Archive for September, 2012

‘Magħtab mountains’ in Attard

September 17, 2012

I’m convinced that the most effective tactic this government uses is to ignore people, making them give up trying to put things right. The latest damning EU report about the state of waste management in Malta brought to mind the neglected issue of construction waste. I’m sure that what holds for the case I’m writing about in Attard holds for other places around Malta and Gozo.

Having been involved in local politics since 1994, when I was elected councillor on Alternattiva Demokratika’s ticket in Attard for the first time, and having worked with others on the issue of illegalities and the impotence of the authorities to deal with the owners of quarries in Wied Inċita, I know only too well how frustrating it is to ask for one simple thing: law enforcement. It is a call that went unheeded for the past 18 years.

In 1996, Francis Zammit Dimech’s ministry had allowed the dumping of excavation and construction waste in the quarries but without any monitoring whatsoever. From that day onwards we have our own “Magħtab mountains” in Attard. The waste was not used to rehabilitate and restore parts of the spent quarry but is constantly moved around and processed into building material and piled high into huge heaps of rubble.

The sides of the quarries will one day erode and collapse ruining what’s left of the valley, once one of the most beautiful natural areas in Malta.

Among the list of illegalities or irregularities in the Wied Inċita quarries are an illegal brick plant, excavation of public land when no permits for such excavation were issued, excavation going beyond established depths and ever-increasing heights of mounds of dust and debris.

The Water Services Corporation, with an interest in protecting the water table, had reported that, in some parts, the permissible depth of excavation of 25 metres had been exceeded. The concept of ‘best practice’ seems to be completely alien in this ‘cowboy’ industry.

Seven enforcement notices issued by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority were never applied. Site visits by the Mepa board, accompanied by local councillors and led by the present chairman, Austin Walker, who happens to live close by, led to nothing. Clear instructions in November 2008 issued by Mepa, ordering the operator to present a ‘full restoration plan’ and a ‘phased plan’ to restore the quarry to its natural state were completely ignored.

Judicial letters filed by the Attard council against Mepa, the Land Commissioner and the quarry operator, again, were completely ignored. The Land Commissioner and the minister responsible for land do not seem to give two hoots about the misuse of public land and the failure of lease holders to abide by conditions that go back to 1967. The conditions stipulate that areas where rock excavation is exhausted has to be rehabilitated within 12 months. There is not one square metre of land that has been rehabilitated since 1967.

The truth of the matter is that conditions and laws were never enforced and, for over 18 years, the Nationalist government has also allowed the quarries to become another ‘Magħtab’.

Like in many other areas, law enforcement is non-existent. Ministers in charge of the environment and Mepa have changed – from Zammit Dimech, to George Pullicino, to Lawrence Gonzi and now to Mario de Marco – but the free-for-all continues.

The status quo in Maltese politics has led to this: some are more equal than others; they are above the law.

The author is secretary general of Alternattiva Demokratika and local councillor in Attard.

Il-kaccaturi diga jaghmlu li jridu, izda jridu aktar…

September 12, 2012

Artiklu (riprodott hawn taht) jitkellem kif il-kaccaturi iridu aktar kacca fir-rebbiegha u hinijiet itwal ta’ kacca – iridu aktar mill-wisq li diga ghandhom. Qeghdin fejn qeghdin grazzi ghal Gonzi u Muscat u l-partiti taghhom.

Gonzi u Muscat ghandhom ilsienhom xieref tant ilhom jilaghqu u jiffirmaw kull tip ta’ ftehim mal-“konservazzjonisti” li mlew il-kampanja ewkaliptus. L-ebda politiku serju ma jiffirma ftehim ma’ l-ebda grupp li jorbotlu idejh. Li jaghmel huwa li jiddikjara l-programm u principji li se jimxi fuqhom u min ghandu pjacir jivvutalu.

Izda Gonzi u Muscat jitkellmu b’mod differenti skont lil min ikunu qeghdin jitkellmu. Mhux se noghmodha: jekk int tqis ruhek ambjentalist trid tkun bahnan biex tappoggja lil Gonzi, Muscat u l-partiti medjokri taghhom.

Il-“konservazzjonisti” qed jghidu li l-ligijiet tal-Unjoni Ewropea ma tispecifikax hinijiet ta’ kacca. Ghal min ma jafx id-direttivi tal-Unjoni Ewropea huma l-minimu – kull stat membru, u biex inkun ezatt kull parlament nazzjonali (jew f’certi pajjizi ir-regjuni jew kunsilli lokali li ghandhom il-poter li jaghmlu l-ligijiet u regolamenti) bil-ligijiet tieghu li jimplimentaw id-direttiva partikolari jiddeterminaw id-dettalji bhal per ezempju hinijiet u dati tal-istaguni, zoni fejn ma tistax issir kacca ecc.

Ironika li l-konferenza stampa tal-“konservazzjonisti” saret fil-Buskett, zona protetta imam fejn l-kacca illegali xorta ssehh.

Sakemm dawk iz-zewg laghqa Gonzi u Muscat u l-partiti “skips” taghhom jibqghu minghajr sinsla, il-“konservazzjonisti” se jkomplu jitolbu aktar.

Iridu aktar minn 20,000 summiena u gamiema – meta kacca fir-rebbiegha suppost ma ssirx, imma Gonzi bla sinsla u Muscat min jaf x’iwieghed.

Iridu l-kacca nhar ta’ Hadd ukoll u anke wara t-3pm matul il-gimgha – mela l-kampanja taghhom biss? Minn filghodu kmieni sat-3pm ma jibbasthomx, Alla jbierek. X’inhi ezattament il-problema li jkun hemm hinijiet stipulati u gurnata mqaddsa wahda minghajr kacca?

Dal-gvern hallihom jikkaccjaw ukoll fil-Park Nazzjonali tal-Majjistral… ghax inkella Gonzi jitlef xi vot u forsi ma tafx kif jiehdu Muscat.

Forsi wasal iz-zmien li xi hadd jghidilhom li dardru lil kulhadd iduru bis-snieter fi-kampanja. Forsi wasal iz-zmien li xi hadd jghidilhom imorru jixxejru.

Gonzi u Muscat ili li bghatthom jixxejru – jekk rajtu s-sinsla taghhom f’xi skip x’imkien ibatughha jew Kastilja jew il-Hamrun!


The Times, Monday, September 10, 2012, 13:43

FKNK seeks hunting law reforms

The hunters’ federation (FKNK) insisted today that Framework Legislation governing bird hunting needed to be amended.

Federation president Joe Perici Calascione said that the cap of 20,000 Turtle Doves and Quails which may be shot in a year was far too limited and was not based on proper scientific reports which showed that bird populations were such that a bigger bag was justified.

The press conference, held in Buskett, marked the third anniversary of a European Court of Justice decision on spring hunting in Malta.

Mr Perici Calascione said that decision by the court was a major victory for hunting in Malta and the federation would continue to insist that the decision should be interpreted correctly by the government so that Malta could have a proper spring hunting season.

He said the federation was calling for a revision of the framework legislation also in areas such as how the hunting seasons were decided.

The government, he said, also needed to lift unnecessary hunting restrictions which were not required by EU law, such as the ban on hunting on Sundays and after 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Planning conditions ignored for 20 years

September 10, 2012

It is incredible how the Nationalist Party tries to sell things which were supposed to have been implemented ages ago as if they are something innovative and new.

Minister Jason Azzopardi has just announced that the car park just outside Valletta will now have a garden at ground level. Not everyone is gullible and naive. The fact is that the garden was part of the original permit for the car park. The fact is the government has allowed a breach of permit conditions for the past 20 years or so.

Labour never really bothered either, even during its two years in power. Good governance, indeed.

Two years too late

September 6, 2012

A motion about the use of heavy fuel oil for the BWSC plant at Delimara has been presented in Parliament by Nationalist MP Franco Debono.

I am afraid that Franco Debono is two years too late. On May 6, 2010, he could have voted against the way the BWSC contract was awarded. The problem is that the parliamentary debate that day degenerated into the usual cat-calling and ridiculous style of tribalism as practised by the Nationalist and Labour parties, when Mario Galea voted against the government, presumably by mistake, and, according to Nationalist MPs, Justyne Caruana voted with the government. Whether this is true or not makes no difference.

Instead of discussing the issue at hand, Gonzi and Muscat spent weeks trading insults and nitpicking about the voting procedure. In the meantime, the awarding of the BWSC contract went ahead and we’re all stuck with heavy fuel oil.