Lessons from Ramla l-Hamra (Talking point)
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Let me be blunt. If the government is faced with a situation similar to the Ramla l-Hamra one in future, it should seriously consider buying the property, demolishing it and restoring the area to its natural state. It should obviously do this before a permit is issued so the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) should be authorised to draw our attention to such exceptional cases. Having said that, I feel there are other lessons to be learnt from this issue.
I have been militating in favour of environmental issues for some years now. I can vouch for the fact that there is greater environmental awareness across the board now than there used to be a few years ago. I clearly recall being disappointed when prominent and respected NGOs were noncommittal when it came to the Mnajdra landfill issue, for instance. I recall being amazed when journalists who nowadays choose to associate themselves with green issues tried to belittle my efforts at stopping what many felt would have been a desecration of our historical and natural heritage. Times have changed.
It would be a pity if the environmental lobby started putting people off by allowing its over-enthusiasm to run amok. Inaccuracies and personal attacks may be dismissed as being acceptable by the devoted few but may turn the clock back to a time when environmentalists were dismissed as radical tree-huggers by the average man in the street. This would be a profound disservice to the cause and nullify the work of genuine activists such as the late Julian Manduca.
It was heartening to see members of the opposition participate in a pro-environment demonstration recently. I am relieved to see that so many Labour MPs and officials are green at heart. They are in a better position than I am to convince their leader and their party that some of their environmental ideas are misguided, to say the least. Declarations in favour of more golf courses and increased political intervention at Mepa are notable examples.
They should denounce the crusade against the modernisation of the antiquated Sant'Antnin recycling plant initially spearheaded by a Labour MEP and councillors and later taken up by Alfred Sant himself. All the allegations of irregularities in the issuing of the relevant permits have now even been rubbished by the European Commission. What a waste of time!
We're still lumped with a plant which is inefficient, outdated and a nuisance to residents who live close by because of all the delays.
We stood to lose millions of euros in direct aid from the EU because of the shenanigans we've had to assist to in the past two years.
The environment should not be used in an attempt at scoring cheap political points.
Safeguarding it should be universally acknowledged for what it is: A means of protecting our quality of life.
Mr Pullicino Orlando is a Nationalist MP.
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