Santiago and maritime affairs

Aerial View_Grand Harbour

Ernest Hemingway’s Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea” was unlucky. It took him 85 days to catch his big fish. But when he did, being on his own out at sea without any help, he had to tow it back to port, only to discover then that the sharks had reduced his catch to a mere skeleton.  It is the same with maritime policy. We need to coordinate with our Mediterranean neighbours to have meaningful and lasting results. On our own we can achieve very little.

A national integrated maritime strategy is an essential policy tool. Yet, as was pointed out by Parliamentary Secretary Edward Zammit Lewis, it is still unavailable. On May 19, European Maritime Day,  it was emphasised by Zammit Lewis that such a strategy would identify Malta’s maritime policy priorities required to support the Blue Economy.

The economic opportunities presented by the sea which surrounds Malta are substantial. We do however have to make use of such opportunities carefully, knowing that various impacts may result. Through the sea surrounding us we are subject to impacts as a result of the actions of others. Similarly Malta’s maritime activities necessarily will impact other countries, for better or for worse.

The excellent quality of seawater around the Maltese islands resulting from Malta’s recent adherence to the Urban Wastewater Directive of the EU is one positive contribution to a better Mediterranean Sea even though the sewage treatment system is badly designed as it ignores the resource value of the discharged treated water.

Through Arvid Pardo in the 1960s Malta made a lasting contribution to global maritime thought by emphasising that the seabed forms part of the common heritage of mankind.

The sea and its resources have always had a central importance in Malta’s development. Tourism, fisheries and water management easily come to mind. Maritime trade and services as well as the sustainable utilisation of resources on the seabed are also essential for this island state.

Whilst a national maritime strategy will inevitably seek the further utilisation of the coastline and its contiguous areas it is hoped that environmental responsibilities will be adequately addressed in the proposals considered.

A national integrated maritime policy, though essential, cannot however be effective if it  does not take into consideration the activities of our neighbours: both their maritime  as well as their coastal activities.

This is an issue which is given considerable importance within the European Union which seeks to assist member states in coordinating their maritime policies for the specific reason that the impacts of such policies are by their very nature transboundary.  In fact one of the EU Commissioners, Maria Damanaki,  is tasked with Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.  Her work is underpinned by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which seeks to protect the sea in order that it could be utilised sustainably thereby contributing to attaining the objectives of EU2020, the ten year growth strategy of the European Union.

Within its maritime competencies the EU has also developed effective instruments of transboundary cooperation foremost amongst which are the Baltic Strategy and the Danube Strategy.  These macro-strategies of the European Union, as their name implies, focus on the Baltic Sea and the river Danube respectively. They bring together the European regions bordering the Baltic Sea and the Danube to cooperate in various policy areas such that the resulting coordination addresses challenges which no single country can address on its own.

Such strategies also serve as an instrument of cooperation with non-EU countries. Through the Baltic Strategy it is cooperation with Russia, Iceland and Norway whilst through the Danube Strategy eight EU member states cooperate with six European non-EU member states.  The EU has also more recently launched an Atlantic Ocean Strategy.

A national maritime strategy will  seek to identify those areas which can absorb strategic investments in order to develop the blue economy.  An important point worth emphasising is that a sustainable development of the blue economy will ensure that no negative impacts are borne by our communities residing along and adjacent to the coastal areas. Unfortunately not enough attention has been paid to this aspect in the past. Such negative impacts can be avoided not only through careful planning but also through proper consultation with both civil society as well as directly with residents.

Impacts which have to be avoided include air and sea pollution. In addition potential noise and light pollution need careful attention in particular if the operating times of the newly identified activities span into the silent hours.

Malta’s Maritime strategy needs a double focus: a national and a regional one.  Both are essential elements neither of which can be ignored. It is in Malta’s interest to take part in initiatives addressing transboundary impacts and simultaneously to integrate these initiatives within a national maritime policy strategy. Otherwise we will face Santiago’s fate. The result of our good work will be taken up by the sharks!

Originally published in The Times of Malta, Saturday June 8, 2013

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Nuclear myth and Malta’s neighbours

 

 

 

published on Saturday March 26, 2011

 

April 26 marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuc­lear disaster, which affected 40 per cent of European territory.

Sicilians (but not the Maltese) were then advised on precautions to be observed in order to avoid the effects of airborne radioactive contamination on agricultural produce. In the UK, until very recently, a number of farms were still under observation after having been contaminated through airborne radioactive caesium in 1986. Wild boar hunted in Germany’s forests cannot be consumed. Its food-chain is still contaminated with radioactive caesium, which was dispersed all over Europe as a result of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Fukushima disaster has occurred in efficient and safety-conscious Japan.

Nature has taken over, confirming its supremacy over the risk society; confirming that even the smallest risk is unacceptable in nuclear projects as this exposes nations, ecosystems, economies and whole regions to large-scale disasters.

The myth that nuclear technology is safe has been shattered once more at Fukushima.

In addition to the disasters at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), there were also a number of near misses such as that on June 4, 2008 in Krško on the Slovenia/Croatia border. In Krško, leaking coolant water was minutes away from causing a meltdown of the nuclear installation. The leakages of coolant water from nuclear plants in the Tricastin region in France in July 2008 are also of particular significance.

Malta is faced with plans by Italy, Libya, Tunisia and others to generate nuclear energy.

Libya has agreed with France to be provided with a nuclear plant along its coast to carry out seawater desalination. Fortunately, this agreement has so far not materialised. One shudders just thinking on the possibilities which access to nuclear technology in the civil war on Libyan soil could lead to.

The Berlusconi government, ignoring the result of a 1987 Italian referendum, has embarked on a nuclear programme that could lead to the construction and operation of a number of nuclear installations on Italian soil. One of these will be sited in Sicily.

The locality of Palma di Montechiaro has been mentioned as the preferred site although an area near Ragusa is also under consideration. Both Palma di Montechiaro and Ragusa are situated along Sicily’s southern coast and are too close to Malta for comfort. A serious accident there could have an immediate effect on Malta. Moreover, this is the area which was most affected by a 1693 earthquake that caused considerable damage in both Ragusa and Malta.

This contrasts with the declaration last week by Abdelkater Zitouni, leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, who has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to abandon the 2020 project of a nuclear plant in Tunisia.

What is the Maltese government doing on the matter?

There is no information in the public domain except an article published in Il Sole 24 Ore on July 26, 2008 authored by Federico Rendina and entitled Il Governo Rilancia Sull’Atomo. In a kite-flying exercise during an official visit to Rome by a Maltese delegation, Mr Rendina speculated on the possibilities of placing nuclear reactors for Italy’s use on territories just outside Italian jurisdiction. Malta, Montenegro and Albania were mentioned in this respect. It was unfortunate that the Maltese government only spoke up after being prodded by the Greens in Malta. It had then stated that no discussions on the matter had taken place with the Italian government.

On behalf of the Greens in Malta, since 2008 I have repeatedly insisted on the need to make use of the provisions of the Espoo Convention, which deals with consultation procedures to be followed between countries in Europe whenever issues of transboundary impacts arise. On March 3, 2010 Parliament in Malta approved a resolution to ratify this convention.

The Espoo Convention, the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment and the EU Strategic Environment Assessment Directive establish the right of the Maltese public to be consulted by Italy in the procedures leading to the construction of a nuclear power station, both on the Italian mainland as well as in Sicily. This is definitely not enough.

Various countries are reconsidering their position on nuclear energy as a result of the Fukushima disaster. Italy’s government has started to feel the pressure ahead of a June anti-nuclear referendum championed by Antonio di Pietro and earlier this week temporarily suspended its nuclear programme.

Italy is a region which is seismically active. The devastation caused by the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila is still imprinted in our memories. The 1908 earthquake at Messina/Reggio Calabria was much worse, the worst ever in Europe. It produced an estimated 13-metre tsunami wave in the central Mediterranean. In Messina alone, over 120,000 lost their lives.

Faced with government silence, I think the matter should be taken up by Maltese environmental NGOs in partnership with their Italian counterparts. Public opinion needs to be sensitised on the dangers that lie ahead as Fukushima is a warning we cannot afford to ignore. 

other posts on Nuclear Issues on this blog

Ġirien Nukleari

minn Carmel Cacopardo

ipubblikat 27 ta’ Lulju 2008

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Fi Franza fi spazju ta’ 16-il jum seħħew tliet inċidenti nukleari.

L-ewwel inċident seħħ fil-lejl bejn is-6 u s-7 ta’ Lulju fis-sit nukleari ta’ Tricastin. Skart likwidu, madwar 30,000 litru li kien fih l-uranju, b’mod aċċidentali waqa’ f’żewġ xmajjar. L-awtoritajiet Franċiżi ħarġu struzzjonijiet lir-residenti biex ħadd ma jistad, ħadd ma jixrob ilma mill-bjar, kif ukoll biex ħadd ma jgħum fix-xmajjar jew jieħu sehem fi sports fl-ilma. Lanqas ma kien possibbli li jintuża ilma mix-xmajjar għat-tisqija.

It-tieni inċident seħħ fl-impjant nukleari ta’ Romans-sur Isere meta nhar it-18 ta’ Lulju spetturi tas-sit indunaw b’pajp mifqugħ li minnu ħareġ likwidu radjuattiv. It-tielet inċident seħħ mill-ġdid fi Tricastin nhar it-23 ta’ Lulju. L-impjant kien magħluq imma partiċelli radjuattivi ħarġu minn pajp li nqasam fl-impjant nukleari u 97 impjegat spiċċaw l-isptar fejn instab li kienu esposti għal doża baxxa ta’ radjuattività.
Franza tipproduċi 80 fil-mija ta’ l-elettriku tagħha permezz ta’ enerġija nukleari f’59 impjant imxerrda mal-pajjiż kollu. Bħala riżultat ta’ din id-dipendenza fuq l-enerġija nukleari Franza għandha industrija organizzata u b’saħħitha. Il-Gvern Franċiż jgħinha biex tistabbilixxi swieq ġodda billi tesporta t-teknoloġija nukleari.

Fost l-aħħar swieq li qed ifittxu li jippenetraw hemm dak fl-Afrika ta’ Fuq. Franza iffirmat ftehim ta’ kooperazzjoni mal-Marokk, ma’ l-Alġerija u mal-Libja biex tgħinhom jiżviluppaw impjanti nukleari għal skopijiet ċivili. L-iktar li jinteressana hu l-ftehim mal-Libja li se jwasssal biex jinbena impjant nukleari li permezz tiegħu jkun prodott ilma tajjeb għax-xorb minn ilma baħar. Ovvjament, dan l-impjant se jinbena viċin il-kosta.

Inċident f’impjant nukleari jista’ jseħħ bħala riżultat ta’ waħda minn tliet affarijiet: żball uman, ħsara li tiżviluppa fil-makkinarju inkella bħala riżultat ta’ attività naturali bħal terremot.

Hemm żewġ konsiderazzjonijiet li rridu nagħmlu. L-ewwel li l-Libja għandha xemx kemm trid. Teżisti t-teknoloġija biex tipproduċi ilma tajjeb għax-xorb mill-baħar permezz ta’ enerġija solari. Din qed titħaddem f’pajjiżi bħall-Kuwajt. Qed isiru ukoll esperimenti għal titjib sostanzjali f’din it-teknoloġija fl-Iżrael u f’Kalifornja.

Xi ħtieġa hemm ta’ impjant nukleari meta hemm enerġija mix-xemx b’xejn?

It-tieni konsiderazzjoni hi dwar kif niġu affettwati aħna bħala Malta jekk ikun hemm inċident nukleari fl-impjant Libjan. L-effetti jkunu jiddependu mill-gravità ta’ l-inċident. Inċident li jikkontamina l-baħar jaffettwa kemm l-industrija tas-sajd kif ukoll il-produzzjoni ta’ l-ilma f’pajjiżna. Irridu niftakru li 60 fil-mija ta’ l-ilma li nużaw jiġi mill-baħar. Inċident f’impjant nukleari mal-kosta Libjana li jniġġes il-baħar jista’ jaffettwa dan l-ilma li f’Malta s’issa m’għandniex alternattiva għalih għax l-ilma tal-pjan qed jispiċċa wkoll. L-effetti fuq Malta jistgħu jkunu ta’ gravità kbira għax l-uniku sors ta’ l-ilma mbagħad ikun dak impurtat fit-tankers minn Sqallija jew minn x’imkien ieħor.

Il-makkinarju fl-impjanti għat-tisfija tad-drenaġġ li qed jinbnew bħalissa ma jistgħux iservu alternattiva minħabba li l-ilma wara li jsaffuh jitfgħuh il-baħar flok ma jipproduċu ilma tajjeb għax-xorb kif jagħmlu per eżempju f’Singapore.

Apparti dan imbagħad hemm l-effetti fuq l-industrija tat-turiżmu. Kull aħbar ta’ allarm ikollha effett negattiv u t-turiżmu jieħu daqqa kbira b’inċident nukleari daqstant qrib tagħna.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu l-Gvern Malti ma lissen l-ebda kelma. L-anqas l-Oppożizzjoni.
Dan mhux kollox. Il-periklu mhux ġej biss min-nofsinhar għax fit-tramuntana fl-Italja, beda jinħema periklu ieħor.

Il-Gvern ta’ Berlusconi ddikjara li fi ħsiebu jibda l-proċess biex jibni numru ta’ impjanti nukleari. Il-periklu għalina mill-Italja hu l-istess għall-periklu mil-Libja. Bid-differenza li l-iktar li jaffettwawna jkunu dawk l-impjanti li jinbew fin-naħa t’isfel ta’ l-Italja jew fi Sqallija.

Fil-konfront ta’ l-Italja hemm fattur wieħed li jista’ jkun ta’ għajnuna. Bħala riżultat tat-tisħib ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropea tapplika għalina l-Konvenzjoni ta’ Espoo, iffirmata fil-Finlandja fl-1991. Din hi inkorporata fid-Direttiva tal-UE dwar l-EIA (assessjar tal-impatt ambjentali) u tipprovdi li fejn ikun hemm possibbiltà ta’ impatt ambjentali li jmur lil hinn mill-fruntieri ta’ pajjiż terz (transboundary impact) hemm l-obbligu li l-pajjiż affettwat ikun notifikat kif ukoll li jkollu l-possibbiltà li jinvolvi ruħu biex ikun assigurat li l-EIA jsir sew.

X’miżuri ħa l-Ministeru ta’ l-Affarijiet Barranin f’dan ir-rigward? Ħadd għadu ma qal xejn minkejja d-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Claudio Scajola, Ministru Taljan għall-Iżvilupp Ekonomiku favur l-enerġija nukleari.
Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu u fid-dell ta’ theddid li jista’ jkun daqshekk kbir il-Gvern għandu l-obbligu li jinforma dwar x’qiegħed jagħmel. L-Oppożizzjoni wkoll għandha l-obbligu li tispjega għaliex baqgħet ħalqha magħluq.

 

ara ukoll : http://www.illum.com.mt/2008/07/27/t2.html

A Nuclear Sandwich in the Mediterranean

published on Sunday 15 June 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo

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 Last week, two nuclear powers stations in the EU were the subject of safety scares. On Tuesday 3 June at 9.30am local time, in the Dukovany nuclear plant in the Czech Republic, an employee accidentally turned off the coolant pipes and its four reactors were automatically switched off. On Wednesday 4 June in Krško, Slovenia, on the border with Croatia, a water leak from the coolant system of the nuclear plant occurred in the afternoon. The nuclear facility shut down.

These are the most recent of the nuclear accidents and incidents occurring in Europe.

Safety mechanisms are intended to identify and correct failures as soon as they occur. However, when safety mechanisms in nuclear plants fail, leading to a complete breakdown (what is known as a meltdown), issues of transboundary effects of such failure come into play. In view of the fact that we never know whether intended safety mechanisms will function or not, the siting of nuclear power plants will always lead to the assessing of impacts of transboundary effects in case of failure caused by faulty design, human error or natural causes (for example, an earthquake).

It is pertinent within this context to focus on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986, the effects of which were far-reaching.

The Chernobyl nuclear plant was located close to the border with Belarus. Some may assume that the effects of this disaster were limited to neighbouring Belarus and The Russian Federation in addition to Ukraine. This is not correct as radioactive contamination resulting from Chernobyl was detected in various other countries.

The report of the Chernobyl Forum entitled “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine”  limits itself to the areas surrounding the incident site within the confines of the then existent Soviet Union.

However, another report dated April 2006 commissioned by Green MEP Rebecca Harms entitled “The Other Report on Chernobyl (Torch)” is more detailed. This other report concludes that over half of Chernobyl’s fallout was deposited outside the confines of Ukraine/ Belarus/Russian Federation, that the fallout contaminated about 40 per cent of Europe’s surface area and that 30,000 to 60,000 excess deaths from cancer were predicted. Radioactive discharges were dispersed across many parts of Europe: former Yugoslavia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Norway, Rumania, Germany, Austria and Poland. 3.9 million square kilometres of European territory was affected, that is 40 per cent of the surface area of Europe.

Other parts of Europe were in receipt of low levels of contamination: Moldova, the European part of Turkey, Slovenia, Switzerland, Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom.

The Rebecca Harms report refers to restrictions still in place in the UK in 2006 on 374 farms covering 750 sq. km and 200,000 sheep, of high level Caesium-137 contamination in wild boar in Germany, as well as contamination of natural and near-natural environments in Sweden and Finland, and high level Caesium-137 contamination of wild game, wild mushrooms, berries and carnivore fish in lakes in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland.

There is practically no limit to the transboundary effect of a nuclear disaster. Once the disaster has occurred its effects are primarily dependent on the prevailing weather conditions.

On 22 May, Claudio Scajola, Italy’s Minister of Economic Development, announced plans that Italy would shift to nuclear energy. He stated: “By the end of this legislature we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants. An action plan to go back to nuclear power cannot be delayed anymore.” This contrasts heavily with and is in defiance of the decision taken in a referendum in Italy on 8 November 1987, which in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster called for a ban on nuclear reactors. The Italian government subsequently adopted the referendum decision as policy.

That is the position to Malta’s north.

Another scenario is developing to our south. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who rushed to Tripoli in July 2007 as soon as the Bulgarian nurses were released, signed a number of agreements one of which was a deal to construct a French nuclear reactor in Libya intended to produce potable water through desalination.

Nuclear energy is currently being considered by a number of governments due to it being carbon free. Those advocating it tend to ignore the problems of storage of nuclear waste. They also play down the catastrophic consequences of failures as a result of design flaws, human error or natural causes. They also ignore the limited supply of uranium. It is estimated that known supplies of uranium will not last more than another 40 years!

There have been too many near misses of operational failure of nuclear power stations. Those in Slovenia and the Czech Republic that occurred last week are only the most recent in the EU. Among other incidents reported last year, one in an earthquake zone in Japan stands out. I refer to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in the Niigata Prefecture in Japan that was damaged in the July 2007 earthquake. Various other accidents go unreported and only come to light after a number of years. The Japan Times, for example, on 31 March 2007 reported on a number of such cases in Japan that occurred in the past 20 years!

Faced with these nuclear pressures from our neighbours, as an EU member Malta should invoke the provisions of the Espoo Convention to come to its rescue.

The Espoo Convention signed in February 1991 in the town of Espoo just outside Helsinki is entitled Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. It was concluded within the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

In 1997 the Espoo Convention was incorporated into the EU environmental acquis in the form of amendments to the 1985 Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Article 7 of the Directive now provides that, “Where a Member State is aware that a project is likely to have significant effects on the environment in another Member State, or where a Member State likely to be significantly affected so requests, the Member State in whose territory the project is intended to be carried out shall send to the affected Member State as soon as possible and not later than when informing its own public” detailed information on the project and its transboundary impact and information on the decision which is to be taken, “and shall give the other Member State a reasonable time in which to indicate whether it wishes to participate in the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure”.

In our particular case this would oblige the Republic of Italy to make available to the Republic of Malta all available information and subsequently to facilitate Malta’s involvement in all the procedures leading to an EIA thereby ensuring that these are followed to the letter, without any short cuts.

With regard to the French nuclear presence on Libyan soil, the provisions of the Espoo Convention would not be applicable as Libya is not a signatory. In this case French economic interests may appear, at face value, to supersede environmental rhetoric. Both France and Libya should however be held to account – France within the EU framework and Libya in international fora. The inapplicability of the Espoo Convention to Libyan territory does not exonerate Libya or France from ensuring that they take all necessary steps to avoid transboundary impacts. This can be easily done by using alternative technologies.

Within this context there is quite a lot of environmental diplomacy that still needs seeing to with Paris, Tripoli, Rome and Brussels.

In the case of Rome, maybe the Italians would also consider the need for another referendum to tie Berlusconi’s hands more securely.

EU accession has given us the tools to use in order to avoid becoming a nuclear sandwich in the Mediterranean. We should not discard them.