Beyond the Rhetorical declarations

The fact that a common vocabulary of environmental and related terms has been adopted ac­ross the political divide may lead some to the mistaken conclusion there exists a widespread agreement as to environmental objectives to be attained. However, while a common vocabulary is in existence through the use of the same terms and expressions, we sometimes seem to refer to dictionaries that vary substantially. As a minimum, they may be said to be substantially different editions!

Consider sustainable development. The term is ubiquitous but there is a wide range of and, at times, conflicting views as to what constitutes sustainable development.

When this Parliament met, at its inaugural sitting, the President as head of state and on behalf of the government read what is known as the Speech from the Throne, that is the government’s political objectives and programme it intended to fulfil while in office. It was then stated that: “The government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development of the economy, of society and of the environment. When making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow.

“Sustainable development has three main dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Our challenge is to ensure continuous economic development, promoted by education, social development, with particular attention to environmental protection. When we evaluate our activities in view of these three interrelated dimensions, we would be placing every person at the heart of the government’s actions.”

The notions of sustainable development the President put forward on behalf of the government were the minimum possible. They are reasonable as a first step as they contain the seminal ideas that should form the building blocks of a strategy for ending business as usual and moving towards a path eventually leading to a sustainable society.

Economic, social and environmental dimensions are rightly defined as being interrelated. I would go further by stating the social and environmental impacts we must continuously address are the result of the manner in which the economy has been permitted to operate.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The government’s commitment towards sustainable development is not to be gauged by its rhetoric but through its actions.

The Commission for Sustainable Development set up in terms of the Environment Protection Act has not met for more than four years, since December 2006. Then it had approved the final version of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, which it submitted to Cabinet. A primary function of the commission now is to oversee the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Maltese Islands, approved by Cabinet prior to the March 2008 election and having a 10-year lifespan (2007-2016).

This fact on its own speaks volumes as to the government’s unwritten policies. It is in line with the abolition of the Commission for Sustainable Development by the Conservative/Liberal coalition government in the UK as a result of its bonfire of quangos. The UK government too describes itself as being the greenest ever. Actions, however, speak louder than words. Lip service is clearly the name of the game.

Instead of honouring its commitments and ensuring that each one of the 20 priority areas identified in the Sustainable Development Strategy are implemented throughout the lifetime of this Administration, a free-for-all has ensued.

How can a government committed to sustainable development justify an administrative set-up that subjugates responsible environmental management to the whims of those who still consider the building construction industry as a prime economic mover on these islands?

The Dwejra debacle, which will, hopefully, soon enter into its final stages, has confirmed once more that, within the set-up of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the Environment Protection Directorate may be consulted, yet, it is set aside when decisions are taken.

What is the purpose of drawing up local plans to regulate development if these are repeatedly ignored as has been shown once more by the Mepa audit officer in his report on the extension of the Church-run Seminary at Tal-Virtù?

Why speak of eco-Gozo yet issue a development permit for a Church-run cemetery, which is in the process of completely ruining a rainwater harvesting infrastructure that has served the agricultural community at Nadur’s Għajn Qasab for about three centuries?

Government actions speak louder than words. As aptly stated by Marco Cremona (The Times, January 18) we are witnessing mixed messages and conflicting policies.

There is no coordination of environment policy across government. This is in part the result of the abandonment of the sustainable development infrastructure. It is clear there is no one who has the ability to enforce environment policy throughout the government.

Late in 2010, Parliament approved a motion moved by the Prime Minister to introduce a Sustainable Development Bill, which has been given a first reading. The political will to act is, however, nowhere in sight.

Published in The Times of Malta on January22, 2011

Advertisements

AD comments on the Dwejra report of the MEPA Audit Officer

AD has published the report which the MEPA Audit Officer finalised after an AD request for an investigation of MEPA’s processing of the application relative to the Dwejra protected site.

Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government stated that the report shows once more that the Environment Protection Directorate has been set aside and practically ignored in the whole process. The fact that the application was processed by the Planning Directorate with minor and informal roles for the Environment Protection Directorate demonstrates how the environment role of MEPA has been reduced  to one of mere decoration.

Carmel Cacopardo added that it is worrying that the MEPA Audit Officer has concluded that the Environment Protection Directorate has abdicated its responsibilities to the Planning Directorate. This is the logical consequence of years of ignoring by MEPA of its environmental responsibilities. This is also reflected in the report’s conclusion that the Environment Protection Directorate has failed to screen the application to establish the impact of the proposed activity and this in direct contrast to the guidelines issued by the EU on the implementation of the Habitats Directive transposed onto the Maltese statute book as per Legal Notice 311 of 2006.

AD’s chairperson, Michael Briguglio added  that the report concluded that MEPA was aware at least since the 14th October 2010 that the applicant was not observing the conditions which it had established yet it remained static and apprehensive as it wanted to avoid litigation and action for damages for possible disruption of filming activities. This is grossly irresponsible and AD expects an explanation from the MEPA CEO who needs to also explain why no monitoring was carried out when the permit clearly explained that this was to be carried out at the applicant’s expense. The substantial sums of money being paid by the taxpayer to finance MEPA  are not resulting in responsible management added Michael Briguglio.

Finally AD insists that Mr Austin Walker as one of the most paid CEOs in the public sector does not only owe the public an explanation but he must also shoulder responsibility for MEPA’s inability to react.

MEPA Audit Office Dwejra Report

AD asks MEPA Audit Officer to investigate Dwejra mauling

Following a request by AD MEPA has released a copy of the consent conditions for the use of Dwejra and other sites  in connection with “The Game of Thrones” teleserial shootout. AD is releasing the a copy of the Consent Conditions.

In the meantime Carmel Cacopardo AD spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government has written to the MEPA Audit Officer requesting that he investigates the whole matter.

In the written request Cacopardo on behalf of AD has stated that :
“It is inconceivable how MEPA could have issued any kind of permit for activities at Dwejra in view of the strict rules imposed by the  EU Habitats Directive which has been transposed into Maltese legislation.

In my opinion the Environment Protection Directorate of MEPA as the Competent Authority in terms of the Habitats Directive has permitted activities which it is duty bound to prevent from happening.

You are kindly requested to investigate the manner in which MEPA has handled this incident through both the actions and inactions of the Planning Directorate and the Environment Protection Directorate in MEPA.”Consent Conditions

Rubbishing of auditors by gonzipn will stop !

Some good news from Parliament.

The Times today reported that in Parliament yesterday, during the debate on a motion of no confidence in the Minister of Education Dolores Cristina, the Prime Minister stated that : 

“There must be instilled a culture of respect for auditors. Their criticism should be accepted and not fought. In the public sector, such audits also served to have more efficiency and value for money. It was important that internal and external auditors’ suggestions were heeded and acted on without delay.”

Some good news at last which contrasts with the manner in which government led by gonzipn has treated the Auditor General, the Ombudsman and the MEPA Audit Officer.

The rubbishing of audtors by gonzipn will now stop! Well, its never too late to learn from your mistakes!

Mistra : Development Planning Act ignored

times_of_malta196x70

____________________________________________

published on November 10, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

 

 

A number of correspondents have worked overtime to cloud the issues on the Mistra case.

As a result the focus of the discussion has been the Mepa Audit Officer when it should in reality be whether and to what extent the Development Planning Act permits a resolution of such issues within Mepa itself.

The basic relevant facts of the Mistra case are the following :

1) the Planning Directorate finalised its report (DPAR) recommending the refusal of the Mistra application,

2) those with an interest in having an approval of the application sought the services of the liaison officer, a Mepa employee with specific terms of remit to liaise with the DCC;

3) the liaison officer, instead of applying the procedures established by the Development Planning Act, organised a meeting in which a number of DCC Board members participated;

4) the DCC overturned the decision and approved the issuing of a development permit;

5) the matter was on the eve of a general election made public by the Leader of the Opposition;

6) an investigation was carried out by the Mepa Audit Officer as a result of which the Mepa Board withdrew the permit.

In the discussion as to what went wrong (if at all) during the final stages of the processing of the Mistra application, the correspondents overlooked the fact that the Development Planning Act (DPA) itself provided a clear solution. Article 32A of the DPA (introduced in 2001) provides for the intervention of a planning mediator. An applicant seeking development permission may after the conclusion of the application report by the Director of Planning seek mediation which shall be provided from a panel of planning mediators appointed by the minister responsible for development planning. Obviously the services of a planning mediator will be sought when there is lack of agreement on the contents and/or conclusions of the application report as in the Mistra case.

The planning mediator will after considering the matter express an opinion which is then brought to the attention of the Mepa Board/DCC which is bound to consider it but is not bound by it.

The planning mediators appointed must be qualified in terms of sub-article 32A(2) of the Development Planning Act: they shall be versed in planning or in architecture and civil engineering or in any other discipline relevant to planning. The liaison officer appointed by Mepa is not versed in any of these disciplines. In addition his terms of remit circumvent the provisions of the DPA as they usurp the functions of the planning mediator.

Notwithstanding that eight years have elapsed since Parliament introduced the provision on planning mediation in the DPA, the panel of planning mediators has not to date been appointed. Nor have the relevant regulations on planning mediation been drawn up. Two politicians are directly responsible for this state of affairs: Minister George Pullicino (2001-8) and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (2008- ).

In view of the above, in my opinion the meetings attended by the DCC members behind closed doors to iron out difficulties arising out of the report prepared by the Director of Planning runs counter to the procedure for the resolution of such difficulties established by the DPA itself.

It is very difficult to understand how it is possible to conclude that everything was done above board when all this was ignored.

But then, in this blessed land everything is possible.

Mr Cacopardo is a spokesman on sustainable development of Alternattiva Demokratika and former investigating officer at the Mepa Audit Office.

SPIN VALLEY

Stqarrija tal-AD 

 

 

AD qed issegwi dak kollu li qiegħed jintqal dwar il-każ tal-art fil-Mistra
propjeta’ tal-Membru Parlamentari tal-PN Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

L-AD diġa tkellmet ċar fuq dak li huwa magħruf sa issa. Għaldaqstant f’dan
il-mument tħoss li jkun xieraq li tiddeplora l-attakki li qed isiru fuq il-Perit
Joe Falzon Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA.

L-AD jidhrilha ukoll li d-dewmien fil-konkuzjoni tal-investigazzjoni
mill-awtoritajiet kompetenti qiegħed inissel diversi suspetti. Każijiet ferm
iktar ikkumplikati ħadu inqas minn 48 siegħa biex ġew konklużi. Iktar dewmien
ser jirrinforza l-idea ġenerali li hemm min irid imewwet il-każ.

Nittamaw li l-investigazzjonijiet, li ilhom ghaddejjin iktar minn xahrejn, jiġu
konklużi. Il-konkluzjonijiet flimkien ma dawk tar-rapport tal-Uffiċjal
tal-Verifika tal-MEPA għandhom iwasslu biex mingħajr dewmien tkun magħrufa minn kulhadd l-istampa kollha. Aktar ma huma gravi l-każijiet aktar għandhom jitħaffu l-proċeduri u r-riżultati ta’ l-investigazjoni. B’hekk biss tista’ tikber
il-fiduċja tan-nies fl-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiz.