Jose Her­rera ac­knowl­edges pub­lic shift in pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech Gabriel Schem­bri

and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Jose Her­rera ac­knowl­edged the pub­lic’s con­cern over the safe­guard­ing of the en­vi­ron­ment, praised the com­ing change of en­ergy sup­ply from heavy fuel oil to gas and stressed that this will re­sult in a big re­duc­tion of pol­lu­tion.

He also spoke of the shift in lo­ca­tion of lo­cal fish farms, which will pre­vent the in­fa­mous sea slime that plagued Mal­tese coasts in Au­gust/Septem­ber.

“What we have promised, we are de­liv­er­ing,” he said.

Dr Her­rera spoke of the ex­ten­sion of pro­tected sea zones that was changed by this cur­rent govern­ment.

“This is a govern­ment with strong en­vi­ron­men­tal cre­den­tials. We have big chal­lenges, but also big op­por­tu­ni­ties. Peo­ple are be­com­ing more and more con­scious of the en­vi­ron­ment, a nat­u­ral de­vel­op­ment from the strong eco­nomic growth and low un­em­ploy­ment.”

He spoke of var­i­ous main­te­nance works around the south of Malta in green ar­eas that have been left in a di­lap­i­dated state.

“An ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee will be launched to help with the pol­icy and en­force­ment on abu­sive dump­ing in pub­lic spa­ces. Funds will be al­lo­cated from the bud­get, and they will work hand in hand with the po­lice to help en­force abu­sive dump­ing prac­tices.

The pre­vi­ous govern­ment did not carry out any long-term plans on man­ag­ing waste, which is a lead­ing chal­lenge right now and will be ad­dressed in a holis­tic way, he said.

“We will con­tinue with our na­tional im­ple­men­ta­tion plan to man­age waste in a sus­tain­able way. Be­fore the last gen­eral elec­tion we said we would im­prove ex­ist­ing pub­lic zones and in­crease them. The rel­e­vant depart­ment as­cer­tained which zones could serve this pur­pose best, and spoke of the in­clu­sion of lo­cal coun­cils to help speed up the process.”

He then turned to Chad­wick Lakes and the am­bi­tious goal to res­tore it to its nat­u­ral state and im­prove the area.

“These plans will serve to im­prove the qual­ity of life for the pub­lic,” he said.

Dr Her­rera stressed the need to fo­cus on en­force­ment in all types of en­vi­ron­men­tal laws, whether they re­late to waste, noise pol­lu­tion, dump­ing, etc.

On the new power sta­tion, he said that he is con­fi­dent all pro­ce­dures were car­ried out trans­par­ently and in line with the law, and urged the Op­po­si­tion to come for­ward if they have any se­ri­ous claims of any forms of breaches.

From an in­ter­na­tional as­pect, the en­vi­ron­ment is in a state of peril, he said. In the last 40 years, 60% of the world’s bio­di­ver­sity has been de­stroyed while tem­per­a­tures are ris­ing.

Dr Her­rera praised the sign­ing of the Paris agree­ment on global emis­sions, and cau­tioned that the world our chil­dren will in­herit will be an en­vi­ron­men­tally un­sta­ble one.

He said that Malta has a role to play in all this, and slowly all of Malta is wak­ing up to this fact.

Dr Her­rera in­vited the Op­po­si­tion to come sit at the ta­ble and dis­cuss the is­sues of most con­cern to them. He crit­i­cised politi­cians for not ac­knowl­edg­ing what is be­ing done right, and some­times crit­i­cism may be put for­ward for the sake of it.

Na­tion­al­ist MP and Spokesper­son for the En­vi­ron­ment Marthese Portelli warned that the Paceville Master­plan is not a project which is only re­lated to de­vel­op­ment, but there are a num­ber of is­sues which af­fect di­rectly the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment. She called on the govern­ment to in­volve all the min­istries and en­ti­ties in­volved, in­clud­ing Trans­port Malta.

“It seems that the govern­ment is fail­ing to in­clude the En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry in such a big project, and OPM only seems to be in­ter­ested in the de­vel­op­ment as­pect of the project. The master­plan in­cludes a lot of pol­lu­tion gen­er­a­tion, but for some rea­son the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment is be­ing left out.”

Dr Portelli said that she be­lieves the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment has the will to speak out when nec­es­sary. She said that eNGOs and de­vel­op­ers both agree that de­vel­op­ment and the en­vi­ron­ment should go hand in hand. Marthese Portelli also pointed out that on some is­sues MDA was even more vo­cif­er­ous than the min­istry it­self, and cited MDA’s po­si­tion on ODZ and land recla­ma­tion.

On En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Au­thor­ity, Dr Portelli crit­i­cised the fact that this en­tity has no teeth. “On pa­per, it might look as if it has the power to act, but we all know that this au­thor­ity was forced to keep out, stran­gled be­fore it could even speak out.”

She said that the or­ders re­lated to de­vel­op­ment come from Castille and told the min­is­ter she un­der­stands that it can be very hard speak­ing out if the or­ders come from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice. “I am here to help you and the Op­po­si­tion is here to lend you a hand.”

On the LNG tanker, she in­sisted that the safety re­port should be made pub­lic and that the min­is­ter should not try and con­fuse the pub­lic say­ing that the se­cu­rity re­port was pub­lished. “The Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment, OHSA and ERA should all make their voices heard on such an im­por­tant is­sue.”

Dr Portelli com­pared the en­vi­ron­men­tal projects car­ried out in three years un­der PN govern­ment, a list of 39 projects, with the very few done by the Labour ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The PN MP has pro­posed that the re­vi­sion of the SPED (Strate­gic Plan for the En­vi­ron­ment and De­vel­op­ment) is made now be­fore the five-year term is ended. She said, al­though the Op­po­si­tion is in favour of these re­vi­sions, the SPED is end­ing up be­ing a sin­gle doc­u­ment without the nec­es­sary poli­cies.

In­de­pen­dent MP and Par­tit Demokratiku Leader Mar­lene Far­ru­gia said that it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions have some form of her­itage to look at. “The abuse on the en­vi­ron­ment went on with the Labour govern­ment. Let me make it clear, I am say­ing went on be­cause it started long ago.”

She said that the Labour govern­ment is chang­ing the land­scape and the next gen­er­a­tions will suf­fer from en­vi­ron­men­tal poverty un­less some­one acts now. “Not only we have to stop this de­struc­tion, but we have to go back in time and res­tore what we lost.”

Dr Far­ru­gia said that the govern­ment is obliged to give a di­rec­tion to the coun­try, but the long-term plans should be made clear to the pub­lic. “This govern­ment has to come clean and ad­mit that its plan is to have the Dubai-ifi­ca­tion of Malta. As far as I re­mem­ber, the Labour move­ment had promised oth­er­wise.”

Dr Far­ru­gia said that one must not for­get that en­vi­ron­men­tal harm leads to more ill­nesses. “Is there any­one of you lis­ten­ing to this speech today that does not have a fam­ily mem­ber suf­fer­ing from can­cer?” she said while re­mind­ing fel­low MPs of the ‘can­cer fac­tory’ – a pop­u­lar catch phrase dur­ing the last gen­eral elec­tion.

“We have to act now so that we don’t look back and say that a Labour govern­ment left the coun­try in a worse state than it was.”

Govern­ment Whip God­frey Far­ru­gia said that ev­ery­one should agree that the en­vi­ron­ment can­not be used as a po­lit­i­cal ball. He said that ev­ery eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment which is not sus­tain­able can­not sur­vive for very long. Dr Far­ru­gia said that eco­nomic progress which is not sus­tain­able only harms the en­vi­ron­ment. “The ques­tion here is, to keep up with the eco­nomic progress while safe­guard­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

He said that we are at an im­por­tant point, where if the au­thor­i­ties do not act now, fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will suf­fer. Dr Far­ru­gia said that he forms part of a govern­ment that in essence is good, but has, like any­thing else, its de­fects.

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