If it is wrong, then bloody well fix it

The Planning Authority issues a permit in the environs of a government owned Natura 2000 site managed by Birdlife Malta.  A decision which shows the tunnel vision of this authority and its intention to serve the building lobby without question 

BirdLife Malta addressing a protest at Simar Nature Reserve
BirdLife Malta addressing a protest at Simar Nature Reserve

For years now, since the ascendancy of Joseph Muscat and subsequently the election of Robert Abela as prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, the standard answer to any request to review the local plans introduced by the Gonzi administration and spearheaded by George Pullicino has been a standard riposte: “We cannot review these local plans since it would set a legal precedent.”     

In other words: ‘If we change the local plans we will be faced with court actions by land owners calling for compensation from the government.’ 

This is not only a lame excuse but a bogus argument.   

If this was correct, then the best political decision would be to scrap Project Green and divert all the millions being spent there to compensate the lucky owners of the lands that were included in the local plans (according to Labour in 2006 in a corrupt manner). 

In my eyes and the eyes of many, nothing is more important and vital than the preservation of this country’s unspoilt footprint.   

In other words; give me terraced fields, patches of carob trees and garigue rather than a well organised irrigated garden with exotic trees and pathways created to give us a false illusion of a green paradise in an urban setting. 

And yet the argument that the local plans and policies cannot be changed does not seem to have had an impact on the changes made at the Planning Authority by this administration. The new height limitation policies introduced after 2013 altered our skylines and the small changes in policy for rural dwellings have seen our countryside sprouting villas and bungalows by the dozen.  Not to mention the policies which challenged the meaning of our urban conservation areas. 

The changes to the policies fell in line with the demands of the Malta Developers Association then captained by Sandro Checuti and allowed the building industry to pillage what is left of our country in urban areas and the countryside. Malta and Gozo is a veritable picture postcard of Beirut, or shall we say Kharkiv. 

To placate the environmental lobby which until now has been disjointed and not coordinated, various agencies have been created. From ERA, which is a toothless animal with limited executive powers, to a plethora of other agencies that supposedly regulated activities in the greater design of things. 

We have the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) responsible for making hunters more privileged under the wings of the Gozo Ministry (because the Gozo minister is a hunter); the Malta Tourism Authority with the responsibility to issue licences to certain activities related to tourism, including managing Comino; and others such as Ambjent Malta (or is it Project Green?)  responsible for the preservation of biodiversity. 

The latest incarnation of a government agency is Project Green, which has the noble aim of greening our urban areas backed by a massive budget.  All initiatives do not seem to remotely placate the environmental lobby who thankfully can see through the smokescreen.  There are other agencies, but it would take out too much space here.  And please note I have left out the Planning Authority for fear of stating the obvious. 

Reacting to this new movement of environmentalists, politicians are trying their best to show that they care. Most of the leading politicians are too close to the building industry to be sincere about this. Others know that the economy is buzzing primarily because of the real estate industry and embracing this industry under the false impression that everyone is a dependant on it. 

And politicians continue to believe that people will not vote on environmental issues. There are indications that this may not be the case anymore and not voting is a consideration that politicians need to address. 

The latest reaction to this environmental revival has led the Nationalist Party to call for an addition to the Constitution that safeguards the rights of the environment and the right of the individual to raise hell whenever they see fit. 

Anyone with a remote understanding of the Constitution knows all too well that this is tokenism at its best.  You cannot get any sillier. 

We need to get real about the environment. 

We are past being apologetic about the way we have mistreated our environment. I do not really care if people get offended. When we pass to the other world, the footprint that would have been built over will never be returned to out future generations.  The only thing left will be the roads named after politicians, and the bronze statues of our Prime Ministers. 

Robert Abela has an obligation to his country and to no one else, to take the plunge and take the decisions that will save this country from anarchy and greed. He needs a long term vision against short term gain. 

To argue that the local plans cannot change is false. In the south of France and Spain, elected officials reviewed their planning policies and pulled down ugly hotels that had ruined their beaches. They took courageous decisions that were supported by the public and civil society. 

In Malta this should have happened when the old Excelsior was wrecked and demolished for another hotel. The values of 1969, which accepted the fact that the Valletta bastions could be spoilt by a hotel (though Din l-Art Helwa under the worthy leadership of Maurice  Caruana Curran objected to this) surely have been overshadowed by the new values of 2023. 

Protecting our national footprint is all about courage and the belief that we owe it to our children that they inherit a country which they can be proud of. Beyond the bank accounts, opulent homes and fast cars, we also have a country to look after. 

The Lorry Sants, George Pullicinos and other politicians and government appointed cronies who found more pleasure in cement and asphalt will be remembered for disfiguring this country.  I will make sure that they will remembered that way. 

There is one last chance, and whether he likes it or not the immediate future of our threatened countryside and country is in the Prime Minister’s hands. 

The time to act is now.