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.

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