Lumija magħsura

L-għasir tal-lumi hu sustanzjuż u jagħmel ħafna ġid għas-saħħa. Imma xi ngħidu għal lumija magħsura?

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa awgurajt lit-Tabib Anthony Buttigieg wara li hu ħabbar d-deċiżjoni tiegħu li fi ħsiebu jikkontesta għat-tmexxija tal-Partit Demokratiku. Possibilment huwa jimla l-vakanza li nħolqot minn Marlene Farrugia wara li din iddeċidiet li ddabbar rasha wara biss ftit xhur fil-kariga.

It-Tabib Buttigieg hu persuna b’moħħu f’postu. L-għada tal-elezzjoni ġenerali, meta kellu ma wiċċu dikjarazzjoni ta’ Marlene Farrugia li hi ma kienitx teskludi li tikkontesta għall-kariga ta’ Kap tal-PN, wara li kien irriżenja Simon Busuttil, hu irriżenja mill-kariga ta’ deputat mexxej tal-PD. Bħala riżultat ta’ hekk ħa posizzjoni ċara li kienet tikkuntrasta mal-impulsivitá ta’ Marlene Farrugia. Dakinnhar Buttigieg kien iddikjara li dak li qalet Farrugia kien kontra dak li jemmen hu, għax fil-fehma tiegħu l-Partit Demokratiku kellu jkun separat u distint mill-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Bħala riżultat ta’ din il-posizzjoni huwa għamilha ċara illi d-disponibilitá tiegħu li jieħu sehem f’koalizzjoni ma kellha l-ebda impatt fuq id-determinazzjoni tiegħu li jħares l-identitá tal-partit tiegħu. Li tkun allejat kritiku abbażi ta’ programm politiku miftiehem bl-ebda mod mhu komparabbli ma min żviluppa attitudni li jilgħaq kontinwament.

Mid-dehra Marlene Farrugia taħsibha mod ieħor għax diġa għamlitha ċara illi għadha tal-ħsieb li fi żmien ħames snin mill-ġdid tikkunsidra li tikkontesta għat-tmexxija tal-PN. Għax skontha, l-ebda wieħed mill-erba’ kandidati għal Kap tal-PN mhu kapaċi. Dan kollu sfortunatament jibgħat messaġġ wieħed u ċar: li l-mexxejja attwali tal-Partit Demokratiku tara l-futur tagħha u tal-partit tagħha bħala parti integrali mill-Partit Nazzjonalista. Għal Marlene Farrugia il-Partit Demokratku qiesu lumija magħsura li tarmiha wara li tkun użajta.

Bħala riżultat tal-mauvri tagħha bl-iskop li tkun eletta, irrispettivament mill-prezz politiku, Marlene Farrugia ikkaġunat ħafna ħsara li teħtieġ li tkun rimedjata mingħajr iktar dewmien.

Alternattiva Demokratika ma jkollha l-ebda diffikulta li tesplora kif tista’ tikkoopera mal-Partit Demokratiku immexxi minn Anthony Buttigieg, liema eżerċizzju (fil-passat) kien abbandunat minħabba li l-impulsivitá kienet l-għodda ewlenija tat-tmexxija tal-PD sa mit-twaqqif tiegħu. Buttigieg hu persuna konsistenti u l-imġieba tiegħu tidher li taqbel ma dak li jgħid.

Hemm ħafna ħidma li teħtieġ li issir u ftit wisq nies biex jagħmluha.

Fost il-kollegi enerġiċi ta’ Anthony Buttigieg hemm Timothy Alden li hu l-moħħ wara l-inizzjattiva kurrenti tal-Partit Demokratiku biex jiżdied il-ħarsien tal-widien u tal-ilma tal-pjan billi possibilment ikunu nklużi fil-qafas legali li ġie żviluppat għad-dimanju pubbliku fil-Kodiċi Ċivili. Alternattiva Demokratika tappoġġa din l-inizzjattiva.

Hi inizjattiva li timmerita appoġġ wiesa’ avolja forsi strateġikament kien ikun aħjar li l-ewwel tkun implimentata sewwa l-politika u r-regolamenti eżistenti li diġa joffru protezzjoni sostanzjali kemm għall-widien kif ukoll għall-ilma tal-pjan.

Il-futur tal-partiti ż-żgħar hu dipendenti fuq il-kooperazzjoni u fuq kemm aħna kapaċi li ma nisparpaljawx r-riżorsi limitati li hawn. Dan ikun ferm aħjar mill-impulsivitá u n-narċissiżmu li għamel ħsara sostanzjali.

Il-lumi magħsur għandu użu. Imma m’għandux ħajja twila.

ipubblikat f’Illum : 20 t’Awwissu 2017

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Paceville: protecting the underdogs

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As the short time allotted for public consultation on the proposed first draft of the Paceville Masterplan approaches its conclusion, it is time for some commonsense to prevail at the Planning Authority.

On TV, last Thursday, we heard the Authority’s Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg plotting the first steps of a U-turn on a number of contentious issues contained in the draft. This U-turn is welcome, as it is clearly being planned on the basis of the reactions of the public and the environmental NGOs to the proposed Paceville Masterplan.

The most serious point at issue is the extent to which the nine projects around which the Masterplan is woven will engulf properties belonging to residents and small scale business people. It will hopefully now be clear, once and for all, that no one will be coerced through threats of compulsory purchase (veiled or otherwise) to make way for any one of the nine projects.

Mr Buttigieg declared that “no-one would be forced to sell”. While this declaration is welcome, it is certainly not sufficient. Everyone is aware that there are many ways through which pressure may be brought to bear on residents and business people. It is certainly time for all stakeholders to be vigilant and present a common front.  Being constantly on the look-out may help  identify those triggering incidents such as that of the car which was recently set ablaze in St George’s Park at Paceville at the same time as residents were meeting elsewhere to discuss their reactions to the proposed Paceville Masterplan.

The Planning Authority should be proactive. It should be at the forefront when it comes to taking initiatives that make sense. A case in point is the need to implement the public domain legislation recently enacted by Parliament  in order to better protect both the coastline and the foreshore to a minimum distance of fifteen metres from the shoreline.

It is well known that there is just one stretch of coastline within the draft Paceville Masterplan boundaries that is not intensively developed: the Cresta Quay site, also referred to as the Villa Rosa site 3. This site is crying out for protection and it can be protected, yet the draft masterplan – ignoring public domain legislation  – earmarks this site for a number of high rise blocks.

This proposal, in addition to reducing the recently approved public domain legislation to hot air, runs counter to the draft masterplan philosophy of siting high-rise developments away from the coast. It seems that someone may have been pressured into having second thoughts when the Masterplan was being drafted. There is no other reasonable explanation for this contradiction.

The public consultation has revealed that the drafting of the Paceville Masterplan was flawed, as it ignored issues of fundamental importance.  However, there is till time for the Planning Authority to align the Masterplan to the expectations of stakeholders. The belated declaration by Johann Buttigieg that (after all) he too has reservations on some aspects of the Masterplan is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this will be reflected in an overhaul of the draft and in the production of a new one which respects the stakeholders who have invested in Paceville over the years.

The investors promoting the nine projects which the Planning Authority identified may contribute to the regeneration of Paceville only if they tread carefully in full respect of residents and small-scale business people who have shaped the present-day Paceville, warts and all.

So far, this has not happened, as some of the developers think that they have some God-given right to ride roughshod over one and all. Unfortunately, the Planning Authority has generally obliged, as it has rarely been on the side of the those bearing the brunt of the bulldozer culture that has to date reigned supreme in land-use planning issues.

We await the second draft of the Paceville Masterplan, in the hope that the Planning Authority will turn a new page and assume its rightful place in protecting the underdogs.     

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 November 2016

Il-kosta tagħna lkoll?

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Il-Masterplan għal Paceville huwa mifrux fuq medda kbira ta’ art. Għax Paceville tmiss ma’ Pembroke, mas-Swieqi u anke ma’ San Ġiljan. Imma għandha ukoll biċċa kosta twila ġmielha, li skond minn fejn tibda tkejjilha tista’ ġġebbed bejn tlieta u erbgħa kilometri.

Il-pjan jgħidilna li ser ikun possibli li tippassiġġa mal-kosta kollha.  Imma r-realtà hi li kosta kollha ta’ Paceville hi mimlija konċessjonijiet  li l-Gvern tul is-snin ta lill-privat għan-negozju, prinċipalment negozju konness mal-baħar jew mal-lukandi.

Waqt il-laqgħa ta’ nhar l-Erbgħa tal-Kumitat Parlamentari tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar, id-Dipartiment tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern ippreżenta pjanta li turi il-propjeta kollha li għandu l-Gvern f’Paceville, biċċa waħda tmiss ma l-oħra. F’xi każi l-pjanta turi bejn 4 metri u 5 metri mill-kosta l-ġewwa li huma riżervati għall-aċċess tal-pubbliku, għalkemm ħafna drabi m’huwiex ċar kif dawn il-passaġġi riżervati għalina lkoll tista’ tasal għalihom.

F’Mejju li għadda b’vot unanimu l-Parlament approva emendi għall Kodiċi Civili li permezz tagħhom ġie ċċarat li l-kosta hi propjetà pubblika. Jiġifieri din hi tagħna lkoll. Mill-inqas sa 15-il metru l-ġewwa minn fejn iħabbat il-baħar. Imma fejn il-mewġ jibqa’ dieħel iktar il-ġewwa, il-15-il metru jiżdiedu ukoll, skond is-saħħa tal-baħar.

Is-serjetà kienet titlob li billi l-ewwel abbozz tal-Master Plan ta’ Paceville ġie ippubblikat għall-konsultazzjoni pubblika bosta ġimgħat wara li l-Parlament esprima ruħu b’mod tant ċar, dan kellu jagħti kaz b’serjeta kbira ta’ dak li ddeċieda l-Parlament.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-Parlament dwar il-kosta u l-art ta’ mal-plajja tfisser ħafna iktar minn sempliċi passaġġ fejn jgħaddu n-nies. Imma sfortunatament, il-konsulenti li fasslu l-Master Plan ma fehmu xejn minn dan u minflok ma fittxew kif ser jgħaddu lura lin-nies it-tgawdija ta’ partijiet ikbar mill-kosta qed jipproponulna li jkompli r-renju tal-konkos u l-azzar bi blokki għoljin tletin sular li jistgħu jinbnew viċin tal-kosta.

Issa jew hemm min ma jafx x’inhu jagħmel inkella qed jippruvaw jgħaddu lil kulħadd biż-żmien. Għax jekk il-Parlament qed jaqbel magħna u qiegħed jgħidilna li l-kosta hi tagħna lkoll, kif jiġu dawn il-konsulenti tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jgħidulna li din ser jibqgħu jgawdu minnha l-ftit, biex fiha tibqa’ issir l-adorazzjoni tat-torrijiet?

pubblikat f’Illum : 16 t’Ottubru 2016

Claiming back our coast

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The  Paceville Master Plan is rightfully subtitled : Malta’s prime coastal location.  However, it considers the coast as a money-spinner and completely ignores Parliament’s decision earlier this year to codify the importance of the coastal area through its inclusion in legislation regulating the public domain.

The Paceville Master Plan issued for public consultation on 26 September was the first opportunity for the Planning Authority, on behalf of the government – which instructs it on policy initiatives – to flesh out the bones of the declarations made in the public domain legislation, approved by Parliament in May. That it did not do so casts considerable doubt as to whether the unanimous approval by Parliament of the public domain legislation is another political gimmick.

The Paceville Master Plan covers a large tract of land bordering Pembroke to the north, Swieqi to the west, St Julian’s to the South and coastal waters to the east.  The Paceville coastline is extensive: it adds up to anything between three and four kilometres, depending on the manner of measurement.

We have been told that the Paceville coastline will be accessible through a passageway that will be created along the coast. As a matter of fact, most of the Paceville coastline is already dotted with commercial development on land which is either public property or else is subject to servitudes in favour of the state. During last Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee, representatives of the Government Property Department presented a drawing indicating all this property along the Paceville coastline. In a number of instances, the drawing submitted indicated passageways of a width varying between four and five metres along the coast which are obviously intended for public access, even though it is not always clear how one would be able to find their points of entry and exit.

Parliament’s approval of amendments to the Civil Code approved in May lays robust legal foundations for the protection of the coast. The government has been entrusted with protect the coast on behalf of future generations, hence it belongs to all of us, in trust, on behalf of those future generations.  The coastal perimeter extends to a minimum of 15 metres from the shoreline. To this, the newly-approved legislation adds the foreshore, which extends as far as the reach of the largest wave – a reach that can be substantial in those parts of the coastline that are exposed to the open sea.

Large sections of the Paceville coastline are developed, but there are still small pockets which are either not developed or else contain development that is not intensive. A proactive Master Plan would have identified this as an opportunity for plotting the way forward in implementing a programme for the protection of the Paceville coast.  Unfortunately, it seems that the consultants to the Planning Authority were not briefed on the matter and as a consequence there is a real danger that this opportunity will be lost.

After the current public consultation is concluded, the Planning Authority will have to examine the comments made and consider the extent to which such comments can and should be taken into consideration in the second draft of the Master Plan.

The Authority should take on board the public domain legislation in respect of the coast and plan for its implementation when it revises the first draft of Paceville Master Plan.  In the short term, this should be done in relation to those areas which are still undeveloped or underdeveloped. I would also expect the Planning Authority to plan for the longer timeframe in respect of those sections of the coastline which are already intensively developed.

This leaves one other basic issue: land reclamation. I feel that, on a policy level, Labour’s land reclamation policy is the marine equivalent of the Nationalist’s widely criticised 2006 rationalisation exercise through which the boundaries of development were irresponsibly extended.  Labour will be extending the limits to development outwards towards the sea whilst the Nationalist-led government extended the said limits towards the countryside.

The proposed Master Plan for Paceville recommends land reclamation off the Dragonara/Portomaso coastline. This is an ill-thought proposal as the area identified for land reclamation will be an extension of possibly the most intensively developed part of the Paceville coast. This proposal should undoubtedly be revisited as commonsense suggests that rather than increasing development in the area, this should, in the long term, be curtailed.

The proposed Paceville Master Plan should be utilised as a planning tool for adequate coastal management. It can, at this point in time, also be the optimum vehicle for translating the public domain legislation into practical policies through which we can start the process of reclaiming the coast for future generations.

This is an opportunity which should not be missed.

published in The Malta Independent : 16 October 2016