Waste generation in 2010 increased by 48% compared to the previous year, mainly due to a sharp increase in construction waste, a Mepa Environmental Indicators report issued today shows.

The report says that construction and demolition waste had increased after having declined by 70% between 2008 and 2009. Municipal waste declined by 10 percentage point to 17.2% while hazardous waste declined from 4.8% to 2.5%.

Mepa chairman Austin Walker said the increase in construction waste stemmed from a spike in building permits in previous years. He said the amount of waste which was was being recycled had increased from 4% in 2009 to 7.7% in 2010.

The Environmental indicators also show that last year the number of permits issued for housing units declined from a high of 11,000 in 2007 to just 3,995 last year.

Malta last year exceeded the EU standards on particulate matter in the air on a number of days, mainly in Msida, one of the areas having the heaviest traffic flows in Malta.

However levels of sulphur dioxide and benzine both decreased.

The report's results were announced by Environment Minister Mario de Marco, who said that the replacement of the bus fleet would have a positive effect on air quality, but Malta still had the oldest average car age in the EU at 13.6 years.

Malta, he said, needed to encourage car pooling, and he called on local councils to also create traffic free zones, particularly in village cores.

The reports says that government spending on the environment had risen by 30% from 2009 to reach €130m.

Electricity generation rose by 2.6% in 2011.

Marguerite Camilleri, Unit manager, policy coordination, at Mepa said thearea of land designated as marine protected areas had in 2011 increasedfrom 10.8 square kilometres in 2010 to 190.8 square kilometres in 2011.

Dr de Marco said such indicators were important in the context of the people's right to access for environmental information, which was reaffirmed in last week's UN conference on sustainable development.

Touching briefly on the importance of maintaining the coastal environment, he said that this was why the government could not say that land reclamation was one of the ways forward. He asked whether there was a massive demand for land which would justify the need for land reclamation, which could devastate coastal habitats?

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