A farce in the mak­ing

Pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the De­li­mara op­er­a­tional per­mit has com­menced. This per­mit has to be is­sued in terms of the pro­vi­sions of the EU di­rec­tive on In­te­grated Pollution Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol (IPPC).

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

An ar­chi­tect and civil en­gi­neer, the au­thor is deputy chair­man of Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta. ca­co­par­do­carm@gmail.com, www.carmel­ca­co­pardo.word­press.com

Feed­ing this pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise, last week the En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Author­ity re­leased 293 re­ports de­tail­ing in­for­ma­tion on dif­fer­ent as­pects of the De­li­mara power sta­tion. Th­ese re­ports are avail­able on the author­ity’s web­site as well as at the of­fices of Marsaxlokk and Birżeb­buġa lo­cal coun­cils. They run into thousands of pages – vary­ing from those which are very short to oth­ers which are sub­stan­tial in length.

Orig­i­nally, the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise was planned to last 30 days – the min­i­mum time es­tab­lished by law. After a num­ber of protests, this was in­creased to 40 days, which is still too short, given the sub­stan­tial amount of in­for­ma­tion that must be di­gested and an­a­lysed. Com­mon sense should have dic­tated a much longer con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod as the lack of suf­fi­cient time to ex­am­ine the in­for­ma­tion re­leased will bring into ques­tion the va­lid­ity of the whole ex­er­cise.

The re­ports re­quire con­sid­er­able time to be ex­am­ined in or­der that their con­tents are un­der­stood in their proper per­spec­tive. Most of th­ese re­ports were sub­mit­ted to the En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Author­ity many months ago and in the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod have been ex­am­ined by of­fi­cials of the Author­ity who, in a num­ber of cases, re­quested amend­ments or ad­di­tions. Th­ese changes were iden­ti­fied by the Author­ity’s of­fi­cers as a re­sult of their ex­am­i­na­tion of the said re­ports over a num­ber of months.

It stands to rea­son that the En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Author­ity is, on the ba­sis of its own work, fully aware that the real time re­quired for this pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion would be in the re­gion of four months and that any­thing less is in­suf­fi­cient.

There is, how­ever, one ex­cep­tion. The re­port en­ti­tled ‘Ex­ter­nal Emer­gency Plan, drawn up by the Civil Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment, has been cen­sored. A whole sec­tion has been re­moved and, as such, is not be­ing sub­jected to the cur­rent pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise. Page 21 of the re­port con­tains the ti­tle of the sec­tion: ‘Sec­tion B Op­er­a­tional’. On the fol­low­ing page we then have a note in­form­ing us that “In­for­ma­tion in the Op­er­a­tional Sec­tion (Sec­tion B) of this doc­u­ment is be­ing with­held from pub­li­ca­tion on the grounds of na­tional se­cu­rity”.

This is a farce. The most im­por­tant part of the doc­u­ment that re­quires dis­sem­i­na­tion and feed­back has been with­held. This re­port should have been placed in the pub­lic do­main in its en­tirety, as it is es­sen­tial for those mem­bers of the pub­lic who are in­ter­ested (or pre­oc­cu­pied) on the is­sue as they live too close for com­fort to the De­li­mara power sta­tion. They need the whole re­port in or­der to be in­formed and thus be in a po­si­tion to give their re­ac­tions. Fa­mil­iar­ity on the part of Marsaxlokk and Birżeb­buġa res­i­dents with the Op­er­a­tional Sec­tion of the Ex­ter­nal Emer­gency Plan would even­tu­ally be put into use in the civil pro­tec­tion drills and sim­u­la­tion ex­er­cises which have to be or­gan­ised by the Civil Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment on a reg­u­lar ba­sis at both Marsaxlokk and Birżeb­buġa.

The Civil Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment lead­er­ship team should re­alise, even at this stage, that the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion must own the op­er­a­tional plans. Th­ese plans will not work if the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion is not aware of at least the ba­sic con­tents of th­ese plans.

The pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process is a ba­sic and es­sen­tial com­po­nent of the work­ings of a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. Tam­per­ing with the re­quired in­for­ma­tion, or un­nec­es­sar­ily re­strict­ing the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod, will trans­form it into a farce.

It is for th­ese rea­sons that the De­li­mara power sta­tion con­sul­ta­tion process is a farce in the mak­ing!

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