Sunday, 21 March 2010

Marsaxlokk - Xrobb l-Ghagin - San Tumas Walk Sunday 21st March 2010

Some photos from today's walk.

Walk leader: Mario Farrugia

Il-Hofra z-Zgira

Il-Hofra il-Kbira

Negotiating a tricky part


Sant Antnin Chapel

Santa Marija ta' Hal Tmiem

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Reason for protest is to highlight Mepa’s inconsistencies – NGOs

Reason for protest is to highlight Mepa’s inconsistencies – NGOs
by Scott Grech

Spokespersons for the eight non-governmental organisations (NGOs) taking part in a rally on Saturday said yesterday that the reason behind the protest march is apolitical, its purpose being to highlight the inconsistencies of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which are ruining the Maltese landscape and surrounding environment.

The protest is expected to start around 10am, with the meeting point being City Gate, Valletta. Protesters are then expected to march along Republic Street.

Alex Vella, secretary of the Ramblers Association, said that the reason behind the rally is for the NGOs, which are representing a significant segment of the population, to voice their disgust at Mepa’s inconsistencies, with the authority continuously giving the go-ahead for permits which are harming Maltese society.

Mr Vella also said that heritage NGO Din l-Art Helwa, which made the news over the past few days for refusing to take part in the protest, was never expected to take part in the first place since it is not entirely against the Valletta Regeneration Project. Mr Vella added that Din l-Art Helwa has constantly supported other NGOs in other matters concerning the environment.

One need only go on a long walk in the countryside, said Mr Vella, to see the continuous degrading state of the Maltese environment, which is a loss of the country’s identity and natural heritage.

“Buildings continue to be constructed in Outside Development Zones (ODZ), vehicle scrap yards are opening shop left, right and centre, like the one in Burmarrad, which is partially hidden by trees, the Seabank Hotel has been granted a permission to extend into previously untouched landscape, protected species continue to be shot, while the black dust saga shows no signs of ending.

“To make matters worse, Mepa’s chairman (Austin Walker) only excuses himself when illegalities that have been going on for quite a while are publicly announced, but does nothing to stop similar matters from occurring again. The purpose of Saturday’s protest march is to raise awareness that rules and regulations which safeguard the Maltese environment cannot keep being broken,” said Mr Vella.

Astrid Vella, on behalf of Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), said the NGOs are confident of a strong turnout, adding that the failure to find a solution to the black dust problem is of “grave concern, putting at risk the health of Maltese society as a whole”.

“The main purpose of the rally is to highlight the failure of proposals which have long been promised but not implemented. Attempts at solving the black dust problem are few and far between, VRT testing does not take place on a regular basis, while a Mepa reform is simply not enough,” said Mrs Vella.

The environmentalist also voiced her disappointment at the failure of the Maltese government to open itself up for public consultations with regard to the Valletta Regeneration Project.

“To make it clear, we are not against the regeneration of Valletta, but against the ineptitude of the government to consult with NGOs or to take the advice of other organisations on board. With around 80 per cent of the public opposing certain plans, it is not fair that the government continues to go ahead with such plans in such a stubborn manner,” stated Mrs Vella.

Tolga Temuge, Birdlife Malta’s international director, said that prior to the last election, Lawrence Gonzi had put environmental issues on top of his agenda, yet two years later, permits in ODZ areas are still being granted, illegal killings of protected species take place regularly while extracting water from illegal boreholes is still a common practice.

The eight NGOs taking part in Saturday’s protest are BirdLife Malta, FAA, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Graffiti, the Malta Organic and Agricultural Movement (MOAM), Nature Trust and the Ramblers Association, with Mrs Vella saying that the protest is being supported by several local councils, among which are those of Rabat, Dingli and Birzebbuga and several resident groups.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Saturday 13th March: National Rally at Valletta

Saturday 13th March: National Rally at Valletta calling on Government to Enforce the Law to protect our Environment

This Rally is being organized in collaboration with other environmental NGOs for the purpose of calling on the Authorities to enforce the law with respect to the protection of Maltese Urban and Natural Environment. Your attendance is very important and it is expected that you give support to your Association by bringing members of your family and your friend with you. Unless we impress upon the Authorities that our numbers count the Association will never be able to achieve its objectives to open access in and protect the Maltese countryside which is the source of our walking activities.
Duration: 2 hours
Rating: Grave
Meeting Place: City Gate,
VallettaTime: 10.00am

Qammieh Walk Saturday 6th March 2010

Today's walk, followed by lunch at the Great Dane.

Duration of the walk: 3 hours

Walk leader: Romano

Some photos below.

Qammieh Walk Saturday 6th March 2010 - More photos

More photos courtesy of Alfred Camilleri

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Environment groups to call for legality

From the Times.
Tuesday, 2nd March 2010
Environment groups to call for 'legality'
Alex Vella, Ramblers' Association, Sliema; Astrid Vella, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Birkirkara; Edward Mallia, Friends of the Earth, Birkirkara

Development at Baħrija Valley: One of the "blunders allowed by non-interference".

Had the environment groups (ENGOs) not heard it all before, they would treasure Mario de Marco's latest contribution Green Politics: Environment Matters (February 19). Worthy promises indeed which he will now be expected to deliver.

Just as the former Minister of the Environment George Pullicino was expected to deliver but failed miserably to the extent that the Prime Minister relieved him of the duty.

And also, just as the Prime Minister himself was expected to deliver but resorted to the "non-interference" excuse to allow blunders of such proportions and notoriety as Baħrija valley, Ta' Baldu, the Seabank Hotel extension (all protected ODZs), Qala Ridge (irrationally but intentionally classified as rural settlement Cat. 2 purposely for the foregone application) and the Qormi Armoury (irrationally but intentionally deleted from the Qormi Urban Conservation Area).

Dr de Marco says that the "Environment today features in the top list of people's priorities".

However, when one looks around and sees what has been happening over these last years, one would be forgiven for thinking that the environment has been close to the bottom of the government's priorities. And again, "The (EU) regulations put on us reporting obligations" (when here too we cannot boast of achievements but can only bow our heads in embarrassment).

And he makes other statements worth a comment, but we will stop here.

We find it therefore hard, and we say this with regret, to take seriously his solemn word that this article is his government's manifesto.

Dr de Marco has set himself a very tall order indeed, and the ENGOs are ready to offer him their full cooperation. However, we know very well that there will be times when his good intentions will succumb to the diktats of others.

In truth, what Dr Marco writes and promises is nothing more than what civil society has every right to expect. Yet, judging by what we had been promised and its stark contrast with what we have actually witnessed instead, we can only say that we have heard it all before, and that we will be very wary not to be led up the garden path again.

The ENGOs are alarmed by the fact that even during the interim period ushering in Mepa reform, decisions continue to be taken which break both Local Plan as well as Structure Plan regulations, such as the Valletta rehabilitation project and Seabank decisions taken during the last two weeks. Do the NGOs have any choice but to protest?

This is what they intend doing - rallying all Maltese who have the national interest at heart to boldly call for justice. Their call will be legality now!

Lest some people misunderstand us: ENGOs have never made, and will not be making, any extraordinary claims. Our demands have always been inspired by one constant principle: Respect the spirit of the law and stop interpreting the law to suit political ends.