K(No)w holes barred
Groundwater is a precious natural resource that must be safeguarded. At present, in Malta, about 34 million cubic metres of groundwater are extracted every year, 11 million cubic metres more than the recommended annual quota.
As part of a series of measures to ensure that groundwater is used responsibly, yesterday I announced that all water bowser owners have until the end of this month to apply for a licence to transport and sell water according to a set of regulations that came into force recently. These regulations mandate that bowsers must be equipped with a loading cell and an electronic tracking device that would indicate how much water is being carried and would monitor the vehicle's movements. Eventually, boreholes would also be metered.
The water bowsers will be labelled to indicate what kind of water they are licensed to carry, be it potable water, secondary water (good for irrigation) or sea water.
This initiative forms part of our strategy to discourage unlawful groundwater extraction and follows the process initiated last year by the MRA, which had called for the obligatory registration of boreholes.
The easier path to take is surely that of inaction but we are very conscious of the consequences of over-extraction and we are therefore acting in a responsible manner to safeguard the water table - November 17.
Putting money where our brain is
Work. This is the theme of next year's Budget: A Budget that safeguards employment and creates training opportunities. In this Budget, the government also substantially increased the national vote for research and innovation.
Some of the measures to encourage research include the doubling of the Fund for Research and Innovation to €700,000, a refund of 15.2 per cent on expenses for approved research projects on which tax had been paid, a grant of €500,000 for the creation of the Malta University Research, Innovation and Development Trust Fund to support research at the University and its application to industry and the drafting of a national strategy for the development of digital games. Over and above all this, the government decided to extend the scheme 20 Million For Industry initiative by an additional investment of €7 million after the success obtained over the past months.
This is a Budget that is also characterised by funds allocated for infrastructural and embellishment projects. No less than €430 million have been voted for such projects.
Having millions of euros injected in our economy will also lead to the generation of more jobs.
Some of the projects that my ministry has been entrusted with include the rehabilitation of the bastions, the embellishment and creation of new facilities at the Qui-Si-Sana promenade in Sliema and the continuation of works at the Marsaxlokk seafront as well as 10 embellishment projects in tourist areas, extensions of recreational spaces, including a new national park at Delimara, and others.
Above all, this Budget will be honouring 72 electoral promises. And all this is being accomplished within the first two years of the Legislature by a government that does not only pay lip service but is one that delivers - November 11.
Free for all
November 9, 1989 - the day Berlin Wall fell - I was taking part in a meeting of the Christian Democrat youths in Brussels. Someone interrupted our meeting with the incredible news.
At first we thought he was pulling our leg because we simply couldn't believe our ears. This historic date meant liberty and freedom for millions of people "entrapped" for decades behind the Iron Curtain that had split the world down the middle into two opposing camps that, on more than one occasion, were on the brink of nuclear warfare.
People living behind the Iron Curtain were shackled both politically and economically. We could sympathise with them on both counts to a certain degree because we had had a taste of both, although definitely not to the same extent as our Polish or Czech colleagues.
Twenty years later, these countries have made great political and economic strides forward. Today, no fewer than 10 of them are members of the European Union, millions of people travel, work and invest freely in other countries. Democracy in these countries has been permitted to blossom once more.
In the midst of all this, we need to recall what happened in Yugoslavia, where, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, atrocities were committed that Europe hadn't witnessed since World War II. About 140,000 people died in the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo because nationalism, religion and, probably, also an unsatiable yearning for power, overthrew reason.
The victory for democracy and a market economy cannot be taken for granted. Sometimes, because of pride and xenophobia, mankind goes to extremes that defy logic. Democracy needs to be continually safeguarded, not merely by defending it and by promoting human rights but also by improving the quality of life for one and all - November 9.
Over the last couple of days I visited the ongoing works in the Salini canal known as the "sukkursu", which have permitted the water around the salt pans to circulate once again, thereby abolishing the stench of stagnant water previously spoiling the area. Over the last 20 to 30 years, mud, vegetation and other debris had clogged the water course to the extent that the circulation ceased, the saltpans stopped functioning and the water stagnated.
The ministry embarked on a clean-up project of the area and no fewer than 10,000 tons of material were removed from the 800-metre-long canal. This clean-up was part of a €250,000 project that also included the rehabilitation of a 90-metre-long wall, dating back to the Knights, which had been damaged by inclement weather.
What has been accomplished so far is merely the first step to rehabilitate the entire Salini area. The remaining work, valued at €7 million, consists of restoration and rehabilitation of the saltpans and the huts where salt was processed and stored, restoration of the Ximenes Redoubt, as well as rehabilitation of the marshland near Kennedy Grove.
An application has been made for European funds for the works to be completed over a three-year period.
The completion of this project will enable us to provide an attractive spot close to one of the most important tourist areas in our country and will add to the creation of more open air spaces for relaxation - in itself, Salini Park takes up a space six times larger than the original Kennedy Grove - November 8.
Mr Pullicino is Minister of Resources and Rural Affairs.