During a press conference today in Santa Luċija, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson, Prof. Arnold Cassola, said that the environment surrounding us, and how we live 24 hours a day, is vital to reach the necessary balance and serenity in life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food and the agricultural and sea products that we eat daily are all very important to safeguard our quality of life.
“It is for this reason that building should be carefully planned and the respect of the natural environment, together with the coastal environment surrounding us, are of extreme importance so that our population can be brought up in a healthy environment which is beneficial both to our physical and mental health. Naturally, on other occasions we will tackle other aspects concerning a safe environment in those areas that concern climate change, energy, transport, the Malta-Gozo tunnel, agriculture and fisheries.”
Carmel Cacopardo Deputy Chairperson of Alternattiva Demokratika introduced AD’s 18 environmental proposals:
1. The composition of both the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority should be determined by Parliament through its Committees after a public hearing and not directly by government,
2. The environment should be given Constitutional recognition. This should be carried out such that the duty of the state to protect biodiversity, natural resources (primarily, but not just, water), cultural and historical heritage, air quality, landscape, valleys, resources in both and land sea should all be constitutional duties. Contrary to the current position the Courts should be given the authority to intervene should it be necessary to order the state to act in order to carry out its responsibilities.
3. The position at law of environmental NGOs and civil society should be strengthened with the right to intervene before Courts of Law. Environmental NGOs should be given financial assistance by the state in order that they are in a better position to carry out their responsibilities.
4. It those localities where there is a large number of vacant properties projects for the development of a large number of residential units will not be considered unless the proposal is for the restoration or regeneration of vacant or abandoned property.
5. In particular, consideration of development proposals for land included within the development zone as a result of the rationalisation exercise will be put on hold when the area in question is one that has not yet been schemed.
6. The number of vacant properties in any particular locality will be introduced as a criterion to determine whether large scale residential projects are permissible.
7. The area outside the development zone (ODZ) will be respected continuously out of conviction. Policies which in a disguised manner justify development ODZ will be discarded. This refers in particular to the guidelines of the Planning Authority on rural development as well as the policy on petrol stations. These policies need to be overhauled and re-written in a radical departure from their current philosophy.
8. More attention is due when selecting members of various boards in order to address adequately the underlying conflict of interest which is inevitably present when considering practising members of the different professions.
9. The commitment in favour of environment protection should be strengthened through the granting of authority to Local Councils such that through local referenda they could impede ODZ development provided that such development does not consist of a project of national interest approved by Parliament.
10. AD in Parlament will propose that the nation repossesses Manoel Island in order that it may be enjoyed by the Maltese people to whom it belongs. The same level of attention will be given to Ta’ Qali which area has, throughout the years developed as a centre for the recreation of Maltese families and which now, on the eve of a general election, part of it is proposed to be developed into a car-racing track. This project risks turning our children into roundabouts.
11. The development of a link between Malta and Gozo should be based on realistic and sustainable solutions. AD opposes the development of an airport in Gozo but is in favour of both a helicopter link between Gozo and the airport as well as with the provision of a fast ferry service towards Grand Harbour, Sliema and Sa Maison. The proposed tunnel is not just unacceptable because it reduces Gozo to the status of just another village but more so due to the enormous environmental impacts during both implementation and operation.
12. Malta is one of the driest countries yet it still lacks a National Water Plan. A Plan of this nature is developed hand-in-hand with a National Agriculture Plan as agriculture is both the largest consumer as well as the largest contaminant of our water resources. The water table (at least what’s left of it) must be protected as a national resource.
13. AD agrees with and supports the Zero Waste target by 2050 which target was established by the National Waste Management Strategy. It is not only essential that we increase our recycling rates but also that we encourage use of products made from recycled resources. Fiscal incentives have a definite role to play.
14. Legislation on the Public Domain needs to be implemented urgently as soon there will be nothing left to protect. The public, either directly or through environmental NGOs should be empowered to take legal action to address the non-observance of the legislation on Public Domain.
15. The rights of residents should be given more effective protection from noise pollution emanating from noisy activities taking place in residential areas. This does not only include construction activity but also from venues of entertainment in residential areas. Legislation regulating all sorts of noise is required and it should be enforced immediately.
16. Light pollution should be addressed more forcefully.
17. AD remains committed to enforcement action against all illegal buildings, but in particular is proposing anew the demolition of all the illegal boathouses at l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa (Armier, Little Armier, Torri l-Abjad) as well as those at St Thomas Bay and other zones.
18. While AD fully respects the results of the abrogative referendum on spring hunting it reaffirms that spring hunting is not sustainable. It is necessary that all the provisions of the Birds’ Directive are respected and in particular that bird trapping ceases immediately.