Green NGOs say 'politicians have no place at MEPA'

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Ramblers, FoE and MOAM say government publicity on MEPA demerger is incorrect and misleading

Environment NGOs today lashed out at the “incorrect and misleading” publicity issued by government on the MEPA demerger and insisted that environmental and planning policies and decisions should be left to technical experts.

“In a bid to justify the new MEPA laws which increase politicians’ stranglehold on planning and environment, government publicity is giving incorrect and misleading messages,” the NGOs said.

The eNGO stressed that contrary to what is being claimed by government, “at no point did the eNGOs Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Ramblers’ Association, Friends of the Earth or MOAM give unconditional support to the splitting of MEPA.”

They said that eNGOs would only support the MEPA demerger if this strengthened the environment sector which it said always comes second to development interests. 

“The split or ‘demerger’ now being proposed weakens the protection of environment, with the new Environment Authority being reduced to just another government entity to be consulted at whim,” they added.

The statement also pointed out that NGOs will only be able to appeal against MEPA decisions in regards to development applications which have to submit Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs) or Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) assessment, “which only make up a fraction of MEPA’s caseload.”

“The reality is that by sidelining the Environment Authority, the new regulations further weaken the protection of Malta’s environment and out of development zones,” they said.   

The new law, the eNGOs said, also ignores the impact of development on residents, as social impact is completely left out of the matters to be taken into account in the new Spatial Strategy policy.

“The overriding drive of the new planning legislation is the strengthening of the Minister’s control over planning matters, not only in the appointment of board members, but also in the granting or withholding of information to the public.”

The eNGOs warned that politicians “have no place at MEPA” and policies and decisions should be left to technical experts, with the backing of professional and impartial studies, which have been missing from all recent policies.

“The only reform that will make a difference to Malta’s open spaces, to improving the well-being of residents, support of tourism and the economy is a reform in politicians’ commitment to the environment,” they said.