The Malta Independent 4 August 2021, Wednesday

Environment default

Rachel Borg Saturday, 19 June 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Here we are once again at that all important pre-election stage to re-elect Labour.  Needless to say, the marketing experts have taken a look at the social media, some opinions of Labour’s own supporters and what’s trending on google.  They have come up with a similar blue print to the one they used back in 2013 when it was still possible to pretend that they are nature lovers.

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They have wheeled out Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia much in same way that they used to wake up the ex-Minister for Finance Edward Scicluna every so often when he was needed to speak some drivel about how all is according to the rule of law.

The policy is to allow the dust to settle for a while on the many building sites, road construction and widespread uprooting of trees or excess pruning, the taking over of agricultural land and to take away the spotlight from the uglification of Malta with just enough time to throw a light on the green policies and the environment so they can be on trend again.

Besides the fact that so much has been lost already and will be very difficult to recover.  In spite of the glaring evidence that the status quo is the going policy, ERA and PA, Gozo and what little is left of Malta, notwithstanding, the Minister Farrugia thinks he is going to sing the Hare Krishna mantra and have us following his movement much in the same way that Joseph Muscat did.

Let us start with ERA and Victor Axiaq.  Environmental NGOs are calling for his removal because he goes contrary to the spirit of the role he occupies and leaves a trail of wreckage.  Big daddy, the PA, continues to operate on the “let us work” premise, looking only at one dimension and one application of a law that was designed to by-pass the community and land straight in the lap of the so-called “developers” and throw some shade onto the neighbours’ conversions too. 

The complete disregard of the coherence and aesthetics of existing villages and urban landscape, and the over-riding corruption that trails so many of the large projects have now become an epidemic.  No easy words from the minister are going to re-set the default on the environment.

They cannot even tackle the mushrooming of the caravans, let alone say no to destruction.  Illegalities become sanctioned after a bit of a tour around the application.  The land at Mizieb and L-Ahrax is handed on a plate to the hunting association. Everywhere we turn our heads we are seeing gates and No entry signs on what should be public access blocking the path.  Concrete is like the latest commodity and is poured over shores, country lanes, rocks and soil. 

What is to be left of this island?  Nothing but concrete and cars.  No sky-view, no country view and for some privileged, a sea-view for the few.  Gone are the churches with their flag flying on Festa days.  I’m sure there is difficulty to find somewhere safe from where to let off fireworks, crowded as everywhere has become.

But Labour now wishes us to believe that they have the environment at heart. Before it was all about the economy, we are told.  Construction industry was all about the bread and butter of the economy.  Not true.  And they know it now, too.  There is no real trickle effect from the construction industry anymore. Not in employment, not in supply contracts for furnishings etc.  Statistics show that the contribution of that industry is really not as great as one would expect considering the importance and privilege it is given.

It started with Switzerland in the Mediterranean and Eco-Gozo but those were dumped for Dubai in the Med.  A few practices from Azerbaijan to get it all set up and going and here we are now.  Hot sun pouring down on us, desertification and roads to nowhere.

Recently Din l-Art Helwa set up a branch for Gozo. Its President, Professor Alex Torpiano, has clearly defined the issues and solutions needed to save Gozo.  Minister Farrugia has not made any reference to the problem of Gozo.  What discussions have taken place?  Will it have its own policy?  With Labour there is never any serious engagement with experts and the public.  No proper consultation takes place.  Only what One TV or Jason Micallef might think is the right jargon. 

Then again, we all know it is only a temporary state of being and that once the election is won and done, they can revert to “we must protect the construction industry” mode and once again set about widening roads and building ugly fly overs.  Progress, they will claim, is irreversible.

Tourism is now in the balance.  Alone, it cannot continue to grow in this destruction of whatever gave it value. It would seem that the government will downsize the product to a few db and Fenech hotels because their occupancy will be subsidized by the sale of apartments standing near the hotel and some boutique palazzo hotels in Valletta and Mdina to pretend we have a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.  Activities and tours will be in the hands of Zammit Tabona and Air Malta will hobble along a few routes.  If they can, I guess they will use blow up dolls for pilots.  The money now is in the sea with berthing for the fast ferries anywhere they choose, from Balluta to Xemxija and probably St George’s Bay will be next in line.

It would be wise if the minister would first have an inclusive, transparent forum with all the sectors involved before claiming that Labour will be focusing on the environment now and in the next administration.   As yet, the directory of construction companies and vetting of the permits has not even been completed.  We are still at risk of houses collapsing and other damage being done which cannot be rectified. 

Just like the much touted Moneyval report which turned out to be unconvincing to the higher Financial Action Task Force, a few “green” words from the Minister are not going to turn the tide on this rampant greed and corruption and the absence of any sense of common good and decency when it comes to dishing out permits.  We do not know how long this current frenzy can be sustained and probably Labour know it too so they are starting to change tracks ever so slightly. 

Just in case it really may cost them some votes.

 

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