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FAA: Present situation is worse than a few months ago

The trees in Hamrun.

The trees in Hamrun.

The environment NGO Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) has written to the prime minister calling on the government to give greater importance to the environment. The following is the letter:

"Now that your government has been in office for some months it had been expected that it would have taken professional measures for the better protection and appreciation of Malta and Gozo’s natural environment, including our trees which need urgent attention. However, there is little evidence that the Government is working seriously to achieve this aim.

"We regret to note that the present situation is worse than it was a few months ago due to the fragmentation of responsibilities regarding the natural environment. Landscaping is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, while MEPA, the authority responsible for the environment, falls within the remit of the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning within your portfolio. This means that the Environment Directorate is not yet accountable in any way to the Minister responsible for the protection of the environment.

"To our great regret, MEPA, whose legal aim and objective is the protection of the environment, continues to give priority to developers’ interests and to major projects while neglecting environmental priorities. As regards urban greening, MEPA appears to be more involved in decimating and even eliminating trees rather than in taking a proactive stance to save them, to enforce the present regulations or to increase Malta’s tree cover.

"Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar welcomes the fact that a Minister has been appointed for the protection of the Environment but fails to understand why the protection and management of trees is so fragmented that the Environment Minister appears not to have a say in it. As a result, this shameful lack of protection and management of trees is leading to anarchy as regards trees. The unilateral decision to uproot trees in Marsalforn, without any justifiable reason; the destruction of protected pines at the Pieta pinetum, the uprooting of very old carob trees in Madliena and the excessive and unprofessional pruning of trees within the Lyceum Secondary School at Hamrun are just a few recent examples. The denuding of urban trees in the name of landscaping is a government policy which we cannot comprehend.

"The FAA Tree Group therefore asks for your urgent intervention:

- to ensure the enforcement of legal regulations,

- to rectify this fragmentation of remits, which has resulted in nobody in cabinet being accountable for the onslaught on trees

- to ensure that the Ministry for Sustainable Development and Environment is given the legal and human resources to protect our natural environment and make sure it is respected by our government as well as by our citizens

"Prime Minister, it has been said repeatedly over the last half century that by destroying Malta’s characteristic beauty and environment, we are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. We trust that under your stewardship, your government will focus on the protection of the natural environment rather than on the furtherance of speculative projects whose claimed benefits are at best short- term, and not in accordance with Malta’s long-term social, economic and environmental interests."

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