News

World’s biggest selling weed killer found in humans
90% of urine samples in Malta contained traces of glyphosate.
Tests carried out by Friends of the Earth Malta show that people have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their bodies. Laboratory tests carried out by the group reveal that 9 out of 10 people’s urine samples in Malta contained traces of glyphosate.
The results in Malta are mirrored in results across Europe – with 45% of samples from volunteers in 18 countries found to contain traces of the chemical [1]. All of the volunteers who gave samples live in urban areas, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run up to the tests. This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in humans.
Glyphosate is one of the most widely-used weed killers in the world, used by farmers, local government and gardeners, as well as being sprayed extensively on some genetically modified crops imported into Europe for use as animal feed. The biggest producer is Monsanto which sells it under the brand name “Roundup”. Despite its widespread use, its presence in food or water is rarely monitored by governments.
Martin Galea De Giovanni from Friends of the Earth Malta said:
“Most people will be worried to discover that there is weed killer in their bodies and will want to know why it is there and what effects it is having. These results suggest that we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet we don’t know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our bodies.
This is the most used weed killer in Europe and it is surprising that public authorities rarely test our food or water for it. Now that Friends of the Earth Malta has discovered that it is widespread in people’s bodies, it is asking the Maltese Government to immediately step-up their monitoring to make sure we are not being put at risk.”
In Europe, glyphosate is widely used by farmers to clear weeds from fields before planting, or before seeds have germinated. It is also sometimes sprayed on to cereal crops, oilseed rape, maize and sunflowers ahead of harvesting to dry out the crops. It is the most commonly used weed killer on UK arable farms [2], on 39% of agricultural land in Germany [3] and levels of glyphosate use in Europe are increasing. As for Malta, the latest NSO figures for herbicide use (2007) [4] show a possible increase in glyphosate usage in Malta (as compared to 2005). The high rates obtained from the Maltese sample demands an even more serious investigation into the source of these herbicides.
Fourteen glyphosate-resistant genetically modified (GM) crops are currently waiting for approval for cultivation in the European Union. Some estimates suggest that if given the go-ahead, glyphosate use could increase by as much as 800% [5].
Contact:
[Martin Galea De Giovanni – Chairperson Friends of the Earth Malta – tel: 79420042]
[Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe, tel: 00 49 1 609 490 1163]
Notes:
[1] Urine samples were collected from volunteers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. Volunteers were all city-dwellers and included vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. No two samples were tested from the same household. The samples were analysed by Dr Hoppe at Medizinisches Labor Bremen in Germany (http://www.mlhb.de/). Dr Hoppe can be contacted on tel: 00 49 421 207 20
[2] See: Garthwaite DG et al (2010) Pesticide Usage Survey Report 235: Arable Crops In The United Kingdom 2010 Food & Environment Research Agency, DEFRA, UK.  Table 5
[3] Steinmann HH, Dickeduisberg M & Theuvsen L (2012) Uses and benefits of glyphosate in German arable farming Crop Protection Vol 42 pp 164-169
[4] Plant protection products usage on crops in Malta – 2007 (NSO) http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2202
[5] See:Benbrook CM (2012) Glyphosate tolerant crops in the EU: a forecast of impacts on herbicide use. Greenpeace International

90% of urine samples in Malta contained traces of glyphosate.

 

glyphosate2enTests carried out by Friends of the Earth Malta show that people have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their bodies. Laboratory tests carried out by the group reveal that 9 out of 10 people’s urine samples in Malta contained traces of glyphosate.


The results in Malta are mirrored in results across Europe – with 45% of samples from volunteers in 18 countries found to contain traces of the chemical [1]. All of the volunteers who gave samples live in urban areas, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run up to the tests. This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in humans.


Glyphosate is one of the most widely-used weed killers in the world, used by farmers, local government and gardeners, as well as being sprayed extensively on some genetically modified crops imported into Europe for use as animal feed. The biggest producer is Monsanto which sells it under the brand name “Roundup”. Despite its widespread use, its presence in food or water is rarely monitored by governments. 


Martin Galea De Giovanni from Friends of the Earth Malta said: “Most people will be worried to discover that there is weed killer in their bodies and will want to know why it is there and what effects it is having. These results suggest that we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet we don’t know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our bodies.


This is the most used weed killer in Europe and it is surprising that public authorities rarely test our food or water for it. Now that Friends of the Earth Malta has discovered that it is widespread in people’s bodies, it is asking the Maltese Government to immediately step-up their monitoring to make sure we are not being put at risk.” 

 

In Europe, glyphosate is widely used by farmers to clear weeds from fields before planting, or before seeds have germinated. It is also sometimes sprayed on to cereal crops, oilseed rape, maize and sunflowers ahead of harvesting to dry out the crops. It is the most commonly used weed killer on UK arable farms [2], on 39% of agricultural land in Germany [3] and levels of glyphosate use in Europe are increasing. As for Malta, the latest NSO figures for herbicide use (2007) [4] show a possible increase in glyphosate usage in Malta (as compared to 2005). The high rates obtained from the Maltese sample demands an even more serious investigation into the source of these herbicides. 


Fourteen glyphosate-resistant genetically modified (GM) crops are currently waiting for approval for cultivation in the European Union. Some estimates suggest that if given the go-ahead, glyphosate use could increase by as much as 800% [5].

 

 

 


Contact:[Martin Galea De Giovanni – Chairperson Friends of the Earth Malta – tel: 79420042]
[Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe, tel: 00 49 1 609 490 1163]
Notes:[1] Urine samples were collected from volunteers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. Volunteers were all city-dwellers and included vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. No two samples were tested from the same household. The samples were analysed by Dr Hoppe at Medizinisches Labor Bremen in Germany (http://www.mlhb.de/). Dr Hoppe can be contacted on tel: 00 49 421 207 20
[2] See: Garthwaite DG et al (2010) Pesticide Usage Survey Report 235: Arable Crops In The United Kingdom 2010 Food & Environment Research Agency, DEFRA, UK.  Table 5
[3] Steinmann HH, Dickeduisberg M & Theuvsen L (2012) Uses and benefits of glyphosate in German arable farming Crop Protection Vol 42 pp 164-169
[4] Plant protection products usage on crops in Malta – 2007 (NSO) http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2202
[5] See:Benbrook CM (2012) Glyphosate tolerant crops in the EU: a forecast of impacts on herbicide use. Greenpeace International

 

Friends of the Earth Malta joined six other NGOs in a statement highlighting their concerns over the recent agreement between the PL and FKNK on hunting and trapping on the Maltese Islands.

 

BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien g?al Ambjent A?jar (FAA), Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse Malta, and Nature Trust (Malta) are deeply concerned about both the underlying process that has led to an agreement between the PL and FKNK as well as its content.

 

Recent statements from both PL and FKNK indicate that the agreement is the result of two years of private negotiations between the political party and the hunting lobby. The environmental NGOs do not consider this to have been an open and transparent process and do not regard it as an appropriate way to shape the environmental policies of a potential future government. There have been no similar long-term and on-going discussions between the PL and the above named environmental NGOs on wildlife and countryside issues. Therefore the NGOs are concerned that PL is developing policies which have not taken account of the expertise of all appropriate stakeholders, especially those organisations who care for and manage Malta's outstanding natural heritage.


It is of great concern to the NGO's that the agreement between the FKNK and PL is likely to cause more harm to birds, wildlife and the countryside and that this forms the basis for a future government's priorities on wildlife and countryside issues. The above named environmental NGOs strongly believe that anyone who is elected to government has an obligation to address issues like hunting in a balanced manner and should therefore listen to both hunters and environmental groups. Aarhus Convention rules state clearly that environmental decisions must be taken with public consultation and participation, and therefore no negotiations are to be conducted and concluded without such participation.

 

The above named NGOs referred to BirdLife Malta's analysis of the agreement between FKNK and PL and endorsed this analysis, concluding that if the agreement was to be fully implemented bird conservation on the Maltese islands would face a bleak future, while issues such as the safe access to the countryside of the people of Malta would become more difficult because the illegal occupation of the countryside by the hunters and trappers was not addressed in the agreement between PL and FKNK.

 

Today, PN have published an advertisement criticising the agreement between PL and the hunters. The NGOs would also like to point out that while PL has made its position at least mildly clear through its agreement with hunters, PN's position on hunting and its impact on wildlife and the people of Malta requires more clarification than has been provided in today's advertisement. There is still time for PN to do this.

 

The above named NGOs are non-partisan and while AD have a clear policy on spring hunting, there are other issues relating to hunting and trapping where their position requires some clarification too.

Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Nature Trust (Malta), Ramblers Association and Friends of the Earth (Malta), Birdlife Malta Green House,  and Gaia Foundation
NGOs’ Stand on Electoral Manifestos
Environment NGOs Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Nature Trust (Malta), Ramblers Association and Friends of the Earth (Malta), Birdlife Malta, Greenhouse and Gaia Foundation express their serious concern at the way that environment issues are being used as vote-catching pawns. The many crucial issues, that are foremost in the public mind regarding the future of our environment, should be addressed with the dignity and importance that deserves our future quality of life.
The way the main parties are turning the election campaign into a boxing match is most inappropriate. It is also deplorable that proposed changes to environment policies are bandied about superficially and obscurely.
The NGOs are therefore not satisfied with the inadequate statements proposed by the two leading political parties and require clear concrete proposals on the following issues:
· The protection of Natura 2000 and SAC sites that deserve the highest level of central protection and not local level protection of Local Councils;
· The improvement of air quality through measures addressing transport pollution, which is costing the nation millions of euros;
· Restrict over-development until a serious analysis of the carrying capacity of sustainable construction is carried out;
· Organise law enforcement and effective action against illegal structures and illicit squatting especially in ODZ, with special reference to the Armier boat houses unlawfully constructed on usurped public land
· End illegal hunting and trapping and ensure the right law enforcement structures
· Stop the decline of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity through adequate conservation measures
· Ensure freedom of access to the countryside and the foreshore by the formation of a definitive map of the Maltese Islands
· Ensure animal rights and take action on animal cruelty
Furthermore the environmental NGOs are not satisfied by what has been divulged so far by the two main parties on their electoral programmes. The eNGOs are concerned that in the PN programme :
· No action is mentioned to address the issue of illlegal boreholes;
· Unlawfully built structures prior to 2009 will be sanctioned, when the way forward should be to take legal action to reverse illegality and fine the culprits;
· The National Environment policy launched last year is still not being implemented by all government ministries in a horizontal manner;
· The underwater tunnel to Gozo has been promised without its disruptive impact on land and seabed being take in into account.
In the case of the LP programme the eNGOs are concerned that:
· The security risks to neighbourhoods of the proposed gas tanks at Delimara Point have not been adequately considered or to the valuable heritage and natural resources of the Deliminara peninsula;
· LP leader Dr Joseph Muscat stated that economic measures will override environmental ones and that development is a pillar of our economy, when in fact it is undermining our banking system, tourism and public health.
· Unlawfully built structures prior to 2009 will be legalized, when the way forward should be to take legal action to reverse illegality and fine the culprits;
While also deploring the attack on the AD Chairman in connection with AD ‘s stand on the Armier illegal boathouses, the group call on the main parties to be clear on their intentions and address the issues that have for long been bypassed.Seven environmental groups have expressed serious concern at the way environmental issues were being used as vote-catching pawns.

Friends of the Earth Malta joined six other environmental groups to express serious concern at the way environmental issues were being used as vote-catching pawns.

Environment NGOs Din L-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Nature Trust (Malta), Ramblers Association and Friends of the Earth Malta, Birdlife Malta, Greenhouse and Gaia Foundation express their serious concern at the way that environment issues are being used as vote-catching pawns. The many crucial issues, that are foremost in the public mind regarding the future of our environment, should be addressed with the dignity and importance that deserves our future quality of life.


The way the main parties are turning the election campaign into a boxing match is most inappropriate. It is also deplorable that proposed changes to environment policies are bandied about superficially and obscurely.


The NGOs are therefore not satisfied with the inadequate statements proposed by the two leading political parties and require clear concrete proposals on the following issues:
  • The protection of Natura 2000 and SAC sites that deserve the highest level of central protection and not local level protection of Local Councils;
  • The improvement of air quality through measures addressing transport pollution, which is costing the nation millions of euros;
  • Restrict over-development until a serious analysis of the carrying capacity of sustainable construction is carried out;
  • Organise law enforcement and effective action against illegal structures and illicit squatting especially in ODZ, with special reference to the Armier boat houses unlawfully constructed on usurped public land
  • End illegal hunting and trapping and ensure the right law enforcement structures
  • Stop the decline of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity through adequate conservation measures
  • Ensure freedom of access to the countryside and the foreshore by the formation of a definitive map of the Maltese Islands
  • Ensure animal rights and take action on animal cruelty

Furthermore the environmental NGOs are not satisfied by what has been divulged so far by the two main parties on their electoral programmes.

The eNGOs are concerned that in the PN programme :

  • No action is mentioned to address the issue of illlegal boreholes;
  • Unlawfully built structures prior to 2009 will be sanctioned, when the way forward should be to take legal action to reverse illegality and fine the culprits;
  • The National Environment policy launched last year is still not being implemented by all government ministries in a horizontal manner;
  • The underwater tunnel to Gozo has been promised without its disruptive impact on land and seabed being take in into account.
In the case of the LP programme the eNGOs are concerned that:
  • The security risks to neighbourhoods of the proposed gas tanks at Delimara Point have not been adequately considered or to the valuable heritage and natural resources of the Deliminara peninsula;
  • LP leader Dr Joseph Muscat stated that economic measures will override environmental ones and that development is a pillar of our economy, when in fact it is undermining our banking system, tourism and public health.
  • Unlawfully built structures prior to 2009 will be legalized, when the way forward should be to take legal action to reverse illegality and fine the culprits;
While also deploring the attack on the AD Chairman in connection with AD ‘s stand on the Armier illegal boathouses, the group call on the main parties to be clear on their intentions and address the issues that have for long been bypassed.
The Ramblers’ Association of Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta and Nature Trust (Malta) are deeply concerned at the news of the threatening letter received by Alternattiva Demokratika leader Dr Michael Briguglio in connection with his party’s strong stand over the boathouses at Armier and elsewhere..
The three environmental organisations repeat that they are against all abusive takeovers of public land and condemn the disgraceful inaction of successive governments in the face of such shameless abuse by a few hundreds.
The situation has now escalated to a deplorable extent while some interested individuals are doing their utmost to convince the public that the situation is out of control and cannot be remedied; that we all have to accept it, condone all past abuses and move on. In plain language, those who have stolen what belongs to us all, and not to any political party, may enjoy it for the exclusive use of their present families and of their future generations.  This  tolerance of illegality is unacceptable, and encourages the mentality of abuse that is gradually pervading our country.
People need to believe in the rule of law  and to understand that retroactive laws, which restore to the people what was stolen from them, are just and necessary. NO political party should allow itself to be held to ransom by ANY bullies or pressure groups as this undermines good governance, the cornerstone of a country’s well being.

The Ramblers’ Association of Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta and Nature Trust (Malta) are deeply concerned at the news of the threatening letter received by Alternattiva Demokratika leader Dr Michael Briguglio in connection with his party’s strong stand over the boathouses at Armier and elsewhere.


The four environmental organisations repeat that they are against all abusive takeovers of public land and condemn the disgraceful inaction of successive governments in the face of such shameless abuse by a few hundreds.


The situation has now escalated to a deplorable extent while some interested individuals are doing their utmost to convince the public that the situation is out of control and cannot be remedied; that we all have to accept it, condone all past abuses and move on. In plain language, those who have stolen what belongs to us all, and not to any political party, may enjoy it for the exclusive use of their present families and of their future generations.  This  tolerance of illegality is unacceptable, and encourages the mentality of abuse that is gradually pervading our country.  


People need to believe in the rule of law  and to understand that retroactive laws, which restore to the people what was stolen from them, are just and necessary. NO political party should allow itself to be held to ransom by ANY bullies or pressure groups as this undermines good governance, the cornerstone of a country’s well being.

 

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Thank you for taking part in the "Car free Adventures" Photo Competition!

Car Free Day to be organised on September 16th

 

Click here to submit your pictures !

 

Friends of the Earth Malta launched its Photo Competition “Car free Adventures” as part of the national activities being held locally with the support of MEPA. For this competition, FoE Malta is inviting people from all walks of life to share their individual experience with alternative means of transport in Malta. These could be anything from using the bus service, bicycle, walking or maybe even using some exotic vehicle like a donkey cart.

 

Car free day isn’t just about one day without any cars or motor traffic on our roads. It’s a day when we’re all given the chance to consider how the negative aspects of too much traffic weigh down all our lives. More than that, it’s an opportunity to think of better, smarter ways for individual traffic to be organised in the future.

 

Whatever mode of transportation people decide to use, they are encouraged to let us know about their picturesque experience with car freeness. The submitted pictures should be story-telling, but one can expand on this pictorial story with a short caption of up to 30 words and with a relevant image title.

 

Besides the fun of sharing car free photos with the world, Friends of the Earth Malta will also be awarding prizes for the best three pictures and stories: 1st price: €200 voucher from Magri Cycles; 2nd price: €125 voucher from Magri Cycles + a 30 day pass from Arriva (worth €26); 3rd price: a 90 day pass from Arriva (worth €72)

 

Magri Cycles will also be offering a 5% discount to ALL participants for the month following the competition. (Discount not valid on special offers or already discounted items.)

 

“Car free Adventures” Photo Competition opened for submissions on Sunday the 2nd September 2012, with entries accepted until noon on Friday the 21st September 2012. Late submissions will not be considered. Entries can be made through the online form or else via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

This event is being made possible with support provided by MEPA and Magri Cycles.

 

Friends of the Earth Malta is also encouraging the public to participate in other events being organised on car free day, including an adult training session aimed at those who do not know how to cycle organised by the Bicycle Advocacy Group at Ta’ Qali and a biking activity by Inspire Foundation. These events might also serve as an opportunity for participants to come up with a winning photo for the photo competition.

 

Click here to submit your pictures !

marsaThe NGOs Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), NatureTrust (Malta), Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM) and Ramblers Association of Malta share Environment Minister De Marco's conclusion that the Rio+20 Summit lacked ambition.

 

The Rio+20 declaration reaffirms the 'Rio Principles' first agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit but does not go any further. It ignores the needs of developing countries and highlights the lack of political will on the part of governments. Politicians around the world are understandably concerned about the economic crisis – but it will only be remedied when politicians stop treating it separately from social and environmental problems. At the same time the NGOs observe that such comments are often made by local politicians when it comes to international environmental summits, but then the same politicians accept a far slower pace of environmental progress in Malta.

 

The NGOs refer to various reports and studies which have been issued locally over the years. Many of these have produced voluminous and detailed proposals which have been announced with much fanfare, yet they have resulted in very little tangible action. Amongst others, these include the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and the Climate Change Strategy reports (National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and the National Climate Change Mitigation Strategy).

 

The latest of these is the National Environment Policy (NEP) whose very valid guidelines will not be introduced immediately by the different Government authorities who are to put into practice, but will be implemented gradually. Should the forthcoming elections occur before the NEP is implemented, it risks being shelved like so many reports and policies before it.

 

The environment NGOs are also wary of comments made recently by Joseph Muscat. Ominous declarations to 'cut bureaucracy' come at a time when MEPA applications are often processed with inadequate study due to pressure from developers to speed up timeframes.

 

Joseph Muscat then publicly declared his mistrust of MEPA's studies on land reclamation, declaring that the issue should be left up to developers, the very stakeholders who have an interest in promoting the 'concretisation of Malta'.

 

The NGOs similarly deplore the continued lack of real information on the emissions situation at Marsaxlokk arising from the current testing of the Delimara Extension.

 

More action to implement national strategies and enforce existing policies is required now, more than ever before, instead of the lack of action and wavering political will being experienced in the present pre-election climate. The mistaken but oft-repeated message that the construction industry is the main driver of our economy and the policy of "development at all cost" are damaging our financial sector, residents' health and tourism, the real pillar of our economy. Moreover construction workers have valuable transferable skills which could be employed in restoration of many precious old buildings.

 

More action to implement national strategies and enforce existing policies is required now more than ever before, instead of the lack of action and wavering political will being experienced in the present pre-election climate. The mistaken but oft-repeated message that the construction industry is the main driver of our economy and the policy of "development at all cost" are damaging our financial sector, residents' health and tourism, the real pillar of our economy.

 

This country cannot afford more unsustainable rape of our environment and heritage; we need to act now if we are to save what little is left to be saved. Only immediate implementation of policies will prove that the pro-environment proclamations of politicians of all colours are more than just hollow words.

 

Friends of the Earth Malta together with environmental groups Ramblers' Association, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Din l-Art Helwa, Nature Trust, wish to commend the recent unanimous decision by MEPA to turn down an application by Enemalta for a substation to be built in the out of development zone at Armier which was intended to serve the squatter community there.

 

We now urge the two main political parties to unite behind the move for the demolition of Armier's illegal township and to prove that they are able to place national before party interests. Environmental concerns cannot be dissociated from political ones especially in pre-election periods. The issue of usurped public land is of grave national importance and politicians who close their eyes to the misappropriation of public property are not working in the interest of their country but of their party.

 

The refusal of the Enemalta application for the Armier substation by the Mepa Board does not mean that the Armier problem has been solved. The squatters will now almost certainly intensify efforts to retain their illegal occupation of land which rightly belongs to all Maltese, by trying to hold politicians to ransom through the power of their voting numbers, as they did before the last general election.

 

If the abuse committed at Armier is legalised, MEPA will lose the hard-earned credibility it has gained. Certainly MEPA will set a precedent which could render it unable to prevent or penalise any misappropriation of land that takes place anywhere else on the Maltese Islands.

 

The public outcry backing the NGOs against Enemalta's proposal proves that the Maltese are now much more sensitive to issues of environmental justice. Continued control over the correct and legal use of property is crucial to the stability and prosperity of Malta and its people.

 

In the prevailing circumstances political parties that put their interest above the national one cannot expect to enjoy the trust of environmental groups and their followers.

FoE_PR20111028_Hondoq_PR
In the face of an overwhelming outcry against the proposed Hondoq project to develop a large hotel and hundreds of real estate units around a yacht marina, the developers of Qala Creek have decided to drop the idea of the marina at Hondoq Bay, limiting themselves to a ‘swimming lagoon’.

Friends of the Earth Malta together with the NGOs Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Ramblers Association, Nature Trust, GUG, Din l-art Helwa and Wirt Ghawdex have studied the 2009 EIS Co-ordinated Report where the developers themselves state “the project would struggle if it had to be developed as a stand-alone hotel”. They say that the project is expected to double the 5-star room capacity in Gozo, despite the current demand for five-star hotel properties in Gozo being weak.

They make a point that increased room capacity (oversupply) is of major concern to the market, and to be successful the hotel needs to be part of an integrated project with features that differentiate it from other hotels, i.e. the marina, thus “the hotel will depend on demand generated by other parts of the project”.

Interestingly, when discussing revenue projections, the 2007 version of the report stated: “The hotel on its own is not commercially viable. It can only succeed and be sustainable if it forms part of a much larger complex which will attract interest by potential patrons to reside at the hotel. The marina development could act as such an attraction.”

In the 2009 version this was modified to: “The hotel will be successful and sustainable if it forms part of a much larger complex which will attract interest by potential patrons to reside at the hotel. The marina development could act as such an attraction.”
The wording has changed, but the meaning has not. In 2009 the developers themselves did not consider the hotel was viable without the marina, therefore the NGOs fail to understand how the developers can now eliminate the marina and claim that the complex would remain financially viable, as required by the Environment Impact Assessment. This eleventh-hour submission of new plans shows that the developers are intent on pushing through a commercial venture in complete disregard of the social impacts of the project, ignoring the fact that the local community and also general public opinion has expressed itself against the project.  

The environmental NGOs therefore urge MEPA to refuse such a project and to revert the land to its original designation as a nature park. The Qala Local Council has already looked into the various aspects of creating an environment and heritage park, a project that would draw much-needed tourists to Gozo, and support existing hotels and catering establishments.
Trees planted by Libyan refugees and representatives from UNHCR and Friends of the Earth Malta

As part of a programme of events to mark World Refugee Day 2011, Friends of the Earth Malta organised a tree planting event in conjunction with UNHCR Malta at the GAIA Foundation in Ghajn Tuffieha.

Refugees currently residing in Malta, joined volunteers and staff from FoE Malta and UNHCR on a visit to GAIA’s “Elysium” visitor Centre at Ghajn Tuffieha. They were given a tour of the Centre, the Nursery for indigenous plants, the organic Olive groves and the Special Area of Conservation at Ghajn Tuffieha. 
They also took part in a tree adoption and tree planting programme. Typical local food was then sampled, including GAIA’s delicious organic olive oil.

The number of environmental refugees around the world today is as high as 25 million, and is increasing exponentially. Environmental refugees are forced from their homes by phenomena including large dams, desertification, forest destruction, and most recently, climate change. To date there exist few mechanisms to accommodate these people, who lose their livelihoods, their cultures and their dignity when forced from their homelands. Friends of the Earth believes that the concept of human rights must be broadened in order for new and evolving issues to be recognized and protected, including the phenomenon of climate refugees.

Throughout its member groups in 77 different countries, Friends of the Earth have been at the forefront of the ongoing struggles of communities and indigenous peoples around the world. Other ‘new’ rights, including rights for climate refugees, have arisen over recent years due to the acceleration of economic globalization and the accompanying environmental destruction and social disruption. 

Environmental rights are human rights, as people’s livelihoods, their health, and sometimes their very existence depend upon the quality of and their access to the surrounding environment as well as the recognition of their rights to information, participation, security and redress.
 
 


In its reaction to the statement made recently by government informing us that the long-term goal of the government was to have our power station running on natural gas, Friends of the Earth Malta believes that besides being no news, contained statements which were inaccurate.

Reducing our dependence on oil and transferring it to natural gas does not do much to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. A more rapid and fuller development of our wind power potential would lead to a quicker improvement in that respect. A switch to a natural gas source in either of its current forms - liquid tanker or gas pipeline - requires an expensive infrastructure with a long construction timescale. Between the Scylla of the EU deadline on Marsa and the Charybdis of the government's muddle over its energy planning, there was not the slightest chance of us getting a timely gas supply. 

If government was really serious about producing less polluting emissions, Friends of the Earth recommends something concrete straight away: run the Delimara Extension on gasoil (diesel) rather than Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO). That will get round the need for the elaborate and costly process of removing sulphur from the chimney gases, and avoid producing those 30 tonnes daily of hazardous waste which have to be transported and exported. Government can also forget about the 1 tonne of toxic sludge per day, for which no plan for safe disposal has yet been devised. Friends of the Earth also questions the statement by the Ministry of Finance stating that use of gasoil "will lead to an immediate rise of 30% in electricity bills". This has not stood up to serious scrutiny.

Friends of the Earth understands that one possible way of making use of natural gas fairly quickly is by arranging for the Inter-Connector, which will connect Malta to the European electricity grid, to take all or most of its power from gas-fired stations in Sicily. This is a far more modest (and feasible) proposal than the past suggestions made by government that the Inter-Connector would unlock the gates of the French nuclear heaven for us.     

The NGOs Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse, NatureTrust and Ramblers Association are concerned that in spite of the official message being given that the countryside is being protected, in fact many areas in Malta and Gozo are increasingly coming under attack.

In Gozo, illegal dumping has been taking place at Ta' Muxi, near Qala, affecting an area of nearly 70,000m² or 60 tumuli, as can be seen on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSuJlorrxg .

Most of this dumping has occurred in an area of great geological interest and scenic beauty, proposed as a geological park. MEPA itself states: “Active conservation measures are required to protect the geology and landforms of Malta as an important and irreplaceable scientific, educational, cultural, aesthetic and potentially economic resource. If irreparable damage or loss was to occur then it is our own society that would be impoverished.”

Farmers who deposit soil without a permit on fields lacking soil are subjected to the full force of MEPA regulations. At Ta' Muxi, the ongoing removal of topsoil to cover illegal dumping of construction waste on virgin land has been ignored in spite of reports. If construction waste is used as infill on a building project, MEPA immediately clamps down. At Ta' Muxi, construction waste has been dumped illegally and systematically with no action taken against the perpetrators. Furthermore, the Ta’ Muxi quarry operators have been using an illegal road to dump abusively for years. Yet MEPA expects us to believe that its officers are keeping a watchful eye on Gozo?

While the NGOs support the steep increase on tax for rubble waste in line with the polluter pays principle, this needed to be accompanied by enforcement, as now many are dumping in the countryside to avoid tax. The NGOs ask where the Green Wardens’ priorities lie as they only seem interested in fining litterers, while ignoring heavy dumping in the countryside.

Ta-Muxi-Illegal-masking-of-dumped-construction-waste-with-soil-1 The Ta’ Muxi quarry owners have violated several of the conditions of their permit, including failure to use the alternative route as stipulated in the permit and not preventing dumping by unauthorised persons. This quarry has failed to pay the sum of Lm2000 due annually since 1998 to Qala Council to cover road and water pipe damages as a result of the quarrying.

In the face of repeated protests, until recently top MEPA authorities were insisted that the quarry owners were acting within their permit. Then, some three weeks ago Mepa backtracked and admitted that violations of permit conditions had taken place

The Ta’ Muxi quarry is now applying for the renewal of its quarry permit. According to Legal Notice 337, when processing or renewing a permit, MEPA is to consider the impact of the proposed activity on the environment and to assess the applicants’ suitability based on their track record of legality.

At Wied Ghajn Zejtuna in Mellieha, MEPA’s upgrading of the scheduling of the watercourse has in fact massively reduced the size of the protected area, allowing development to encroach closer to the watercourse, endangering the ‘qabru’ (fresh-water crab) and aggravating flooding in the area.

At Benghisa a vast area of fields, protected carobs and dry stone walls is earmarked to create warehousing for the Freeport in spite of the existence of such facilities at nearby Hal Far.

At Haz-Zebbug developers have abusively uprooted a great many trees without the necessary permits. In the meantime Ramla Bay and Wied il-Ghasel remain imperiled due to their ongoing MEPA Appeals.

These examples of environmental neglect and mismanagement all over Malta and Gozo, culminating in the Dwejra debacle, show that MEPA lacks the will to prevent the encroachment of our countryside and the further destruction of Malta and Gozo's natural beauty. As such MEPA officials responsible for this state of affairs should be held accountable and step down.

 

For this year’s Climate Action Day, Friends of the Earth Malta teamed up with Moviment Graffitti and Greenhouse in a bid to raise awareness on climate change. The event was planned to coincide with the annual United Nations Climate Talks which are taking place this year in Cancun, Mexico. Unfortunately the event had to be called off as the Valletta Local Council refused to grant a permit for the event.

Ironically, on the same day that the Valletta Local Council refused the permit, it was announced in the papers that 2010 is set to be among three warmest years on record, and will cap the warmest decade ever. This was revealed by the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) at the world climate talks in Cancun. While Nero Played The Fiddle, Rome Burns!

During a press conference held this morning in Valletta, the three NGOs argued that climate change should be tackled at all levels, starting from an individual level to the global.  

On a local level, we need to look into changing our habits and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Such change in attitude will not only benefit the environment but also makes economic sense. Why are we willing to invest in expensive and polluting cars but are then not willing to invest in renewable energy sources and energy efficient appliances which make more financial sense? FoE Malta, Greenhouse and Moviment Graffitti questions such illogical behaviour. The age of irresponsible consumption is over; if we are not willing to do our part how should we expect politicians and businesses to lead.

On a national level, the government should have a clearer and more effective policy on carbon emissions. This requires shifting from heavy expenditure on projects that do not reduce our emissions level to more projects that do. Malta is still, considered a carbon dinosaur with its biggest sources of emissions coming from our oil-burning power stations and from land transport. Our country needs to look into having more efficient ways in the use of energy generated. This has to move decisively towards maximum utilisation of renewable energy sources and usage of efficient, low-emission land transport. There is urgent need to improve the efficiency of our main generating equipment. The Delimara extension – using diesel and not HFO – will provide a first improvement. The interconnector from Sicily, if supplied by a natural gas power station, will also improve matters: a net cut back of perhaps 0.5 million tonnes CO2 from 2.1 million.
Globally, the increased role for multilateral development banks as a channel for climate finance is not a blessing but more adept at causing climate pollution than in helping countries to mitigate or adapt to it. Using these channels would also mean climate finance in the form of loans or other debt-creating instruments. Using other instruments such as grants by developed countries as compensation for damages done will reduce the costs of dealing with climate change to the already heavy debt burdens experienced by many developing countries. Hence, we demand that all public money to fight climate change must go through the UNFCCC, not the World Bank, because the World Bank is the wrong institution to control financing for climate change. The decision to establish a global climate fund under authority of the UNFCCC should be adopted in Cancun. 

The current global economic crises should be seen as an opportunity to move away from the current inefficient practices. This should lead us to the new, green economy more quickly so that many of the old problems of oil demand and energy consumption can be dealt with. Investing in new technologies, and moving much more decisively to renewable energies as well as energy efficiency can create more jobs, lower energy bills and indeed saves lives as well as livelihoods.
 
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European Commission accused of caving in to industry scare tactics

Leaked European Commission documents obtained by Friends of the Earth Europe reveal new proposals that would open Europe’s doors to the import of unauthorised genetically modified (GM) feed. The proposed change in EU policy is a direct response to industry pressure to weaken Europe’s safety laws.

The documents reveal that the European Commission has provided to EU member states a new proposal to change legislation on GM foods and feeds. The proposal, which will be discussed in a meeting of member states on 15th November, weakens the EU’s zero tolerance policy by allowing traces of non-approved GM crops in imports coming into Europe (with a threshold of 0.1 percent). Europe would effectively open its borders for GM crops which are not authorised or assessed for their safety in any country of the world.

The European Commission is bowing to the scaremongering tactics of the biotech industry, and as a result, opening Europe’s markets to unauthorised GM food and feed. Europe’s laws on genetically modified foods are there for a reason – to protect the public and the environment.

The right of the public to say no to GM foods and feeds must be respected. Member states should reject this proposal and maintain Europe's position on zero tolerance.

In parallel, China recently rejected a shipment contaminated with illegal GM maize at its border.

The biotech industry claims that the zero-tolerance policy could bring about a crisis in the feed sector, and farmers might have to slaughter animals rather than let them starve. This is based upon the false argument that international trade is severely disrupted when shipments of feed containing unauthorised GM feed are rejected. But, in 2010 no shipment from any feed importing country (US, Argentina or Brazil) was rejected at any European harbour.

Friends of the Earth Malta is campaigning for the EU to become less dependent on animal feeds grown outside of the EU. The growing of soy in Latin America to supply factory farms in Europe is a major contributor of deforestation, social conflict and increase in intensive farming. Much of the soy is GM.
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