Malta: b’politika diżonesta dwar il-klima

Stimi dwar kemm jista’ jogħla l-livell tal-baħar, b’mod globali kif ukoll fl-Ewropa, ivarjaw skond kif wieħed iqis ir-rata tad-dewbien tas-silġ akkumulat fil-poli kif ukoll fi Greenland. Il-mod kif nilqgħu għall-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju ukoll għandu impatt fuq dawn l-istimi. Dawn l-istimi fil-fatt ivarjaw minn żieda ta’ 34 ċentimetru sa żieda ta’ 172 ċentimetru sa tmiem dan is-seklu. Imma jekk l-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju jkunu indirizzati b’politika iffukata u effettiva, din iż-żieda tista’ tkun waħda iżgħar.

Minkejja dan, ħadd ma qiegħed f’posizzjoni li jantiċpa jekk din iż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar tkunx waħda gradwali inkella jekk din isseħħx f’daqqa. Hemm iżda l-biża’ li l-gravità tas-sitwazzjoni tista’ taċċellera avolja il-jekk u l-meta ħadd ma jaf. Din hi xi ħaga ġdida għal kulħadd!

Kull żieda fil-livell tal-baħar, kemm jekk isseħħ b’mod gradwali kif ukoll jekk isseħħ f’daqqa, ikollha impatt fuq il-kosta u b’mod partikolari fuq l-infrastruttura żviluppata tul iż-żmien. Din l-infrastruttura hi primarjament waħda turistika imma tinkludi ukoll żvilupp residenzjali li xi drabi jasal sax-xifer, sal-baħar: kemm bl-approvazzjoni tal-awtoritajiet u anke xi minndaqqiet mingħajrha!

Il-ħsara potenzjali għall-infrastruttura kostali hi kwistjoni li għandha tħassibna. Din diġà sofriet ħsarat diversi minħabba il-maltemp qalil li żied fil-frekwenza u l-intensità tul dawn l-aħħar snin. L-impatt ta’ żieda fil-livell tal-baħar bla dubju ser joħloq tibdil kbir tul il-kosta kollha tal-gżejjer Maltin. L-istorja tgħallimna. Nhar it-Tnejn 28 ta’ Diċembru 1908 fil-5.20 ta’ fil-għodu Messina fi Sqallija ġarrbet wieħed mill-iktar terrimoti qliel li qatt kien hawn fl-Ewropa, b’qawwa mkejla ta’ 7.5 fuq l-iskala Richter. Immedjatament, inħoloq tsunami b’mewġ għoli sa 9 metri. Madwar sagħtejn wara, fit-7.45 ta’ fil-għodu dan it-tsunami, ftit immansat, wasal fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Diversi gazzetti Maltin ta’ dak iż-żmien irrappurtaw li l-lokalitajiet mal-kosta viċin il-livell tal-baħar kienu mgħarrqa fl-ilma mit-7.45 ta’ fil-għodu għax b’effett taz-tsunami l-baħar tela’ l-art. Dan baqa’ sal-4.00 ta’ waranofsinnhar meta l-baħar reġa’ ikkalma u rritorna lejn il-livelli normali tiegħu! Herbert Ganado, f’l-ewwel volum ta’ Rajt Malta Tinbidel jgħid li residenzi u ħwienet tul il-kosta ta’ tas-Sliema, l-iMsida u tal-Pietà kienu mgħarrqa f’tebqa’ t’għajn għax daħlilhom kwantità ta’ ilma fis-sular terran. Bħala medja l-baħar għola madwar erba’ piedi : 1.20 metri. Fil-Port il-Kbir, imma, ma ġara xejn għax kien imħares mill-breakwater, li l-bini tiegħu kien ġie ffinalizzat madwar sentejn qabel, fis-sena 1906.

Żieda fil-livell tal-baħar bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima tkun tfisser repetizzjoni tal-impatti taz-tsunami tal-1908 mifruxa iktar u fuq bażi permanenti. Il-lokalitajiet Maltin tul il-kosta li qegħdin viċin tal-livell tal-baħar jispiċċaw b’mod permanenti fl-ilma baħar. Dan ikun jinkludi r-ramliet kollha u żoni kummerċjali u residenzjali fl-Għadira, ix-Xemxija, is-Salini, l-Gzira, l-iMsida, tas-Sliema, Ta’ Xbiex, Tal-Pietà, il-Marsa, Marsaxlokk, Marsaskala, Birzebbuġa, ix-Xlendi, u Marsalforn. L-impatti jistgħu jinħassu iktar il-ġewwa mill-kosta ukoll, f’lokalitajiet li huma f’livell tal-baħar bħal Ħal-Qormi u allura jeffettwa l-inħawi kollha mix-xatt tal-Marsa sa Ħal-Qormi b’dik li hi magħrufa bħala l-Marsa tal-Inġliżi b’kollox. Dan jeffettwa ukoll l-investiment fl-infrastruttura sportiva.

Li jogħla l-livell tal-baħar issa hu inevitabbli. Imma b’ħidma bil-għaqal għad hemm ċans li nnaqqsu kemm dan jogħla. Dan jista’ jseħħ kemm-il darba nieħdu passi biex innaqqsu l-emmissjonijiet tal-karbonju u allura inkunu qed nagħtu kontribut biex iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali tkun l-inqas possibli.

Fis-summit ta’ Pariġi, Malta, flimkien mal-bqija tal-pajjiżi, wegħdet li tieħu azzjoni konkreta biex ikun possibli li jonqsu l-impatti fuq il-klima. Però anke jekk il-wegħdiet kollha li saru f’Pariġi jkunu onorati, hu ċar li għadna l-bogħod ħafna milli nilħqu l-mira miftehma li ma naqbżux iż-żieda ta’ żewġ gradi Celsius fit-temperatura. Hu meħtieġ ħafna iktar mingħand kulħadd. Hemm bżonn mhux biss iktar azzjoni konkreta imma ukoll politika koerenti u konsistenti.

Il-politika ta’ Malta dwar il-klima, imma, hi waħda diżonesta. Nuru wiċċ b’ieħor kontinwament. Min-naħa l-waħda l-Gvern Malti jwiegħed li jaġixxi biex ikun possibli li nindirizzaw il-klima. Imma fl-istess ħin jibqa’ għaddej bi proġetti infrastrutturali li jinkoraġixxu iktar karozzi fit-toroq u allura iktar emissjonijiet. L-emissjonijiet tal-karozzi jikkompetu ma dawk li joriġinaw mill-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku.

Hemm bżonn li ndaħħlu ftit sens u konsistenza fil-politika ta’ Malta dwar il-klima. Għax sakemm nibqgħu inkonsitenti kullma qed nagħmlu hu li qed ngħinu biex ikompli jitħaffar il-qabar tagħna.

 

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 24 ta’ Mejju 2020

Malta: a double-faced climate change policy

Estimates for sea-level rise, both globally as well as in Europe, vary depending on the assumptions made as to the rate at which ice at the polar caps and Greenland is melting.

The carbon emission-mitigation policy scenario also has a direct bearing on these estimates. These estimates range between a 34- and 172-centimetres potential sea-level rise by the end of the current century. Lower emissions together with a focused mitigation policy may restrict sea-level rise towards the lower end of the range.

However, notwithstanding, no one is in a position to predict as to whether such a sea-level rise will be gradual or sudden. It is however feared that once a tipping point is reached changes may occur at a much faster pace than anticipated. We all are on a learning curve on this!

Any sea-level rise, gradual or sudden, will have an impact on our coastline and in particular on the infrastructure developed over the years along the coast. This infrastructure is primarily of a touristic nature but it also includes residential development at times built along the water’s edge with or without the acquiescence of the planning authorities.

There is nothing to worry about if the sea-level rise wipes out abusive development. When one considers the potential impact on coastal infrastructure that is, however, a different kettle of fish.

The coastal infrastructure is already battered by the ever-frequent storms. The impact of a sea-level rise will without any doubt redraw the coastal map of the Maltese islands.

Let us have a look at our history books. At 5.20am of Monday 28 December 1908, Messina in neighbouring Sicily experienced one of the most powerful earthquakes to ever hit Europe, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale. Immediately, a tsunami generating waves as high as 9 metres was unleashed. Just over two hours later, at 7.45am, the tsunami, slightly tamed, reached the Maltese Islands.

Various local newspapers of the time reported that low-lying areas were flooded from 7.45am until around 4.00pm when the sea receded back to its “normal level”. Herbert Ganado, in his Rajt Malta Tinbidel (Volume 1, page 37) states that residences and shops along the coast in Sliema, Msida, and Pietà were suddenly flooded. The average sea-level rise was 1.20 metres. The Grand Harbour was spared as it was protected by the breakwater, whose construction had been finalised a couple of years earlier.

A sea-level rise as a result of climate change would repeat the Malta impacts of the 1908 tsunami on a permanent basis. The low-lying parts of the Maltese coastline would then be permanently underwater. This would include all sandy beaches and the residential/commercial areas at l-Għadira, Xemxija, Salini, Gzira, Msida, Sliema, Ta’ Xbiex, Pietà, Marsa, Marsaxlokk, Marsaskala, Birzebbuga, Xlendi, and Marsalforn. Impacts could also move towards the inland low-lying areas such as Qormi.

Sea-level rise is inevitable. It is only its extent which can be reduced. This can happen if we take appropriate action which reduces carbon emissions and hence contributes to nudging the temperature increase towards the least possible.

At the Paris Climate Summit, together with all other countries, Malta made pledges to take action to lay the foundations for reducing climate impacts. If all the pledges made at Paris are honoured, however, we will still be very far off from achieving the target of not exceeding a two-degree Celsius temperature rise. Much more is required.

Malta’s climate related policies are double faced. On one hand the Malta government pledges action to address climate change. Simultaneously it proceeds with road infrastructural projects which encourage cars on our roads. Car emissions compete with power generation emissions as Malta’s major contributor to climate change. Is it not about time that we bring our own house in order? We are digging our own grave with a double-faced climate policy.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 May 2020

Il-ħarsien ta’ Villa Gwardamangia

Villa Guardamangia 07

Għandha raġun Astrid Vella f’isem FAA (Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar) li ffukat fuq Villa Gwardamangia fil-konferenza stampa ta’ nhar is-Sibt li għadda. Għax il-wirt storiku tagħna hemm l-obbligu li nieħdu ħsiebu dejjem, irrispettivament minn min hu s-sid tiegħu. Veru li l-istat Malti jgħin. Imma s’issa għin lil min seta jgħin ruħu. Fejn sidien ta’ propjetà ma kellhomx ir-riżorsi neċessarji s’issa ma sar xejn. Jew kważi xejn.

Kien għalhekk inkuraġġanti li fl-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħu l-Gvern qal li qed ifittex soluzzjoni għall-problema ta’ Villa Gwardamangia. Tajjeb. Issa huwa importanti li s-soluzzjoni mhux biss ifittxuha, imma li nsibuha ukoll!

X’għandu jsir?

L-ewwel nett irridu nifhmu li mhux kull sid ta’ propjetà għandu biżżejjed riżorsi biex jieħu ħsieb din it tip ta propjetà.

It-tieni, jekk il-wirt storiku tagħna m’aħniex ser nieħdu ħsiebu bħala nazzjon dan ser ikompli jitmermer u b’hekk, biċċa biċċa,  jintilef darba ghal dejjem.

It-tielet: l-istat għandu l-obbligu li ġaladarba jkun ikklassifika bini bħala protett għandu jassigura li dan il-bini jibqa’ f’kundizzjoni tajba. Ma jagħmilx sens li niċċaqalqu meta l-froġa tkun diġa saret.

Ir-raba’ huwa meta l-bini jingħata l-protezzjoni għall-ewwel darba li l-awtoritajiet għandhom jagħmlu l-verifiki jekk is-sidien tal-bini jistgħux jieħdu ħsiebu. Jekk f’dan l-istadju jistabilixxu li s-sidien ma jistgħux jieħdu ħsieb tal-bini allura l-awtoritajiet għandhom dak il-ħin jagħmlu l-arranġamenti alternattivi meħtieġa biex ikunu huma li jidħlu għal din ir-responsabbiltà. Il-Gvern għandu ħafna strumenti legali li jippermettulu jagħmel arranġamenti ta’ din ix-xorta.

Huwa biss b’dan il-mod li nistgħu nieħdu ħsieb sewwa tal-wirt storiku tagħna.

Fil-kaz ta’ Villa Gwardamangia din ġiet skedata fl-20 t’April 2001 (ara pjanta hawn taħt). L-iskedar ta’ propjeta’ fil-prattika jfisser li hemm limitazzjonijiet dwar xi żvilupp jista’ jsir fil-bini innifsu (inkluż alterazzjonijiet) u madwaru. Ikun tajjeb illi l-protezzjoni li l-MEPA tagħti lill-bini storiku jkun ifisser ukoll għarfien aħjar tal-obbligu li nżommu dan il-bini f’kundizzjoni tajba.

Il-mistoqsija loġika hi: matul dawn l-14-il sena x’sar mill-awtoritajiet biex jassiguraw ruħhom li Villa Gwardamangia tinżamm f’kundizzjoni tajba?

It-tweġiba ovvja hi : xejn. Għax li sar xi ħaga ma kienitx tkun fil-kundizzjoni li hi illum.

Ikun għaldaqstant xieraq li meta l-awtoritajiet Maltin jagħtu l-protezzjoni lill-bini storiku tagħna jieħdu ukoll passi biex jassiguraw ruħhom li dan ser jinżamm f’kundizzjoni tajba.

Villa GMangia scheduling2

Enough space exists for schools

 

The refusal by the Malta Environment and Planning Auth­ority’s board last week of the proposed extension to St Augustine’s school at Pietà is a decision that makes sense.

The Mepa board was correct in refusing the application on planning grounds even though there are valid educational reasons that justify the need for more space in the school. The proposal is not compatible with the residential area in which the school and the proposed extension are located. Considering an alternative site would be appropriate.

The application considered by Mepa was to add a primary school to the secondary school already existing on site. The extension was to have six floors, four of which above road level. The proposed development was to be constructed in what is now a garden area that serves as the neighbourhood’s lungs.

As stated by the Planning Directorate, the proposal for the extension, if approved, would have been a case of overdevelopment of the site.

The Church school authorities need to delve deeper in order to plan the educational services they provide after taking into consideration all the impacts of their proposals. Ignoring the impacts on the residents is not an option.

A school, irrespective of its catchment area, should be an integral part of the community where it is located. Ideally, it should be possible for its facilities to be utilised by the community after school hours. It, hence, follows that the manner in which schools are constructed and their relation to the community should be such that a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and the other local institutions can be nurtured.

It seems that this aspect has not been given much thought at St Augustine’s. The school seems to be detached from the community where it is sited. As a consequence, the development can also be viewed as a reduction in the quality of life of the community.

The Church school authorities cannot view St Augustine’s school on its own as an isolated case.

The expansion of the Minor Seminary at Tal-Virtù, for example, was carried out in contravention of the provisions of the Local Plan as detailed by the Mepa audit officer after carrying out a thorough investigation.

The Mepa audit officer had then pointed out that no analysis of traffic impacts had been carried out. He also noted that, with a rapidly declining birth rate, the construction of new schools, except as a replacement for existing inadequate buildings, can hardly be justified anywhere.

The issues to consider are various.

The impacts on third parties need to be given their due weight. Residents close to existing schools like St Augustine’s are already impacted by excessive traffic, even if this is for a limited time in the morning and early afternoon. This impact would increase 100 per cent if the proposed extension were approved, making matters considerably worse.

In addition, the use of facilities after hours when schools are insensitively located in residential areas will impact negatively the community in the area.

Increasing the height of existing buildings or constructing buildings higher than the existing residential surroundings will lead to shadowing of the low-lying residential property. Consequently, as a result of reducing the incidence of direct sunlight on existing residential property, one would be precluded from using equipment utilising solar energy to heat water or to generate electricity. This would signify increased electricity bills for the residents.

The proposed extension for St Augustine’s school at Pietà ignored all these issues.

If the Church schools, as a result of an increased demand, desire to expand it is pretty obvious that the resulting influx of students in these schools would signify a corresponding reduction in the population of state schools. Coupled with the reduction in birth rates, this would mean that there will be substantial empty space in some of the existing state primary schools in years to come.

This could indicate that, rather than developing extensions incompatible with existing residential areas or, worse, developing virgin land, a possible solution to the expansion requirements of schools such as St Augustine in Pietà would be to enter into an agreement with the state to ensure better utilisation of the buildings used as state primary/secondary schools where this is possible. If we agree that more than enough land has been developed in Malta, the redevelopment of some of these sites could be an option worth considering as an alternative to the development of virgin sites and/or the overdevelopment of other sites.

There are valid educational reasons which justify the increase in space that schools such as St Augustine’s are requesting. However, the right of Church schools to provide an education, separate and distinct from that provided by the state, does not, in any way, mean that the rights of residents should be ignored.

Fortunately, it is possible to look elsewhere. Better utilisation of sites already committed to educational use could solve the issue reasonably for all concerned: the schools, the students and the residents.

Published in The Times, February 11,  2012

L-iskola ta’ Santu Wistin f’Tal-Pieta

 

Il-Bord tal-MEPA ma approvax applikazzjoni biex tkun imkabbra l-iskola tal-Agostinjani f’ Tal-Pieta’ nhar il-Ħamis li għadda. Jiena kont presenti minħabba applikazzjoni oħra u allura kelli ċ-ċans li nisma’ sagħtejn u nofs sħaħ ta’ argumenti. Id-deċiżjoni fl-aħħar kienet ta’ sitt voti kontra l-applikazzjoni u erba’ voti favur l-applikazzjoni.

Il-MEPA kellha quddiema żewġ argumenti.

F’naħa waħda hemm raġunijiet validi edukattivi biex l-iskola toffri servizzi aħjar. Dan qed tipprova tagħmlu billi tipprovdi skola primarja flimkien mal-iskola sekondarja. Fr Alan ir Rettur tal-Iskola spjega tajjeb ħafna r-raġunijiet edukattivi għala għandu bżonn iktar spażju. Il-Perit Mannie Galea fisser fit-tul kif jista’ jipprovdi dak meħtieġ fis-sit.

Mit-tweġiba tad-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar tal-MEPA ħareġ ċar li għalkemm jista’ jkun hemm raġunijiet validi (edukattivi) għaliex l-iskola għandha bżonn tikber, is-sit f’Tal-Pieta’ m’huwiex wieħed addattat.

L-iskola illum hi imdawwra bir-residenzi li diġa għandhom inkonvenjent kbir matul il-jum kollu bi skola ta’ 450 tifel. L-inkonvenjent hu propost illi jirdoppja jekk ma skola sekondarja tiżdied skola primarja ta’ 450 tifel.

L-inkonvenjent hu wieħed ta’ traffiku, ta’ storbju, ta’ dellijiet iġġenerati mill-bini propost …….. Noel Grima tal-Indipendnent li kien preżenti spjega dak li ġara b’mod eżawrjenti fl-artiklu tiegħu nhar il-Ġimgħa.

Naħseb li hemm soluzzjonijiet oħra. In-numru ta’ tfal qiegħed jonqos. Jekk l-iskejjel tal-Knisja ser jipprovdu spazju għal iktar tfal huwa żgur li ser ikun hemm inqas li jmorru fi skejjel tal-Gvern. Is-soluzzjoni allura tista’ tkun mhux daqstant li jitkabbru skejjel fl-abitat iżda li jinstab mod kif l-iskejjel l-oħra inklużi dawk propjeta tal-Gvern, imxerrdin ma’ Malta u Għawdex jistgħu jintużaw aħjar.