The environmental NGOs BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ä¦elwa, Flimkien GÄ§al Ambjent AÄ§jar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Nature Trust Malta and the Ramblers Association today slammed the Siggiewi Mayor Perit Musumeci for his request for the police to investigate FAA Coordinator Astrid Vella.
The NGOs stated that the authorities should investigate the notorious planning applications from the Mayor's district that went against the MEPA policies and were approved by MEPA boards, and not environmental campaigners who brought these cases to the public's attention.
The NGOs drew attention to the fact that in 2005 alone Mr. Musumeci, who is an architect and the SiÄ¡Ä¡iewi mayor, had 23 planning applications, most of which were outside development zones in SiÄ¡Ä¡iewi, that were recommended for refusal by MEPA planning officers but were approved by different boards within the authority. There were also several other similar cases since 2005. This means that MEPA boards approved planning applications that were against the Authorityâ€™s own policies, the NGOs charged.
The NGOs asked if the authorities have initiated investigations about Mr. Musumeciâ€™s private business activities during the period he has been the Mayor of SiÄ¡Ä¡iewi.
â€œMr. Mussumeci should set an example as a mayor and is obliged to adhere to a strict code of ethics as established by the Local Councils Act. Instead he seems to be using technicalities to replace ethical considerations on environment, and deploying bullying tactics to silence environmental campaignersâ€ NGOs concluded.
Scotland's climate bill sets precedent for Europe
Friends of the Earth Malta has warmly welcomed the groundbreaking Climate Change Bill passed in Scotland this week.
Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) voted for a target to reduce greenhouse gases by 42 per cent by 2020 â€“ the most ambitious statutory target in the world.
The vote followed an overwhelming display of support for early action to cut emissions from scientists, Scottish celebrities and campaigners who travelled to the Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotlandâ€™s capital, to lobby their MSPs.
Friends of the Earth Malta said: â€œWith this law Scotland is leading the world in the fight to tackle dangerous climate change. The emission cuts now required by law in Scotland are the first in the world to be in line with what science tells us is needed.
â€œThe EU should now follow Scotlandâ€™s lead and set equally ambitious targets to help get the international climate negotiations on the right path.â€
The Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Duncan McLaren, said: â€œClimate justice and climate science tell us we urgently need to make emission cuts of at least 42 per cent by 2020. The technology exists to deliver them. The Scottish Government must now exercise the political will to make it so.â€
Scotland's Climate Change Bill comes in the same week that the Hungarian parliament took a major step towards the realisation of a climate law.
On Monday evening Hungarian MPs adopted a resolution on the preparations of a climate law initiated by the Friends of the Earth Hungary and the Hungarian National Council for Sustainable Development.
In Malta and in 16 other European countries, Friends of the Earth groups are asking governments to commit to annual cuts in climate changing emissions as part of the European Big Ask. Friends of the Earth's Europe-wide climate campaign aims to get governments and the European Union to commit to legally binding annual cuts in emissions to fight climate change. The Big Ask calls on the European Union to commit to at least 40 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions within Europe by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2050. www.foemalta.orgÂ /Â www.thebigask.eu
In view of recent statements that have appeared in the local media on the future installation of power turbines at the Delimara Power Station, Friends of the Earth Malta together with the environment NGOsÂ Flimkien gÄ§al Ambjent Ahjar, The Gaia Foundation, and the Ramblersâ€™ Association, without going into the merits of who should be awarded a public tender, have called upon the Government to abide by its pledges to ensure that all future power generation is as clean as possible. The decision must take into account not only financial cost but the health of the local population, the state of the environment, Maltaâ€™s international commitments on climate change and the relevant EU regulations on carbon and other emissions, as well as possible penalties that would be incurred by the EU for non compliance.
Malta has still to address the sad and pitiful saga related to the Marsa Power Station that has run on Heavy Fuel Oil. It would therefore be totally unacceptable that any conventional turbines newly commissioned would once again run on fuels that produce greater toxic emissions. While gas would be the preferred cleaner and more efficient option as soon as its use becomes possible, the fuels used until then should certainly not be the more polluting ones. Government should give a clear guarantee to the public that this will not be the case.
Environmental NGOs BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien Ghall-Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation and Nature Trust Malta today called on all the MEP candidates from all political parties to refrain from making promises to the hunting lobby on the issue of spring hunting and trapping which they can not keep after the European Parliament elections in June.
The NGOs reminded the MEP candidates that the EU Birds Directive strictly forbids spring hunting in all member states and drew attention to the European Commissionâ€™s statement of March 2009 regarding the EU guide to the sustainable hunting of wild birds.
In its statement the Commission said: "Although there is a general ban on the killing of wild birds, certain species can be hunted outside breeding and prenuptial (or spring) migration periods. These closed periods are critical and allow wild birds to renew their numbers." (1)
The NGOs said that they expected all the candidates who wish to represent Malta at the European Parliament to respect the EU nature conservation directives. They reminded the MEP candidates that the overwhelming majority in Malta is against spring hunting and the Maltese people expected their representatives in Brussels to work towards the protection of Europeâ€™s common natural heritage.
Malta did not negotiate an exemption for spring hunting during the Accession Treaty negotiations as clearly explained by the Environment Commission Stavros Dimas on several occasions. The only agreement Malta negotiated was the five year transition period to phase out the trapping of seven finch species until the end of 2008, a deadline which has now passed.
By making ludicrous statements in favour of spring hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail, when Malta is at the European Court of Justice for allowing this very practice (2), certain politicians in Malta are still relying on the same old cheap tactics to gain a few votes. Instead we expect them to lead by example by respecting international law and conservation science concluded the NGOs.
1)Â Â Â Â The Commissionâ€™s full statement can be viewed here
2)Â Â Â Â The Commission has taken Malta to court in 2008. Maltese government argues that there is no alternative to spring hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail while the Commission refers to the Maltese carne de chasse figures which shows that there is an alternative - hunting of these species in autumn.
3)Â Â Â Â The European Guidance Document on Hunting can be found here. Pg 90 refers to the conservation status of Turtle Dove.
The environmental NGOs, Flimkien gÄ§al Ambjent AÄ§jar, BirdLife Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse, NatureTrust Malta and the Ramblers Association of Malta draw attention to the fact that the proposed development proposals for Villa Bonici in Sliema violates a number of MEPA policies and therefore should be rejected.
The proposed development in Manwel Dimech Street in Sliema includes the construction of a residential complex of up to 23 blocks, some as high as 12 floors, in the villaâ€™s gardens which stretch almost all the way downÂ to the Sliema Strand.
Besides the impact on the heritage building, on the beautiful trees which are more than 50 years old, and on the many wild birds and other species that use this green oasis, the NGOs are also concerned about the increased air pollution which will have negative impact on the local residents. The addition of hundreds of flats and cars in an area which is already registering air pollution readings well in excess of EU thresholds is bound to aggravate health problems, as research has shown that vehicle emissions contribute to lung, heart and cancer problems.
The NGOs also highlight the fact that in the ratified 2006 Local Plan all the gardens of Villa Bonici have been excluded from the Urban Conservation Area. This obviously facilitates development on this site and is highly irregular as the change was effected without any public consultation whatsoever, in contravention of the Development Planning Act and the Aarhus Convention, so the NGOs maintain that the Urban Conservation conditions listed below should still apply.
MEPA policy UCO 13 reads: â€œWherever possible, by control or positive intervention, buildings of architectural, historical, and townscape importance, gardens, and other areas of architectural or historical interest will be conserved.â€ This is repeated in policy UCO 13.
Scrutiny of the North Harbours Local Plan (NHLP) has confirmed that the application does not conform to the provisions of the Local Plan in terms of the proposed end-use, destruction of trees urban open space and urban congestion.
In the Local Plan Sliema is mentioned as an over-populated region â€œsuffering from a lack of recreational space, infiltration of traffic, noise and other effects resulting from tourism development, commercial intensification and high housing densitiesâ€™ and as an area which â€˜cannot comfortably accommodate further developmentâ€.Â In Sliema â€œ25% of all dwellings â€¦ are completely vacant.â€
Furthermore the NHLP states that development congestion should be reduced to â€œpromote environmental improvements in urban areaâ€, adding that â€œin the congested areas of â€¦ Sliema â€¦ the emphasis will be on new housing through rehabilitation and selective redevelopment rather than through extensive building, height relaxation or re-designation of open spaceâ€. â€œIn â€¦ Sliema â€¦ further development would exceed environmental capacity through further noise, traffic, overshadowing, sense of enclosure and degradation of the public realmâ€
Sliemaâ€™s road network, water and electricity supply and sewers are already beyond their capability of supplying satisfactorily.Â More mega-projects will again make matters worse.
Sliema has a serious problem of air pollution and an acute lack of green public open spaces. Since Villa Bonici is Sliemaâ€™s only surviving urban lung therefore the NGOs request the scheduling of the Villa and its gardens as a historic Sliema landmark and call for a project that will respect the value of the site as well as the Local Planâ€™s policies for Sliema.
Three environmental NGOs including Friends of the Earth Malta, Nature Trust (Malta) and BirdLife Malta, expressed their support for the Governmentâ€™s long awaited initiative to invest in renewable energy to meet its EU obligations to cut down CO2 emission.
The NGOs also stated that the selection of locations for wind farms and associated infrastructure is a key to avoid impacts on wild birds and other biodiversity.
The environmental NGOs said that governmentâ€™s investment in renewables can be hailed as a positive step forward, which should eventually lead Malta to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels in the longer term. This would be of great benefit to our environment, our social commitments and sovereignty as a nation, NGOs added.
BirdLife Malta Executive Director Tolga Temuge said: â€œAt the same time, the conservation of biodiversity and resilient ecosystems is not only a stand-alone priority of global and European policy, but also an essential element for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Therefore, any significant damage from renewable energy development on biodiversity needs to be avoided.â€
The environmental groups stated that all major wind farm projects should undergo a serious Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and also Appropriate Assessment as required by the EU nature conservation directives for projects like Sikka il-Bajda that would have adverse impact on the near by Rdum tal Madonna Natura 2000 site.
â€œWe are glad that government is finally considering land based wind turbines, something that we have been arguing in favour of for a long time.â€ said Friends of the Earth Malta Chairperson Martin Galea De Giovanni. â€œAlthough we are aware of the potential sites, we would still want to see appropriate studies made prior to, and during, the construction of the turbinesâ€ he added. â€œThese land based sites could eventually serve as an experience for other sites, both from a technical and environmental impacts point of view. When this experience is gained, Malta could potentially be able to undertake more ambitious wind turbine projects.â€
The NGOs added that much more needed to be done in the development of clean and renewable energy at household level. The deployment of small-scale wind turbines and solar panels over the roofs of the Maltese houses should be encouraged and given the right importance, also with fiscal and economic incentives.
Nature Trust (Malta) Executive President said that â€œThis should be done in conjunction with a major effort to increase efficiency in every sector of society including individual needs. By changing our habits a little and becoming more conscious of how much energy we use, each and every individual can successfully limit their own carbon footprint and save money on energy bills.â€
The NGOs believe that if the Country focuses on a more diversified renewable energy mix this would reduce demands on fossil fuel energy needs and also the need to build a waste to energy incineration plant, especially since the latter also comes with a high financial and environmental cost.
The revision of the Waste Management Strategy comes 8 years after the original one was completed â€“ rather late, most will agree, particularly since the team revising the strategy started the job back in 2005. The document states that the strategy sets a five-year plan. The fact that drafting the revision took 3 years leaves us all wondering about the actual worth of the document.
ÂA strategy document should set direction after different alternatives have been assessed. However, the strategy document gives the feeling that it is a modus operandi, aiming to seal current practices rather than examining the outside environment and eventually setting a strategy that aims to provide a sustainable waste management action plan. This, from a strategic point of view, is very dangerous since the strategy is heavily dictated by inside considerations.
The said document points out at the very beginning that Maltaâ€™s focus is going to be waste-to-energy. The very important aspect of waste minimisation is very scantily mentioned with the only measure being the implementation of an awareness campaign. We have heard ad nauseum some would say, that waste minimisation at source cannot or is very difficult to achieve. However, this is the preferred option in the waste management hierarchy and the most sustainable solution for the Maltese Islands. The decoupling of municipal solid waste (MSW) from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth should form the basis of a sustainable waste management strategy particularly for a small island with limited space; however this is never mentioned in the document under review. An awareness campaign will be able to reach some objectives but campaigns are expensive to run, need to be continuous and, when they manage to reach the target population they are often blurred by â€˜noiseâ€™ and distortion.
A reliable waste minimisation strategy should focus on producers and importers in order to avoid the generation of waste itself. The creation of more incentives/disincentives together with having a lengthy period to achieve tangible results, often includes a hefty administration bill. Possible solutions should look into providing cleaner technology advice that coach producers/importers to reduce the waste they produce, for e.g. in the case of packaging. Alternative type of packaging should also be looked into. Other solutions, which would integrate products and the services they provide and which is nowhere to be seen in the document under review, are product-service systems. The latter would offer consumers the chance obtain the service of particular products without actually purchasing them. Product-service systems are nowadays used for car-pooling, washing machines etc.
The Strategyâ€™s review has tackled the current situation by simplistically looking at waste disposal figures in recent years (including waste separation data) and searched for a technology to fix the figures when they appear to be unattractive. This means that instead of getting to the root of the problem and searching for the reason why the data is what it is, the team revising the strategy made an overall assumption that these figures remain constant.
Waste in itself has a human dimension and this dimension seems to have been forgotten by the review team. A technology-based solution is an end-of pipe solution but what we need for the Maltese Islands is a sustainable solution and sustainability needs prevention not incineration.
ÂPoints to ponder about in the Waste Management Strategy:
Koalizzjoni Ghadira kitbet lill-MEPA, fejn hegget lil awtorita sabiex tikkommissjona studji xjentifici, indipendenti u kredibli li juru l-urgenza ghall-bini mill-gdid taâ€™ Triq l-Ghadira jew il-modifikazzjoni taâ€™ triq.
L-istudji ghandhom jinkludu â€˜Assesjar taâ€™ l-impatti ambjentali, Assesjar taâ€™ l-impatti mit-traffiku u Assesjar taâ€™ l-impatti socjali, sahqet il-Koalizzjoni Ghadira li hija maghmula minn Zminijietna â€“ Lehen ix-Xellug, Alternattiva Demokratika The Green Party, Ghaqda Studenti tax-Xjenza, Moviment Graffitti, Friends of the Earth Malta, Inizjamed,Â Forum Zghazagh Laburisti, Greenhouse, Zghazagh General Workers' Union, flimkien ma' rapprezentanti tal-bdiewa.
Friends of the Earth Malta welcomes the recommendations in the National Strategy on Climate Change as an intention of political will to address the issue of climate change.
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