The Nationalist Party of Malta held a second general convention last weekend that mainly focused on the plight of the Maltese environment. The convention, entitled Idea Ambjent (Idea Environment – seriously, replace your marketing team), was held to come up with proposals if the PN where to be re-elected to office in 2018. Pardon my tardiness, but I also want to present some ideas that you may wish to include in your list of proposals.
Before presenting my suggestions, I wish to open with a quote from a Times of Malta article that was written on the final day of this conference:
“Dr Busuttil acknowledged that the ‘elephant in the room’ was the question whether a pro-environment PN could still win the general election”.
This statement evokes a lot of mixed feelings, as I personally believe that the ‘screaming white elephant doing somersaults in the room’ is the fact that Malta’s environmental track record is deteriorating with each passing day. While I do agree that development has a lot to do with this, it should not be the singular focus. The issue of development is not even an environmental one per se, but a situation created by poor enforcement, corruption and a non-functioning planning authority. It is very typical of the Maltese to place the environment into a box called ‘development’ or ‘air pollution’, and forget about anything and everything else. This notion has been very favourable to Maltese politicians over the past decade, as they have taken it in turns to use environmental terms such as “Sustainable Development”, “Emissions”, and “Clean Air” as buzzwords in their political discourse.
But before I further digress into an assault over how the environment is portrayed in the Maltese political field, let me present some Idejat for public consumption:
Take a stand against Spring Hunting
It is glaringly obvious at this point that the Nationalist Party is against this archaic, stupid and senseless practice, so stop beating about the bush and promise to abolish it once elected to power. People are sick and tired of these so-called hunters gallivanting around the Maltese countryside and shooting birds at a time when they should be breeding. Spring hunting is a conservation issue, and it should be the most straightforward environmental issue on the table. However, it has become a purely political one and people have lost sight of what is really at stake.
Dismantle the Armier boathouse shanty town
And please go one step further – demolish it, and have these illegal squatters foot the bill for illegally occupying public land for decades at the cost of law-abiding tax payers. If they feign poverty, simply tell them to politely F*** Off and take them to court to strip them of assets to pay for the rehabilitation of the stretches of environment they have destroyed. This might be a bit exaggerated, but these shanty towns are like cancers that keep on spreading and growing without control. So please do something about it, and while we’re at it check out some sites in Dwejra (Gozo) and Gnejna Bay.
Conserve our Waters
Draw up a proper Water Conservation strategy for Malta, by increasing the fines on the illegal abstraction of water from boreholes, and do away with contentious deals such as the one that was struck between GSD and the Maltese government. This plan should also include a proper analysis of the Flood Relief Programme, and investigations into whether it is feasible to have new and some of the existing dwellings feed rainwater directly into the water table (and NOT the sewage system). Feel free to consult one of the internationally qualified Maltese hydrologists on the issue. Which leads me to…
We want TECHNOCRATS!
Most level headed Maltese people are pretty sick and tired of politicians being lawyers, doctors, architects, dentists and economists. Gone are the days where we are thought that these professions know everything about anything. They don’t. I propose to the PN to include more technocrats and experts from the environmental field when drafting up policies. This should be especially done in the case of environmental NGOs, as they merit a greater voice and a proper position at the table. While you’re at it, if you are really serious about helping the environment, please allocate a budget to these organisations so that they conduct research, and employ scientifically trained personnel to assist them in their practices. I am confident that these people (myself included) can probably speak better for the Maltese environment than most MPs. WHICH leads me to…
Replace Marthese Portelli
She is incompetent in this role, so please do your homework and find a proper individual that has at least some experience in the environmental sector. You cannot expect us to take you seriously if your choice for potential Environment Minister is a lawyer or an architect, or in this case an IT and Business lawyer. It is nonsensical to parade Marthese Portelli at this conference and have her throw in a few big words such as “holsitic” and “sustainability”. She has proven countless times over the past two years that she has no idea what to do with the Environmental Portfolio (remember that Xarabank showdown between Marthese Portelli, Marlene Farrugia, and Deborah Schembri?). I know that the PN wants to have a lot of female MPs in the next general election, but this is classical positive discrimination – there are plenty of women that would make an excellent Environment Shadow Minister, Petra Caruana Dingli comes to mind.
Invest in the renewable energy sector
Or should I say, non-sector? More research should be allocated to developing proper energy alternatives for Malta, and there are several opportunities to obtain European Funding for such a purpose. There is no use dragging our feet on the issue, Malta will never reach its EU 2030 energy targets if it keeps on moving in its current trajectory.
Malta desperately needs a proper Traffic Management Plan in order to address air pollution and GHG emissions, and make Maltese transport more sustainable. This is probably the only thing that the current government is investing in through European Funding, with heavy investments in the infrastructures of main roads and intersections. However, we still need to figure out how we are going to handle all these excess vehicles on Maltese roads.
What can we say? After years of turning a blind eye to Charles Polidano’s illegal development at Hal Farrug and Montekristo (amongst others), I wonder how the PN would approach him in their new pro-environment mindset?
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The environment is not an ‘idea’, it is an actual living and breathing aspect of our daily life. The fact that the PN is simply proposing a convention on ‘environmental ideas’ is quite worrying, as it leads me to believe that they just want to hear some brilliant and fresh views, and then decide if they should implement them.
Back in 2011 and 2012, the PL decided to ride the equality and social wave after the divorce referendum of 2011, and it seems that the PN are also jumping on the bandwagon by riding the ‘rise in environmentalism’ wave after the spring hunting referendum of 2015. I just hope that it does not turn out to be as fake and constructed as the former, for the sake a Maltese environment that is collapsing under the shear weight of our consumerism and greed.
We do not want any more of these lacklustre conferences, but we want action – so expect to be held accountable when you assume office at some point in the future. Environmental NGOs have already warned the PN that they should be prepared to lose votes if they are serious about protecting our environment. Malta desperately needs a paradigm shift from a populist agenda into a bottom-up approach that is underpinned by proper environmental governance.