Stormwater Management: entrenched incompetence

(photo by author dated 4 October 2018: overflowing sewer at Archbishop Gonzi Square Kalkara)

The Ministry for Public Works and Planning has embarked on another public consultation on stormwater management. I have lost count as to the number of times this exercise has been carried out along the years, directly or indirectly. At the end of the day the authorities continuously develop cold feet as they fail to address the basic issue: enforcement!

The consultation document points to a basic statistic which proves this point: only 36 per cent of dwellings have a water cistern. This notwithstanding that the matter has been codified in our legislation since 1880: that is since the approval of Ordinance I of 1880 by the British colonial government. Before that date most buildings had a water cistern. Everyone was then aware that water in Malta is scarce and all sought to do their part in collecting rainwater. Nowadays no one cares, as long as there is water in the tap!

The consultation document, entitled Green Stormwater Infrastructure Guidance Manual, drawing on Census 2011 information, further points out that it is in the sector of apartment blocks that one finds the largest number of infringements in non-provision of water cisterns. Compliance ranges from 80 per cent in the case of villas to 4 per cent in the case of apartments. On a geographic level it is probably no surprise that Gozo is only 25 per cent compliant!

As is also pointed out by the consultation document the present state of water harvesting is the result of a lack of adequate enforcement. I would emphasise that it is a case of an incompetent, almost inexistent, enforcement. It is very easy to point at developers who try to avoid excavating or constructing water cisterns, reducing his costs and increasing profits. They have a number of accomplices, who ignore this fact and then proceed to certify works as having been completed satisfactorily. In these instances, compliance certificates are issued just the same by the Planning Authority. Likewise, the Water Services Corporation authorises the connection of foul water drains from such developments to the public sewer without generally bothering to ascertain as to where rainwater is being collected or directed.

Rainwater is to be collected in a water cistern which should be fitted with an overflow which directs excess rainwater onto the street. Instead, a number of developments direct all rainwater directly onto the street. At times, unfortunately increasing in frequency, rainwater is disposed of directly into the public sewer.

This is the cause of flooded streets and overflowing sewers with which we are very familiar during and after heavy rainfall.

Enforcement hits hard as non-compliance is widespread. This is the primary reason as to why no government has seriously embarked on tackling this problem. In the past government, instead of addressing the root cause of the problem, that is the non-provision of water cisterns, embarked on the drilling of a number of tunnels to facilitate the collection of rainwater and its dumping into the sea. Millions of euros in EU funds were utilised in this exercise, literally money down the drain.  Notwithstanding this misapplication of EU funds, the problem of flooded streets and overflowing sewers is still a common occurrence during and immediately after heavy rainfall.

Having expertly drawn up codes and manuals is generally helpful. It is however no substitute for clear indiscriminate enforcement: no exceptions allowed. It is what we lack. It is the result of clientelism forming an integral part of the philosophy of government and administration. It is a political disease which is not limited to stormwater management but as we all know is spread throughout the public administration.

If those employed to implement our laws, rules and regulations get on with their jobs, the problem of stormwater management would be substantially smaller, and definitely quite manageable!

The basic problem which the consultation document does not discuss is that there is no political will to ensure that simple rules on rainwater harvesting are observed by all. The rest follows.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3rd July 2022

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

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

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.

L-ilma tax-xita: forsi nibdew niġbruh

flooding B'Kara.301113

 

 

Hi aħbar tajba li qed jittieħdu inizjattivi biex inqas ilma jintrema l-baħar. Għadni kif smajt intervista mal-Inġinier Paul Micallef mill-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma li spjega kif iktar tard din is-sena ser ikun konkluż proġett li bħala riżultat tiegħu madwar 7 miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma ser ikun użat għall-agrikuktura u għall-industrija. Qed jingħad li bħala riżultat ta’ investiment sostanzjali l-kwalità tal-ilma prodotta ser tkun aħjar minn dak li presentement qed ikun prodott mill-Impjant ta’ Sant Antnin.

Dan hu tajjeb u ħadd ma jista’ jiddeskrivieh mod ieħor.

Tajjeb imma li nirrealizzaw li ħafna mill-ilma tax-xita qed jinħela għax fil-parti l-kbira tal-propjetà residenzjali li inbniet matul dawn l-aħħar 50 sena ma hemmx bjar. Din hi l-kawża tal-parti l-kbira tal-ilma tax-xita li jinġabar fit-toroq tagħna inkella li jiżbroffa mid-drenaġġ.

 

Il-baġit u l-ilma

world-water-week-graphic-2

Il- baġit jiddiskuti l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma, iktar milli l-ilma innifsu. Jagħmel dan fil-paġni 37 u 38 tiegħu fi ħmistax il-linja.

L-ilma tal-pjan, ir-riżerva li tipprovdilna n-natura, l- baġit ftit li xejn jinteressah. Jgħidilna li għandna nnaqqsu d-dipendenza tagħna fuqu. Il-bqija, mill-baġit ma tirriżultax il-ħtieġa li nagħtu importanza lill-miżuri biex jiġi eliminat is-serq tal-ilma tal-pjan. M’hemm l-ebda referenza għall-eluf ta’ boreholes imħaffrin b’mod illegali f’kull rokna ta’ Malta u Għawdex li permezz tagħhom dan ir-riżors naturali tal-pajjiż għadu qiegħed jinsteraq għall-gwadann privat.

L-anqas imkien ma hemm referenza għall-obbligu li Malta tosserva d-Direttiva tal-EU dwar l-Ilma [Water Framework Directive] fil-politika li tiddetermina l-prezz li bih jinbiegħ l-ilma.

Fi ftit kliem l-impatti ekonomiċi ta’ din ir-riżorsa naturali huma għal darba oħra injorati minn dan il- baġit.

Wara li smajt lill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni jwieġeb id-diskors tal-baġit, jidher li l-anqas l-Opposizzjoni ma’ jidhrilha li l-ilma hu importanti. Wara kollox x’ilna li smajna lil Simon Busuttil jiftaħar bil-proġett li permezz tiegħu l-ilma tax-xita, fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu jispiċċa l-baħar?

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).

Il-maltemp li jista’ jkaxkarna

29.12.2014

 

Fit-Times of Malta illum f’artiklu intitolat Malta is vulnerable to a devasting megastorm il-Professur Patrick Schembri jispjega kif mir-riċerka li qed jagħmel mal-kosta Maltija qiegħed bil-mod jiskropri provi dwar maltempati kbar li seħħew fil-gżejjer Maltin eluf ta’ snin ilu. L-artiklu ma jidhirx sħiħ online. Online issibu artiklu fil-qosor intitolat Malta hit by megastorms in the past……..and it can happen again.

Din ir-riċerka hi iffinanzjata mill-European Research Council u fiha qed jieħdu sehem tijm internazzjonali mill-Irlanda (Queen’s University Belfast), mir-Renju Unit (University of Cambridge) u Malta (Universita’ ta’ Malta, Sopratendenza tal-Wirt Kulturali u Heritage Malta).  Il-proġett ta’ studju hu mifrux fuq ħames snin u huwa imsejjaħ “ Fragility and sustainability in restricted island environments: adaptation, culture change and collapse in prehistory.”

Fir-rapport tagħha l-ġurnalista tat-Times Sarah Carabott tgħid dawn il-preċiżi kelmiet :

“Malta has been hit by storms so powerful that traces in the coastal sediment remain till this very day, thousands of years later.

If such inclement weather were to hit again, it could leave its mark on infrastructure around the coastline, including the power station and reverse osmosis plants.”

It-Times tirrapport ukoll il-veduti tal-Korporazzjoni Enemalta u tal-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma. Kelliema għal dawn il-Korporazzjonijiet qalu li l-faċilitajiet in kwistjoni (power station u impjanti tar-reverse osmosis) huma safe. Ġew diżinjati b’mod li jilqgħu anke’ għal l-iktar maltempata qalila, qalu.

 

Ma nafx jekk tiftakrux x’ġara f’Fukushima, l-Ġappun nhar il-11 ta’ Marzu 2011. Il-bini tal-impjant nuklejari  kien b’saħħtu, iddiżinjat għal kontra t-terrimoti. Fil-fatt il-bini ma ġarrabx l-anqas ġirfa bħala riżultat tat-terrimot. Imma mbagħad tħarbat bil-mewġ għoli li ġie iġġenerat bit-tsunami sussegwenti.

Il-ġeologu Ġappuniż Masanobu Shishikura nhar il-11 t’April 2011 kien rappurtat mill-ġurnal Taljan Il Sole 24 Ore li kien ippreveda dan it-tsunami a bażi ta’ oħrajn li seħħew mijjiet ta’ snin ilu bejn 500 u 800 sena ilu.

Dan ifisser illi l-maltempati qliel li seħħew fuq Malta eluf ta’ snin ilu u li dwarhom qed jitkellem il-Professur Schembri m’hemm xejn li jżomm milli jerġgħu jseħħu. Ovvjament tajjeb li l-Korporazzjonijiet jgħidulna kemm aħna ippreparati. Imma probabbilment li m’aħna ippreparati xejn għal diżastru naturali li s’issa m’għandna l-ebda ideja dwar il-qilla tiegħu meta seħħ eluf ta’ snin ilu.

Those unrealistic water bills

Water Bill.Malta

Our water bills will have to change as water in Malta is not realistically priced. The Government is aware of this yet it is not informing the public. The Labour Party on the other hand is ignoring the pointers and foolishly insisting on the unsustainable electoral promise of reducing water bills.

A realistic water pricing policy is needed to ensure proper management of water resources. This can be done by ensuring that proper subsidies are in place for the basic use of water while simultaneously penalising waste.

In terms of article 9 of the Water Framework Directive of the European Union, Malta, like all other EU member states, must have a realistic water pricing system in place. The pricing system shall take account “of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs…”

In a report dated November 14, 2012 in reply to Malta’s submissions on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, the European Commission takes Malta to task on the pricing of water. The report, addressed to the European Parliament and the European Council, states that “it seems that environmental and resource costs have not been included in the cost recovery calculation”.

The price for water which the Water Services Corporation charges is limited to recovering its operational costs.

When the corporation extracts groundwater it does not pay for the water extracted. The cost of the water extracted (referred to as the resource cost) is ignored. This is obviously an incorrect practice as groundwater does have a cost which is dependent on a variety of factors. Once identified, on the basis of proper studies, this is a cost which must be added to the current charges. This is a matter which the Malta Resources Authority as the regulator should have been analysing for the past years.

In addition to the operational costs and the resource costs there are also the environmental costs which must be identified and quantified. The EU, in order to assist in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, facilitates a Common Implementation Strategy through which Guidance documents and technical reports are produced assisting member states in coming to grips with what is expected from them to protect water resources within their territories. Guidance document No. 1, in fact, entitled Economics And The Environment, is a 274-page long technical document which explains in detail what is to be taken into consideration.

I am informed that the Malta Resources Authority, after EU accession, carried out such an exercise of identifying and costing in detail the resource and environmental costs of water. Producing these studies is part of its role as the competent authority to report to the Commission on the economics of water use as required under Article 5 of the Directive –

that the management of water resources in the Maltese Islands is on a sound footing. The authority, I am informed, also made detailed professional proposals as to the Programme of Measures required by article 11 of the Water Framework Directive. This leads me to conclude that the Government has been in receipt of sound professional advice as to what needs to be done to manage in a professional manner Malta’s water resources. Unfortunately this advice has been ignored. This is a political responsibility yet to be shouldered.

The Auditor General’s Performance Audit entitled Safeguarding Malta’s Groundwater, published in February 2012, is an eye-opener as to the measures which have not yet been implemented (fully or partially). One of the most worrying is the metering of boreholes. The MRA has not been given adequate means which would go a long way to fast-track this control on the rate of extraction of groundwater. The end result is that notwithstanding that metering of boreholes was accepted by the Government as a suitable measure very late in the day, its implementation is already two years behind schedule.

The metering of boreholes should be the first step of a process leading to a long-term objective ensuring that all boreholes are no longer operational. It should be clear to all that ground water is public property.

Even agriculture should be slowly weaned away from the use of ground water. Adequately polished treated sewage effluent would be a suitable alternative.

Water is a precious resource essential for our well-being. It is essential for the well-being of our families, for our agriculture, for our manufacturing industry as well as for tourism. Notwithstanding its being a basic requirement for practically all our activities, it has been mismanaged for a very long time. Successive governments have ignored its mishandling.

Water has been considered as a freebie for far too long. It is now time to pay for past mistakes. If we take longer to realise this fact the environmental bills will be insurmountable. Hence it is irresponsible for the Labour Party to promise a reduction of water bills.

originally published in The Times, December 22, 2012

L-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar il-politika tal-Ilma f’Malta

River Basin Management Plans

Nhar l-14 ta’ Novembru 2012, ftit iktar minn ħmistax ilu, l-Unjoni Ewropeja ippubblikat rapport dwar il-mixja ta’ Malta biex twettaq l-obbligi tagħha stabiliti fil-Water Framework Directive. Kellna skiet fil-pajjiż dwar dan ir-rapport. Dan ir-rapport tista’ taqrah hawn .

Il-Gvern ma tkellem xejn dwaru. L-anqas l-Awtorita dwar ir-Riżorsi ma qalet xejn. Il-media baqgħet siekta ukoll inkluż dawk li jippużaw tal-indipendenti. Il-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv ma nduna b’xejn.

Il-bieraħ is-Sibt Alternattiva Demokratika organizzajna konferenza stampa li fiha irreferejna għal dan ir-rapport. Ir-rapport hu wieħed tekniku ħafna imma nistgħu niffukaw fuq tlett kummenti li jagħmel.

L-ewwel kumment hu dwar il-boreholes. Fl-2008 sar proċess ta’ reġistrazzjoni ta’ boreholes. Għaddew iktar minn 4 snin u minkejja li dan hu qasam kruċjali l-Gvern u l-Awtorita’ dwar ir-Riżorsi għadhom mexjin b’mod kajman biex jintroduċu kontrolli dwar l-użu tal-ilma tal-pjan minn dawn il-boreholes. Dan hu qasam li fih kulħadd għadu jagħmel li jrid. Mhux aħna biss qed ngħiduh. Qed qed tgħidu ukoll l-Unjoni Ewropeja.  Fir-rapport li nsemmi hawn fuq l-UE tgħid li m’hemmx monitoraġġ ta’ “private groundwater abstractions”.  Dan hu iktar gravi meta wieħed iżomm quddiem għajnejh illi 45% tal-ilma li nixorbu, imwassal fi djarna mill-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma ġej mill-ilma tal-pjan. Jiġifieri l-ilma tal-pjan hu sors strateġiku biex il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jkollha ilma xi tqassam fid-djar għall-konsum.

Minkejja dan kollu meters ftit li xejn ġew istallati ma dawn il-boreholes. L-anqas l-electronic tracking tal-bowsers għadu ma sar. Sadanittant l-ilma tal-pjan jibqa’ jinbiegħ fil-bowers qiesu m’hu jiġri xejn!

L-Unjoni Ewropeja fir-rapport tagħha tiġbed l-attenzjoni ukoll għall-frammentazzjoni: jiġifieri li l-politika dwar l-ilma hi maqsuma bejn diversi awtoritajiet: l-Awtorita dwar ir-Riżorsi (MRA) u l-Awtorita’ dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar (MEPA). Iżżid kumment dwar kumitat Inter-Ministerjali li kellu jitwaqqaf u li ħadd ma jaf jekk dan twaqqaqfx u minn min hu kompost.

Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel li fil-qasam ambjentali (mhux biss dak dwar l-ilma) hemm frammentazzjoni. Dan jista’ jkun rimedjat billi l-MRA u l-MEPA jiġu amalgamati f’Awtorita waħda taħt it-tmexxija ta’ Direttorat Ambjentali b’saħtu.  Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent u l-użu sostenibbli tar-riżorsi naturali bħall-ilma jistgħu u ġhandhom isiru aħjar b’awtorita’ konsolidata.

Ir-rapport tal-UE jipponta subgħajh ukoll lejn l-impatt tal-agrikultura fuq ir-riżorsi tal-ilma tal-pajjiz. Dan il-fatt, jempasizza r-rapport, messu wassal għal formolazzjoni ta’ strategija ċara dwar miżuri meħtieġa. Strateġija bħal din tirrikjedi l-parteċipazzjoni tal-komunita’ agrikola fl-istadju tal-formolazzjoni tagħha.

Huwa ċar illi l-fatt li r-regolatur dwar ir-Rizorsi (MRA) u d-Dipartiment tal-Agrikultura huma ir-responsabbilta politika tal-istess Ministeru, dan qiegħed iżomm lir-regolatur mill-jaġixxi b’mod effettiv. Għandu jkun sottolineat illi l-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika żvela li matul l-2009-10 l-agrikultura użat il-fuq minn 28 miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma, li jammonta ghal hafna iktar milli qatt kien stmat. Dan hu kważi id-doppju tal-ilma li tiċċirkola l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma.

Hemm bżonn li l-ilma jittieħed b’iżjed serjeta’. Biex dan isir jeħtieġ li jintrifsu ħafna kallijiet.