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).
An architect and civil engineer, the author is deputy chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta. firstname.lastname@example.org, 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!