The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: The environment - Good steps taken, but a long way to go

Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 09:37 Last update: about 11 months ago

The Maltese people have come a long way in terms of environmental awareness and waste separation over the past 10 years.

Just over 10 years ago, environmentalists were not considered to be among the strong voices of society, however things have changed. Environmental issues often find themselves at the forefront of public debate today.

The idea of constructing on land located outside the development zone is frowned upon by many, and the cutting down of trees for roads has also received widespread criticism. The government however has not seen fit to truly empower this section of society yet.

While The Environment and Resources Authority has a voice on the Planning Authority Board, as does a representative for the NGOs – which is a step in the right direction, their voices are often ignored by other members, leading to a number of controversial permits being issued.

The environment protection movement really picked up steam around the time the American University of Malta question originally came about. As a result of activist pressure, the footprint on ODZ land was reduced, however a large section of the land is still earmarked for development.

Since then we have seen an increase in publicity when it comes to ODZ development, protection of Natura 2000 sites and valleys, and concerns regarding urban sprawl. Indeed the latest major issue is undoubtedly fuel stations, and the sizable area they are allowed to take up on ODZ land.

For many years government have thought of the environment as a secondary issue, saying that they are environmentally friendly yet issuing policies which make one question such statements. However things are turning as more and more Maltese become environmentally aware, and want to leave Malta’s environmental heritage untainted for future generations.

The government should empower those authorities and institutions which protect the environment further, in order to better preserve Malta for future generations.

When it comes to waste separation, recently introduced policy and legislation has pushed waste separation at source. While not a perfect system, Many Maltese have taken to separating their waste, which is definitely a leap forward in the right direction. The Environment Ministry’s work in this regard is to be applauded.  While waste separation is, generally, a success, some do question whether waste collection is occurring properly, and that waste remains separated and treated properly.

Without a doubt the next major issues with regards to the environment locally, aside from overpopulation, will be air pollution and the marine life around the islands. The former is an ever growing issue as more and more cars drive onto Maltese roads. There seem to be plans to move Malta towards the use of electric vehicles which would definitely help with the situation. The latter will become a major concern as plans move ahead with the Gozo tunnel, and if government decides to push for land reclamation.

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