The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

Żibel supports call for setting up of environmental rangers

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 9 August 2020, 09:30 Last update: about 4 months ago

Chairman of the eNGO Żibel Andrew Schembri supports the idea of environmental rangers being set up in order to keep watch over Malta’s Natura 2000 sites and other green areas, to try and reduce illegal dumping in the country.

Contacted by The Malta Independent, Schembri said that dumping has been a constant problem in Malta, where people would just drive out to the remote areas of the countryside and dump waste rather than utilize the free Bulky Refuse collection service offered via local councils. Littering, he said, is still a problem, however there have been visible improvements over the years.

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Amongst other things, Żibel organises clean-ups around the country, and have even lifted cars from the seabed. On the 1st of august, the ENGO cleaned up 907.5 kilograms of waste from the Tal-Għażżenin seabed in St. Paul’s Bay for example. In total they have pulled just over 85 tonnes from the Maltese environment since forming in 2017.

While the eNGOs and the government have been educating the public, Schembri said that dumping still occurs. He said that while it could be expensive to install CCTV cameras in known dump sites for local councils, at least simple signs should be put up informing the public of basic procedures in terms of getting rid of bulky waste in such areas. In this way, information will at least be passed on to aggressors on-site as a possible deterrent.

Schembri has echoed the concept of environmental rangers, modelled in a similar fashion to those in American National Parks Service, which he described as roles and jobs with a source of pride and evoking a sense of passion in their daily tasks. “We had brought up this issue and concept with the previous environmental Minister Jose Herrera last legislature, but nothing came of it.” 

Enforcement is key Schembri said, but argued that this isn’t a question regarding the police. “What I can never understand is why nobody ever took it upon themselves to set up environmental rangers. Such a project would create green jobs, mobilize and empower young adults to take up a career along the environmental path and help build a greater sense of ownership amongst Maltese and their natural habitats. A case in point is at L-Aħrax in Mellieħa. We once collected 11 tonnes in five hours there, ranging from an industrial deep fryer, 3 cars, construction waste and buckets with human feces to name just a few things.”

PN Whip Robert Cutajar had also made the proposal for environmental rangers back in 2018 during the local council reform, and last May Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that the government is considering implementing environmental rangers.

Speaking about his vision for such rangers, Schembri said they could either be within a government department or perhaps be set up after a tender is issued where they could even be run by NGOs and associations themselves, including but not limited to the hunting lobby. There would, he stressed, need to be proper tendering process based on quality not cost, training, planning and reporting. “The rangers could be tasked with enforcement and reporting of infringements as well as basic checks for invasive species in Natura 2000 sites. This could be piloted in Natura 2000 sites, and then extended to known illegal dumping sites and frequented green areas, which would also help NGOs and the respective Ministries work closer on solving issues of this sort. These roles also give children growing up an authoritative figure in the environment to look up to, a familiar identity that emanates the values we are all trying to push,” Schembri proposed.

Even when closing off areas like is the case with Qalet Marku, which was previously a notorious dumping site and is currently undergoing a series of clean ups, people who used to dump their waste there just went elsewhere, he said. “All that’s happened is that the problem has moved. If you drive along Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, the area is somewhat lawless. Camper vans along the coastline, no management to them, areas where items are dumped, and so forth.”

“We have a free bulky refuse collection in Malta, so there shouldn’t really be an excuse for the Maltese to dump illegally. This illegal dumping frequently stems from laziness, as they are avoiding going through the process of getting a permit to dump at a bring-in site. That is what it comes down to, and everyone ends up having to pay for it as government departments such as the Cleansing Department and Ambjent Malta are then sent to clean up. Indirectly even the dumpers themselves end up paying for it financially.”

 

Photo credits (from top)

Photo 1 caption: L-Ahrax 2017 cleanup. Photo by Zibel and www.facebook.com/nicmediamalta

Photo 2 caption:   L-Ahrax 2017 cleanup. Photo by: Zibel and https://www.facebook.com/samdegaetano/ 

Photo 3 caption:   L-Ahrax 2017 cleanup Photo by:  Zibel and https://www.facebook.com/samdegaetano/ 

Photo 4 caption: Paradise Bay 2020 cleanup: Photo by: Zibel and Alex Turnbull

 

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