Further to the letter â€˜Packaging waste collection systemâ€™ by Chris Ciantar and published on The Sunday Times (April 27th), Friends of the Earth (Malta) would like to point out the following issues.
In his letter, the newly appointed Permanent Secretary, clearly exhibits his annoyance at the public statement issued by the NGO. However, unless he has somehow forgotten, Malta is a democratic society and open criticism for this type of scheme is legitimate from all sectors of civil society.Â As an environmental NGO, Friends of the Earth (Malta) feel that, for the benefit of the Maltese public as a whole, they have the duty to pose questions when things are unclear, or when ,in someway or other, they are not being managed according to the best possible solution Despite its lack of financial and human resources, should FoE have been asked to serve on a consultation board with adequately scheduled meetings regarding packing waste collection schemes, it would have been more than willing to participate and contribute constructively in the process.
Rather than allowing what started as constructive criticism degenerate into a public argument, we would like to pose, once again, the questions which so far have remained unanswered. The first questions focus on the Santâ€™Antnin plant. The website of the now obsolete Ministry for the Environment and Rural Affairs, states that the Santâ€™Antnin PlantÂ â€œ is expected to lead to an improvement of the environmental, social and economic impacts experienced from the operations of the current plant. â€¦â€¦.It will also help in achieving this through improved work conditions for the work forceâ€¦â€¦..â€
However, Dr Ciantar in his letter, clearly states that the material will be hand-sorted. Maybe the â€˜work conditions for the work forceâ€™ were momentarily sidelined when the door-to-door collection scheme was designed. FoE recalls that the EIA for the Upgrade of the Sant Antnin Plant states that the plant is designed to accept separate waste material. Probably this is the reason why the Ministry has now resorted to hand sorting once again! Additionally, Dr. Ciantar argues that the system will ensure â€˜that the quality of the scrap material is optimal for recyclingâ€™. It is common knowledge within the waste management sector that the cleanest and optimal material for recycling is that which is disposed of and collected in separate containers. It is rather presumptuous of the Ministry to assume that the mixed paper, plastic and metal (and God knows what else might end up in these bags!) will constitute optimal material for recycling.
The ministry has finally made it clear that the public will have to purchase the grey bags in order to participate in this scheme.Â This discourages households from separating waste since it is easier for them to just dump all their mixed waste into a â€˜freeâ€™ plastic carrier bag and leave it on their door step. The public is being taxed for separating its waste â€“ instead of the other way round. Contrary to Dr. Ciantarâ€™s claim, this goes directly against the Polluter Pays Principle! On the other hand a good number of civic minded households are already separating their waste and making effective use of the BI sites â€“ a fact that WasteServ has made publicly known. In other words this system will only be reinforcing bad practices or work in direct competition to the BI sites.
Dr. Ciantar makes several assumptions and claims without explaining how he has come to these conclusions. He states that â€œsuch a scheme will also help to recover more packaging waste which would otherwise end up in the waste streamâ€. He elaborates on this by saying that â€œfor families that have difficulties using bring-in sitesâ€¦an alternative set-up is being launchedâ€.Â How can we be sure that the tonnes of waste collected via the door-to-door scheme are additional to that being collected from BI sites?Â An interesting study will be to research the potential decline in waste disposed of in BI sites. The scheme together with the media campaign is targeting society at large when in his own admission, Dr. Ciantar is aiming to attract those families that do not use the BI sites. With the cooperation of local parishes and other organisations, the Ministry could have obtained sufficient data that would have given a true picture of which families need the door-to-door scheme.Â With this valuable data in hand, the ministry could have then embarked upon designing and promoting a scheme with this specific category of households in mind thus saving onÂ financial and human resources.
FoE fails to understand why the Ministry chose to create a new nation-wide system for household packaging waste collection rather than invest in the better use of bring-in sites which could serve our county well enough.Â If the ministry desperately needs to meet the recycling targets, then it should focus on the large waste producers as these will boost the figures.Â Other EU countries were only able to reach the recovery and recycling targets when they included the secondary and tertiary packaging material into their waste collection schemes. Â
Finally, in the true interest of Maltese tax payers, FoE would like an explanation regarding the funding of the marketing and operations of this door-to-door scheme.Â Dr. Ciantar refers to the scheme as â€œfully privatised initiativesâ€ and gives the impression that this is part of the Polluter Pays Principle whereby the packaging waste producers take responsibility of the waste they put on the market.Â In view of this FoE would like the Ministry to inform the general public whether this scheme is being funded from the countryâ€™s coffers or via the packaging producers.Â Who has paid for the media campaign? Who has paid for the civil servantsâ€™ involvement? Who has paid for the mailshot and the delivery of bags to Local Councils? Who is paying for the collection and transportation of the waste? The taxpaying public is eagerly awaiting answers. FoE has no objection to the Producer Pays Principle as long as it is implemented the way it was intended to beâ€¦.surely the complying households separating their waste are not the polluters â€“ can Dr. Ciantar explain why these will be punished and made to purchase the grey bags? He claims that the scheme is for those families who are unable to use the BI sites, so in other words, he intends to punish the elderly, disabled, the sick, and other specific sectors within our society by making them pay for the grey bags as these have no other real option available to them.Â Social environmental justice indeed!!!
Further to the article published in The Sunday Times, 30th March 2008, â€œWaste Separation Postponedâ€ Friends of the Earth (Malta) would like to point out that only minor parts of the PR text issued by the organisation were quoted in this article and these were out of context. A case in point of this is the paragraph which states â€œwhy, given the size of the Maltese population, a door-to-door separation scheme is required when there are already many bring-in sitesâ€. It should be noted that Friends of the Earth (Malta) asked this question in relation to the economic and environmental context and whilst it comprehends that this scheme would reach a different sector of the population, it points out that the more schemes there are, the more the difficulties that will have to be faced and the higher the costs for society in general. What we really need to be sure about is whether it is worth the trouble of having another scheme when:
(1) the bring-in site system is in itself still experiencing teething problems and wouldÂ Â Â Â benefit if more resources are deployed for its success;
(2) more collection trucks would be required for the separate collection and therefore more air pollution for us to deal with as well as more fuel, and
(3) the new scheme would need to impose new administration requirements, a continuous supply of bags and a different form of enforcement, and therefore, higher costs.
We need to be sure that the scheme takes these matters into account and that all these calculations have been made properly. Â
The article in The Sunday Times mentions that â€œthe scheme, which follows a three-year-long process of discussion â€¦.â€ . However, after three years of discussion how come teething problems are being experienced in the final stages prior to itsÂ implementation? And why is it that some Local Councils until last Sunday 30th March, seem to be in oblivion when questioned about the availability of the bags? Friends of the Earth (Malta) believes that three years would have provided the Government enough time to meet Local Councils, if not individually, in clusters of five or so, in order to be able to discuss such issues in more detail.
Friends of Earth (Malta) poses again the questions to the Ministry regarding the Santâ€™ Antnin Waste Treatment Plant and whether it is designed to handle the weekly intake of bags. Will manual sorting be utilised to separate the waste in bags once it arrives there? Has the government tapped any new markets to resell the additional material collected? Friends of the Earth will continue to stress that waste management requires an integrated strategy that is able to tackle all these matters constructively and not only what is visible to the public.
Finally, we kindly ask the Ministry to state whether only the first pack of bags will be given for free. Countries that operate such systems charge a price on bags utilised for mixed waste and not those utilised for recycled waste.Â If a charge is imposed on the â€˜Recycling Tuesdayâ€™ waste bag, how could we ever hope that citizens would feel encouraged to take the initiative and set the specific waste apart, clean it and then keep it for a week at home until the refuse trucks comes along.Â On the other hand if the Ministry intends to give these bags for free, how will these be funded? Â
Friends of the Earth (Malta) would like to end this letter by making it clear that it is not against waste separation schemes but does not want it to be another half baked measure that does not utilise effectively societyâ€™sÂ hard earned taxes.
(Note:Â This letter was sent to the Time of Malta on three different occassions over a period of two weeks and so far it has not been published)
Friends of the Earth Malta would like to express concern at the recent developments related to the postponing of the introduction of weekly separate waste collection from households. The reason given by the local press is that, though, local councils, fully support the scheme, they cannot meet the deadlines imposed on them and start implementing it on the proposed date. However, if the Local Councils are going to act as intermediary for the distribution of bags shouldnâ€™t they have been given sufficient time to get themselves organised ? This should have been a main stepping stone for the implementation of the scheme, a point that should have been prioritised in the agreement with Local Councils.
However the implementation of this scheme remains a big question mark for the Maltese public. Does it make economic and environmental sense to have three to four waste collection systems for a small island of 400,000 people? Why have a door-to-door scheme when there are Bring-In Sites virtually in every village, as well as other initiatives from the private sector? Although the threshold of 400 Bring-In Sites in Malta and Gozo has not been reached, a lot of people are making use of them. It is also true that sometimes they are abused of, and people do not always put the right things in the right bin, but that would happen with a door-to-door collection as well. A contractor who empties these bins more frequently would solve a good deal of the problem faced with bring-in sites.
It appears that these bags for separate waste collection will have to be purchased by households.Â This runs in counter with incentivising those households who are contributing to a better environment.Â Shouldnâ€™t it be the other way round?Â How about asking households to purchase bags for the door-to-door collection of mixed/residual waste?Â This would be a true incentive for households to make use of the many Bring-In Sites that dot every town and village on the Maltese Islands.
Friends of the Earth also questions the timing for this scheme. The implementation of the scheme was announced about a month before the election. This in itself is very awkward.Â How can you negotiate with Local Councils when some of them were in the midst of an election themselves? And how could government start planning a scheme which it wouldnâ€™t be sure it would be able to bring to completion? One could argue that this was a last minute decision prior to the elections by the then Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, thinking that the electorate might be led into thinking that something is actually being done towards meeting the EU waste recycling targets. Unfortunately, for the Minister, we know better.
The last question is related to Santâ€™Antnin waste treatment plant â€“ is this plant designed to receive a huge amount of bags containing a mixture of paper, plastic and metal waste every week? Not to mention all the other sorts of waste that households might place in these bags! Would this necessitate manual sorting once again? Was this scheme part of the planning and designing of the new waste treatment plant?Â Friends of the Earth suspect that this was not the case. Integrated waste management strategy implementation seems to be an unknown concept.Â In waste management it is not only what is visible to the general public that matters but also what is generally going on behind the scenes since this is the make or break of any waste related initiative.
Friends of the Earth Malta believes that it is high time we start thinking seriously what we want to do with the environment of this country. We heard the electoral promises but so far they are nothing more than words. Friends of the Earth Malta has been preaching that a holistic and long-term vision is a prerequisite for any environmental strategy.Â If the government wants us to judge it on its track record then it is about time that it takes it promises seriously.
Thirteen prominent Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from environmental, social and cultural sectors in a joint statement today urged Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi and the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Alfred Sant to endorse the full implementation of the Birds Directive by outlawing spring hunting and trapping in 2008 and beyond. 
The NGOs reminded both leaders of the European Commissionâ€™s conclusion that â€œalternative solutions to spring hunting exist, in this case the possibility to hunt the two species in the autumnâ€. It is now also clear that this matter lies at the heart of a wide cross-section of Maltese representation, with NGOs beyond the conservation field adding their voice to this call.
The NGOs also drew the leadersâ€™ attention to the fact that â€œthe latest scientific studies show that 43% of Europe's bird species are threatened or facing serious decline and therefore not in a good conservation status, including Turtle Dove and Common Quail.â€
â€œMaltaâ€™s insistence on allowing spring hunting and trapping of Turtle Doves and Quails has already become a European wide embarrassment for our country. One need only note that the European Parliamentâ€™s resolution of March 15, 2007 is a very rare example of a Member State being openly urged by a great majority of MEPs from the whole political spectrum to comply with EU law. We, therefore, appeal to you to avoid further embarrassment for our country and ask you to endorse the full implementation of the Birds Directive by outlawing spring hunting and trapping in 2008 and beyond,â€ the NGOs concluded in their joint declaration.
 The NGOs in question are: BICREF (Malta), BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth (Malta), Gaia, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Malta Society of the Blind, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, OASI Foundation, Ramblers Association, and SOS Malta.
 The joint declaration is being sent together with this media release.
Friends of the Earth Malta notes with interest the wide range of proposals for the environment made by all the political parties contesting the 2008 general election. Taken at face value most of the proposals are commendable. Unfortunately, those by the two major parties especially, contain elements that tend to undermine their credibility.
Every party is determined to reform MEPA; indeed the PN manifesto carries the promise by Dr. Gonzi to tackle MEPA reform personally. Yet this promise was not accompanied by even a token gesture of good intent, like stopping the wholesale sanctioning of the Dwejra bars, boat houses and summer residences, or some retreat from the contested (locally and in Brussels)Â Rationalisation Scheme. The fact is that the sum total of MEPA actions, often driven by political prompting from on high, has done, and is still doing irreversible harm to the environment. While the AD proposal for a separation of Environment and Planning can make a real change in the quality of MEPA operations, it cannot re-write all of our environmental history.
The AD proposal to hold local referenda where mega projects are proposed makes sense but it must be used carefully if it is not to generate outbreaks of â€œnimbyismâ€. We welcome the determination to end spring hunting and suggest that the valuable creation of the Majjistral National Park by the present government be further enhanced by elimination of hunting activities within the Park.
The determination to reform MEPA on the part of the MLP did not deter Dr. Sant from once again proposing a golf course on Taâ€™ Cenc. But this zeal for reform did not add up to even a lament for Dwejra, whose â€œobituaryâ€ was published on the day the MLP was visiting Gozo.
Only the PN manifesto has a mention of Climate Change issues, even if it is vague on intended action. There are no coherent proposals to address what may well be the first climate change effect to hit us-- deterioration of our ground potable water supplyâ€”and only vague references to use of second class water from sewage treatment. The real threats to Malta ground water sources from gross over-pumping, from polluting activities sited over the water table, and from road tunnels on â€œTrans-European highwaysâ€ are glossed over. Slogans for an â€œeco-islandâ€ vocation for Gozo seem to forget that groundwater supplies there are in crisis. Ground water has to be â€œpolishedâ€ by Reverse Osmosis (RO) to cut down on salinity and nitrate content, the result of savage over-pumping on the one hand and indiscriminate use of fertilizer on the other. Incidentally, the fraction (at least 50%) of input water that the RO rejects is not being put to any use. In case of shortfall Cirkewwa RO sends water to Gozo. Â
That is not going to help our carbon footprint. Nor will the actual (by government, for the election) orÂ promised (by the MLP) halving of the fuel surcharge on electricity and water bills. What is required is something akin to the AD proposal: a surcharge rate that depends on the actual consumption of water and electricity. That would constitute an equitable application of the polluter pays principle.
The PN manifesto does show some concern with our â€œcarbon footprintâ€. Yet there is no hint if and how we are going to conform to the EU demand for a cut back in our power generation CO2 for the period 2008-2012. The EU allowance of a total of 5% increase over 2005 levels in CO2 emissions by 2020 is quite a tight target and one accompanied by a 10% fraction of (electrical?) energy to be found from renewable energy sources (RES).Â Our â€œcommitmentâ€ to the latter target shown in the PN manifesto does not square up with the fact that we have already dispatched â€œBatman and Robinâ€ to Brussels to argue for a reduction in this target. On the other side, the PN manifesto speaks of a â€œreduction of 20% in CO2 emissions by 2020â€, but as no baseline level is given, that figure is meaningless. The promised output (20% of electricity generation-- of which base year?) of the 100MW deep water wind farm seems to have been overestimated by a factor of 2. The fact that the present grid may not be able to cope with strong variations in output from the farm has been ignored; and the promise of Dr. Gonzi to connect the farm to the eco-island of Gozo is engineering nonsense.
FoE (Malta) regret to note that none of the parties have addressed the issue of construction and demolition waste. Apparently the idea of land reclamation is being favoured over the more logical one of reduction and reuse of such waste. There is also no mention of future resort to incineration; and no mention by the PN, MLP and AN of urban sprawl, vacant properties and of the new contribution to unsustainable development by the so-called Rationalization of development boundaries and modified local plans.
Issues which should also be seen to include transport, only mentioned by AD; a restrictive policy on new road building- as new roads are simply fuelling increases in car numbers; the provision of more environmentally-friendly lighting and of bicycle lanes; a credible upgrade of public transport which should include liberalisation (mentioned by AD) and a real control on emissions; employment of park rangers and the re-opening of those large tracts of the countryside which have been illegally closed to the public.
A Europe-wide climate campaign launched on Wednesday 27 February by Friends of the Earth Europe and the Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke aims to get governments and the European Union to commit to annual cuts in emissions to fight climate change.
The Big Ask brings together Friends of the Earth groups from 17 European countries  including Malta, each of which is asking its government to introduce legally binding annual emission cuts.
Thom Yorke launched the European campaign in Brussels where he presented a symbol of the Big Ask to the European Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas. Thom Yorke has supported the Big Ask campaign in the UK where thanks to two years of campaigning from Friends of the Earth, a ground-breaking climate change bill is currently being made law. Now he is bringing the campaign to the rest of Europe.
In Malta the launch took place at City Gate in Valletta. Local bands, including Walter Micallef, Vince Fabri and Seventh Ride played live music whilst other musicians, including Nick Morales, Jon Mallia, David Leguesse and Andre Gerada performed a live jamming session where passers-by could join in and play.Â Volunteers from Friends of the Earth Malta raised awareness on the issue of climate change.
Martin Galea De Giovanni, the Chairperson of FoE Malta, announced that through launching this campaign FoE Malta will be lobbying for the enactment of National Climate Change Legislation to reduce carbon dioxideemissions by 10% on 1990 levels, with a reduction of 3% carbon dioxide emissions yearly by 2020. One way of supporting this initiative will be by signing a petition that FoE Malta launched during this event.
Thom Yorke said: â€œWe will never wake from the nightmare of climate change unless our national governments and the European Union act. They are the one's who will write the laws that we must follow as citizens and in business. They are the only ones who can put the structures in place that will help us tackle climate change. That is why we are launching the Big Ask in seventeen countries in Europe. By committing to annual cuts in our emissions at a national and European level we can play our part in tackling climate change, and hopefully set an example for the rest of world to follow. Hundreds of thousands of people want to see their governments doing more about climate change. If you are one of them then find out more about Friends of the Earth Europeâ€™s Big Ask campaign in your country at www.thebigask.eu."
Around Europe people are being asked to send a message to their politicians asking them to commit to annual cuts in emissions. Individuals can find out more about their national campaign at the Big Ask website which is also being launched today: www.thebigask.eu
Different activities took place across the continent to mark the start of the European campaign. In Finland activists raised awareness with snowman rallies in 22 towns and cities while in the Netherlands activists built a dyke in front of the parliament building and invited politicians and
celebrities to fill the gaps with sand-bags.
At a European level Friends of the Earth Europe wants to see annual emission reductions for all member states and a strong compliance system to guarantee that these cuts really take place . Â
Martin Rocholl, Chair of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "It is too easy for Governments to ignore long term targets on climate change. Annual targets will make todayâ€™s and tomorrows politicians accountable for cutting emissions and pressure them to actually deliver. The European Union also needs to put forward a strong penalty system to make sure countries really meet their targets every year and the cuts we urgently need really happen.
Taking real action is a great chance for Europe to lead the world in the fight against climate change and to show how countries can boost their economies, stay competitive, create jobs and improve the environment at the same time."
"Through the Big Ask, people across Europe will be able to call on their governments and the European Union to act against climate change. As a grassroots network Friends of the Earth is uniquely placed to generate this kind of people power and really make politicians sit up and listen."
The Big Ask calls on the European Union to commit to at least 30 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions within Europe by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050. Friends of the Earth Europe has criticised the European Unions recent proposal to cut emissions by only 20 per cent by 2020 and for giving no guarantee that these targets will be met. 
 Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
 The current proposals of the EU for their emission reduction policies until 2020 (an amended directive forÂ European Emission Trading (ETS) and a Decision on effort-sharing amongst EU Member States about non-ETS emissions) foresee a linear annual reductions path but do not give the Commission the power to ensure member states make these cuts on time. Without a meaningful compliance and penalty system there is a high risk of the EU missing its targets. Friends of the Earth Europe demands the proposals be changed to include the strongest enforcement tools available to the European Commission.
Friends of the Earthâ€™s new study Towards a Better Compliance Structure for the European Emission Reduction Policies until 2020 can be found at www.thebigask.eu/background
 The EU has agreed to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 but only if an international agreement is reached. The proposal for 30 per cent cuts, and that for 20 per cent cuts, includes the possibility for governments and industry to offset their emissions with a high number of climate projects outside the EU. No quality standards are given for these projects. Friends of the Earth Europe demands that external projects should only count towards emissions reductions after 30 per cent cuts have been achieved domestically, and that projects have a guaranteed environmental benefit. Many projects, for example from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), are strongly criticised by NGOs for not bringing real emissions cuts or for being harmful for people and the environment. See http://www.oekoinstitut.de/oekodoc/622/2007-162-en.pdf
Climate change is the single biggest environmental threat facing our planet. Burning too much coal, oil and gas increases the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn heats up the planet.
On the 27th of February
Friends of the Earth Malta will be launching its Climate Change campaign together with Friends of the Earth groups in 17 countries across Europe. The launch will take place at City Gate in Valletta at 16:00
. Local bands will be playing live music and together with volunteers from Friends of the Earth Malta will be raising awareness on the issue of climate change. During the launch, FoE Malta will be announcing how individuals can participate in European wide actions to kerb climate change.
Our common future is at risk from climate change. Even in the short run, the impact of climate change will be disproportionately bad for the countries that have had the least to do with adding carbon to the atmosphere. It is vital to create institutions to address equity and provide relief as quickly as possible, before food and water problems in the developing world reach critical levels.
The only way to avoid the worst effects of climate change is to act promptly and on a large scale. Waiting to see if things really turn out as badly as predicted will mean that we miss the last chance to ensure that our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, inherit a livable world.
Friends of the Earth Malta together with Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Gaia Foundation, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Ramblers Association and Nature Trust (Malta), strongly condemn the vandal attacks on the cars of 3 Birdlife Volunteers at Buskett. These incidents only show how certain people have no respect towards others and enjoy performing cowardly acts on people who dedicate their free time towards the environment and civil society
Â The NGOs urge the relevant authorities to intensify their work so as these culprits are caught as soon as possible and are given the punishment they
Â deserve. Only this will show that we are living in a civilised country were law breakers will no be tolerated.
Finally the NGos again stress the need for Environment Wardens to be assigned to such sites which are so vulnerable to vandalism. The organisations also feel that CCTV cameras should be installed in all ecological and heritage sites without further delays.
Friends of the Earth Malta together with Birdlife Malta, Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Gaia Foundation, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Nature Trust (Malta) and Ramblers Association strongly condemn the vandal attacks recently held at Dwejra Heritage Park in Gozo where graffiti was sprayed on information boards and on rocks in the area.
Dwejra is today a designated Natura 2000 site and a possible candidate as a World heritage site due to its paleontological, geological, ecological, ornithological , marine ecology and scenic importance.Â Â Apart for its ecologicalÂ importance, Dwejra is also one of the main tourist sites on the Maltese Islands, visited by thousands of visitors each year who contribute to the economy of the operators in the park such as diving clubs, tour operators, boat ride people etc.
Over the last years over Euro 400,00 have been spent on the Park to stop the environmental degradation and start conservation measures for the full protection of this site.Â It is therefore a great shame that such vandalism still exists and is still practiced by very irresponsible persons against society and the environment.
The NGOs call on the enforcement authorities to step up their work towards the protection of such sites and investigate all vandalistic acts so that the criminals may be brought to justice.Â The NGOs also appeal to the authorities to strengthen units such as the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit so that more effective law enforcement can be upheld on our Islands.
Friends of the Earth (Malta) together with the environment NGOsÂ Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien gÄ§al-Ambjent AÄ§jar, Gaia, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Nature Trust Malta and Ramblers Association of Malta welcome the decision taken by government to amend the DPA regulations and give a stronger voice to civil society in such issues.Â This falls in line with the Aarhus Convention and the promise of Government to give the public greater access to environmental information as well as the right of every citizen to voice his and her concern on issues affecting each one of us.
The NGOs have over the last few days received a very positive response from both their members and the general public who see such amendments as finally setting a fairer playing field in matters of environmental justice.
These regulations will continue to close loopholes in the Development Planning Act where in the past some developersÂ have often moved fast in order to demolish scheduled buildings or destroy areas out of development zone orÂ Special areas of Conservation before an Appeal is heard.Â In such cases, a win at Appeal stage is worthless, as once destroyed, heritage and ecology cannot be retrieved. The success of these amendment will however partly depend on the efficiency of the scheduling process, with more resources required in this area, said the NGOs. Similarly, the flagrant sanctioning of abusive building Out of Development Zone, which has encouraged so much more abuse, is to be stopped and enforcement will hopefully be strengthened.
After years of cowboy developers failing to post site notices informing neighbours of development applications, the situation is to be finally redressed with the notification of neighbours by means of registered letters; a measure of justice to the public that all members of Parliament will surely support. The extension of the objection period to twenty working days is to the advantage of both residents and Local Councils, while the concept of Registered Interested Parties, rather than Objectors, allows for more public participation and a less confrontational approach.
The NGOs also welcome the Ministerâ€™s announcement that the public is to be given access to development plans and information on applications through the online e-applications system. These DPA amends are surely a step in the right direction giving society a stronger position in cases affecting sectors of the populations, while helping to increase transparency, improve the planning and consultation process, and control illegal construction.
One now augurs that parliament will approve these regulations in favour of the rights of every citizen.Â The NGOs appreciate Governmentâ€™s consultation with civil society in an effort to find solutions to the problems facing our Islands with regards to development and environment issues.