George Pullicino u l-konfoffi

George Pullicino + Perm Sec

L-Onorevoli George Pullicino fil-Parlament din il-ġimgħa tkellem dwar l-estimi tal-Enemalta.

Qalilna li l-istorja tal-meters imbagħbsa hi konfoffa  ta’ Laburisti, kollha (jew kważi) qraba ta’ xulxin u li kellhom l-intenzjoni unika illi jagħmlu ħsara lill-Korporazzjoni Enemalta fi żmien l-amministrazzjoni ta’ Lawrence Gonzi.

Interessanti ħafna dan il-kumment tal-Onorevoli Pullicino.

Imma ngħid jien, dak iż-żmien ma kienx hemm regolatur? U dan ir-regolatur x’kien qed jagħmel biex ma ndunax b’dawn il-konfoffi?

Ir-regolatur li kien hemm (u għadu hemm sal-lum) hu l-MRA (Malta Resources Authority). Politikament responsabbli matul il-perjodu 2008-13 għal dan ir-regolatur “indipendenti” kien l-Onorevoli Pullicino.

Issa li Pullicino hu daqshekk ċert dwar x’ġara, ikun ħafna interessanti kieku xi ħadd jispjega kif dan ir-regolatur ma ndunax b’din il-konfoffa, imma Pullicino jidher li jaf!

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Environmental Governance

construction_site_img_9716

Having over 70,000 vacant residential properties is a very serious matter which both the Nationalist and the Labour parties have ignored in their electoral manifestos. Rather than being ignored this fact ought to serve as the launching pad for a different way of looking at land use planning issues.

The Housing Authority in the past months has opted not to build new social housing units but instead decided to tap the stock of vacant dwellings held by the private sector. It was a very positive decision pushed forward by Minister Chris Said on taking up his Ministerial responsibilities early in 2012.

In its electoral manifesto Alternattiva Demokratika has listed a number of specific proposals which would go a long way to address the land use planning chaos which will be inherited by the government that takes office after the 9 March general elections.

As a first step Malta requires a moratorium on large scale residential development. The building industry cannot keep constructing flats and maisonettes in hundreds, adding to the stock of vacant dwellings. The number of vacant residential properties is equivalent to 9 times the size of the residential parts of B’Kara.

While the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has issued development permits, the State has, through our taxes, been paying up for the development of the infrastructure (roads, public sewer, water and electricity distribution networks………) which is underutilised. These funds could have been put to better use than to service vacant dwellings.

The boundaries of the development zone have to be rolled back. Those lands which, in August 2006, were included as land suitable for development as part of the so-called rationalisation exercise and have not yet been committed to development should return forthwith outside the development zone where they belong.

The construction industry, aided by a myopic MEPA, has made a havoc of our towns and villages through encouraging overdevelopment. In 2006, when the final decisions on most of the Local Plans were being considered,  the Government had access to the 2005 census results which determined the existence of 53,136 vacant dwellings. This was a substantial increase over the 17,413 vacant dwellings identified 10 years earlier as part of the 1995 census.

Publication of the 2011 census results on property is long overdue, but it is expected that the numbers this time will exceed the 70,000 mark substantially.

Faced with these numbers, a responsible government would never have proposed extending the development zones. The 2005 census result provided the evidence for their curtailment not for their extension. In addition to extending the development zones, the PN-led government increased the permissible building heights practically all over Malta, the end result being a further substantial increase in the number of vacant dwellings.

In addition, the height relaxation policy put in place in 2006 had another serious impact. It placed a number of dwellings in the shade of new buildings surrounding them, these being built in line with the new permissible heights. As a result, the residents in these dwellings cannot make use of solar energy. Not only the use of photovoltaic panels is out of the question but also their solar water heaters are in most cases no longer of any use!

Faced with this situation, it is political madness to propose considering the construction industry as an important and fundamental component of the economy, as the PL is proposing. The construction industry must shrink rather than expand. It must be assisted to manage its essential and unavoidable restructuring.

The construction industry can be directed towards three specific areas of activity: rehabilitation of old properties, road construction/maintenance and marine construction works. Each of these three areas of activity requires training in construction skills. Rehabilitation works require old building trades on the verge of disappearance. Roadworks, though improving in quality, still require a more skilled labourforce. We also need to take stock of our marine infrastructure which requires substantial improvement as well as regular maintenance.

The Government can assist the construction industry to change through providing training facilties for its labour force, thereby reducing the social impacts of change. Funds from the European Social Fund are available to assist in this exercise.

Land use planning should be subject to environmental governance rules. It is for this reason that AD considers it essential that rather then splitting up MEPA, the Government should go for a defragmentation, consolidating all environmental functions in one authority through the amalgamation of MEPA with the Resources Authority.

In such a consolidated authority, environmental considerations should be overriding and, in particular, land use planning should be put in its proper place: under the continuous supervision of a properly staffed Environment Directorate.

This is the basic change required in environmental governance. Placing the land use planning and the construction industry in their proper place and ensuring that environmental governance is defragmented.

published in The Times, Saturday 23rd February 2013

Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (11) An Alert Parliament

Il-Parlament Malti

 

The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 14 of AD’s Electoral Manifesto

An Alert Parliament.

Members of Parliament should not have an active role in the running of the new Authority which substitutes MEPA and MRA. Parliament should make the necessary tools available such that a Parliamentary Select Committee dealing with the Environment, Resource Management and Land Use Planning can oversee the new Authority querying its Board of Directors and its principal officers on its operations whenever this is required. In this manner both the Authority’s Board of Directors and the Minister/Parliamentary Secretary politically responsible for the Authority will be ultimately accountable to Parliament on a continuous basis.

L-Estratt segwenti hu mehud kelma b’kelma mill-Kapitlu 14 tal-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

Il-Parlament bil-Lenti

Il-Membri tal-Parlament m’għandhomx jibqgħu jkollhom rwol attiv fit-tmexxija tal-Awtorità li tinħoloq flok il-MEPA u l-MRA. Minflok il-Parlament għandu joħloq l-għodda neċessarja biex, permezz ta’ Kumitat Magħżul tal-Kamra dwar l-Ambjent, ir-Riżorsi u l-Ippjanar, ikun jista’ jissorvelja lill-awtorità l-ġdida u jitlob spjegazzjonijiet mingħand id-diriġenti tal-istess awtorità u l-uffiċjali ewlenija tagħha dwar l-aġir tagħhom kull meta meħtieġ. B’dan l-mod il-membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità kif ukoll il-politiċi (Ministru u Segretarju Parlamentari) inkarigati jkunu ultimament kontabbli lejn il-Parlament kontinwament.

Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (9) Against Fragmentation (of Environmental Governance)

mepa1

The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 14 of AD’s Electoral Manifesto

Against Fragmentation.

MEPA which was established in 2002 through the amalgamation of the Planning Authority and the Department for the Environment has been generally ineffective in carrying out its duty of protecting the environment. This has come about because as a result of the structures created, even after the so-called 2010 reforms, the environmental function of MEPA has been entrusted in the hands of those who consistently indicated that their interest was in encouraging unbridled development. The Directorate for the Protection of the Environment is suffocated and can hardly act except in some exceptional case where it would be to the political benefit of Government.

In addition to this there is a serious problem resulting from the spreading of various environmental responsibilities under different Ministries and Authorities. Fragmentation reduces the effectiveness of any action taken.

In the past AD focused on the need to separate the environmental function from the land use planning function. This emphasis was made as the basic problem then was that the environment protection function was continuously over-ruled by those bent on development at all costs.

AD is today proposing a different solution. This solution is intended to address environment protection and identify it as a central function whilst simultaneously addressing the existing fragmentation: this can be carried out by consolidating all the environmental functions in one authority. We thus propose that MEPA and the Malta Resources Authority (MRA) are brought together in one authority. In a consolidated authority the environmental function should be central and should lead the Planning Directorate to take a secondary role.

The consolidated authority will eliminate existing duplication and will thus lead to a better utilisation of resources as well as trained staff currently on the books at MEPA and MRA .

L-Estratt segwenti hu mehud kelma b’kelma mill-Kapitlu 14 tal-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

Kontra l-Frammentazzjoni.

Il-MEPA li inħolqot fl-2002 bl-amalgamazzjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar u d-Dipartiment tal-Ambjent kienet ħafna drabi ineffettiva fil-qadi ta’ dmirha li tħares l-ambjent. Dan minħabba li bl-istruttura li nħolqot, anke wara l-hekk imsejħa riforma tal-2010 il-ħidma ambjentali tal-MEPA hi fdata f’idejn min konsistentement wera li l-interess tiegħu hu li jinkoraġġixxi l-iżvilupp bla rażan. Id-Direttorat għall-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent fil-MEPA hu maħnuq u ftit li xejn jista’ jaġixxi għajr f’xi eċċezzjoni fejn ikun jaqbel politikament għall-Gvern.

B’żieda ma’ dan hemm problema kbira kkawżata minn responsabbiltajiet ambjentali mifruxa fuq diversi Ministeri u awtoritajiet. Il-frammentazzjoni tnaqqas l-effettività tal-ħidma li ssir.

Fil-passat Alternattiva Demokratika iffokat fuq il-ħtiega tas-separazzjoni tal-funzjoni ambjentali mill-funzjoni tal-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art. Din l-enfażi kienet saret minħabba li l-problema prinċipali dakinnhar kienet li l-ħarsien tal-ambjent kien maħnuq minn dawk li riedu jmexxu ’l quddiem l-iżvilupp bla rażan tal-art.

Alternattiva Demokratika illum qed tipproponi soluzzjoni differenti. Din is-soluzzjoni hi intiża biex tindirizza l-importanza li l-ħarsien tal-ambjent ikun il-mutur li jmexxi, iżda ukoll li tkun indirizzat l-frammentazzjoni u dan billi jkunu kkonsolidati l-funzjonijiet ambjentali f’awtorità waħda. Nipproponu għalhekk li jingħaqdu f’awtorità waħda l-MEPA u l-Awtorità dwar ir-Riżorsi (MRA). Fl-awtorità kkonsolidata, il-funzjoni ambjentali għandha tkun dik ċentrali u għandha sservi biex id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar jieħu funzjoni sekondarja.

L-awtorità kkonsolidata telimina d-duplikazzjoni eżistenti u b’hekk isservi biex ikunu utilizzati aħjar il-faċilitajiet u l-istaff imħarreġ li hemm illum fil-MEPA u l-MRA.

L-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar il-politika tal-Ilma f’Malta

River Basin Management Plans

Nhar l-14 ta’ Novembru 2012, ftit iktar minn ħmistax ilu, l-Unjoni Ewropeja ippubblikat rapport dwar il-mixja ta’ Malta biex twettaq l-obbligi tagħha stabiliti fil-Water Framework Directive. Kellna skiet fil-pajjiż dwar dan ir-rapport. Dan ir-rapport tista’ taqrah hawn .

Il-Gvern ma tkellem xejn dwaru. L-anqas l-Awtorita dwar ir-Riżorsi ma qalet xejn. Il-media baqgħet siekta ukoll inkluż dawk li jippużaw tal-indipendenti. Il-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv ma nduna b’xejn.

Il-bieraħ is-Sibt Alternattiva Demokratika organizzajna konferenza stampa li fiha irreferejna għal dan ir-rapport. Ir-rapport hu wieħed tekniku ħafna imma nistgħu niffukaw fuq tlett kummenti li jagħmel.

L-ewwel kumment hu dwar il-boreholes. Fl-2008 sar proċess ta’ reġistrazzjoni ta’ boreholes. Għaddew iktar minn 4 snin u minkejja li dan hu qasam kruċjali l-Gvern u l-Awtorita’ dwar ir-Riżorsi għadhom mexjin b’mod kajman biex jintroduċu kontrolli dwar l-użu tal-ilma tal-pjan minn dawn il-boreholes. Dan hu qasam li fih kulħadd għadu jagħmel li jrid. Mhux aħna biss qed ngħiduh. Qed qed tgħidu ukoll l-Unjoni Ewropeja.  Fir-rapport li nsemmi hawn fuq l-UE tgħid li m’hemmx monitoraġġ ta’ “private groundwater abstractions”.  Dan hu iktar gravi meta wieħed iżomm quddiem għajnejh illi 45% tal-ilma li nixorbu, imwassal fi djarna mill-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma ġej mill-ilma tal-pjan. Jiġifieri l-ilma tal-pjan hu sors strateġiku biex il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jkollha ilma xi tqassam fid-djar għall-konsum.

Minkejja dan kollu meters ftit li xejn ġew istallati ma dawn il-boreholes. L-anqas l-electronic tracking tal-bowsers għadu ma sar. Sadanittant l-ilma tal-pjan jibqa’ jinbiegħ fil-bowers qiesu m’hu jiġri xejn!

L-Unjoni Ewropeja fir-rapport tagħha tiġbed l-attenzjoni ukoll għall-frammentazzjoni: jiġifieri li l-politika dwar l-ilma hi maqsuma bejn diversi awtoritajiet: l-Awtorita dwar ir-Riżorsi (MRA) u l-Awtorita’ dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar (MEPA). Iżżid kumment dwar kumitat Inter-Ministerjali li kellu jitwaqqaf u li ħadd ma jaf jekk dan twaqqaqfx u minn min hu kompost.

Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel li fil-qasam ambjentali (mhux biss dak dwar l-ilma) hemm frammentazzjoni. Dan jista’ jkun rimedjat billi l-MRA u l-MEPA jiġu amalgamati f’Awtorita waħda taħt it-tmexxija ta’ Direttorat Ambjentali b’saħtu.  Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent u l-użu sostenibbli tar-riżorsi naturali bħall-ilma jistgħu u ġhandhom isiru aħjar b’awtorita’ konsolidata.

Ir-rapport tal-UE jipponta subgħajh ukoll lejn l-impatt tal-agrikultura fuq ir-riżorsi tal-ilma tal-pajjiz. Dan il-fatt, jempasizza r-rapport, messu wassal għal formolazzjoni ta’ strategija ċara dwar miżuri meħtieġa. Strateġija bħal din tirrikjedi l-parteċipazzjoni tal-komunita’ agrikola fl-istadju tal-formolazzjoni tagħha.

Huwa ċar illi l-fatt li r-regolatur dwar ir-Rizorsi (MRA) u d-Dipartiment tal-Agrikultura huma ir-responsabbilta politika tal-istess Ministeru, dan qiegħed iżomm lir-regolatur mill-jaġixxi b’mod effettiv. Għandu jkun sottolineat illi l-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika żvela li matul l-2009-10 l-agrikultura użat il-fuq minn 28 miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma, li jammonta ghal hafna iktar milli qatt kien stmat. Dan hu kważi id-doppju tal-ilma li tiċċirkola l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma.

Hemm bżonn li l-ilma jittieħed b’iżjed serjeta’. Biex dan isir jeħtieġ li jintrifsu ħafna kallijiet.

World Water Week 2012

 

The Stockholm International Water Institute during the current week is organising the World Water Week. Focusing on the theme of water and food security this is the sixth consecutive year for the Swedish Institute.

In Malta water has been mismanaged for a large number of years. The ground water table is generally depleted. Where ground water is still available this is of poor quality.

Agriculture is one of the major users of water. It has also however contributed substantially to the contamination of the water table as is evidenced  in the various studies undertaken locally, amongst which that prepared for the Malta Resources Authority by the British Geological Society. This report is  entitled “A preliminary study on the identification of the sources of nitrate contamination in groundwater in Malta” and was concluded in 2009.

The existing large number of illegal boreholes are drying up what’s left of the water table transforming what ought to be a public commodity into a private asset as is evidenced by the bowsers transporting and selling water to hotels and swimming pool owners all over the island at a rate which is much cheaper that that charged by the Water Services Corporation (WSC). This is daylight robbery which has been made easy by the inaction or delayed action of the maltese authorities throughout the years.

The result is that ground water cannot satisfy the reqirements for human consumption in Malta. It is in fact supplemented by reverse osmois produced water: around 60% of the water supplied by the Water Services Corporation is reverse osmosis water derived from the sea!

 

Whilst WSC sources part of our water from purified sea water it simultaneously dumps into the sea treated sewage effluent. WSC designed all three sewage purification plants as an end of pipe solution intending specifically, on the drawing board to deal with sewage as waste instead of considering it as a precious resource. After all three plants have been commissioned WSC is considering potential uses of the treated water effluent. Such consideration should have been made at the planning stage years ago!

Later this year the European Union will publish a “Blueprint  to safeguard Europe’s water resources”. This was announced by EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in a statement which he issued on the World Water Week earlier this week.

It is about time that this Blueprint is produced. Even though in Malta at this point it seems that there is little left to safeguard!

 

originally published in di-ve.com on 31 August 2012

Water Sustainability ………… Sostenibilta tal-Ilma

World Environment Day: Water Sustainability a most pressing issue in Malta

In a press conference held in front of the Malta Resources Authority, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said that water sustainability is a most pressing issue in Malta.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: “There are various important environmental issues in Malta, including air pollution, noise pollution, rampant construction and waste management. Like such issues, water sustainability deserves top prioritization in Malta’s environmental, economic and social policies”.

“Malta is one of the driest countries in the world, yet sustainable use of water does not yet seem to be a national priority.  We are in a situation where the majority pay their utility bills, whilst others steal water from boreholes. The water issue is ultimately an issue of environmental justice, social justice and economic good-sense. How could it be that we are treating such a scarce resource as if we have unlimited supply of it?”

Malta has mismanaged its water resources for far too long. Focusing on the potential use of recycled Treated Sewage Effluent Carmel Cacopardo AD Deputy Chairman and Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Home Affairs said that the infrastructure for sewage treatment was designed on the basis of the misconception that treated sewage had no economic value. As a result the 24 million cubic metres of treated sewage (estimated data for  2011 : 21,858,000 cm for Malta and 1,982,000 cm for Gozo, excluding rainwater in sewers during the rainy season) so far are being discharged into the sea. Simultaneously 29 million cubic metres of water are produced annually (56% by RO and 44% extracted from the water table).

The recently announced change of policy as a result of which it is envisaged that Treated Sewage Effluent is utilised for various purposes is a positive step.  However it is imperative that TSE of the right quality is available the soonest in order that boreholes all over the country are sealed up after sufficient water of the appropriate quality is available for both agriculture and industry. This said Carmel Cacopardo could lead to a much needed resting time for  the water table.

Last month the Prime Minister announced that a pilot project was in hand in order to examine the impacts of recharging the aquifer with Treated Sewage Effluent.  AD, said Carmel Cacopardo notes that a successful pilot project could lead to a long term sustainable solution to the management of water resources in Malta. This however, he added is not without its pitfalls as it is dependent on a tough enforcement policy ensuring that only permissible liquid waste is discharged into the public sewer.

AD has earlier this week met with Malta Resources Authority officials who confirmed that this is still a major sticking point.

Finally Carmel Cacopardo pointed out that Water Services Corporation has produced a “ (Master) Plan for the Use of Treated Sewage Effluent for the maltese Islands. A National  Reclamation project.” Dated May 2009 this Masterplan has been made public earlier this year in Parliament.  AD, stated Cacopardo, queries why this Masterplan has not been subject to a public consultation and being examined in terms of the Strategic Environment Assessement Directive of the EU.

Jum Dinji tal-Ambjent: Sostenibbilta tal-Ilma l-aktar kwistjoni urgenti f’Malta – AD

F’konferenza stampa li saret quddiem l-ufficini tal-Awtorita’ Maltija tar-Rizorsi, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party qalet li s-sostenibbilita’ tal-ilma hija l-aktar kwistjoni urgenti f’Malta.

Michael Briguglio, ic-Chairperson tal-AD, qal: “Hemm diversi kwistjonijiet ambjentali importanti f’Malta, inkluz it-tniggiz ta’ l-arja, tniggiz akustiku, il-kostruzzjoni rampanti u l-gestjoni tal-iskart. Bhal dawn il-kwistjonijiet, is-sostenibbilta’ tal-ilma jisthoqqa prijorita’ gholja fil-politika ambjentali, ekonomika u socjali ta’ Malta.”

“Malta hi wahda mill-iktar pajjizi niexfa fid-dinja, izda il-politika sostenibbli dwar l-ilma mhux qed tinghata. Qeghdin f’sitwazzjoni fejn il-maġġoranza tal-poplu jħallsu l-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma, waqt li ohrajn jisirqu l-ilma li jiġi mill-boreholes. Il-kwistjoni ta’ l-ilma hi wahda ta’ gustizzja ambjentali, gustizzja socjali u sens tajjeb ekonomiku. Kif jista’ jkun li rizorsa hekk skarsa qed tigi trattata qisha xi wahda bi provvista bla limitu?”

Malta ma haditx hsieb ir-rizorsi taghha tal-ilma ghal zmien twil. Huwa u jiffoka fuq il-potenzjal ghall-uzu tad-drenagg ippurifikat,  Carmel Cacopardo, Vici Chairman u Kelliemi ta’ AD ghall-Izvilupp Sostenibbli u l-Intern qal: “l-infrastruttura ghat-trattament tad-drenagg kienet iddisinjata fuq l-impressjoni zbaljata li dan l-ilma hekk prodott ma kellux valur ekonomiku. Bhala rizultat ta’ dan 24 miljunmetru kubu ta’ drenagg ippurifikat (stima ghall-2011: 21,858,000 mk ghal Malta u 1,982,000 ghal Ghawdex, apparti l-ilma tax-xita fid-drenagg meta taghmel ix-xita) s’issa qed jintefa l-bahar. Fl-istess hin 29 miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma qed ikunu prodotti kull sena (56% bl-RO u  44% estratt mill-pjan).”

“It-tibdil recenti fil-politika tal-Gvern li bhala rizultat taghha nistennew li d-drenagg riciklat ikun utilizzat ghal skopijiet diversi huwa pass pozittiv. Imma huwa essenzjali li ilma riciklat ta’ kwalita tajba ikun prodott mill-iktar fis biex ikun possibli li jinghalqu l-boreholes kollha wara li jkun hemm bizzejjed ilma ta’ kwalita’ ghall-agrikultura u l-industrija.  Dan, qal Carmel Cacopardo jista’ jwassal ghas-serhan tant mehtieg tal-ilma tal-pjan.”

“Ix-xahar li ghadda l-Prim Ministru habbar li progett pilot kien qed jezamina l-impatti li jirrizultaw jekk l-ilma tal-pjan ikun rikarikat b’ilma riciklat mid-drenagg. Alternattiva Demokratika tinnota li jekk dan il-progett pilota jirnexxi dan ikun jista’ jwassal ghal soluzzjoni sostenibbli u fit-tul tal-immanigjar tar-rizorsi tal-ilma f’Malta.  Dan imma, zied jghid, irid jiffaccja diffikultajiet kbar, principalment il-htiega ta’ id tal-hadid biex jigi assigurat li fid-drenagg  jinxtehet biss skart likwidu permissibli. “

“Alternattiva Demokratika iktar kmieni din il-gimgha iltaqghet ma ufficjali tal-Awtorita’ Maltija tar-Rizorsi li ikkonfermaw li din id-diffikulta ghadha ma gietx meghluba.”

Fl-ahhar nett  Carmel Cacopardo gibed l-attenzjoni li l-Korporazzjoni tas-Servizzi tal-Ilma ipproduciet  ‘(Master) Plan for the Use of Treated Sewage Effluent for the Maltese Islands. A National  Reclamation project’. Datat Mejju 2009 dan il-pjan kien ippubblikat fil-Parlament iktar kmieni din is-sena. Alternattiva Demokratika, qal Cacopardo, tistaqsi l-ghaliex dan il-pjan ma kienx soggett ghal konsultazzjoni pubblika kif ukoll ghaliex ma giex ezaminat ai termini tal-iStrategic Environment Assessement Directive tal-Unjoni Ewropea.

World Environment Day: “Government’s environment policy is beyond repair” : AD

World Environment Day: “Government’s environment policy is beyond repair” AD  

On occasion of  world environment day, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said that one should reflect on what has been carried out, what has been omitted and on what was just done for the sake of it in terms of environmental policy. Whilst the Environment was projected to be one of the foundations for political action of GonziPN it is now clear to everyone that it is cracked and beyond repair.  

Carmel Cacopardo, AD spokesperson for Sustainable Development and Local Government, said that “environment responsibilities for GonziPN is like a political football with responsibilities moving on from one Minister to another. Environmental responsibilities are fragmented in various Ministries increasing the difficulty for implementation of policy.   

Focusing on the water situation one still observes the large quantities of water in our streets which are channelled towards the sea almost every time it rains. This happens notwithstanding laws which have been on the statute book for over 130 years which require water harvesting measures in every building. MEPA still issues compliance certificates relative to buildings which are not provided with a rainwater well however it shifts the blame onto MRA.

This week the Prime Minister inaugurated the sewage purification plant at Ta’ Barkat limits of  Xgħajra. It was a good step but it was only done in order to fulfil EU obligations and not out of an environmental conviction. Substantial financial resources were applied with the resulting purified waters being dumped directly into the sea as to date the government is still considering this water as having no economic value.”

Water has been mismanaged throughout the years and unfortunately the current government does not indicate any change of that direction.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said that “AD therefore wishes to focus on this matter of concern on the 2011 World Environment Day. In line with the vision of sustainable development and ecological modernisation, we believe that the importance of water should be seen through the combination of environmental, social and economic dimensions.”

Jum Dinji ta’ l-ambjent: “Il-politika ambjentali tal-Gvern hi mfarrka” AD  

Fl-okkazzjoni tal-jum dinji ghall-ambjent, Alternattiva Demokratika qalet li dan il-jum għandu jservi ghal riflessjoni fuq dak li sar,  dak li kellu jsir u ma sarx, jew inkella sar biex wieħed jgħid li taparsi sar. Meta wieħed iżomm f’moħħu li l-ambjent suppost li hu wiehħed mit-tliet pilastri ta’ GonziPN u jagħti ħarsa ftit lura biex jara kif dan il-pilastu ħadem, isib li mhux talli kien hemm falliment sħiħ f’dan il-qasam, imma l-pilalstru ta’ GonziPN ixxaqqaq u qed jitfarrak ftit ftit.

Carmel Cacopardo, Kelliemi ta’ l-AD għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli u Gvern Lokali, qal li “l-ambjent għall-GonziPN sar qisu ballun politiku: ir-responsabbilta’ għalih tgħaddi minn Ministru għal għand ieħor. Illum ir-responsabiltajiet ambjentali huma  mifruxa bejn ħafna Ministeri b’mod li tiżdied id-diffikulta biex din titwettaq.

Nieħdu is-sitwazzjoni tal-ilma. Volumi kbar ta’ ilma għadhom isibu ruħhom fit-triqat u jintremew fil-baħar wara kull ħalba xita. Dan minkejja liġijiet tal-pajjiż li ilhom magħna il-fuq minn 130 sena li jgħidu li kull binja irid ikollha bir biex fih jinħażen l-ilma tax-xita. Minkejja dan il-MEPA xorta għada toħroġ compliance certificate lil dawk li meta jibnu ma jkollhomx dan il-bir! Il-MEPA twaħħal fl-MRA.

Din il-gimgħa rajna l-ftuħ uffiċjali mill-Prim Ministru tal-impjant tat-tisfija tad-drenaġġ f’Ta’ Barkat limiti tax-Xgħajra.  Ħaġa tajba, għalkemm din saret biss minħabba l-obbligi tal-UE u mhux minħabba xi konvinzjoni. Ammont sostanzjali ta’ riżorsi finanzjarji ġew użati biex filwaqt li d-drenaġġ jissaffa l-ilma msoffi jintefa’ l-baħar, għax skond il-Gvern dan l-ilma m’għandux valur ekonomiku.

Tul is-snin l-ilma gie użat hażin u ma jidhirx li dan il-Gvern fi ħsiebu jibdel id-direzzjoni.

Michael Briguglio, Chairperson ta’ AD, qal li “għalhekk, Alternattiva Demokratika tħoss li għandha tiffoka fuq l-importanza ta’ l-ilma fl-okkazjoni ta’ Jum L-Ambjent 2011. Permezz tal-viżjoni favur żvilupp sostenibbli u modernizazzjoni ekologika, AD temmen li l-importanza ta’ l-ilma għandha titqies permezz tad-dimensjonijiet ambjentali, soċjali u ekonomiċi”.

Thoughts for an Environmental Policy

The government has published a number of policy documents for public consultation. Two deal with different aspects of water policy while a third deals with issues for a National Environment Policy.

Also of relevance is an Ernst & Young Report commissioned by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority on a 2008 Public Attitudes Survey. It is dated April 2010. Although recently published I do not recollect reading anything in the press about this survey. One of the conclusions of this survey should be an eye opener to policy makers as to the central importance which the Maltese public attaches to the environment.

In the 2008 Public Attitudes Survey it was concluded that 69 per cent of respondents held the view that the environment was as important as the economy. On the other hand 23 per cent of respondents considered that the environment was more important than the economy while only eight per cent considered the economy as being of overriding importance.

To my mind these are significant conclusions contrasting with current national policy which considers that the economy has an ­overriding priority over the environment. The Maltese public thinks otherwise: 92 per cent of respondents of the Mepa Public Attitudes Survey have understood that the economy should not be an overriding consideration in environmental policy formulation. Now this is what sustainable development is all about.

Contrary to what green-washers imply, being committed to sustainable development does not mean that one seeks to balance or mitigate environmental, social and cultural impacts of economic development. Sustainable development speaks another language altogether for which unfortunately there is still a lack of translators. Real commitment to sustainable development conveys the message that humankind does not own the earth. It shares the earth with other species together with which it forms part of one eco-system.

The way in which our society has evolved and is organised is such that it considers human activity as meriting overriding importance. In fact it is often stated that policies are anthropocentric. Both PN and PL environmental policies can be grouped in this category. AD together with other Green parties around the globe differs as it follows a eco-centric path. But then the ecology has no vote!

Sustainable development properly construed considers the need of an eco-centric environmental policy. This signifies that a holistic approach is applied through which impacts on the whole eco-system are considered.

Now this is completely different from the manner in which our society is accustomed to look at itself. An eco-centric approach leads us to take a long term view in contrast to the short-sighted view of our immediate interests. This does not only impact land use but also waste management, agriculture and fishing, light pollution, acoustic pollution, air quality, water resources, mineral deposits, transport policy, the protection of our ecological heritage and many other areas.

When one considers the above I cannot understand why the authors of the National Environment Policy Issues Paper ignored the National Sustainable Development Strategy when formulating the Issues Paper for public consultation. They considered the 2008 State of the Environment Report and the Parliamentary debate which ensued together with the Ernst & Young report above quoted as the basis for a discussion.

In so doing they ignored completely a consultation process spanning a number of years which answered most of the questions which the Issues Paper poses.

This is surely not a new way of doing politics. It is a way with which most of us are familiar as it does away with past achievements and seeks to start a fresh page, ignoring everything and everyone. Knowing that at least one of the drafters of the National Environment Policy Issues Paper was actively involved in the process leading to the National Sustainability Strategy, I must ask the obvious question: Is the Issues Paper the first step towards the scrapping of the National Sustainability Strategy?

The current Bill before Parliament which seeks to consolidate existing legislation on land use planning and the environment removes all references to the National Sustainable Development Commission. It was stated repeatedly that a separate legislative measure will be proposed dealing with issues of sustainable development. Yet to date this is nowhere in sight. Does this confirm that there have been second thoughts on the National Sustainability Strategy?

The Strategy should currently be in the process of implementation. Section 5 of the Strategy entitled “The Way Ahead” provides that ministers have to produce action plans for the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy in their portfolio within 18 months from the adoption of the strategy.

The strategy was adopted by Cabinet more than 18 moons ago yet the action plans are nowhere in sight.

I have never had any doubt that this government is being consistent with its beliefs: it says one thing, but when push comes to shove it proceeds with doing something else.

published in The Times : August 14, 2010

Water : A Long-Term View

An environmental policy which is worth the paper it is written on is one which aims at the long term. Merged into a national sustainable development strategy, environmental, economic and social policy is viewed in an holistic manner linking cause and effect.

The argument is often bandied around that in order to address environmental impacts it is necessary to ensure the generation of wealth through an enhanced economic performance which wealth could then be applied to environmental initiatives. I would suggest considering that environmental impacts are the direct consequence of economic activity, this leading to the conclusion that environmental impacts can be effectively addressed by re-designing the economic activity which has generated them.

Sometimes we tend to forget that man forms part of an ecological system. One particular consequence of this fact is that policies should be focused on making man’s impacts compatible with the carrying capacity of the ecological system.

This is easier said than done. It has been ages since man has abandoned most of his direct links with nature acting as if he was king of all that he could see. An environmental deficit has accumulated over the years as a result of short term policies which sought to satisfy the needs at a particular point in time without pausing to think on how those same needs would be satisfied in the long term. 

Consider for example the issue of water. Everyone is at this point aware that in Malta water is currently extracted from the water table at an unsustainable rate. The point of contention is whether we are still in time to remedy the situation.

Action taken by the Malta Resources Authority recently such that water extracted from boreholes is regulated is positive even though this action has been long overdue. The defining moment in protecting Malta’s underground water resources would be when these resources are reserved for agriculture and for distribution through the Water Services Corporation network. All other uses of underground water should be prohibited forthwith.

This signifies that better use should be made of other water sources. Too much rainwater is lost to the sea and to the public sewers. This is mostly the result of an incompetent public sector which has not applied existing policies and regulations. 

Water has been scarce in Malta since the advent of human settlement. It would suffice to say that when the Knights sought reasons to decline Charles V’s offer to base themselves in Malta the reports submitted by L’Isle Adam’s scouts placed lack of water as one of the main reasons. When Valletta was being constructed building regulations were drawn up emphasising the need to collect rainwater in cisterns constructed in the individual residences. This is still part of our legislation and since 1880 it has been applicable to all residences.

However notwithstanding the fact that legislation provides a solution, those entrusted with its implementation do not seem to be interested. Substantial amounts of property developed in the last 40 years is not provided with adequate storage for rainwater. In some cases the resulting rainwater flows straight onto our streets or else it is poured directly into our sewers. The results are various.

1. a substantial quantity of rainwater which could be put to good use is lost; this is then made up for by water extracted from the watertable or processed by reverse osmosis plants at a substantial ecological cost,

2. part of our sewer network is overloaded, overflowing onto roads and the sea during and immediately after heavy rainfall,

3. some of our roads are not fit to use during and immediately after heavy rainfall,

4. the overloaded sewers place an additional strain on the sewage purification plants thereby increasing their running costs which costs are then added to our water bills.  

 

Addressing the collection of rainwater and making good use of it would substantially reduce all of these impacts. This is easy to do, yet it has not been done as the competent authorities have shirked their duties for the past 40 years or so.

Whilst proper rainwater management would ease demand for groundwater this is not however the only possibility. I would point to action being taken by Singapore which like Malta has a lack of natural water resources. Singapore has reacted by producing a Four Taps policy which aims at being self-sufficient through the sustainable use of water resources. Within the Four Taps Policy Singapore also finds a use for purified sewage.

In Malta incompetence has produced a system designed specifically for discharging purified sewage into the sea. Certainly no long term planning here! Instead of designing a system to purify sewage close to where it could be used, incompetence has directed the substantial investments obtained from the EU to an end-of-pipe solution. This was not the result of some study as during the inauguration of the Mellieħa sewage purification plant it was stated by one of the big-heads that the matter had still to be studied. These misconceptions are traceable at least to the drawing board stage and result from the mistaken view that considers sewage as being of no use. The authorities are on record as stating that purified sewage has no economic value!

I have focused on water issues as just one example illustrating the lack of long term planning and the manner in which resources in Malta have been mismanaged throughout the years. There are countless of other examples encompassing energy, land, transport, agriculture, marine resources, industry, fisheries ………  Just name it.

A long term view of policy and its effects is long overdue. When this is done as a country we will be in a position to ensure that that environmental, economic and social issues are viewed in their proper perspective. We need to think in terms of a generation in order to bequeath to our children fewer problems than we have inherited. And its not just about water !

Published May 23, 2010 – The Independent on Sunday (Environment Supplement)

See also in this blog : The Cost of Incompetence