FAA slams budget’s ‘random and incoherent’ environmental measures

Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar says 2015 Budget environmental measures are half-hearted  

FAA co-coordinator Astrid Vella
FAA co-coordinator Astrid Vella

Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) today said the environmental provisions in the 2015 Budget “are random, lacking in coherence and planning.”

FAA added that the measures announced yesterday “seem no more than a half-hearted effort to fill the total lack of environmental provisions in the draft budget – a Freudian slip revealing the lack of importance that this Government accords to the environment.”

The NGO said undertaking a study to evaluate the possibility of creating green belts around building zones may sound good on paper, but is so vague and remote as to be no more than a questionable promise, especially since changes in the ODZ policy actually encourage construction in the green belt.

Similarly, FAA said it is “hugely cynical to propose a law on Climate Change while failing to implement EU energy efficiency laws, granting permits for the destruction of trees and pouring storm-water into the sea.”

On the other hand, FAA described provisions to reduce traffic congestion as coherent, underlining measures to introduce intelligent traffic management systems, the long-overdue staggering of school runs, incentivising car-pooling and the use of electrical bicycles as well as increasing harbour ferry destinations. 

The raising of daily fees for cranes should hopefully also contribute to diminishing street congestion, the NGO said.  

FAA pointed out that it had long called for tangible efforts to promote employment opportunities in Gozo and welcomed the creation of job opportunities. 

It also noted the mention that Comino “can no longer remain anarchy” and expressed hope that the promised reorganisation of the island’s beaches finally materialises.

Turning to heritage, FAA said further investment in the sector is essential to Malta’s identity and tourism sector.

“While the long-awaited restoration of the old Valletta market is welcome, it is hoped that money allocated to move the Monti does not serve to undermine the upgrading of the capital.  No budget has been allocated to the restoration of Lower St Elmo and other important heritage buildings which continue to deteriorate.”

While commending the restoration of Argotti Botanic Garden, FAA said that considering that Malta is the country with the least urban green recreational areas in the EU, the budget should have included an allocation for the creation of new parks, instead of which we are seeing the privatisation of existing public gardens like that of Ta’ Xbiex.

“Yet again Government failed to civil assist the voluntary sector by declaring it VAT-free and extending the tax rebate on donations to all registered voluntary associations,” FAA added.

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