Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

 laudato_si_    Cry of the Earth

 

This is the title of Leonardo Boff’s seminal work on the inextricable link between social justice and environmental degradation, originally published in 1995.  Earlier, during the 1972 UN Human Environment Conference in Stockholm, it was also the rallying cry of India’s Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi who, on behalf of the developing world, forcefully insisted that poverty was inextricably linked with environmental degradation.  In Stockholm Mrs Gandhi had emphasised that “the environment cannot be improved in conditions of poverty  –  how can we speak to those who live in villages and slums about keeping the oceans, the rivers and the air clean, when their own lives are contaminated at the source?”

This is also the underlying theme of the encyclical Laudato Sì published by Pope Francis last June. It is not just a seasonal Latin American flavour at Vatican City.  The earth’s tears are continuously manifested in different ways depending on the manner in which she is maltreated .

Environmental degradation has a considerable impact on the quality of life of  us all except, that is, for the quality of life of  the select few who pocket the profits by appropriating for themselves advantages (economic or otherwise) and lumping the negative impacts on the rest.

Environmental degradation is an instrument of social injustice. Consequently, enhancing the protection of the environment is also essential to restore social justice.

The water table is subject to continuous daylight robbery: over the years it has been depleted by both authorised and unauthorised water extraction.  What is left is contaminated as a result of the impact of fertilisers as well as surface water runoff from the animal husbandry industry. Theft and acute mismanagement  are the tools used in the creation of this injustice.

The Malta Freeport has been quite successful over the years in contributing to economic growth and job creation. The price for this has, however, been paid by Birżebbuġa residents – primarily through being subjected to continuous noise pollution on a 24/7 basis. Various residential units in the area closest to the Freeport Terminal are vacant and have been so for a considerable time. A noise report commissioned as a result of the conditions of the Terminal’s environmental permit will be concluded shortly. Hopefully, the implementation of its conclusions will start the reversal of the Freeport’s negative impacts on its neighbours.

The Freeport, together with various fuel storage outlets, the Delimara Power Station (including the floating gas storage facility which will soon be a permanent feature) as well as fish-farms have together definitely converted Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port. As a result of various incidents during 2015, spills in Marsaxlokk Bay signify that Pretty Bay risks losing its title permanently.   Fortunately, Birżebbuġa residents have been spared additional impact originating from minor ship and oil-rig repairs after they reacted vociferously to a decision by the MEPA Board to permit such work at the Freeport Terminal.

Public Transport has made minor improvements but nowhere near what is required. It is essential that Malta’s congested roads are mopped up of the excessive number of cars. Improving the road infrastructure will just make it easier for more cars to roam about in our roads, thereby increasing the scale of the problem.  The major consequences are a reduced ease of access and the deterioration air quality.

We will soon be in a position to assess the impact of two other major projects: a business hub at the Malta International Airport as well as a car-racing track with various ancillary facilities. The former will take up land at the airport carpark but will have considerable impact on the surrounding villages. The car-racing track may take up as much as 110 hectares of land outside the development zone and have a considerable impact on both nature and local residents in the areas close to where it will be developed.

The list of environmental impacts that we have to endure is endless.

I could also have included the impact of the Malta Drydocks and the consequent squeezing out of residents from the Three Cities as a result of its operations, primarily as a result of sandblasting, in the 1970s and 1980s. I could also have added the impact of the waste recycling plant at Marsaskala and the refusal of the authorities to finance studies on the impact of its operations on the health of residents, or else the impact of the operation of petrol stations close to and within various residential areas.

The size of the Maltese islands is limited. A number of the abovementioned  activities/developments  are essential, but others are not. However, it stands to reason that we should not bear the brunt of non-essential activities or developments. This should lead us to plan more carefully so that  the impacts of the activities that are essential are adequately addressed.

As evidenced by the above list, unfortunately over the years those taking decisions betrayed their responsibilities towards the common good, seeking, instead the interests of the select few thereby compounding social injustices.

This is Malta’s contribution to the accumulated tears of Mother Earth.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 January 2016

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L-ambjent u l-ġustizzja soċjali

e-waste-africa

Il-ħsara ambjentali teffettwa lil kulħadd, imma b’mod speċjali tolqot iktar lil dawk li huma vulnerabbli. L-esperjenza tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum, imsaħħa bir-riċerka turi li l-agħar effetti tal-ħsara ambjentali jġarrbuhom l-aktar nies foqra. Per eżempju, n-nuqqas jew it-tniġġis tal-ilma jolqot l-iżjed lil dawk li huma l-aktar foqra, li għalihom ix-xiri ta’ flixkun ilma ħafna drabi hi spiża żejda. U meta f’diversi pajjiżi għola l-livell tal-baħar dan laqat l-ewwel lill-foqra li kienu qed jgħixu fi griebeġ mal-kosta, u li ma kellhomx iktar fejn imorru.

M’aħniex konxji biżżejjed tal-problemi li jolqtu lil dawk li huma mwarrba mis-soċjetà. Illum ma nistgħux ma nagħrfux li l-impenn ambjentali irid jieħu ukoll dimensjoni soċjali. Dan għandu jdaħħal diskors dwar il-ġustizzja fid-diskussjonijiet dwar l-ambjent, biex nifhmu dejjem iktar li l-karba tal-art hi ukoll il-karba tal-fqir. Il-ħsara ambjentali hi l-kawża ta’ inġustizzja soċjali.

Flok jindirzzaw il-problemi tal-foqra uħud iwaħħlu fiż-żieda fil-popolazzjoni u jippruvaw ma jagħtux importanza lill-konsumiżmu estrem u selettiv tas-soċjetà moderna. B’hekk jippretendu li jilleġittimizzaw il-mudell ta’ distribuzzjoni tar-riżorsi li għandna llum, fejn hemm minoranza li temmen li għandha dritt tikkonsma fi proporzjon li qatt ma jista’ jiġi applikat fuq livell universali, għax il-pjaneta bilkemm l-iskart ta’ konsum bħal dan ma tkun kapaċi żżomm.

Iktar minn hekk, terz tal-ikel li nipproduċu qed jinħela: l-ikel li jintrema qed jinsteraq minn fuq il-mejda tal-fqir. Iż-żieda fil-konsum taf twassal għat-tlaqqigħ flimkien ta’ problemi marbuta mat-tinġis ambjentali, il-mezzi ta’ trasport, it-trattament tal-iskart, il-qerda ta’ riżorsi, u l-kwalità tal-ħajja.

Jeżisti “dejn ekoloġiku” bejn il-pajjiżi żviluppati u dawk inqas żviluppati. Dan id-“dejn ekoloġiku” hu marbut ma’ żbilanċ fil-kummerċ b’konsegwenzi fil-qasam ekoloġiku, kif ukoll mal-użu sproporzjonat tar-riżorsi naturali storikament imwettaq minn xi pajjiżi. L-esportazzjoni ta’ xi materja prima biex tissodisfa s-swieq tal-pajjiżi industrijalizzati ħalliet warajha ħafna ħsara ambjentali, bħal, per eżempju t-tinġis bil-merkurju fil-minjieri tad-deheb jew bid-dijossidu tal-kubrit fil-minjieri tar-ram.

It-tisħin ikkawżat mill-konsum enormi ta’ xi pajjiżi għonja għandu riperkussjonijiet fl-ifqar postijiet ta’ din l-art, speċjalment fl-Afrika, fejn iż-żieda fit-temperatura flimkien man-nixfa għandha effetti diżastrużi fuq l-agrikultura.

Ma’ dan inżidu r-rimi ta’ skart tossiku f’pajjiżi li qed jiżviluppaw minn intrapriżi ibbażati f’pajjiżi żviluppati. Dawn jagħmlu fil-pajjiżi mhux żviluppati dak li m’huwiex permess li jsir f’pajjiżhom.

Ġeneralment, meta jwaqqfu l-attività tagħhom u jitilqu, iħallu warajhom ħsarat kbar umani u ambjentali, bħal qgħad, irħula bla ħajja, il-qerda ta’ ħażniet naturali, deforestazzjoni, tifqir fil-biedja u fil-merħliet tal-post, ħofor kbar, għoljiet imħarbta, xmajjar imniġġsa u xi opra soċjali li ma tiflaħx tieqaf iktar fuq riġlejha”.

Din hi s-sejħa li tagħmlilna l-art. Hi s-sejħa tal-fqir li hu ukoll misruq mill-ġid li tagħtu n-natura biex biex bih jistagħna ħaddieħor. Il-ħsara ambjentali hi l-kawża ta’ inġustizzji soċjali kbar li lkoll isiru f’isem l-iżvilupp. Għax fl-aħħar huma dawk l-iktar vulnerabbli fostna li l-iżjed iħossu l-konsegwenzi tal-qerda ambjentali li qed isseħħ madwarna. Għalhekk kull pass il-quddiem, (żgħir jew kbir), li nagħmlu biex inħarsu l-ambjent ta’ madwarna huwa pass biex innaqqsu l-inġustizzji ta’ madwarna.

 

(kummentarju li xxandar fuq l-RTK it-Tnejn 4 ta’ Jannar 2016, ibbażat fuq il-paragrafi 48 sa 51 tal-enċiklika Laudato Sì tal-Papa Franġisku)

Mill-karità għall-ġustizzja soċjali

Charity

Il-ġenerosità tal-poplu Malti hi kbira, kważi bla limitu. Dan jixhduh il-fondi li nġabru mill-Istrina għall-Community Chest Fund l-għada tal-Milied kif ukoll il-fondi li nġabru l-bieraħ b’risq id-Dar tal-Providenza.

Matul is-sena jinqalgħu diversi ċirkustanzi oħra li għalihom ukoll ikun hemm rispons tajjeb.

Huwa tajjeb li nagħmlu l-karità. Peró dan mhux biżżejjed.

Mill-karità irridu naslu għal ġustizzja soċjali iktar effettiva. Għas solidarjetà. Għax il-fatt li hemm il-ħtieġa ta’ din il-karità kollha ifisser bla ebda dubju li x-xibka tas-servizzi soċjali li għandu l-istat m’humiex jilħqu lil kulħadd.

Huwa neċessarju li flok ma naraw lill-Ministru tal-Finanzi fl-Istrina jippreżenta ċekk ta’ €60,000 mill-Fond tal-Kawżi Ġusti naraw żieda sostanzjali fil-fondi allokati lill-Ministeri tas-Saħħa u tas-Sigurtà Soċjali.

Imma jekk il-Gvernijiet ser jibqgħu jnaqqsu it-taxxa tad-dħul, dan ma jistax isir.

Gvern progressiv, minn dan kollu jasal għall-unika konklużjoni loġika: mill-karità jgħaddi għal ġustizzja soċjali iktar effettiva.

 

Għalfejn l-Aħdar?

greening

Naħseb li hi l-intenzjoni ta’ kważi kull min jinvolvi ruħu fil-politika li jara soċjetá li taħdem aħjar. Iżda x’inhu l-aħjar? Għax fil-waqt li lkoll naqblu li nimxu lejn l-aħjar mhux dejjem naqblu la ma x’inhu l-aħjar u l-anqas mat-triq li tista’ twassalna hemm.

Il-ħidma politika ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika hi assoċjata’ mal-għarfien tal-politika ambjentali bħala ċ-ċentru tal-ħidma tagħha. Filwaqt li dan hu minnu, mhux l-istampa kollha, għaliex il-ħidma favur id-drittijiet ċivili kif ukoll dik favur politika soċjali iktar umana dejjem kienu aspetti importanti tal-politika Ħadra.

Id-Dikjarazzjoni  l- Ħadra ta’ Canberra approvat fl-2001 f’laqgħa tal-Pariti Ħodor fuq livell globali tfisser fi ftit kliem it-triq il-Ħadra madwar id-dinja. Dikjarazzjoni li imbagħad hi applikata minn kull partit fit-tifsila  l-iktar addattata għal pajjiżu.

Sitta huma l-punti bażi tal-ħidma ħadra madwar id-dinja: l-għarfien ekoloġiku, l-ġustizzja soċjali, d-demokrazija partieċipattiva, in-non vjolenza, s-sostenibilita’ u r-rispett tad-diversita’. Huma marbutin flimkien, ħaġa waħda: programm wieħed u sħiħ. Madwar dawn titfassal u tinbena ħidma adatta għar-realtajiet ta’ kull pajjiż. Fuq dawn il-punti hemm konvergenza ma partiti politiċi oħra. Fuq uħud mill-punti naqblu iktar ma xi partiti filwaqt li fuq oħrajn naqblu iktar ma oħrajn.

Il-kuntrast tal-aħdar politiku mal-partiti l-oħra jimmanifesta ruħu l-iktar fil-politka ambjentali imma diversi drabi jidher ukoll f’oqsma oħra bħall-ġustizzja soċjali jew id-drittijiet ċivili. Jimmanifesta ruħu kemm fid-diskrepanza bejn dak li jingħad u dak li jsir inkella fir-ritmu li bih jitwettaq dak li dwaru jkun hemm konvergenza ta’ ħsieb.

Il-politika ħadra tmexxi l-quddiem politika progressiva li tesiġi mill-bniedem li jerfa’ r-responsabbilta’ ta’ egħmilu. Responsabbilta’ fil-konfront ta’ bnedmin oħra kif ukoll responsabbilta’ fil-konfront tal-ekoloġija. Ġustizzja soċjali u ġustizzja ambjentali li jirfdu lil xulxin. Dipendenti minn xulxin għax waħda mhiex sħiħa mingħajr l-oħra.

Din hi l-politka. Li dak li nippropnu kif ukoll dak li nfittxu li nwettqu nagħmluh dejjem bl-aħjar mod possibli. Il-politika mhix bilanċ ta’ interessi iżda sforz kontinwu biex nimxu sewwa dejjem.

It-triq li twassalna għal ħidma sewwa hi diffiċli mhux ftit għax kontinwament trid titħabat ma’ interessi egostiċi li jfittxu li jipperpetwaw l-istatus quo. Dawk jiġifieri li huma kontra kull bidla għax bidla għalihom tfisser li huma ma jibqgħux jiddominaw.

Ma rridx ninftiehem li kull bidla hi neċessarjament tajba. Kif ikolli l-opportunita’ infisser matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin hemm ħafna li jeħtieġ li jinbidel. Imma daqskemm huwa importanti li jinbidlu bosta ħwejjeġ, daqstant ieħor hu importanti l-mod kif issir il-bidla. Mhux biex ma jintrifsux kallijiet iżda biex waqt li jkunu eliminati inġustzzji jew żbalji li saru tul is-snin ikun assigurat li dawn ma jkunux sostitwiti b’inġustizzji jew żbalji ġodda.

Hemm bżonn li l-inġustizzji u l-iżbalji innaqqsuhom, mhux  nibdlulhom isimhom.

Fix-xena politika Maltija għal ħafna snin indrat id-diska li jew ikħal inkella aħmar. L-aħdar fl-arena politika demokratika jfisser li hemm alternattiva demokratika għall-alternanza bejn l-ilwien  tradizzjonali.  Alternattiva poliitka li teżisti fil-parlamenti kollha Ewropeji inkluż dawk tal-iċken żewġ pajjiżi, San Marino u Andorra.

Nittama li dawn il-ħsibijiet tiegħi jservu għal diskussjoni ċivili li permezz tagħha lkoll nagħrfu aħjar l-alternattivi li għandu quddiemu pajjiżna.

kif ippubblikat fuq iNews, il-Erbgħa 21 t’Awwissu 2013.

X’toffri AD

Silta mill-intervista li Andrew Azzopardi ghamel lil Carmel Cacopardo.

Jekk trid tara l-intervista kollha :

aghfas hawn ghall-ewwel parti

aghfas hawn ghat-tieni parti

Mistoqsija : X’ tista’ toffri l-AD ghal-landscape politiku lokali?

Tweġiba : F’ Malta qabel ma twaqqfet Alternattiva Demokratika kien ilna snin twal ma jkollna it-tielet partit politiku attiv fuq skala nazzjonali. Imma iktar minn hekk meta kien hemm multiplikazzjoni tal-partiti politiċi fis-snin 50 u 60, bl-eċċezzjoni tal-Partit Kostituzzjonali Progressiv (il-partit ta’ Mabel Strickland) dawn  kienu splinter groups:  il-Partit Demokratiku Nazzjonalista (il-partit ta’ Herbert Ganado) kien splinter group tal-PN u l-Partit tal-Ħaddiema Nsara (il-partit ta’ Toni Pellegrini) kien splinter group tal-Partit Laburista.  Il-ħolqien ta’ AD fl-1989 bdiet bħala refuġju għal Wenzu Mintoff u Toni Abela meta dawn tkeċċew mill-Partit Laburista. Imma minn dak in-nhar żviluppat f’Partit bi ħsieb politiku distint mill-PN u l-PL. L-assoċjazzjoni ta’ AD mal-Ħodor Ewropej (EGP – European Green Party) għin biex AD issaħħaħ din l-identita’ distinta tagħha.

Il-filosofija politika ħadra hi kristallizzata b’mod ġenerali fid-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Canberra tal-Global Greens liema dikjarazzjoni kienet approvata fl-2001 u tiġbor il-ħsieb politiku aħdar f’sitt oqsma u ċjoe:  ir-rispett lejn l-eko-sistema li niffurmaw parti minnha, l-integrazzjoni tal-ġustizzja soċjali u l-ġustizzja ambjentali, demokrazija parteċipattiva, in-non-vjolenza u kultura ta’ paċi bejn il-ġnus, is-sostenibilita w ir-rispett għad-diversita’ .

Il-politika ta’ AD li hi l-implimentazzjoni ta’ dan f’kuntest lokali tikkuntrasta ma dik offruta mill-PN u l-PL. Hi politika li tagħti sens ta’ valur lill-komunita’ u lill-kwalita tal-ħajja bħala oġġettiv primarju tal-politika ambjentali. Politika li żżewweġ flimkien il-politika ambjentali u dik soċjali fi sforz biex hi u tnaqqas il-konsum żejjed tassigura li r-riżorsi limitati jistgħu  jintużaw ukoll mill-fqir li għandu dritt għal għixien diċenti.

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.

Just lip service and cold feet

                                             published Saturday August 13, 2011

The year 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit held in June 1992. The Rio Earth Summit itself was held on the 20th anniversary of the 1972 UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which is credited with introducing the environment in the contemporary political lexicon.

In fact, it was as a result of the Stockholm conference that various countries started appointing an environment minister. In 1976, in Malta, Dom Mintoff appointed Vincent Moran as Minister for Health and the Environment. The emphasis at that stage was environmental health. His primary environmental responsibilities being street cleaning, refuse collection and the management of landfills in addition to minor responsibilities on air quality. The serious stuff came later when Daniel Micallef was appointed Minister for Education and the Environment in 1986.

In 1992, the international community met in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the conflicts between development and the environment. This was brought to the fore by the 1987 UN report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, headed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The report, entitled Our Common Future, referred to as the Brundtland report, is generally remembered for its definition of sustainable development. Development was defined as sustainable if, in ensuring that the needs of present generations are met, it did not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit produced the Rio Declaration on the Environment, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Framework Convention on Biodiversity, the Statement of Forest Principles and Agenda 21. Each one of these assumed a life of its own, addressing various issues.

I think it is essential to focus on the relevance of Agenda 21, which was, way back in 1992, drafted to serve as a global action plan for the 21st century.

Agenda 21 emphasises that sustainable development is not spearheaded by economics. It does not seek to balance profits with other considerations. Based on respect for people and the planet in the carrying out of our activities, it links the environment with social and economic policy.

It is indeed regrettable that some countries, Malta included, loudly proclaim adherence to the objectives of Rio 1992 yet fail miserably in translating them into the requirements of everyday life.

It is necessary to reiterate that Malta, through its present government, has paid lip service to issues of sustainable development. The Environment Protection Act of 2001, now in the process of being superseded, had established a National Commission for Sustainable Development headed by the Prime Minister. This was tasked with the preparation of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which was finalised and approved by the commission in December 2006. It was presented to Cabinet, which approved it in the weeks prior to the March 2008 election.

Soon after the 2008 election, during Parliament’s first session on May 10, 2008, Malta’s President proclaimed on behalf of the government that its policies will be underpinned by adherence to the principles of sustainable development. We were then told that when formulating decisions today serious consideration would be given to their impact on the generations of tomorrow.

I doubt whether there was ever any intention to implement such a declaration. I am informed that the National Commission for Sustainable Development, which, in terms of the Environment Protection Act, is still entrusted with the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, has not met since December 2006. Consequently, the procedures laid down in section 5 of the strategy as a result of which the different ministries had 18 months to prepare and commence the implementation of an action plan based on the strategy in their areas of competence were transformed into a dead letter.

The government has now gone one step further. It is formulating a National Environment Policy. This initiative has been undertaken by the same ministry responsible for issues of sustainable development – the Office of the Prime Minister.

From what is known on the contents of this policy it substantially duplicates the areas addressed by the National Sustainability Strategy. Consequently, it is discharging down the drains four years of discussions with civil society that had given the strategy its shape and content. It is clear that on the issue of sustainable development this government is very rich in rhetoric but when it comes to implementation it gets cold feet. It’s all talk, meetings, documents and consultations. And when a document is finally produced it is back to the drawing board to start the process for another one! This is lip service at its worst.

While the international community meeting in Rio in 2012 will take stock of its modest achievements in implementing the conclusions of Rio 1992 and its follow-up meetings, including those of Johannesburg in 2002, in Malta we are still awaiting a lethargic government to take the first steps.

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Other posts on sustainable development during the past 12 months

2011, July 23                Living on Ecological Credit.

2011, June 5                 Government’s Environment Policy is Beyond Repair.

2011, March 5              Small is Beautiful in Water Policy.

2011, January 22        Beyond the  Rhetorical declarations.

2010, October 23        Time to realign actions with words.

2010, October 17        Reflections on an Environment Policy.

2010, October 3          AD on Government’s Environment policy.

2010, September 17  Lejn Politika tal-Ambjent.

2010, September 4     Environment Policy and the Budget.

2010, August 14          Thoughts for an Environmet Policy.

2010, August 2            Bis-serjeta ? Il-Politika Nazzjonali dwar l-Ambjent.