The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

‘C’ is for Cacopardo, not for collegiality…

Sunday, 18 October 2020, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Alan Deidun

Carmel Cacopardo’s vitriolic and holier-than-thou attack on my professional and ethical integrity on multiple platforms (English language and Maltese language newspapers, as well as his personal blog) reeks of a blatant lack of collegiality and of a desperate attention-seeking attempt, while being suffused in hypocrisy.

Carmel, in his characteristic derogatory and disrespectful terms (“a certain Professor Alan Deidun”) takes me to task for sitting on the ERA Board, as nominated by environmental NGOs, while at the same time doing occasional environmental consultancy work, in particular as a marine ecology consultant on the proposed Incinerator project at Maghtab, coaxing the same eNGOs to dismiss me as their nominee. I stress the term “occasional” since, unlike his majesty Carmel, I choose to participate in one or two environmental consultancies each year, far lower than the professional consultation services Carmel provides to local councils each year. This in itself should already qualify as an instance of hypocrisy, be it not for the fact that it is actually doubly hypocritical given that Carmel leads a political party – Alternattiva Demokratika – while happily constantly representing, as a consultant, local councils on an array of planning and development applications.

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Carmel accuses the undersigned of “running with the hares and hunting with the hounds”. I would not have expected such a populist and jaundiced comment from someone supposedly familiar with the planning process, on a number of counts. Firstly, Carmel should, in fact, know very well that each time a project involving the undersigned as a consultant is discussed at ERA Board level, I excuse myself completely from such proceedings. This has happened perhaps a maximum of five times since the start of my tenure on the ERA Board in February 2016. Similarly, other ERA Board members have faced such predicaments and they all punctually similarly excused themselves from proceedings, since the ERA Board is ultimately composed of professionals, whose integrity is above board and cynicism. Such predicaments are inevitable in a small island state like ours, where human capital is limited. For instance, there is only a handful of experienced marine ecology consultants on the islands, with the undersigned having participated in an EIA in 2006, way before the ERA Board responsibility was shouldered.

Would Carmel rather have exclusively non-Maltese (normally not as familiar with local conditions as Maltese consultants) act as consultants on local EIAs? I have agreed to act as a marine ecology consultant on the Incinerator project he took exception to since I have previous experience on assessing projects involving a discharge at sea. For instance, my previous experience includes work on the monitoring of the Delimara thermal effluent discharge at Hofra z-Zghira, as well as the proposed development of the RO plant at Hondoq ir-Rummien. Technical acumen within chosen experts and consultants is key to the rigour of such EIA studies – here again, why does Carmel have difficulty in grasping this?

Secondly, the ERA Board normally expresses itself on the validity of the EIA process as vetted by the ERA, the national responsible authority for such a process, rather than on the conclusions of individual EIAs. Thirdly, one can still reflect one’s environmental credentials within the conclusions of the EIA report he or she pens. For instance, in my role as EIA marine consultant, I believe I have always been thorough and rigorous in identifying potential environmental impacts and in proposing the most judicious mitigation measures, such that I have been accused of being over-cautious at times. But surely Carmel should be cognisant of such tenets by now?

As for my profile on the ERA Board, I can vouch that I have represented the views of eNGOs to my fullest of my capabilities, being proactive in raising many issues highlighted from the eNGO camp, as well as by local councils and members of the public who have approached me personally, at the scores of ERA Board meetings I have attended. I have scrupulously updated eNGOs about proceedings, as permitted by non-disclosure arrangements for Board members. I can also vouch that, given that uncalled broadside from Carmel in my regards, this is indeed a thankless job. Should eNGOs feel that I should resign as an ERA Board member, then I have absolutely no qualms in doing so.

The greatest ambiguity of Carmel’s latest outburst is that it is completely shorn of any sense of collegiality, given that both of us have been toiling at the environmental cause for decades now and given that he himself had no problem (up to a few years ago) with consulting me on matters pertaining to the marine domain. Having the helm of AD firing from the hip against fellow environmentalists speaks volumes at the degree of fragmentation within the local green movement, which plays very nicely in the hands of the very opponents of the same movement.

One would have thought that, at his ripe old age, Carmel would manage to distinguish friend from foe by now. Evidently, this is not the case. Such a lack of wisdom and hindsight is definitely not serving AD in good stead, but makes a liability out of Carmel.

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