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The battle for public space - Claire Bonello

It’s not an overstatement to say that there’s a full-blown war going on. It’s for the enjoyment and occupation of previously non-contested public spaces such as pavements and roads. These are being rapidly taken up by business interests.

Commercial establishments have staked their claim to our squares, our promenades, our pavements and our streets. Places where people used to walk are now colonised with ubiquitous tables and chairs. Views which could previously be enjoyed by all are now hidden behind a thicket of screens and street furniture. The planters which are a sop to the need for greenery are always being inched further beyond the plot site to take up more space.

This is affecting our quality of life, because we are fast reaching a point where we will have to pay to walk, to play or to talk in community spaces. This will be a burden on the weakest members of our society – older citizens, children and those who are not well-off.

I find it supremely ironic to see so many projects aimed at improving the quality of life of these vulnerable groups, and then the authorities resolutely ignore measures that could improve their day-to-day life.

Take old people. For example, what’s the point of holding workshops about active ageing and being involved in the community when they can’t even access the sidewalk outside their house because it has become a de facto bar impeded with street furniture?

Precisely the same argument applies to people with mobility issues who are being rendered prisoners in their own homes because of the ubiquitous take-up of the sidewalk by commercial establishments.

Then, of course, there is the monopolisation of our soundscape by those establishments that blare out loud music at all hours of day and night with scant regard for others.

These are not isolated incidents but daily ones in a country which may be flush with cash but is scant on civility and enforcement.


A group of Maltese tuna ranchers have launched what is purportedly an environmental protection campaign. Bearing the title ‘One Sea, Our Sea’, the tuna ranchers declare the bleeding obvious – that no activity can be sustainable if it has a bad impact on the environment.

This breakthrough revelation is accompanied by a 15-second video clip of tuna fish swimming in clear, limpid waters. It is not very different from the many other You Tube clips of tuna swimming around. I cannot quite grasp what this 15-second clip aims to achieve.

A country which may be flush with cash but is scant on civility and enforcement

The public knows that an activity is not sustainable if it has a negative impact on the environment. It stands to reason then that the best way to proceed is to identify potentially deleterious effects, to assess them, to restrict or stop them and to impose enforcement measures if the damaging activity continues.

The clip does none of the these. We are shown a shoal of fish but not the effect that the tonnes of tuna excrement have on the sea bed. There is no indication of how much unconsumed feed pollutes the sea and the water column.

The clip is cute but it would be far more interesting to learn about whether any chemicals are used to eliminate parasites and disease. And there is no explanation as to why bloated fish intestines are floating in our bays – when this was not a common occurrence before the onset of the tuna ranching business.

I would have thought that all of these were necessary starting points for an environmental protection and educational campaign. Maybe some people consider the public as being extremely gullible, but it is adding insult to injury to foul our seas while conducting a billion-dollar industry and then try to greenwash it with a meaningless video clip.

It would be far more enlightening to be provided with answers to the above questions, together with a detailed account of how much the ‘environmental protection’/‘educational campaign’ media clips cost, and which is the media outfit doing it.

Then those members of the public who cannot enjoy their favourite bathing spots can compare it to the cost of tuna in Japan and reach their own conclusions.

drcbonello@gmail.com

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