the black garbage bags. This, apparently, is the most accurate estimate to date resulting from a National Statistics Office study carried out in 2012 entitled Household Waste Composition Survey. A more recent waste characterisation exercise, carried out by WasteServe itself in the localities participating in the pilot project, indicates that the size of the organic waste percentage varies in the different localities. This may be the result of different lifestyles, as a result of which we tend to have different patterns of behaviour that are even evident in our waste.

WasteServe has already organised a door-to-door information exercise explaining their role to residents of the five localities, who have also been supplied with white bags in which they are to collect organic waste, as well as suitably aerated bins in which to place these bags.

Organic waste, sometimes referred to as “green waste”, is organic material such as food and garden waste. It can also include animal and plant-based material and degradable carbon such as paper and cardboard.

The organic waste collected from our doorsteps will be delivered to the Sant Antnin Waste Treatment Plant at Marsascala where it is verified that the white bags contain only organic waste. It is then placed in a waste digester where, as a result of its decomposing in the absence of oxygen, it will produce the gas methane, which is collected and used to produce electricity.

In addition, the heat produced will be used to heat the therapeutic swimming pool at the neighbouring Inspire Foundation, a considerable help to the foundation’s clients. The remainder is then used as compost.

The organic waste pilot project thus has the potential to substantially reduce the  waste that currently ends up at the Magħtab landfill. In addition, when the methane resulting from its decomposition is used to produce electricity, we will also be reducing the emission of a greenhouse gas which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This will be an additional step in reducing Malta’s contribution to climate change.

These are the practical reasons why it is imperative that we recycle. We reduce our negative environmental impact and, as a result, create the conditions for a better quality of life for everyone.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 25 October 2015

Il-PN u l-ambjent: l-impjant ta’ Sant Antnin : żball jew sabutaġġ?

Pullicino.SAntnin

Nhar il-Ħadd 7 ta’ Ġunju 2015, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil qalilna li l-PN ħa diversi żbalji fuq materji ambjentali. Anżi. Żied jgħidilna li jaf li dwar l-ambjent il-PN m’għandux fama tajba. Imma, żied jgħid Simon Busuttil, il-PN tgħallem mill-iżbalji tiegħu u jaf fejn għandu jtejjeb lilu innifsu (Il-Malta Today irrappurtatu jgħid hekk : “He acknowleged the PN’s unfavourable track record on environmental matters  but said that the party had learnt from its mistakes and knew where to improve.”)

Imma, kif diġa għidt, ir-rapport tat-telfa tal-istess PN għall-elezzjoni tal-2013 ma jitkellimx dwar żbalji imma dwar sabutaġġ. Jiġifieri dwar tfixkil. Dan ir-rapport kien iffirmata, fost oħrajn minn Ann Fenech (illum President tal-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN) u minn Rosette Thake (illum Segretarju Ġenerali tal-PN).

Ikun tajjeb kieku Simon Busuttil jgħidilna liema kienu dawn l-iżbalji li l-Partit Nazzjonalista tgħallem minnhom.

Pereżempju, l-impjant ta’ Sant’ Antnin f’Marsasakala, dan kien każ ta’ żball ambjentali jew każ ta’ sabutaġġ? Mela ejja niftakru ftit minn dak li ġara dwar l-impjant tar-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart f’Sant’ Antnin, Marsaskala.

Il-impjant kif riedu l-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi kien propost li jsir fuq art tal-qies ta’ 45,000 metru kwadru (4.5 hectares). Dik hi l-area tal-impjant ta’ Sant’Antnin.

Meta ġew meqjusa artijiet alternattivi ġew ippreżentati tlett possibilitajiet oħra :  f’Wied Għammieq il-Kalkara, L-Għallies il-Magħtab limiti tan-Naxxar u l-Mara Bengħajsa limiti ta’ Birżebbuġa.

L-art f’Wied Għammieq Kalkara kellha qies ta’ 24,000 metru kwadru (2.4 hectares), madwar nofs ta’ dak li kien meħtieġ .

L-art fl-Għallies, Magħtab limiti tan-Naxxar kellha qies ta’ 20,000 metru kwadru (2 hectares), inqas min-nofs ta’ dak li kien meħtieġ.

L-art fil-Mara, Bengħajsa, limiti ta’ Birżebbuġa kellha qies ta’ 17,000 metru kwadru (1.7 hectares), ħafna inqas min-nofs ta’ dak li kien.

Kull waħda mit-tlett alternattivi kien ferm iżgħar mill-qies tas-sit f’Sant Antnin, u allura kien ovvju li ma kien hemm l-ebda proposta ta’ sit alternattiva għal Sant’ Antnin.  Ta’ l-inqas hekk ried min għażel l-alternattivi.   Qiesu ried li l-impjant isir bil-fors f’Sant’Antnin.

Dan kien żball, jew sabutaġġ? Għidulna ftit. Min għamel l-iżball, inkella min għamel is-sabutaġġ?

 

ippubblikat fuq iNews l-Erbgħa 10 ta’ Ġunju 2015

Land Reclamation and the construction industry

land reclamation 01

The issue of land reclamation should be tackled in a responsible manner.

The Netherlands used land reclamation successfully to adequately manage its low-lying land. Hong Kong made use of land reclamation to create high value land required for its airport on the Chek Lak Kok island. Through land reclamation Singapore expanded its container port, an essential cornerstone in its economy.

In Malta land reclamation was used in the past to create the Freeport Terminal at Kalafrana in the limits of Birżebbuġa.

MEPA has during the recent past engaged consultants to assess the potential of land reclamation in Maltese waters.

A 2005 study was commissioned by MEPA and carried out by  Carl Bro. This study identified six relatively large coastal areas as search areas for potential land reclamation sites. The study had  recommended that these six areas, or a selection of them, be “investigated in further details in parallel with the execution of a pre-feasibility study, before a principal decision is taken on whether land reclamation is considered realistic under Maltese conditions. It is recommended that such investigations and studies be carried out by the Government prior to the involvement of the private sector in possible land reclamation projects.” (page 8 of report).

MEPA took up this proposal and commissioned ADI Associates together with Scott Wilson to carry out a detailed study on two of the identified coastal areas. These studies were finalised in 2007 and 2008 and consist of 4 volumes. The coastal areas identified and studied are those along the  Magħtab/Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq coastline and the Xgħajra/Marsaskala coastline.

These latter studies conclude with a detailed set of recommendations on more focused studies relative to environmental and economic impacts which would be necessary if land reclamation is to be further considered.

In Chapter 10 of its electoral manifesto the Labour Party is committed to utilise a programme of land reclamation as an important tool in the infrastructural development of the country.  The said electoral programme emphasises the environmental and economic sensitivity of such projects and underlines a  commitment to high standards in environmental, social, economic, land use planning and sustainable development fields.

In Parliament it has been declared that the next step would be for expressions of interest to be submitted by those proposing  projects for  development on reclaimed land. A call should be issued in the near future.

I believe that this is not the way forward.  On the basis of the studies carried out to date and such additional studies as may be required it would have been much better if government presents for public consultation a detailed draft land reclamation strategy.  Such a strategy would then be subjected to public consultation. A dialogue is required, not just with the developers but also with civil society, including most importantly with environmental NGOs.

The draft strategy would undoubtedly indicate the proposed permissible development on the reclaimed land. It would be interesting to note if the said strategy would consider the need for residential development in view of the over 70,000 vacant residential properties  on the islands. On the basis of existing and possibly additional studies the strategy would also seek to ensure that Malta’s coastline is protected much more effectively than Malta’s countryside has been to date.

All views should be carefully considered before such a strategy is finalised.

Once the strategy is finalised its environmental impacts should be carefully scrutinised  as is provided for in the Strategic Environment Assessment Directive of the EU. This Directive now has the force of law in Malta. It is only when this assessment has been finalised and the impacts identified are suitably addressed through changes in the draft strategy  itself (if required) that it would be reasonable to invite expressions of interest from interested parties.

Land reclamation is no magic solution to a construction industry which is in urgent need of restructuring. Even if land reclamation is permitted it cannot and will not offer a long term solution to an ailing construction industry which has been capable of contributing to an accumulating stockpile of vacant dwellings which are equivalent to 9 ghost towns, each the size of B’Kara.

The country would be economically and socially much better off if the construction industry is assisted in its much needed restructuring. It would undoubtedly need to shed labour which can be absorbed by other sectors of the economy. Retraining would  be required  to ease the entry of the shed labour force into other economic areas.

This  would certainly be much more beneficial and sustainable than land reclamation.

published in The Times  on 27 April 2013 under the title: Land Reclamation and Building