Maltatoday, Sunday 15 June 2008 –
In the last election the Nationalist Party was given an electoral mandate to implement 77 green proposals which constituted 22% of all promises included in the PN’s manifesto. In his analysis James Debono tries to find out how sustainable these electoral promises are.
The legal notice issued in 2007 sets strict rules on energy conservation and applies to any development application submitted to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority after January 2007. Yet since then, neither MEPA nor the resources authority is enforcing the law. Architects are expected to exercise self regulation.
Yet just a few hours later the same MEPA approved 860 new apartments set on 11 floors which are set to ruin views from Mistra bay and to increase pressue for a destructive road in the pristine north.
Elsewhere, MEPA’s commitment to enforcement action was turned into a media spectacle against an illegal farmhouse in Mgarr. Yet enforcement notices dating back more than a decade against more serious abuses – like that against a wall blocking public access to the picturesque Fomm ir-Rih remain on its desk. In Gozo enforcement orders against development in the Xlendi valley are still awaiting enforcement 12 years down memory lane.
The government has also promised action against the illegal use of boreholes, which are draining Malta’s water table.
Malta currently places 172nd among the 180 countries ranked by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on the basis of availability of renewable water sources. Malta barely manages to surpass desert countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya, and is surpassed by Cyprus and all the other European Union countries.
The PN promised to offer farmers another source of water for irrigation. The only available source will be that created by the three brand new water treatment plants in Gozo, Cirkewwa and Xghajra. Yet so far Malta still lacks a policy for the re-use of this resource and as things stand, the river of water created by these plants will be simply drained in the sea.
As regards waste management, the manifesto promised that as from 1 April a system of separation of waste at source will come into effect. Logistical problems forced the government to postpone its own April Fool’s deadline by a couple of weeks.
The door-to-door waste separation scheme was first discussed in 2000. According to the 2000 Solid Waste Strategy, a source-separation and separate collection of recyclable (including biodegradable) materials from municipal solid waste was to start at the end of 2004.
Despite having stringent targets on the packaging waste directive and on the landfill directive, government has procrastinated on a door-to-door waste collection scheme, preferring the bring-in site scheme: which, however, is limited in its effectiveness since only the dedicated few actually make use of it.
In the meantime the government squandered a precious year after a draft legal notice introducing a deposit scheme for plastic bottles was abondoned following protests by the GRTU.
Eight years down the line after the first plans for a door-to-door separation scheme were envisioned, the government still expects residents to collect their recycling bags from local councils or to buy them from supermarkets.
In the meantime the government has still not announced the location of two new recycling plants like that in Sant’ Antnin which will become a necessity by 2013 when Malta will be expected by the European Union to drastically reduce the amount of waste going in the landfill.