If pigs had a vote

pigs

The latest shots in Malta’s environmental siege that followed so soon after the Żonqor debacle, were fired earlier this week by Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius who, accompanied by PN Sports spokesperson David Agius launched a call for expressions of interest in connection with the Concession for the Design, Build and Operation of Motor Recreation and Education Park.

The call specifies the functions which must be fulfilled, namely national and international motor racing events, motor sport training and other related activities including motor research and development. Ancillary activities deemed to complement the project can also be included.

The terms of the call are very wide such that it is ensured that those responding would have sufficient flexibility. The proposed site has not been selected yet, although, as declared by Parliamentary Secretary Agius, the government is aware of the available potential sites due to it having been lobbied by motor racing groups for quite some time. TVM news stated on Tuesday that three specific sites have been identified. From other sources it is known that one of the sites is in Ħal-Far while a second one lies in the limits of Siġġiewi. The location of the third site is so far unknown.

On Thursday, Siggiewi Mayor Karol Aquilina commented that the area known as Ta’ San Niklaw, close to id-Dar Tal-Providenza Siġġiewi, which, he said, was potentially being considered as a candidate site. I think that it is highly unlikely that the Siġġiewi site would be selected in view of the fact that all indications in the past three years have pointed towards the Ħal-Far area as the preferred location. But one never knows.

The call does not limit the site area. Motor racing enthusiasts are speaking of approximately 80 hectares of land which would be required for a three to five kilometre racing track as well as the ancillary facilities. In 2013, during the electoral campaign, the footprint referred to was much smaller, around half the size.

The call for expressions of interest refers to protection of the environment, protection of cultural heritage, long-term sustainability of the project as well as adherence to Natura 2000 protection criteria. Interestingly, however, the call makes no commitment to protect agricultural land. This may be very indicative as to what lies in store.

The scale of the project and its uptake of land, is massive by Maltese standards. It is also out of proportion to the size of the Maltese islands.

Irrespective of the selected site, the land used will undoubtedly include large areas of agricultural land still in use. In good time we will also be informed that abandoned agricultural land will also be incorporated into the project. In such a large area, most of which has never been substantially disturbed, it is also inevitable that some archaeological remains will surface.

There are also issues of air quality and noise pollution. These impacts will be of relevance to communities closest to the selected site. The submitted proposal will undoubtedly include mitigation measures, in particular those relative to noise pollution. Residents have votes and as a direct consequence of this fact there will be a concerted effort to minimise the impact of noise in residential areas. The extent to which this is successful and/or acceptable can only be established when the exact parameters of the proposal are known. Noise pollution will, however, be a major issue irrespective of the identified site.

The Habitats Directive of the European Union is applicable to a number of areas in the Maltese islands. Through the implementation of this Directive, it is not only the specific sites which are afforded protection. This protection extends beyond the sites to activity in the area surrounding the sites in so far that the said activity will have an impact on the protected sites.

The proposals to be submitted will have an impact on nocturnal natural life on the selected site and its surroundings. Such nocturnal life is heavily impacted by both noise and light pollution which will result from motor sport activities .

Farm animals in the vicinity of the selected site will also be in for a hard time. Noise pollution from the racing track will have a considerable impact on the operation of farms as well as on farm animals.

Pigs, cows and birds do not vote. If they did we would definitely not need to worry about ODZs any more.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 4 October 2015

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Ħolm ikrah u d-dilemma tal-Partit Nazzjonalista

David AgiusChris Agius

 

Is-sejħa għal espressjoni ta’ interess biex jinbena u jitħaddem ċirkwit għat-tlielaq tal-karozzi li ħareġ iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa mill-Gvern hu attakk ieħor fuq l-art barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp (ODZ).

L-iżvilupp li qed jikkonsidra l-Gvern hu stmat li jista’ jirrikjedi sa madwar 800,000 metru kwadru ta’ art (80 ettaru) u ma jista’ jsir imkien jekk mhux f’ODZ – jiġifieri barra ż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp.

Malta u Għawdex huma żgħar wisq u l-ftit art li baqalna mhux mibnija barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp għandna bżonn li nipproteġuha aħjar. Il-Gvern, sfortunatament qed jagħmel minn kollox biex jinkorġġixxi kemm jiflaħ żvilupp fuq art ODZ.

Hi ta’ ħasra li f’dan il-każ il-PN għoġbu jagħti appoġġ lill-Gvern, liema appoġġ intwera pubblikament permezz tal-parteċipazzjoni tal-kelliemi tal-PN għall-Isports David Agius f’konferenza stampa flimkien mas-Segretarju Parlamentari Chris Agius.

Apparti t-tniġġiż tal-arja kkawżat mhux biss mit-tlielaq imma wkoll mis-sessjonijiet ta’ taħriġ fiċ-ċirkwit propost, hemm ukoll il-ħsejjes esaġerati minn karozzi misjuqa b’veloċità kbira li se jkunu ta’ inkonvenjent kbir għal dawk li jkollhom l-isfortuna li jkunu ġirien taċ-ċirkwit.

Nittama li din tkun ħolma oħra kerha, li tgħaddi, mal-bosta li l-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern qed joħloq fil-qasam ambjentali.

Sadanittant il-Partit Nazzjonalista qiegħed f’dilemma. Jeħtieġlu jispjega kif, meta jfettillu jikkritika l-iżvilupp fl-ODZ fiż-Żonqor u issa jappoġġa proposti ta’ żvilupp fl-ODZ, bħalma qiegħed jagħmel bl-appoġġ li qiegħed jagħti f’ismu l-Membru Parlamentari David Agius għaċ-ċirkwit tal-karozzi tat-tlielaq.

Il-kontradizzjonijiet tal-PN jiżviluppaw quddiem għajnejk!

 

Taqta’ fejn taqta’ joħroġ id-demm

racetrack

L-argument dwar iċ-ċirkwit tal-tlielaq tal-karozzi qiegħed jiġi mpoġġi ħażin.

Uħud qed jgħidu li dan iċ-ċirkwit m’għandux jitqiegħed f’ODZ. Dan hu argument li min qed jagħmlu m’jafx x’inhu jgħid. Għax l-ebda ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi ma jsir ġo żona ta’ żvilupp.

Jiena nħares lejn il-materja b’mod ħafna differenti.

Nistaqsi: Għandna biżżejjed art għal din l-attività? Nafu li din l-attività tirrikjedi kwantità kbira ta’ art?

Tkun fejn tkun l-art ser toħloq xi forma ta’ impatt. Tista’ teffettwa raba’ li qed jintuża jew kien jintuża għall-agrikultura. Tista’ minflok teffettwa xagħri u allura l-impatt ikun iżjed wieħed fuq riżorsi naturali u bijodiversità. Dan apparti wirt storiku jew arkejoloġiku li jiddependi minn fejn tkun l-art.

Jekk min-naħa l-oħra l-proposta tkun viċin wisq l-abitat (kemm jekk ODZ kif ukoll, agħar jekk ġoż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp) l-impatti fuq ir-residenti ser ikunu ta’ natura sostanzjali. Hemm l-impatti kkawżati mill-istorbju kif ukoll mit-tniġġiż tal-arja bħala riżultat tal-użu ta’ kwantità kbira ta’ fuel fit-tlielaq.

L-istorbju ma jeffettwax biss lill-bniedem. Jeffettwa ukoll lin-natura. Jeffettwa ukoll l-annimali fl-irziezet. Hemm diversi regoli u liġijiet dwar dan li jirrestrinġu ċerta attività bħalma hi dik tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi.

Jiġifieri taqta’ fejn taqta’ joħroġ id-demm.

L-art li ser tkun meħtieġa hi waħda sostanzjali. Qabel l-aħħar elezzjoni d-delettanti tal-isport tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi kienu taw indikazzjonijiet li l-art meħtieġ tista’ tkun bejn it-33 tomna u 40 tomna.

Mhux kull art li tista’ tkun magħżula ser ikollha l-istess impatt. Irridu nistennew u naraw għax tkun liema tkun l-art li ser tintagħżel ser toħloq problema. Peró din bil-fors ser tkun ODZ – barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp! Għax ma tista’ tkun imkien iktar.

Meta nisma’ proposti bħal din dwar iċ-ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi huwa ċar li uħud donnhom għad ma jridux jaċettaw iċ-ċokon tal-pajjiż. Minħabba dan iċ-ċokon attività bħat-tlielaq tal-karozzi fl-opinjoni tiegħi ma jagħmlux sens.

Road Safety and Motor Sports project proposal

Road Safety and Motorsport Facility

I attended yesterday’s business breakfast organised by the Malta Motorsports Federation on its proposal to build a Road Safety and Motorsports Facility in Malta.  The proposal requires a land area of between 33 and 40 hectares and it appears that government has already identified the land which could serve for this purpose. Indications given so far are that it is in the vicinity of the airport, close to Safi and Kirkop.

During the Business Breakfast the Prime Minister expressed qualified support for the project. He referred to issues of noise and financial feasibility as being basic and which in his view require to be addressed in more detail before government considers the matter definitely to take a final decision.

I also heard veteran entrepeneur Maurice Mizzi air his views. He agreed with the road safety aspect of the project whilst disagreeing with the motor sports part on the basis of noise pollution.

The two aspects of the proposed project are complimentary. The Motor Sports aspect is considered to be the revenue generating part whilst the Road Safety aspect will contribute to an organised professional drive to have better trained drivers. The road safety aspect of the project was defined by one of the foreign speakers as being a CSR driven project, a means through which Motor Sports channels back into the community profits which are generated.

The issues to be examined are not only those relating to financial feasibility and noise impacts as emphasisied by the Prime Minister. Air quality and the emission of particulate matter resulting from the fuels which will be in use has to be studied in detail. One has also to consider the fact that the localities in the vicinity of the airport are already subject to excessive noise pollution resulting from the operations of Malta’s International Airport.

With this in mind whilst emphasising that the proposed project may serve as a much needed educational tool to improve driving skills much more needs to be examined before it can be given the go-ahead.

Our community may reap great benefits from this initiatve through improved road safety. As to the sports aspect one has undoubtedly to consider further. Eventually a decision will depend on the technical parameters of the project, the proposed mitigating measures and the precise location of the site. Any decision has to await such time as these issues are clear. It has to be clear that the communities close by are not shouldered with more burdens. They have shouldered more than enough to date.

published at di-ve.com on Friday 8 February 2013