The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

The environment: safeguarding our future

Sunday, 1 August 2021, 07:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Andy Ellul

There can be very little doubt that the environment has assumed a place among the topmost concerns for the Maltese public, and rightly so. The environment is for many, almost exclusively equated with nature, namely open spaces characterised by pristine and splendid landscapes with their flora and fauna, and predominantly untouched by human features such as concrete blocks. But the environment is more than that. Agricultural and pastoral landscapes are also part of the environment, not unlike the urban areas we live in and commute to and other elements like the sea surrounding our islands and the air we breathe. This notion can be even extended further to a global dimension, the most tangible example of which are initiatives to reduce global warming.

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For most Maltese, the elements that are considered unfriendly to our environment must surely be the exceedingly visible tower cranes that pepper most urban areas (veritable symbols of the construction industry), the dust and noise pollution generated by construction works and the uprooting of trees in connection with infrastructural projects. Yes, there are environmental issues that need addressing - some urgently so - and no amount of excuses or attempts at justifying these realities would do. Nevertheless, one has to look at the whole picture and remember what has been achieved to render our environment a better one. I shall highlight some of the initiatives that a Labour government embarked upon since taking up office in 2013.

Let me begin with the quality of the air we breathe. A Labour government shut down the former heavy pollution power stations - the old, heavy fuel oil in Delimara and the Marsa power station - and switched to electricity generation using the much cleaner LPG. Just ask residents of Marsa, Paola and Tarxien and nearby villages to see what a difference this initiative has made to the quality of their life. 

The last few years have seen an unprecedented volume of infrastructural works that are literally changing the face of the country. Projects like the massive Marsa junction, the Kappara junction and the Santa Lucija underpass have curtailed pollution of the environment by markedly reducing carbon emissions generated by vehicles at a standstill waiting for traffic lights to change and/or in traffic jams. The situation is bound to improve further once the Central Link and the Luqa Junction projects are completed. The reduction in vehicle carbon emissions, the saving in fuel consumption and the time saved in commuting through these areas make all the delays and the inconvenience during their construction well worth it. Moreover, the Labour government has recently launched Malta's Low Carbon Energy Strategy, which foresees total electric­ity demand, including the shift to electric cars, to increase by 33% between 2020-2030 and a further 23% between 2030 and 2040, hence resulting in reduced car carbon emissions.

Another initiative that only a Labour government had the determination to implement is household waste sorting at source. Although initially this was unpopular (not least because it heralded new waste management practices), it is now firmly established across households in the country. This has meant that tons of plastic, paper and metal that would otherwise have ended in a landfill are now being recycled. Also, domestic organic waste is being broken down to produce methane that can be used as biogas, which is a good source of renewable energy as it can be used to generate electricity and heat.

While the above are major initiatives, the Labour government has also embarked on lesser but equally important environmental-friendly initiatives. Suffice to mention the embellishment of numerous village squares where people can congregate in a pleasant environment, the introduction of green walls and roof gardens, the planting of thousands of tree shrubs and bushes (to make good for trees that had to be uprooted as a result of infrastructural works) and the Inwadar National Park. These and many other initiatives, which are in the pipeline, go a long way at improving our environment.

Recently, Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela went on record, saying that the environment is one of the government's top priorities. We can rest assured that this is not merely lip service or empty words. A Labour government always lives up to what is expected of it by the general public. Labour delivers on its promises.

Dr Andy Ellul is a Labour Party candidate on the 1st and 3rd Electoral Districts

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