Nature Trust Malta - News
Tue, Nov 5, 2013
Nature Trust (Malta) concerned on new proposals for ODZ development
Nature Trust (Malta) would like to register its deep concern about the changes being proposed with regard to ODZ development and agrotourism. The new policy, particularly its introduction, requires clarification and allows for a very ambiguous and potentially dangerous interpretation, thus creating loopholes permitting inappropriate development in the countryside.
It is an incontrovertible fact that we Maltese have already ravaged most of our countryside, both rural and natural. If we do not reign ourselves in, measures such as this might well destroy the rest, even with the best of intentions. NTM notes that there are lots of instances where farmers are renting out land to speculators on the quiet, and these then do their utmost to build as many structures as they can in order to increase their profit margin, using all sorts of pretexts. The way this proposal is drafted, it will be condoning such behaviour. The ENGO encourages farmers to embrace true agrotourism principles, and believes that to do so they must remain in control of their enterprise, working on the land and carrying out truly sustainable activities.
What is indeed worrying is that the draft policy is too vague to allow proper control of development and gives the proposed deciding board a free hand in allowing new developments on virgin agricultural land. This concession violates the essential spirit of agrotourism which seeks a harmonious use of existing natural and rural resources. NTM welcomes all sustainable measures that may be taken to promote agrotourism, and any other initiatives which support local farmers in shifting to the kind of agriculture that protects the natural and cultural resources of the countryside. However any development should not have a larger footprint than that of the existing building, and should only be allowed on land which has already been built upon.
The draft proposal speaks of a permitted development of 400 sqr metres for every 60 tumoli of land. Unfortunately it does not specify whether ancillary services such as access roads and parking areas will be considered as forming part of the 400 sqr metre concession, or whether they will necessitate the committal of yet more agricultural land for development. In any case, parking facilities should be reduced to a minimum and concrete paving thereof should be avoided, so as to both safeguard the land and promote the use of collective means of transport such as private buses and mini-vans, with obvious benefits for the reduction of energy use as well as air and noise pollution.
Due to the present weakening of the agricultural sector, there are a large number of farms and other rural structures which are abandoned and crying out for maintenance if not total demolition. These may be easily utilised for agrotourism, and their careful restoration would become an attraction in itself provided it is carried out sensitively, in character with the surrounding rural area and landscape. Moreover, sparsely inhabited hamlets around the countryside are also ideally positioned for agrotourism projects, as are traditional houses located on the outskirts of rural villages. Since distances when compared to abroad are negligible, tourists may be accommodated in nearby villages and then ferried over to the site in a few minutes.
On account of its necessarily small scale, agrotourism in Malta has to be based on high product quality and uniqueness in order to succeed, and the conservation of land and efficient, wise use of resources should be key measures for attracting the discerning foreign tourist who will not be interested in accomodation facilities which spoil the surroundings. NTM therefore encourages MEPA and all other authorities involved to keep these principles in mind and amend the draft policy accordingly.
Fri, Oct 25, 2013
eNGOs concerned over massive development proposals for Villa Rosa and Cresta Quoy Lido
The eNGOs Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth, Nature Trust (Malta) and Ramblers Association (Malta) express their deep concern over the massive proposed development of the gardens known as the Villa Rosa complex at St. George’s Bay, St. Julian’s, along with the nearby coastal development on the site of the old Cresta Quay Lido.
The Villa Rosa site is one of the last green enclaves in an already intensely over-developed area, combining a scheduled building and ecological oasis, which not only provides an essential green lung for the area but also constitutes a potential tourist attraction as it is. The site includes an old palazzo which is a Grade 1 scheduled building therefore its gardens are also protected by Malta’s Heritage Act : “Grade 1: Buildings of outstanding architectural or historical interest that shall be preserved in their entirety. Demolition or alterations which impair the setting or change the external or internal appearance, including anything contained within the curtilage of the building, will not be allowed.”
Many of the trees in this wooded site are protected by virtue of their age and species; moreover they serve to reduce air pollution in this congested area.
The site also hosts an enormous protected cave, Ħark il-Ħamiem, containing fresh water which is unique in the Maltese Islands and has yet to be studied in terms of its faunistic content, geological makeup and hydrological implications
. This cave links up with Wied Ħark Ħamiem, a valley which is legally designated as a Special Area of Conservation and which, although small in size, is rich in fauna and flora which are protected at law. The high level of protection given to both valley and cave is apparent from the MEPA website itself wherein it is stated that : “The core area of the valley and the underground cave are still being given the highest degree of protection (Level 1). A Buffer Zone (Level 4) is also being established to safeguard the importance and integrity of the entire valley”.
The eNGOS are extremely concerned and call upon the authorities to ensure that no development permit is granted on this unique enclave. Not only would the development have an enormous impact on all of this already overdeveloped bay, it would have a major impact on the ecology of this protected area, while the traffic and pollution generated, both during construction and after, would be detrimental to the residents, flora and fauna.
The Cresta Quay site spreads over part of the foreshore of St. George’s Bay, a favourite with tourists and one which boasts the prestigious Blue Flag certification. Hence, in order to safeguard the aesthetic characteristics of the beach and to protect the public’s right to fully enjoy it, the eNGOs recommend that:
i) According to Maltese law, the seashore is public property, therefore public access to the foreshore should be ensured throughout the site, and absolutely no development should be permitted on the rocky coastline which forms part of the same site;
ii) The scenic integrity of the location must be respected; therefore, no part of the proposed development should block the view of the sea from any part of the promenade along Dragonara Road;
iii) This development is only permissible for touristic purposes; therefore, no change in use to residential use is to be allowed.
Both sites concerned contain a number of mature trees, some of which have unfortunately recently declined. Those remaining should as far as possible be left in place.
The eNGOs urge the relevant authorities to take their comments and recommendations into account in view of the site’s legally-protected status, that it is a precious green lung in this over-developed, polluted area, and also in view of the fact that the public regards over-development as its greatest environmental problem.
Sat, Sep 28, 2013
Governments action: all that’s missing as new report confirms climate crisis
Governments have been handed a firm mandate to act decisively on the climate crisis by a new report released today in Stockholm by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), . Nature Trust Malta stated to-day.
The first installment on the physical science basis of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report - signed off by 110 nations after its summary was negotiated line by line in Stockholm this week – said it was more certain than ever before that human activities were responsible for climate change. For the first time, the IPCC gives a global budget for the total amount of carbon pollution that cannot be exceeded if we are to meet the international goal of preventing devastating levels of global warming that will occur beyond 2C. – that figure is 1 trillion tonnes. But that the world’s nations already burnt through half of this, and at the current rate, they will have exhausted the entire budget within 30 years.
With climate impacts continuing to mount in the real world, reducing carbon pollution levels quickly and dramatically was vital to stay within that threshold.
“The report confirms what ENGOs have been saying for the last decade – that the planet is heating up, sea level rise is accelerating, the rate of Arctic sea ice retreat has doubled, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets is happening faster, and the oceans are acidifying,” Vincent Attard, executive president of Nature Trust Malta said.
One of the most significant steps forward in the IPCC’s first assessment report in five years is the amount of new information about how climate change will impact regions around the world. For the Mediterranean region and thus Malta the projections are particularly grim.
“This report shows that the science on climate change is clear. The debate about who is responsible is over. People rightly demand that governments tackle the climate risk posed to our communities and economies. Governments should use the report as the backbone of a climate plan to dramatically reduce emissions, and flick the switch to renewable energy, thereby securing a safer, fairer and happier future for the world.”
“NTM urges the Maltese Government to champion again this issue and urge speedy and extensive action by Mediterranean nations in what is a currently stalled process (the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative). Malta must also advocate ambitious EU targets for 2020 and 2030 for greenhouse gas emission reductions, renewable energy use, energy efficiency as well as for climate change aid to developing nations, including especially those in the Southern Mediterranean.“
Representatives of the world’s governments will go to Warsaw in November for the UN climate negotiations. The report will be critical for all countries asked by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to bring “strong pledges” to a summit on climate action next September – ahead of the 2015 conference in France which is tasked with agreeing a global climate action plan.
The summary report by the IPCC can be downloaded on - www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24282150
Sat, Sep 28, 2013
400kg of Waste Collected at Ġnejna Bay
(PR issued by the Malta Medical Students Association and Nature Trust Malta)
On 19th September 2013 the SCORP (Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace) branch of the Malta Medical Students Association and Nature Trust Malta organised a Beach Cleanup event at Ġnejna Bay, Mġarr.
The event started at 5pm when a stand was set up on the beach itself with a number of informative leaflets and material for the activity. Following a talk by Jeffrey Sciberras from Nature Trust (Malta) about the ecology of the area and its surroundings the cleanup started. The group was divided into three: one group snorkelling for submerged waste, another collecting waste from the beach itself and a large group collecting waste from what is left of the sand dunes.
The amount of waste collected reached the staggering amount of 400kg, in just two hours and ranged from the usual plastic cups, plates and bottles to oil drums, car parts, discarded furniture, carpets and an old boat trailer. Unfortunately most waste was non-recyclable or else had some degree of contamination in the form of rust or food remains and could not be recycled.
Nature Trust (Malta) and the Malta Medical Student Association would like to thank the local council of Mġarr and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority for the support given during this event.