Good waste management
Leo Brincat is accustomed to gaffes. He did it again yesterday when he issued a press release on waste management based on data captured two years ago that no longer reflects today’s reality. He jubilantly claimed that “Malta did not win any medal in the EU’s waste management Olympics”.
Had it been for him, we would not even have had the chance to compete with our EU counterparts because he (and his party) strived to keep us away from membership.
The barricades that the opposition erected to disrupt waste management facilities in Malta is well documented. We were advised by Alfred Sant to retain the old Magħtab dump operational after accession. Joseph Muscat pledged to freeze funding for the modernisation of the Sant’Antnin plant!
Our policy on waste management has yielded results. The private sector has also turned waste into a profitable economic activity, creating green jobs while reducing the burden on the public coffer.
Thus, regulatory authorities responsible for the collection of data and statistics cannot only retrieve such data from WasteServ.
The collection and treatment activities taking place within private organisations must also be accounted for when considering Malta’s national reporting obligations on waste management.
Data retrieved by WasteServ alone shows that, in 2010, we diverted 15 per cent of waste from going to landfill. Seven months into 2012, we have already managed to divert 43 per cent! Such progress was not left to chance nor was it left to Mr Brincat himself.
The engineered landfill, the Sant’Antnin waste treatment plant, the collection of recyclables from homes, the five civic amenity sites for bulky refuse and the hazardous waste incinerator are the product of hard work. We successfully tapped EU funding and were also able to rehabilitate old dump sites because we put the necessary alternative infrastructure in place.
Up until December 2011, Malta recovered 85,000 tonnes of bulky refuse from civic amenity sites. Only last week, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority informed us that the sixth civic amenity site may go ahead as planned at Ta’Qali. This facility will offer respite to the agricultural community because all agricultural waste will be received there. This facility is also part of the vegetable market (pitkalija) reform to manage better the disposal of fresh agricultural produce.
These are Malta’s true waste management credentials.
Despite the opposition’s small talk, we will persevere to generate more green jobs and offer a better future to our families – August 9.
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to go for a swim close to Gozo and Comino and was impressed by the quality of the sea water. Crystal clear! The sea in Comino was full of bream. It felt as though we were swimming in an aquarium, surrounded by thousands of fish.
The improved water quality was not left to chance but is the fruit of government decisions to invest some €100 million in three drainage-treatment projects in Gozo, Mellieħa and the largest in Xgħajra.
Last year, the European Commission declared that Malta had the second cleanest bathing waters within the EU, surpassed only by Cyprus.
Ninety-five per cent of the 87 swimming zones were declared “excellent quality” bathing waters by the Commission while the remaining bays were declared to be of good or sufficient quality. These ratings are expected to improve now that the Xgħajra plant also began to operate last year.
Until 2005, half our swimming zones did not reach European standards. By 2009, we had already made great progress, so much so that 93 per cent of our bays were declared “excellent” by the European Commission. This has not only been an investment in Maltese families but also an investment in the environment on which fishing and tourism depend – August 8.
The salt pans in Salina, in the limits of Qawra, were built by the Knights in the 16th century due to the importance of salt in the preservation of food. The Ximenes redoubt was built to protect the salt pans. Later on, a store was built within the redoubt by Grand Master Ximenes de Texada while, in 1743, a fougasse, that is a specialised defensive and military structure, was excavated, making the Ximenes redoubt unique.
In the 19th century, a number of huts were built close to the salt pans where salt could be stored and treated. These structures were built by a British regiment and are similar to those found in the Guerande salt pans in France that are known as salorges. These structures were built on a wooden framework, which, over time, eroded and was replaced by corrugated iron sheeting.
Over the past few years, the Salini deteriorated, culminating in the flooding and damages caused by the 2003 storms, after which they remained abandoned. The Ximenes redoubt was also in need of restoration while the fougasse within the redoubt had been buried. We therefore embarked on an extensive rehabilitation and restoration project.
The Ximenes redoubt will be used as a visitors’ information centre, detailing the zone’s history, archaeology, ecology, flora and fauna, ornithology and the traditional use of the salt pans. This centre will be connected to the huts through an underground tunnel.
The salt pans will be restored to produce salt again and, thus, two of the structures that will be built will be used to store and treat the salt, as they were in the past.
The third structure will be used as a museum dedicated to the production of salt in Malta. This project, which will cost about €7 million, is partially funded by the EU – August 7.
The grape harvesting season is upon us and, within a few months, they will be transformed into quality wines that are the fruit of our own soil. Last year, Maltese grapes produced over two million bottles of wine.
We obviously want high quality Maltese wines on the market and have therefore launched a number of controls to ensure certain standards.
I am pleased to say that 90 per cent of local wines are DOK wines, that is, of a denomination of controlled origin, and the rest are what are referred to as IGT, or typical geographical indication. There are about 80 DOK wines in Malta.
To ensure greater quality controls, we introduced a system of banderols that are given to producers on the basis of the volume of grapes harvested. This averts any risk of “five loaves and two fish” style miracles.
An interesting fact regarding the consumption of wine in Malta is that white wine is the most popular, consisting of 60 per cent of sales, with rosé and red wine sales totalling 10 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
Yet, with regard to locally produced wines, white wine claims 45 per cent of sales, rosé 20 per cent and red wine 35 per cent. In order to keep up with local demands, the ministry is financing a project to treat vines to produce more red grapes instead of white.
Over the past few years, we have also seen the rise of estate wineries, where vines are grown surrounding a winery where grapes are processed. A Green Paper published in April explores ways in which we can best assist initiatives to strengthen quality wines.
Finally, when choosing local wines, we should recall the farmers who harvest the grapes. Their vines provide colour within our countryside, even during the summer months. Thus, when choosing a local wine, you are also investing in your local environment – August 5.
The author is Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs.