The Malta Independent 26 September 2018, Wednesday

INDEPTH: Current environmental construction penalties not a good enough deterrence – José Herrera

INDEPTH online Friday, 1 June 2018, 14:08 Last update: about 5 months ago

Environment Minister José Herrera agrees that the current fines for environmental offences from construction activities are not high enough, or an effective deterrent.

Herrera gave his comments in an interview in the latest edition of INDEPTH by The Malta Independent editor-in-chief Rachel Attard.

Questioned about recent reports by this newspaper on construction sites breaking a number of regulations on weekends and after regular office hours because the Building Regulations Office was short on staff, Herrera acknowledged that such violations were a matter of concern.

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He said that action is being taken, such as in the recent case in Balluta in which construction waste had polluted the sea: “That recent incident saw the Environmental Resources Authority intervene, resulting in the suspension of the licence until the damages were rectified.”

Herrera noted that two changes were necessary when it comes to issues surrounding construction violations to the environment: one is the restructuring of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, and the second is deterrence.

“In the coming days I am going to propose a comprehensive Bill which will address this deficit and increase penalties for environmental crimes and contraventions,” Herrera confirmed.

Questioned further, the Environment Minister acknowledged that the current fines and penalties in place for environmental crimes and contraventions were not high enough, adding, “These laws were created a long time ago in times that were different to the realities of today. They need to be fine-tuned.” Herrera said that the first White Paper on such lines will not directly target construction activities but, rather, similar offences such as illegal dumping.

Herrera explained that many of these offences are dealt with by the local tribunals. The powers of such courts are to be increased not just in terms of dispensing fines but also confiscation, the revocation of licences and higher penalties. “You need to have a strong law which corresponds to the correct crime, realities and therefore penalty.”

 

 


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