A continuous effort to commercialise the coast is under way. It has been going on for quite some time.
The proposed Marsaskala yacht marina is just one example. It is possibly the latest of many examples, not just in the political south, but throughout the Maltese islands. The Freeport Terminal, Manoel Island, Balluta Bay, the Birgu Waterfront and yacht marina, the Kalkara yacht marina, Valletta Waterfront are some of the most glaring examples which come to mind.
There is also the ongoing commercialisation of the public spaces adjacent to the coast, including pavements and open spaces.
Public land is continuously being transformed into private profits, many times for the chosen few. In practically all cases, the quality of life of residents is not factored in, until the eleventh hour. Whenever possible, it is avoided completely.
It has been around four years since parliament approved legislation in order to reinforce the protection of the coastline through the public domain legislation. Much was said pompously by many a Minister. Environmental NGOs have submitted a list of over twenty sites along the coast which qualify for protection. I am informed that eNGOs have even carried out extensive research on ownership issues related to these sites. It is indeed unfortunate that the Lands Authority and the Planning Authority have ground the whole process to an unacceptable halt. This applies even in those instances where it is proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that the land in question is public property.
Why approve such laws when there is no intention to implement them?
We are aware that one of the main areas through which climate change will impact islands, including the Maltese islands, is through sea level rise. A number of low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean are already in the process of disappearing below a rising sea level. Robert Abela, Prime Minister, addressing the Glasgow Climate Change COP26 earlier this week emphasised this point.
A rise in sea level will have a substantial impact on the Maltese islands, depending on its extent. It will impact the coastal infrastructure: the maritime, tourism, as well as the water and electricity infrastructure are all linked to our coast. A sea level rise will play havoc with all this. It will even impact the residential areas which have been developed close to the coast.
No one is certain as to when, how and the extent of this happening. Primarily this is due to the fact the natural processes in play are not fully understood yet. It is also however possible that mitigation measures planned and in hand to reduce carbon emissions could be quite effective if taken up.
During UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change) meetings it is continuously emphasised that the increase in global mean temperature should not exceed 1.5 degree Celsius over the pre-industrial temperature. This is the result of extensive lobbying by island states and under-developed countries over the years. They have been successful in adjusting the objective from the previous 2 degree Celsius. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is not enough.
In Paris in 2015 this was already agreed upon. Yet it was all words, none of which was converted into action. At Glasgow we need some decisions which are implemented the soonest.
Taking definite action on climate change is required to protect our coast.
Published in The Malta independent – Sunday 7 November 2021