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Environment as a national priority - José Herrera

The recent formal launch of Ambjent Malta seals yet another government delivery from its electoral manifesto – that of setting up entity to lead the implementation of Natura 2000 management plans, the management of Malta’s countryside, public landscaping, the management of parks and gardens as well as the progressive introduction of a green infrastructure.

This is not a fresh start but an evolution of this government’s promise to make our environment a national priority.

The Ministry for the Environment had already embarked on various projects through the PARKS Directorate but it became evident that the current set-up had to be restructured and resources increased to match the government’s ambition.

The remit of the PARKS Directorate increased significantly throughout the last years, with afforestation projects expected to reach 12,000 during 2018. Regeneration works have been completed at Ġnien l-Argotti and Buskett and works on two other gardens namely Ġnien l-Għarusa tal-Mosta  and the area known as il-Foss ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar have also started.

Last year, we also created a taskforce to manage and regenerate our valleys, the responsibility of which was added to our portfolio after the 2017 election. 

Since then, 10 valleys have been cleaned and restored.

While allowing PARKS to fulfil its mandate, we looked at the future and the challenges and ambitions that were foreseen.

Ambjent Malta emerged as the solution to such ambition.

The primary focus of Ambjent Malta would be to progressively implement the established 22 Natura 2000 management plans

The government adopted an innovative structure whereby, while Ambjent Malta’s operations are regulated by the Environment and Resources Authority and managed by a director general, we introduced a concept by which the directorate will have a board of governors that reports to the Minister through the permanent secretary.

The board of governors’ objective is to advise and assist in providing direction to Ambjent Malta for the development of Malta’s natural capital.

The board of governors, will also assist in developing the government’s political direction and policies. Another important role for Ambjent Malta’s board of governors, is to oversee operations, assisting the director general and his respective directors in the discharge of their duties. 

Ambjent Malta has the mandate to promote the preservation, conservation, protection and enhancement of Malta’s natural environment for their valorisation by current and future generations. 

The primary focus of Ambjent Malta would be to progressively implement the established 22 Natura 2000 management plans which alone covers 11.7 per cent of our territory.

Ambjent Malta will focus on the strategic management of Malta’s natural capital while ensuring the provision of high-quality environmental information and education to enable people to participate more effectively in decisions affecting Malta’s natural environment.

Ambjent Malta will oversee all management committees that will be entrusted to manage identify portions of Malta’s natural capital by preparing and implementing plans for identified sites and, where appropriate, with the help of management committees that may include e-NGOs. 

Management committees will work closely with stakeholders involved in social and economic activities in and around the identified sites including local councils as well as the commercial establishments.

It is the government’s strategy that Ambjent Malta will draw on the knowledge and experience of all stakeholders to provide clear and transparent guidelines to management committees. 

Ambjent Malta through the collaboration with management committees may propose Private Public Partnerships as an opportunity to increase sustainability and reduce financial gaps.

PPPs in environmental conservation should lead to increased efficiency, expertise and innovation from the private sector while allowing access to private funding so as to increase green investments.

Ambjent Malta will remain a legacy for the future. Our aim is to create and strengthen synergies between the different stakeholders in order to valorise our natural capital. It is through our actions that we can instil a sense of civic duty and responsibility towards safeguarding our natural capital.

José Herrera is Minister for the Environment.

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