Government preparing new initiatives for national waste management plan – Jose Herrera

Environment minister Jose Herrera says the government is preparing a number of initiatives for a national plan for waste management • Opposition accuses government of choosing development over the environment

Photo: Chris Mangion
Photo: Chris Mangion

The government would be announcing a number of intitiatives in the coming weeks on how it would be implementing a national plan on waste management, according to environment minister Jose Herrera.

The minister, who was speaking in parliament on the 2017 budget estimates for the ministry for sustainable environment, environment and climate change, said that separate organic waste collection had been extended to nine regions in Malta, as well across all of Gozo.

Organic waste was the major cause of the foul smells generated by the Maghtab landfill, and further separate collection of organic waste, as well as a broader participation by the public, would be of great help in controlling the odours.

Herrera said that Eurostat statistics showed Malta was one of the EU countries that spent most on the environment, with 1.6% of GDP spent on the protection of the environment.

And the 2017 budget allocated 8% more funds to the ministry than had been put aside in the previous budget, a clear sign of the government’s green credentials, that were immeditely clear when the Environment Resources Authority (ERA) was set up, he said.

The ERA had proven its autonomy in many instances since inception, and will continue to focus on new legislation, including waste management, protected sites and species, pecial protect aread and wildlife trafficking.

Herrera said the ministry would be revising the national strategy for sustainable development, according to parameters established by the EU and the United Nations.

Parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes said that despite all its criticism, the opposition failed to recommend alternative proposals and a vision of its own for sectors like animal welfare.

He criticised PN MP Mario Galea for not verifying information people might pass on to him before attacking public officials or departments.

It was not true, for example, that 130 dogs were currently being housed in Ghammieri; in fact, there were 38 dogs currently being looked after there, he said.

Galdes thanked all animal welfare department staff for the hard work they carry out on a daily basis, including a Nationalist Party MP and candidate.

He also praised the new animal hospital in Ta’ Qali, built by a private company that invested €1.4 million in the project, and said this was much different than the veterinary clinic that had been built by the previous administration and that had not even been compliant with department standards.

As to the promised pet cemetery, Galdes said this project was still being evaluated, to ensure it would be financially viable and to tackle all bureaucratic processes before proceeding.

Galdes said that, with regards to the opposition’s criticism on the failure to build a breakwater in Marsaxlokk, a tender had just been issued for a study on the soil and rockbed in the area, and the project could not proceed before this was completed.


Opposition criticises government’s environmental policies


Opposition spokesperson Marthese Portelli described the Environment Resources Authority (ERA) was toothless, despite what was laid down on paper, because Castille preferred it this way.

She called on ERA to insist that minister Konrad Mizzi publish the security report for the LNG tanker and power plant in Marsaxlokk, since he had only produced a safety report, despite his claims to the opposite.

“Is ERA confident that they can review the 15,000 pages of the LNG power plant reports in time, with only a 10-day extension granted, and to obtain technical opinions on the provisions in the reports?”

Portelli criticised the fact that the environment ministry had not been consulted by the Planning Authority when it drew up the proposed master plan for Paceville.

She said the new development would lead greater pollution, more transport use and greater waste generation, but the environment ministry was not even consulted.

“It is ironic that the project also includes plans for the existing open and green spaces to be taken up for development,” she said. “The plan then calls for the government to buy private property so as to develop open spaces.”

Portelli bemoaned the absence of the environment ministry in meetings of the Environment and Planning Committee, particularly in recent meetings which discussed the Paceville master plan and the proposed height changes to old people’s homes.

“Many existing old people’s homes are located in Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs) and Outside Development Zone (ODZ) and the input of the environment ministry would have been critical.

Opposition MP Mario Galea said that animal welfare was barely addressed in the 2017 budget estimates, despite serious shortcomings in enforcement and within the animal welfare directorate.

“The 1717 helpline very often goes unanswered, while among 10 new employees transferred to the directorate were a senior clerk, a health assistant and even a plumber,” he said. “One wonders who much training in caring for animals these people have, and whether they even love animals.”

Galea also called on parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes to deal with veterinary services head Robert Balbo, under whom a number of incidents had led to the death and mistreatment of animals.

“In Ghammieri, 500 finches died because of the cold, while in Gozo a horse died of malnourishment,” he said. “Why don’t you have Balbo answer for these incidents? Is he untouchable?”

The lack of enforcement was what characterised Galdes’ secrteriat, Galea said.

“This even led to all the NGOs dealing with animal welfare to get together in a protest against the lack of enforcement in our country,” he said.

“Galdes attended that protest march, but little did he realise that the NGOs were protesting against his very own failure to protect animals.”

PN MP Anthony Bezzina praised the budget scheme on the transfer of agricultural land, but said he hoped that all departments, including the Lands Department, would cooperate in the process.

He criticised the fact the despite the government’s commitment to invest €8 million in a breakwater for Marsaxlokk, which had been requested for many years by fishermen, this had still not materialised after many years.

Bezzina slammed Electrogas for a statement the company issued on Monday, in which it claimed that the heavy storms over the weekend had not caused any damage whatsoever to the LNG tanker berthed at the power plant in Marsaxlokk bay.

“Everyone knows that northeasterly winds do not affect the bay,” he said. “What is worrying many is what will happen in the case of a storm from the south or south-east, as that is when the bay is at its most vulnerable.”

MP Ryan Callus called on environment minister Jose Herrera to explain whether fish farm operators were adhering to the plan established for the relocation of illegal fish farms.

He also asked Herrera why a promised legislation to allow a substitute representative of ERA to attend PA board meetings when chairman Victor Axiak could not be present, had not as yet been introduced.


Marlene Farrugia: ‘Government betraying electoral promises’


Independent MP Marlene Farrugia, leader of the Democratic Party, said that while the country might be enjoying economic success at the moment, but it was definitely heading to an environmental poverty that would be irreversible and devastating.

“If the government is choosing a roadmap that is different than that which had been promised before the election, it should bring this new direction to a new vote for the people to decide,” she said.

Farrugia said that the Labour government came to government also because of its pro-environment stance and promises, but it was now protecting and promoting development and a ‘cosmopolitan vision’.

She said that, as things now stood, the Labour government would be leaving the country’s environment in a much worse state than it had found it.