L-ilma tax-xita: l-inkompetenza tal-awtoritajiet

Il-Ministru tal-Finanzi Edward Scicluna, fl-aħħar diskors tal-Baġit qalilna : “Il-Gvern huwa wkoll kommess li jkompli jaħdem biex jitnaqqas ir-riskju tal-għargħar f’pajjiżna. Għaldaqstant, se jsiru studji dettaljati sabiex jiġu żviluppati aktar miżuri li jistgħu jnaqqsu dan ir-riskju filwaqt li jimmassimizzaw l-użu tal-ilma tax-xita.”

Edward Scicluna bla dubju jaf li bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima l-maltempati kif ukoll ix-xita qed ikunu ta’ natura iktar intensivi. Meta tinżel ix-xita, b’mod partikolari meta tkun qawwija, l-infrastruttura tagħna ma tistax tlaħħaq. Imma minbarra l-impatti kkawżati mill-klima għandna fuqna ukoll il-piz u r-riskji kkawżati minn regolaturi nkompetenti.

F’Malta għal dawn l-aħħar 138 sena, il-liġi pprovdiet biex ikun hemm l-obbligu li jkollna l-bjar għall-ilma tax-xita fid-djar. Il-qisien tal-bjar varja tul is-snin. Originalment il-qies kien dipendenti fuq il-qies total tas-sulari kollha mibnija. Illum il-ġurnata dan tnaqqas biex ikun relatat mal-qies tal-art mibnija.

Sfortunatament dawn ir-regoli ftit huma osservati. Din mhiex storja li bdiet illum, ilha għaddejja snin twal possibilment sa mis-snin 60, żmien meta l-industrija tal-bini kienet għaddejja b’rankatura kbira. Jiena niftakar, meta kont għadni student, ftit snin ilu mhux ħażin, kont rajt rapport li kien tħejja għall-Gvern Malti minn esperti mibgħuta mill-Ġnus Magħquda. Dakinnhar diġa kien ċar li waqt u wara maltempati qawwija l-ilma għaddej mis-sistema tad-drenaġġ kien jiżdied b’mod astronomiku u dan billi ħafna ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fil-bjar kien qed jintrema fid-drenaġġ. Is-sitwazzjoni, minn dakinnhar, marret ħafna għall-agħar!

Flok mal-ilma tax-xita jinġabar fil-bjar, f’ħafna każi qed jintrema fit-toroq, inkella direttament fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ pubbliku. Ammont enormi ta’ ilma tax-xita li nistgħu nutilizzaw qed jintrema. Ħafna, jekk jużaw l-ilma tax-xita jistgħu jnaqqsu b’mod drastiku l-kontijiet tal-ilma!

Meta l-ilma tax-xita jintrema fid-drenaġġ, dan mhux biss ifur fit-toroq tagħna imma minħabba li jgħabbi l-impjant tal-purifikazzjoni tad-drenaġġ b’ammont zejjed ta’ ilma iżid b’mod konsiderevoli l-ispejjes għat tmexxija tal-impjant.

Il-parti l-kbira tal-ħtija għal dan trid tinġarr minn dawk li jiżviluppaw il-propjetá. Anke l-Gvern, direttament, kif ukoll permezz tal-aġenziji tiegħu, fil-passat riċenti kien responsabbli għall-iżvilupp ta’ housing estates li fihom ma tinġabarx qatra ilma tax-xita!
Hu fatt magħruf li fejn żvilupp residenzjali jkun fih garaxxijiet parzjalment jew kompletament taħt il-livell tat-triq ftit għandna bjar għall-ilma tax-xita. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar hi responsabbli biex tassigura li l-kundizzjonijiet tal-permessi tal-iżvilupp ikunu osservati: dawn kważi dejjem jinkludu l-obbligu li jinbena bir biex fih jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita. Imma ħafna drabi, għall-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, qiesu ma ġara xejn jekk il-bir ippjanat jibqa’ fuq il-karta.

Min-naħa l-oħra, l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (WSC) matul dawn l-aħħar snin assumiet ir-responsabbiltá għas-sistema kollha tad-drenaġġ, liema responsabbiltá qabel kienet f’idejn id-Dipartiment tad-Drenaġġ. Din ir-responsabbiltá tinkludi l-għoti tal-permess biex bini ġdid jiġi imqabbad mas-sistema tad-drenaġġ.

Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma x’verifiki qed tagħmel li l-katusi tad-drenaġġ biss qed jitqabbdu mas-sistema pubblika tad-drenaġġ? Qed isiru verifiki li m’hemmx katusi tal-ilma tax-xita ukoll? It-tweġiba teħduha waħedkom fit-toroq tagħna f’ġurnata ta’ xita qliel. Ħadd mhu jagħmel verifika dwar dak li qed jiġri.

Dan kollu jwassal għall-konklużjoni li waqt li l-ħtija ewlenija għall-qagħda preżenti hi tal-industrija tal-bini, għax, iktar le milli iva ma tipprovdix bjar għall-ilma tax-xita fi żvilupp ġdid, il-ħtija mhiex tagħha biss. L-awtoritajiet u d-dipartimenti tal-Gvern għandhom ukoll iġorru s-sehem tagħhom tar-responsabbiltá minħabba li ma onorawx l-obbligi regolatorji tagħhom. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (u dawk li ġew qabilhom) setgħu waqqfu dan l-abbuz, imma ma għamlu xejn.

Meta jkollna xita qliel, jew xita għal ħin twil, diffiċli tgħaddi minn ċertu toroq f’Malta u Għawdex. Dan hu sors ta’ periklu u fil-fatt id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili ikun okkupat ħafna f’dawn iż-żminijiet jgħin lil min ikun f’diffikulta minħabba l-għargħar.
Fondi tal-Unjoni Ewropea ntużaw biex jiġu ffinanzjati mini taħt l-art biex l-ilma tax-xita fit-toroq jinġabar u jintrema l-baħar. Fondi pubbliċi intużaw biex jinħbew irregolaritajiet li sar mis-settur privat. Mhux biss, imma ntużaw ukoll biex riżors prezzjuż jintrema. Dawn il-fondi setgħu intużaw ferm aħjar kieku intużaw biex l-ilma inġabar u nħażen fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna, flok ma ntrema.

Il-parir tiegħi lil Edward Scicluna hu li, flok ma jinħlew iktar fondi pubbliċi, għandu jassigura ruħu li l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jwettqu l-obbligi regolatorji tagħhom. Meta jagħmlu dan, parti mdaqqsa mill-problema tal-ilmijiet fit-toroq tagħna tisparixxi.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: 4 ta’ Novembru 2018

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Rainwater: the cost of incompetence

In his latest Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna informed us that more studies will be carried out to identify flooding risks, simultaneously seeking to maximise the use of rainwater.

Edward Scicluna is aware that, as a result of climate change, storms are more intense than ever. When it rains, it pours, and our infrastructure is not capable of handling the resulting rainwater. To add to the impact of climate change, we also have to deal with the risks created as a direct result of incompetent regulators.

For the past 138 years,legislation in Malta has specifically provided for the construction of water cisterns in buildings, primarily residential ones. The dimensions of these water cisterns varied over time. Originally, they were related to the floor area of the residence but in the recent past, the required volume was reduced to be related to the footprint of the building.

These regulatory provisions are, however, more honoured in the breach, even when reduced. This is not a recent phenomenon. Regulatory control in Malta has been in steep decline since the building boom of the 1960s. I remember, while I was still a student – many moons ago- leafing through a UN expert-financed report penned in the late 1960s which, even then, had measured the significant increase in foul water in our sewers during intense rainfall, clearly indicating that too much rainwater was going to waste notwithstanding the collection obligations. The situation has not improved since!

Instead of being collected in rainwater cisterns, in an ever-increasing number of cases rainwater is discharged directly onto our roads or into the public sewers. Large volumes of rainwater, which can be utilised for various purposes, are being wasted. Its use domestically could substantially reduce water bills.

When rainwater is discharged into our public sewers, not only does the water overflow onto our streets, but it also increases the costs of sewage purification unnecessarily.
The major culprits are a substantial portion of the developers of blocks of flats and maisonettes. The government, both directly, as well as through its agencies, has also (in the recent past) been responsible for the development of housing estates without providing for the collection of rainwater.

In particular, it is common knowledge that in cases where basement or semi-basement garages are constructed, the duty to provide for the collection of rainwater is very rarely complied with. The Planning Authority (PA) is responsible for determining and ensuring the observance of the conditions of development permits which, in most cases, specify the required capacity of a rainwater cistern.

Over the years, the Water Services Corporation (WSC) has taken over responsibility for the management of the public sewers from the former Drainage Department. This responsibility includes authorising the owners of newly- constructed properties to connect the drains with the public sewer. Is the WSC verifying that it is only the drains that are connected and, in particular, that rainwater pipes are not connected to the public sewer too? The obvious answer is provided by our streets on a rainy day. Clearly, no one is bothering to check what is connected to the public sewer.

This leads to the conclusion that, while the culprit for the present state of affairs is the building industry because, more often than not, it does not provide for rainwater storage in new developments, it is not the only one to blame. The authorities and government departments must take a substantial share of the blame for not complying with their regulatory responsibilities. The PA and the WSC could have stopped the abuse, but they did not.

A number of areas are practically out of bounds whenever heavy or continuous rain hits the Maltese islands. This is a source of danger and, in fact, the Civil Protection Department is heavily involved in assisting residents or motorists who are trapped as a result of flooding.

Money made available by the EU has been used to fund a project for the construction of underground tunnels, as a result of which rainwater from our streets and roads is being collected and discharged into the sea. Public funds have been used to cover up private irregularities.

The EU funds utilised in the construction of these tunnels have been used to squander a very precious resource. European taxpayers’ money has also have been flushed down the drain. This could have been put to a much better use had it been applied to address the lack of adequate rainwater harvesting in our towns and villages.

My advice to Edward Scicluna is that before wasting any more public funds he should ensure that the Planning Authority and the Water Services Corporation carry out their regulatory responsibilities. When they do, a considerable part of the problem of the flooding of our streets will disappear.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 November 2018

Green gaps in the Budget

The green gaps in the Budget speech cannot be patched up with the millions of euros spread in the pockets of both those in need as well as those who are well off.

Edward Scicluna’s Budget speech last Monday was far too long. Yet in its over 100 pages it missed addressing a number of environmental issues on which different government spokespersons pontificate throughout the rest of the year: confirming that they just pay lip-service to the issues.

The lack of good environmental governance has considerable economic and social impact as is evident to one and all.

While the Budget proposals strengthen the social safety net, it is to be underlined that quality of life is not measured solely in terms of financial metrics. Throwing euros at problems does not lead to any solutions.

The budget speech correctly emphasises the necessity of waste recycling. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance did not explain how this effort should be integrated into a circular economy, even though the Environment Minister repeatedly boasts of how supposedly the move towards a circular economy is a priority for government. In the entire speech, the circular economy is not mentioned once. Nor does the Economic Survey dwell on the matter or even faintly refer to the matter.

This raises the suspicion that government has lost the plot and does not have any policy ideas on such an important aspect of the economy with its social, economic and environmental effects.

The Budget speech emphasises the energy generation potential from waste incineration which requires large volumes of waste in order to be viable. But the budget speech is silent on how this fits in with the stated commitment to actually reduce the volume of waste.

The government is trying to square the circle; on the one hand it wants to reduce waste but on the other hand it needs more and more waste to make its huge incinerator viable.
The Budget speech also gives the impression that it addresses important aspects which impact the quality of life when in fact offers only half-baked and token solutions.

Among them is the point on water policy. The speech mentions incentives to encourage repairs of existing wells but then it avoids altogether a real and focused effort to address the acute issue of dwellings built without water cisterns, with the consequence that water ends up in the public sewers or flooding our streets.

Developers are let of the hook even when roads are flooded and sewers are overflowing, not to mention the sheer waste of perfectly good water.

The same can be said of the supposed solutions to traffic congestion. The Budget speech refers to the financial incentives available to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport, but here again it ignores the roots of the problem. The government spending of millions of euros for the development of the road infrastructure will only increase traffic congestion, thereby squeezing users of alternative means of transport off the roads.

It is useless to incentivize the purchase of bicycles and pedelecs when there is no investment in adequate infrastructure to ensure that people can commute safely using these important alternative means of transport, which actually help to decrease congestion in our roads.

Over one year ago the Prime Minister had taken a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto and declared that the government will determine a cut-off date by which new cars will need to be electrically driven or possibly of a hybrid nature.

This declaration had heralded the issue of electrification of transport on our roads addressing two major issues: the quality of air and the contribution of transport emissions to climate change. This, once implemented, would be a substantial contribution to the decarbonisation of the Maltese economy. We are none the wiser on government plans after listening to or reading the budget speech.

Clearly financial parameters are not the only indicators of our quality of life. The green gaps in the budget speech need plugging at the soonest.

published in The Sunday Times of Malta : Sunday 28 October 2018

Fil-Kalkara ħiereġ id-drenaġġ

 

Fil-Kalkara ukoll, illum għamlet ix-xita. Xita qawwija.

Bħal kullmeta tagħmel xita qawwija fil-pjazza ta’ quddiem il-Knisja għandna riħa ta’ drenaġġ.

Bosta tħallew jibnu u flok ma għamlu bir biex fih jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita, qed jitfgħu l-ilma tax-xita fid-drenaġġ.

Is-sistema tad-drenaġġ ma tiflaħx dan l-ilma kollu u allura it-tappieri tad-drenaġġ qed ifuru.

Fl-2018, meta hemm min jippretendi li hu l-aqwa fl-Ewropa dawn l-affarijiet m’għandhomx jiġru.

Min hu responsabbli?

L-ewwel u qabel kollox hu responsabbli kull min bena jew qiegħed jibni u mhux jaħseb għal bir. Imma miegħu huma responsabbli l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma.

L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar tagħti l-go ahead li l-bini sar sewwa, skond il-pjanti minkejja li ma jkunx hemm bir. Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma tagħti l-permess biex il-bini l-ġdid jitqabbad mas-sistema tad-drenaġġ biex imbagħad din il-komunikazzjoni tintuza ħażin: biex fiha jintrema l-ilma tax-xita.

L-awtoritajiet qed jagħlqu għajnejhom u jħallu din il-ħsara li ilha isir snin tibqa’ tirrepeti ruħha.

Tal-mistħija.

Narmu l-ilma tax-xita fil-baħar

Malta storm

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa l-inżul tax-xita ma waqafx u bosta mit-toroq prinċipali kienu mimlijin ilma. Kien hemm ukoll tappieri tad-drenaġġ f’xi inħawi li kienu qed ifawwru ilma jrejjaħ. Dan kollu mhux l-ewwel darba li ġara. Jiġri kull meta tagħmel xita qawwija jew inkella xita fit-tul.

Dan ġara u jibqa’ jiġri minħabba f’inkompetenza tal-awtoritajiet tul is-snin. Għax, minkejja li ilna iktar minn 135 sena b’liġijiet u policies li jobbligaw li l-ilma tax-xita li jaqa’ fuq il-bjut tar-residenzi tagħna jinġabar f’bir apposta, dan, ħafna drabi, ma jsirx.

Flok ma jinġabar fil-bir, dan l-ilma jispiċċa fit-triq inkella fid-drenaġġ. Għalhekk ikollna ħafna ilma fit-triq kif ukoll tappieri jfawru d-drenaġġ!  Din hi responsabbiltá ta’ min għażel li jagħlaq għajnjeh għall-irregolaritajiet minkejja li kellu l-obbligu li  jara li dawn l-irregolaritajiet ma jseħħux.

Xi snin ilu, f’eserċiżżju ta’ ħela ta’ flus, il-Gvern kien iddeċieda li jinfoq il-miljuni (inkluż ammont sostanzjali mill-fondi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja) biex iħaffer mini taħt l-art ħalli fihom jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita li imbagħad fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu, jintrema l-baħar. Il-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi kien daħal għal din l-ispiża minnflok ma dar fuq is-sidien tar-residenzi (u fejn applikabbli fuq l-iżviluppaturi li bnewhom) biex iħaffru l-bjar nieqsa ħalli b’hekk, l-ilma tax-xita, flok ma jinġabar fit-toroq u fid-drenaġġ li jfur fit-toroq u l-bajjiet tagħna, fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu jibda jinġabar f’dawn il-bjar.

Minflok ma l-ispejjes tħallsu minn dawk li ħolqu l-problema,  tqiegħed piż ieħor fuq l-ispiża pubblika. Minn fondi pubbliċi tħallsu l-ispejjes tal-iżbalji li saru minn min kien responsabbli għall-iżvilupp.

Fost il-kawża ta’ dawn il-problemi, hemm blokki ta’ flats u maisonettes f’kull parti ta’ Malta u Għawdex.

Bħala pajjiż, infaqna l-flus biex irmejna l-ilma l-baħar ħalli mbagħad nerġgħu niġbruh mill-baħar fl-impjanti tar-reverse osmosis. Kien ikun ħafna iktar utli kieku dan l-ilma nġabar fid-djar tagħna kif kienu jagħmlu bi ħsieb missierijietna. Għax in-natura kull sena tipprovdilna biżżejjed ilma għall-parti l-kbira tal-ħtiġijiet tagħna u huwa kollu tort tagħna li din ir-riżorsa prezzjusa qed tinħela.

Ippublikat f’Illum : Il-Ħadd 20 ta’ Novembru 2016

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ warajna jitolbu kont ta’ għemilna

environmental footprint

 

L-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu l-ħolqa li tgħaqqad flimkien lill-ġenerazzjonijiet tal-lum ma dawk ta’ għada, il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Għax l-iżvilupp ikun sostenibbli meta l-għażliet li nagħmlu llum ma jkunux ta’ xkiel għall-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada, meta huma jiġu biex jagħmlu l-għażliet tagħhom.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri m’għandhomx vuċi fil-preżent. M’għandhomx is-saħħa li jisfidawna meta illum nieħdu deċiżjonijiet li jorbtulhom idejhom. Ħafna drabi hu faċli li ma nagħtux każ tagħhom għax la għandhom vuċi, la għandhom saħħa finanzjarja u l-anqas ma għandhom vot. U fis-soċjetà tagħna, min hu bla vuċi, bla saħħa finanzjarja u iktar u iktar bla vot ftit għandu ċans li jinstema. Kultant, bil-kemm bil-kemm jingħata każ ta’ dawk li għandhom vot, aħseb u ara ta’ dawk li m’għandhomx!

Il-futur ħadd minna ma rah, imma, nistgħu nagħtuh sura bid-deċiżjonijiet li nieħdu illum.

Sfortunatament m’aħniex nagħtu futur tajjeb lill-ġenerazzjonijiet li ġejjin warajna għax qed inħarbtu kull ma jiġi għal idejna.

33% tal-art f’Malta hi mibnija, u ħafna minna inbniet f’dawn l-aħħar tletin sena. Imma nibqgħu nibnu minkejja li għandna 71,080 propjetà residenzjali li hi vojta (skond iċ-ċensiment tal-2011: 41,232 propjetà residenzjali hi vojta s-sena kollha, u 29,848 propjetà oħra tintuża kultant). Nibqgħu nibnu meta l-kwantità ta’ propjetà vojta fiha 9 darbiet daqs il-parti l-mibnija ta’ B’Kara, l-ikbar lokalità fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Kontra kull parir li ħallewlna missierietna, l-parti l-kbira tal-bini l-ġdid tul dawn l-aħħar snin ma fihx bir biex jiġbor l-ilma tax-xita. Flok fil-bir (li ma jeżistix) l-ilma jintefa fit-triqat jew fid-drenaġġ u fl-aħħar, wara li jgħerreq lit-toroq tagħna, jispiċċa l-baħar.

Mhux biss ma nieħdux ħsieb li naħżnu l-ilma tax-xita, talli dorna għall-ilma li taħżen in-natura nnifisha. Dorna għall-ilma tal-pjan, u ħarbatnieh. Użajna dan l-ilma bla limitu tant li naqas sewwa. Il-ftit li baqa’ huwa kontaminat bil-pestiċidi u kimiċi oħra mill-għelieqi tagħna.

In-natura tieħu ż-żmien biex issewwi din il-ħsara kbira. Snin kbar. X’ser inħallu lil ta’ warajna?

Ma jidhirx li hemm rieda li nieqfu mit-tħarbit. Għax issa jidher li ser nibdew kompetizzjoni tal-bini tat-torrijiet f’tas-Sliema. X’għandna bżonn dal-bini kollu meta għandna tant bini vojt?

L-ilma tax-xita ser jispiċċa l-baħar għax il-mini imħaffra taħt l-art issa lesti.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ warajna jitolbu kont ta’ egħmilna. Għax qed nisirqulhom ir-riżorsi tagħhom. M’għandhomx vot biex jipprotestaw bih, forsi għalhekk ħadd ma jrid jismagħhom u jagħti kazhom.

kummentarju mxandar fuq l-RTK illum 21 ta’ Diċembru 2015

Toroq mgħarrqa ……… traffiku iġġammjat

 

msida_water. 021015

 

Rġajna għal darba oħra. Maltempata u t-toroq tagħna jegħrqu u t-traffiku jiġġammja.

Ħafna minn dak l-ilma li hemm bħalissa jiġri fit-toroq seta nġabar fi bjar. Imma parti mhux żgħira mill-bini tagħna m’għandux bir.

Min hu responsabbli?

L-ewwel responsabbiltà hi ovvjament ta’ min għamel l-iżvilupp mingħajr ma għamel bir.

Imma mhux waħdu.

Miegħu iridu jerfgħu r-responsabbiltà l-MEPA li ippermettiet l-iżvilupp bla bir.

L-ilma tax-xita, flok fil-bir, la ma hemmx, jintefa’ fit-triq, jew agħar minn hekk fid-drenaġġ.

Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma ukoll għandha responsabbiltà għal dak li qed jiġri. Dan minħabba li l-Korporazzjoni ma tagħmilx il-verifiki sewwa qabel ma tawtorizza biex residenza tiġi imqabbda mas-sistema tad-drenaġġ pubbliku. Il-Korporazzjoni għandha l-obbligu li tivverifika li drenaġġ biss ser jintefa fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ. Minn spezzjon sewwa, malajr tista’ tinduna jekk il-katusi tal-ilma tax-xita humwiex imqabbda mad-drenaġġ ukoll.

Kieku l-MEPA u l–Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jagħmlu xogħolhom sewwa, tispiċċa parti mhux żgħir mill-problema tal-ilma tax-xita fit-triq (waħdu jew imħallat bid-drenaġġ).

Sabu l-ilma ………… fuq Mars!

ilma fuq Mars.Independentilma fuq Mars.newsbook

 

L-aħbar li hemm possibilità tajba li fuq il-pjaneta Mars instab l-ilma nisslet ħafna interess fil-media. Anke f’Malta l-aħbar ingħata spazju għax bla dubju hi aħbar interessanti.

Dan l-interess huwa imnissel ukoll mill-fatt li f’ħafna pajjiżi madwar id-dinja hawn nuqqas ta’ ilma.

Min jaf, forsi, waqt li nieħdu pjaċir li fuq il-pjaneta Mars instab l-ilma nibdew nagħtu  ftit iktar każu napprezzaw l-ilma ftit iktar viċin tagħna.

Fil-passat riċenti f’Malta, bħala pajjiż,  ma tantx tajna każ tal-ilma. Il-kostruzzjoni tal-bjar fir-residenzi, biex fihom jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita, naqas sostanzjalment. F’ħafna każi, l-ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fil-bjar intefa’ fit-toroq jew fid-drenaġġ.

L-għorrief fil-Parlament, flok ma insistew biex l-ilma tax-xita jibda jinġabar fil-bjar ħolqu proġett biex jiġbru dan l-ilma u jixħtuħ fil-baħar. Irmew l-ilma u miegħu irmew ukoll miljuni ta’ euros.

Aħjar nibdew nagħtu ftit każ tal-ilma ta’ madwarna flok l-ilma li x’aktarx hemm fuq Mars!

The pre-budget document : Malta’s ecological deficit

prebudget 2015

 

The deficit facing our country is not just a fiscal one. It is also a social and ecological one. The Finance Minister addresses the fiscal deficit and with various measures tries to address the social deficit. The ecological deficit is however very rarely mentioned.

We have just been informed that the enormous tunnels constructed as part of the storm water management plan is on target and that Malta will soon be dumping a substantial part of our rainwater directly into the sea. For a country which lacks water resources this is suicidal.

Yet it is being carried out. EU funding for the project was also approved notwithstanding that dumping such large quantities of rainwater into the sea is anything but sustainable.

The pre-budget document published by the Minister of Finance in September ignores completely the ecological deficit. Now the Hon Minister is aware that ignoring the ecological deficit does not make it disappear. It makes it worse as the message driven home by the pre-budget document  is that there is nothing to worry about.

Water is not the only contributor to Malta’s ecological deficit. Waste management, air pollution, traffic management, biodiversity protection, land use planning, are other heavy contributors to the ecological deficit. I do not detect any keen interest in the matter at the Finance Ministry, as its main interest seems to be the construction industry which is being further encouraged, thereby increasing the ecological deficit by design. With such a limited vision it is no wonder that the ecological deficit did not make it to the pre-budget document.

Every little drop counts

Drop of water falling into the water

Earlier this week the Ministry for Energy and the Conservation of Water launched a public and stakeholder consultation process on the National Water Management Plan.

As emphasised by the Malta Water Association, Water is everybody’s business. It is also everybody’s responsibility.

Water extracted from illegal boreholes is a misappropriation of a publicly owned resource. Government has been very reluctant to act on this matter throughout the years. It is not just the lack of metering of ground water extraction which is of concern but the extraction itself.

The use of ground water is of concern even when this is done for purposes of agriculture. Agriculture is a major user of water, primarily (but not exclusively) water extracted from the water table.  Whilst assisting agricultural is both understandable and acceptable due to the strategic importance of the sector such assistance must be within well defined limits.  Such assistance should be part of a long term strategy aimed to wean Maltese agriculture away from the use of ground water, encouraging it to use recycled water (treated sewage effluent) instead.

It is clear that the impacts of agriculture on water has been neglected throughout the years. A  National Water Management Plan would be ineffective if it is not buttressed by a National Agricultural Policy which addresses clearly and unequivocally the impacts of agriculture on Malta’s depleted water resources.

Agriculture is not only a major user of water. It is also a major polluter of water resources. For example, the liquid waste generated by animal husbandry has not been addressed throughout the years such that in a number of instances it is a major source polluting the aquifer. In this respect it competes with the use of pesticides.

A National Water Policy must be complemented by a policy laying the foundations for a sustainable agriculture.  Such a policy should guide the agricultural sector towards those crops and activities which require the least water.  This should lead to a policy as a result of which agriculture is assisted in shifting to products which are more compatible with the lack of availability of water in Malta.  It is a must that our policies are reflection of our environmental realities. Otherwise it can never be sustainable.

Agriculture is consuming around 28 million cubic metres of water annually most of which originates from our aquifers.   Using suitable incentives attempts should be made to shift agricultural production  to one which is more in tune with our water realities. On a long term basis the actual water used should be recycled water which is adequately polished.  Over a period of time this would substantially reduce the uptake of ground water by agriculture.

Water used for human consumption as well as all water used for domestic purposes is partly sourced from ground water (44%) whilst the rest is the result of processing of sea water through Reverse Osmosis technology. This amounts to around 29 million cubic metres annually.

Increasing water harvesting measures in residential areas, in particular ensuring that all rainwater in residential areas is adequately collected and subsequently utilised would further ease the pressure on water resources. In addition it would reduce the costs of running our sewage purification plants by eliminating an unnecessary load when rainwater is dumped into the sewers!  A National Water Management Plan should thus ensure that all buildings have suitable water harvesting measures and those which do not should be given a deadline to come to order.

The Resources Authority (MRA) as well as the Water Services Corporation (WSC) have been carrying out various trials and experiments in order to establish the optimum use of treated sewage. A proposal has been made that subject to the quality of the purified water being of an acceptable quality this could be used to recharge the aquifer. To attain this objective it must be ascertained that only permissible liquid waste is discharged into the public sewer.  I am of the opinion that this objective, however laudable,  may result as being quite difficult to attain.

All ground water extraction should be halted as early as possible as it is imperative that both the quantity and quality of water stored in our aquifer is given sufficient time to recover from the mismanagement to which it has been subjected throughout the years.

Water is everybody’s business. We need it. We need to use it efficiently and responsibly. We need to ensure that others too have access to this precious resource. Hence our duty to ensure that no water goes to waste and that everyone has adequate access to it.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 15 March 2014