Is-swimming pool ta’ Beppe

Beppe Fenech Adami-Gharghur

Il-Ministru Chris Cardona u n-Nutar Ian Castaldi-Paris ilhom ġranet sħaħ jibbumbardjaw lill-pubbliku b’informazzjoni dwar is-swimming pool ta’ Beppe Fenech Adami.

Qed jgħidulna li dan is-swimming pool, hu ħafna ikbar milli suppost. Issa jiena ma nafx jekk dan hux minnu jew le. Imma naf li hemm mod ċar u preċiż kif dan jista’ jkun stabilit, kif wara kollox jiġri ma kull persuna oħra f’Malta.

Kull min jidhirlu li Beppe ma mexiex mal-permessi ta’ żvilupp dwar xogħol li hu għamel fir-residenza tiegħu, kull ma għandu jagħmel hu li jippreżenta rapport lill-MEPA li tibghat l-enforcement officers tagħha biex jinvestigaw. Wara, jekk ikun meħtieġ, dawn jieħdu l-passi neċessarji. Daqshekk sempliċi l-biċċa, għal min hu ta’ rieda tajba.

 

Imma dan kollu ma jnaqqas xejn mill-gravità li nħolqot bil-kumpaniji sigrieti fil-Panama li għandhom il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u ċ-Chief of Staff f’Kastilja, Keith Schembri tal-Kasco. Għax il-Partit Laburista qed jgħidilna li ħadd ma jista ‘ jikkritikah għax inkella jqalleb kull m’hawn forsi jsib xi żball, żgħir jew kbir, li tkun għamilt xi darba.

Issa żbalji ser isibu kemm iridu. Żbalji żgħar u żbalji ikbar. Peró għad irrid nara żball oħxon daqs dak tal-kumpaniji sigrieti fil-Panama. Kien ikun ħafna aħjar għall-Partit Laburista kieku Konrad u l-Kasco irrizenjaw mill-ewwel.

L-ebda swimming pool m’hu ser isolvilhom il-problema li ħolqu huma stess.

Kull jum li jgħaddi tkompli żżid mal-ħsara kbira li diġa għamlu lill-pajjiż.

 

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.

 

Fl-2015, l-ambjent taħt assedju. Fl-2016 l-assedju ikompli.

msida_water. 021015

 

Is-sena 2015 kienet waħda li fiha l-ambjent kien taħt assedju. Assedju li bla dubju ser jintensifika ruħu matul is-sena d-dieħla. Għax ma hemm l-ebda dubju li l-aġenda tal-Labour hi waħda kontra l-ambjent.

Bla dubju mument importanti fl-2015 kien ir-referendum abrogattiv dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa. Referendum li intilef bi sbrixx imma li xorta wassal messaġġ qawwi, prinċipalment minħabba li huwa riżultat li nkiseb minkejja li kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-PL dejjem appoġġaw il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

Wara spikka il-każ taż-Żonqor li wassal għal dimostrazzjoni kbira ġol-Belt. Iktar tard il-Gvern ipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li kien qed jagħti kaz u dan billi ċċaqlaq ftit.

Il-qagħda tat-trasport pubbliku matul l-2015 tjibiet ftit imma għadha lura ħafna minn dak li jixraqlu u għandu bżonn dan il-pajjiż. Hi l-unika tama li tista’ tnaqqas il-pressjoni taż-żieda tal-karozzi fit-toroq. Hi l-unika tama għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-arja. Inutli jwaħħlu fil-ħinijiet tal-ftuħ tal-iskejjel.

Matul l-2015 l-ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fi bjar li qatt ma saru, baqa’ jintefa’ fit-toroq. Issa li x-xogħol fuq il-mini taħt l-art ġie konkluż il-periklu fit-toroq ser jonqos għax il-parti l-kbira tal-ilma ser jispiċċa l-baħar. Il-flus li intefqgħu fuq dawn il-mini kienu fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom flus moħlija. Kien ikun iktar għaqli kieku intefqgħu biex l-ilma jinġabar flok biex jintrema.

F’nofs dawn l-aħbarijiet negattivi kollha ġiet ippubblikata l-enċiklika ambjentali tal-Papa Franġisku. Fiha tinħass sewwa t-togħma Latino-Amerikana ta’ Leonardo Boff li tenfasizza r-rabta bejn il-faqar u t-tħassir ambjentali. Hemm tama li din l-enċiklika tista’ tkun ta’ siwi biex iktar nies jiftħu għajnejhom.

F’Ġunju l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni qalilna li l-PN fil-Gvern għamel diversi żbalji ambjentali u li jixtieq li jibda paġna ġdida. Din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Busuttil tikkuntrasta ma dak li ntqal fir-rapport tal-PN dwar it-telfa fejn ġie emfasizzat li l-PN kien vittma ta’ sabutaġġ minn dawk maħtura biex imexxu (inkluż ovvjament mill-MEPA).

Il-battalja tat-torrijiet għadha magħna. Preżentement hemm pendenti żewġ applikazzjonijiet f’tas-Sliema, waħda f’Townsquare (38 sular) u oħra f’Fort Cambridge (40 sular). Ir-residenti, li bħal dejjem jispiċċaw iġorru l-konsegwenzi ta’ dawn id-deċiżjonijiet, huma injorati.

Kellna t-tniġġiż fil-baħar. Diversi inċidenti fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk li bihom ġie ikkonfermat, jekk qatt kien hemm ħtieġa ta’ dan, li l-Bajja s-Sabiħa m’għandhiex iktar sabiħa. Dan minħabba li issa l-port sar definittivament wieħed industrijali. L-unika ħaġa li jonqos huwa t-tanker sorġut b’mod permanenti fil-port biex fih jinħażen il-gass.

Nhar is-Sibt jorħos il-prezz tal-petrol u d-diesel. Għal uħud imissu ilu li raħas. Forsi kien ikun aħjar li ma raħas xejn. Hemm bżonn kull mezz possibli biex jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq. Il-prezz tal-fuel hu wieħed minn diversi miżuri li jekk użati bil-għaqal jistgħu jagħtu frott. Il-problema imma, sfortunatament hi li ma hemmx volontà politika.

IL-MEPA ser tinqasam. L-ippjanar għalih u l-ambjent għalih. Mhux ser isir wisq ġid b’din il-miżura għax is-saħħa amministrattiva li għandu pajjiż żgħir ġejja miċ-ċokon tiegħu. Meta taqsam l-awtorita f’biċċiet tkun ferm inqas effettiv. Hekk ser jiġri. Il-MEPA ma kienitx qed taħdem sewwa għax ma ħallewiex taħdem sewwa. Għax kienet imxekkla minn bordijiet li jew ma jifhmux inkella b’aġenda moħbija.

Dan hu l-wirt li s-sena 2015 ser tħalli lis-sena 2016. L-unika ħaġa pożittiva hi li bil-mod qed tiżviluppa kuxjenza ambjentali fost il-ġenerazzjonijiet li tielgħin.

Is-sena t-tajba? Forsi.

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

 

The airport and its neighbours

3D aerial view of scheme.MIA 2015

 

Earlier this week, the management of Malta’s International Airport announced a €78 million investment programme, aimed at enlarging the terminal buildings, improving and upgrading existing facilities for the handling of passengers and  further developing a business hub.

The airport terminal at Gudja is Malta’s only such facility and so, to a certain extent, the further development of the existing capacity to handle the arrival and departure of passengers is essential. And yet, due to the limitations of size, the proximity of Gudja’s airport to the surrounding villages of Luqa, Gudja, Kirkop and Safi has to be borne in mind. Size limitations signify that even essential works will have an impact on the surrounding communities and thus have to be thought out carefully.

Its been over five years since MEPA has received a planning application for the consideration of an updated master-plan for Malta International Airport. PA5548/10 was submitted in November 2010. A previous version of the master-plan was approved in 1997 (PA5681/96) while another version, submitted in 2003 (PA5306/03), was withdrawn.

The latest proposed master-plan currently under consideration by MEPA includes provision for the enlargement of the terminal building to include additional facilities to handle passenger traffic as well as the construction of five new buildings for a range of commercial and leisure activities.

The proposed masterplan and the environmental planning statement (EPS) published late in 2014 for public consultation focus on the proposed business hub and emphasise that the well-established trend for international airports is to expand to “include ancillary business and retail facilities.”

The masterplan was fed by two studies commissioned by the Malta International Airport. The first – carried out by Locum Consulting – studied the office market in Malta and apparently concluded that the “high quality office stock supply” is limited in comparison to the existing demand.  An audit of the proposed masterplan was also carried out by Eriksson + Partner GmbH.

The EPS contains selective quotes from these two reports, but the reports themselves have not been made public. Both MEPA and MIA have resisted requests to publish these reports as they consider that they are commercial reports and do not contain information on environmental impact.

Malta’s only airport has its requirements. In particular, it needs to cater for the increasing number of passengers it handles. This year, the number of passengers handled has recently surpassed the 4.5 million mark. It will undoubtedly continue to rise and it stands to reason that the passenger-handling facilties, currently bursting at the seams, need to be upgraded.

What number of passengers is being planned for? What are the forecasts ? This information is not available as part of the documentation which has been published to date.

The inevitable increase in the number of passengers to be handled by MIA will have an impact on the surrounding area. The traffic generated, and the  emissions associated with this, will further deteriorate the air quality in the main roads leading to Gudja. There will also be an increase in noise pollution.

The Environment Planning Statement identified the Ħal-Farruġ Road/Qormi Road roundabout at Luqa as requiring upgrading  as a result of long-term traffic projections made. It did not, however, identify any other major traffic impact on the villages surrounding the airport. In particular, the EPS did not consider it relevant to consider that already, at this point in time, the residential area of Gudja – less than 50 metres away from the boundary of the airport carpark –  is being used by airport employees and passengers as an additional carpark, thereby creating an unnecessary burden on Gudja itself.

The current burden for the airport’s core functions, and the first phase of the Skyparks project, are primarily being borne by the communities of Luqa, Gudja, Kirkop and Safi.

Additional impact due to an increase in the airport’s core functions is unavoidable. But making matters worse through further development of the airport as a business hub is verging on sadistic. Gudja’s airport should not be compared to major airports when determining long-term functions, but rather to regional airports.

Given Malta’s size, practically all facilities are available within a 15-minute drive from the airport. It would hence make sense for the airport’s management to realise that the airport’s corporate social responsibility should not be limited to funding some restoration projects. It is about time that it focused on the fact that human beings reside in the surrounding villages. The airport’s contribution to Malta’s economic performance is welcome but this should not be at the expense of the quality of life of the surrounding communities.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 27 December 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

X’hemm lest għal Birżebbuġa?

Freeport.Aaron

Il-Port Ħieles, skond Aaron Farrugia, CEO tal-Korporazzjoni tal-Port Ħieles, dalwaqt jixpakka. Għandu bżonn l-ispazju biex jikber.

F’intervista ma’ Vanessa MacDonald ippubblikata fil-Business Observer il-bieraħ (supplement tat-Times of Malta) Aaron Farrugia jara potenzjal ghall-espansjoni tal-Port Ħieles fl-art li l-kumpanija GO kellha fit-triq ta’ Ħal-Far. Mid-dehra ma jafx li diġa hemm applikazzjoni fuq din l-art u li l-MEPA diġa esprimiet ruħha li ma taqbilx fil-principju, għalkemm l-applikazzjoni għadha pendenti.

Qed jara ukoll potenzjal għall-iżvilupp tal-Port Ħieles fil-miljun u nofs metru kwadru ta’ art li hemm bejn il-Port Ħieles u Ħal-Far.

Il-konflitt bejn il-ħtiġijiet tar-residenti (ta’ Birżebbuġa) u l-interessi tal-Port Ħieles huwa wieħed reali li kull jum li jgħaddi qiegħed jinħass iktar u jweġġa’. Għax fir-realtà l-Port Ħieles mhux postu daqshekk viċin in-nies. Kien meħtieġ li jinqata’ min-nies billi jitħalla l-ikbar spazju possibli vojt bejnu u r-residenzi. Imma dan l-ispazju qatt ma nħoloq.

L-intervista ta’ Aaron Farrugia hija inkwetanti għax minn dak li fiha jfisser li ma hemm l-ebda intenzjoni li jħallu lir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa bi kwiethom.

L-għarbiel hu meħtieġ

 

MEPA_building

Id-dibattitu ambjentali fil-pajjiż qed irabbi l-għeruq. Iktar nies huma konxji ta’ dak li qiegħed  jiġri. Peró dan mhux rifless biżżejjed fil-mod kif in-nies iġġib ruħha. F’dan is-sens għadna ftit lura. Imma, wara kollox, dan huwa proċess li jieħu żmien mhux żgħir biex minn għarfien aħjar ngħaddu għall-impenn.

Waħda mid-diffikultajiet li rridu niffaċċjaw kuljum hi l-frammentazzjoni tas-settur pubbliku b’mod li r-riżorsi li għandu, l-pajjiż ma jagħmilx użu tajjeb biżżejjed tagħhom, għax dawn huma mifruxa żżejjed. Il-qasma tal-MEPA f’żewġ awtoritajiet jiena nħares lejha f’dan is-sens.

Il-MEPA ma kienitx qed taħdem tajjeb, imma li taqsamha f’żewġ biċċiet, qatt ma kienet soluzzjoni, għax kull waħda miż-żewġ biċċiet qatt mhu se tkun b’saħħitha biżżejjed, l-anqas fil-qasam tagħha.

Il-MEPA ma kienitx b’saħħitha biżżejjed minħabba li fil-ħidma tagħha tul is-snin, qatt ma poġġiet l-interess tal-komunità sħiħa fiċ-ċentru tal-ħidma tagħha. Dejjem iffukat fuq l-iżvilupp tal-art u assigurat li l-bqija ta’ ħidmieta ma jtellifx dan l-iskop primarju. Meta fl-2002 l-ambjent ingħaqad mal-iżvilupp tal-art f’awtorità waħda kien hemm opportunità tad-deheb, li sfortunatament ma ġietx użata sewwa.

F’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna, l-eżistenza ta’ awtorità waħda għall-ambjent u l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art kienet opportunità unika biex il-ħidma ambjentali tkun iffukata u effettiva. (Il-ħidma ambjentali tinkludi l-ippjanar għall-użu ta’ l-art.) Minflok, din l-opportunità intużat ħażin. Kien hemm il-possibilità ta’ sinerġija, imma din ġiet skartata. Minflok, ġie assigurat li d-Direttorat tal-Ambjent jibqa’ bla riżorsi umani u tekniċi inkluż bla direttur għal diversi snin, kif għadu sal-lum li qed nikteb. Kif kien, bla snien u bla idejn, id-Direttorat tal-Ambjent ftit seta jkun effettiv.

Fil-bidu ta’ din il-ġimgħa ġiet konkluża d-diskussjoni fil-Parlament biex il-MEPA tinqasam mill-ġdid f’żewġ awtoritajiet: awtorità għall-ambjent u oħra għall-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art. Il-liġijiet li tressqu f’ħafna aspetti huma identiċi għal-liġi l-qadima, bid-difetti b’kollox.

Kull waħda miż-żewġ liġijiet ewlenin ippreżentati, fiha lista ta’ prinċipji li qegħdin hemm biex iservu ta’ gwida għall-Gvern, u anke għall-awtoritajiet il-ġodda infushom, dwar il-mod kif għandhom jaġixxu. Imma, sfortunatament dawn tħallew biss bħala prinċipji fuq il-karta għax mhuwiex possibli li ċittadin ordinarju inkella għaqda ambjentali tmur il-Qorti bl-insistenza li dak li l-Parlament approva fil-prinċipju jitwettaq. Din mhix xi ħaġa ġdida, għax dan id-difett fil-liġijiet ġie ikkupjat mil-liġi l-qadima li fis-sustanza tgħid l-istess affarijiet.

Bid-difetti kollha tal-liġijiet, dawn jitħaddmu, tajjeb jew ħażin, skond x’tip ta’ persuni jinħatru biex imexxuhom. Kellna, u għad għandna, kemm persuni kapaċi kif ukoll persuni li mhumiex kapaċi biex imexxu dawn it-tip ta’ awtoritiajiet. Kultant, xi persuni kapaċi ddakkru mill-bqija.

Qatt mhu tajjeb li l-Gvern jiddeċiedi waħdu dwar il-persuni li għandhom ikunu fdati bit-tmexxija ta’ dawn l-awtoritajiet. Il-prattika fl-Unjoni Ewropeja u anke fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika hi li l-persuni li jinħatru jkunu mgħarbla fil-pubbliku minn kumitati tal-Parlament. Il-proċess fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika huwa ħafna iktar rigoruż minn dak fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Hemmhekk anke l-imħallfin prospettivi jgħarblu u mhux l-ewwel darba li kien hemm persuni nominati li ma kisbux l-approvazzjoni biex jinħatru.

Dan ifisser li wara li l-Gvern jinnomina lill-persuni li għandhom imexxu dawn jidhru quddiem kumitat parlamentari li jistaqsihom diversi mistoqsijiet, u jiddibatti magħhom il-fehmiet u l-esperjenzi tagħhom relatati mall-oqsma differenti ta’ ħidma tal-awtorità li jkunu ġew nominati biex imexxu. Dan isir biex ikun stabilit jekk humiex kompetenti biex imexxu.

Hi sistema li meta tkun addottata għandha isservi ta’ xprun fuq il-Gvern tal-ġurnata biex joqgħod iktar attent dwar il-persuni maħtura, għax id-difetti jew in-nuqqasijiet tagħhom b’dan il-mod hemm ċans tajjeb illi jiġu esposti immedjatament.

Din il-proposta saret kemm fil-manifest elettorali tal-Alternattiva Demokratika kif ukoll fil-manifest elettorali tal-Partit Laburista. Fil-Parlament f’dawn il-ġranet, ġew ippreżentati proposti f’dan is-sens kemm minn Marlene Farrugia f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika kif ukoll minn esponenti tal-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Minkejja li kien hemm l-opportunità ta’ kunsens dwar dawn il-proposti, il-Gvern sfortunatament għażel li jirreżisti dak li kien ikun ċertament pass kbir il-quddiem fil-kontabilità tat-tmexxija tal-awtoritajiet.

Kien biss nhar il-Ġimgħa 4 ta’ Diċembru, li waqt id-diskussjoni pubblika organizzata mill-Kummissjoni Ambjent tal-Knisja li l-Prim Ministru iddikjara illi l-Partit Laburista ma abbandunax l-idea imma li għadu qed jiżviluppa qafas li jkun japplika għal firxa wiesa’ ta’ awtoritajiet. Filwaqt li dan hu tajjeb jibqa’ l-fatt li intilfet opportunità unika fid-dibattitu parlamentari li tiġi introdotta s-sistema tal-għarbiel bi prova fil-qasam li hi l-iktar meħtieġa, dak ambjentali.

Għax wara koIlox huma dawk afdati bit-tmexxija li jistgħu jagħmlu d-differenza, anke jekk il-liġijiet jibqgħu difettużi. Għalhekk il-ħtieġa li ngħarblu aħjar il-ħatriet li jsiru, illum qabel għada. Hu b’hekk li l-għarfien aħjar tal-obbligi ambjentali tagħna nistgħu nittrasformawhom f’awtoritajiet impenjati bis-serjeta biex jagħmlu dmirhom.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: il- Ħadd 13 ta’ Diċembru 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