With reference to the Report on the Sustainable Development Goals ranking issued recently, Nature Trust – FEE Malta notes sadly that our country has slipped eight places since 2017 and is falling behind other EU countries.
Although the economy of our Islands is today booming, one cannot neglect other areas that form part of the Sustainable Development Goals such as social issues, the well-being of society and the environment. Despite the work being done by various NGOs and also the President’s Foundation for Well-Being of Society, which has been a leader in promoting the SDG targets for 2030, Nature Trust believes that, since the Government and national authorities appear not to have a serious political commitment to social and environmental issues, it should come as no surprise that we have lost our ground in the world rankings.
Malta could serve as a classic example of how to reach the targets of the SGD. Just as Malta once championed the issues of climate change at the United Nations, putting this issue higher on the agenda, the Island could have positioned itself to be a world leader again in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through wise use of the economic benefits we have achieved.
Today, excessive and unsustainable development and the steady loss of green open spaces for families to enjoy, coupled with transport and traffic congestion, the spiralling cost of housing, obesity problems and lack of law enforcement on environmental protection, have become the order of the day. Economic gains made by a country should never be limited to providing a horizontal benefit.
The NGO urges our political parties to work on long-term strategies and not just 5-year programmes. Only in this way can we reach the UN targets and pass on a better life to future generations; otherwise, we will only be remembered as the generation promoting short-sightedness and avarice.
Nature Trust – FEE Malta welcomes the decision taken by the PA appeals Board not to give the green light to further construction - an old people’s home – in Wied Ghomor valley. Such a development, had it gone ahead, would have dealt a fatal hatchet blow to yet another green corridor connecting to the rest of Malta’s green areas. Such corridors are important for our already endangered biodiversity and the construction of yet another development would have further threatened their survival.
NT- FEE Malta hopes that this is just the first sign that the PA is truly moving towards sustainable development and the protection of our natural heritage from unsustainable development projects
The eNGO also welcomes the position taken by the Minister of Environment to grant Wied Ghomor protection from further development. The organisation believes that all valleys in our Islands should be protected both for their ecological value and also for their role in water conservation.
Our wildlife Rescue Unit rescues an average of 200 hedgehogs each year. Some do not make it due to road kills and, we often find baby hedgehogs which require attention next to their dead mother on the tarmac.
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Nature Trust – FEE Malta who has been supporting the residents of San Gwann, Swieqi and St Julian’s in favour of protecting Wied Ghomor for over 2 years, hopes that the appeals tribunal will decide the case based on the common good – not just for the residents of the surrounding towns but for all Maltese residents and those yet to share our heritage in the future.
It is about time that the Planning Authority stops appeasing developers by allowing ODZ land to be developed under the excuse that it is degraded. The quarry in caption which, after just 15 years lying idle has already showed signs of natural colonization, could be very easily be rehabilitated into an adventure area – a much needed space for youth and adventurers of all ages. In a country which sadly ranks worst in Europe in having the highest obesity rates and consequential diseases, such spaces would encourage an active lifestyle and mitigate the pollution generated in the areas due to the high density of built-up areas – which are doomed to increase with the development of Villa Rosa area, the ex-ITS area and Paceville – all of which lie in the vicinity.
Nature Trust – FEE Malta is seriously concerned about the proposed development of agricultural land in various areas around Malta. In the last few days, NT-FEE Malta was made aware of two potentially large developments in the southern part of the island – an extension of the Bulebel Industrial Area on agricultural land and the construction of a fast food franchise outlet in Zabbar, in an area that also includes some agricultural land.
Besides the fact that land from ODZ is appearing to be systematically wiped off to be built for numerous projects, these potential developments on agricultural land also go against the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, adopted in September 2015 by 193 countries, including Malta.
Global Goal #2 aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”
Food security, as defined by the United Nations, exists when people have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Development of agricultural land places this concept at risk as the already limited agricultural sector will be compromised and reduced in size, rendering Malta less capable of producing food for its citizens and increasing the likelihood of a foreign dependency for food production, at a cost.
Targets within this goal state that by 2030 countries should end all forms of malnutrition by increasing agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers and ensuring sustainable food production systems. One target also focuses on obesity. In the latest report drawn up by the United Nations, Malta is shown to perform quite poorly with staggering rates of obesity. It is quite ironic that land in ODZ is planned to be taken up by a fast food franchise that may contribute to the prevailing obesity epidemic.
Nature Trust – FEE Malta commends the national clean up event organised by Let’s Do it Malta and JCI on Saturday where tons of litter were collected from every corner around Malta. It was great to see citizens and foreigners all eager to clean up our island and countryside from what other very irresponsible people leave behind or dump irresponsibly.
NT-FEE Malta now hopes that the authorities will pull up their socks and make sure what was cleaned remains clean and that law enforcement is enforced. It is about time that the law backs such initiatives. The NGO stated that despite various clean ups it and other NGOs do, after just a few weeks most of the sites end up full of litter again.
Nature Trust said that in Pembroke alone over 750kgs of waste were collected by some 160 volunteers including the AFM, Leave Pembroke Alone, Nature Trust volunteers and many foreigners.
A lot more remains in an area where alien acacia trees grow and are becoming a common hideaway from litter tippers when they drive into the area with their vehicles and dump all they have. NT-FEE Malta has been working with the Environment Resource Authority, MTA and the Local council to have these trees removed and replaced with local flora for some time now, especially since acacia not only cause harm to the garigue habitat at Pembroke but are now hiding illegal activities.
NT-FEE Malta stresses that it is about time green rangers are deployed in Natura 2000 sites to ensure that people do not litter again and heavy fines should be imposed to law breakers. The authorities should wake up and support the public and not expect the public to clean time and time again litter that will accumulate in such sites within a few days. Law abiding citizens are not there to support law breakers who do not have the decency to get rid of their litter the legal way and then wait for others to do it for them while the authorities just watch.
NTM is concerned on how the major political Parties are putting aside the Environment and our natural heritage
On Tuesday 5th September Nature Trust Malta released 3 hedgehogs in the presence of Minister Herrera and some members of the Nature Trust Wildlife Rescue volunteers together with the family of Christina Magrin – winner of the Junior Eurovision Contest 2016.
Two of the hedgehogs were born in rehab from a mother hedgehog who was on rehab after she was found by Christina and her sister Karla Magrin . They called Nature Trust Rescue and it was discovered that the hedgehog was in fact blind from one eye. Under vet’s orders the hedgehog could not be returned to the wild due to her permanent disability. A few weeks later while recovering and in rehab – it gave birth to two hoglets. These hoglets were kept with their mum who nurtured them until they were independent . The hoglets were trained to eat natural food such as snails and insects. At 24 weeks they were deemed old enough to be released in the wild. Another adult hedgehog which was rescued with a minor injury the week before and which had recovered after medication, also joined the release. All 3 hedgehogs were released in the Wied Ghollieqa nature reserve .
Minster Hererra congratulated Nature Trust – FEE Malta on this laudable initiative. He added that it was indispensable for the future of our beautiful country to preserve at all costs our local fauna
Nature Trust – FEE Malta reminded that the Algerian Hedgehog which is native to the Maltese islands is a protected species and therefore it is illegal to keep as a pet . During the present year already various hedgehogs have been rescued by the Wildlife Volunteers and assisted by the Voluntary Vets with the NGO. NT-FEE Malta appealed to the public not to remove hedgehogs unless injured as hedgehogs seen could be mothers out hunting during the night to feed their young
Nature Trust – FEE Malta applauds the efforts done by the Church in Malta to increase
awareness about the importance of the protection of trees and the need to revamp current legislation to protect those trees which have no protection status. The idea of incorporating trees into the aesthetics of the landscape and their consequential protection is to be
commended and legislated. This comes at a time when the Church is joining all the Christians around the world to celebrate the Season of Creation (1st September to 4th October).
NT-FEE Malta is noting that the ongoing onslaught on trees along roads is short-sighted and short-term, as widening a road section would still lead to bottlenecks elsewhere. Improved
public transport and better incentives for students, frequent commuters and cyclists is the way forward. Where trees have to be removed adequate compensation must be sought in the form of the planting of new indigenous trees, if possible within the same locality. To this end, NT-FEE Malta asks whether long term plans exist to ensure that an adequate supply of local indigenous stock exists. Importing indigenous trees would lead to genetic pollution of
the local stock and the high risk of pest infestations from imports as happened in the past, despite the protective measures in place.
On this occasion of Interfaith Celebration of Creation, NT-FEE Malta would like to see the authorities concerned show a committed and wider appreciation and protection of local biodiversity. In particular, it urges the Environment and Resources Authority to take into account protected fauna when issuing the development permit conditions for applications on abandoned fields, especially those found within scheme. Most often such areas are the
last enclave for protected species such as hedgehogs, shrews, snakes, chameleons and bats.
ERA must ensure that such species be safeguarded through a well-planned relocation exercise which must be borne by the developer of the site. On many occasions, Nature Trust has been receiving calls reporting animals fleeing or being killed during excavation works. It is useless to have laws protecting local biodiversity when these are being
flagrantly ignored by the authorities.
The 2017 Christian Season of Creation (1st September to 4th October) in Malta and Gozo, will be launched by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna during a Solemn Mass at St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta, on Saturday 2nd September, at 6pm. The Mass will follow prayers for creation which will be said in all churches in Malta and Gozo on 1st September.
A closing Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Mario Grech, at the Conventual Franciscan Church in Republic Street, Valletta, on Sunday 1st October at 10:30 a.m.
The events marking the Season of Creation, organised jointly by the Church Environment Commission (KA) and Nature Trust Malta (NTM), include a visit to Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park and Sustainable Development Centre on 24th September at 9:00 a.m. A talk on Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ will be delivered by Professor Paul Pace of the University of Malta. A photographic exhibition will also be held in Gozo during the month of September.
On 4th October, a public meeting entitled “Laudato Si’: Interfaith and Secular perspectives on the care for creation”, will be held at the Millennium Chapel, Paceville, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Speakers include representatives of Christian faith, Jews, Muslims, as well as representatives of environmental NGOs and Mediterranean regional organisations. Mgr Alessandro D’Errico, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malta, and Mr Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will also address the meeting. This meeting will precede the international conference ‘Our Ocean’, organised by the European Union on 5th and 6th October in St Julian’s.
Mario Camenzuli, KA Chairperson said: “All Maltese are invited to reflect and focus on how they care for their environment, both in the home and outside, and on how they can possibly make up for the damage to our common home by an egocentric lifestyle. I encourage you all to attend the celebrations of Mass, to give thanks for the wonderful creation we live in and to commit ourselves to its care. But please also organise your own events, big or small, in your
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residence, street, parish, school or place of work. Let us know what you decide to do by writing to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Vincent Attard: NTM President said: “Malta’s environmental challenges will intensify with the growing impacts of climate change – on summer and winter temperatures, rainfall, the erosion of our coasts and survival of our unique biodiversity. All these added to the problems we are facing right now. The Christian Season of Creation is an ideal moment for citizens to focus on what they can do and on what they believe needs to be done by the authorities and key sectors of the economy to deliver solutions”.
The Season of Creation was initiated in 1989 by the Orthodox Patriarchy of Constantinople and is now observed by all Christian churches worldwide. On Friday morning, 1st September, Pope Francis will issue a message to mark the start of the Season. A network of international Christian NGOs is coordinating activities around the world and organising an online prayer service on 16th September – www.seasonofcreation.org – addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other religious leaders.