Not a day goes by that further proof of Labour's shocking disregard for even the most basic environmental standards comes to light.

It is obvious, that Labour's talk on affording priority to the environment was nothing but empty words. A few days ago our Prime Minister was reassuring his audience that the trees many feared would be uprooted in order to make way for Attard's Central Link project were in actual fact preserved. The Prime Minister must either think his audience are complete fools, or else he is completely detached from reality. Anyone driving through the yet incomplete project can see that the very trees that had to be preserved are in actual fact slowly dying off as a result of lack of proper care by Infrastructure Malta during excavation works that severed their roots.

These old pine trees not only have an intrinsic and ecological value but also have a significant historical and arboricultural value because they represent amongst the earliest urban landscaping initiatives that were carried out in Malta. These trees have been afforded protection since at least 1949, and more lately by holistic tree protection regulations. Yet, they were not saved the barbaric onslaught by Malta's most notorious environmental offender, Infrastructure Malta.

Although unlikely, let us just assume that the Prime Minister has not frequented the place enough to see for himself the atrocities being committed, and give him some benefit of the doubt. However, the honourable Dr Ian Borg, who for sure regularly commutes through his very own flagship project on his way to work from home or vice versa, cannot be excused for not witnessing the destruction. Yet we have a government that has the audacity to lie to our face even on facts that are for everyone to see, let alone on matters that are carried out behind closed doors, which brings me to my next point, the Marsascala marina.

It is evident that the Labour government is already committed to developing the marina at all costs. According to the Minister responsible for Transport Malta, the same Dr Ian Borg who appears to have taken it upon himself to destroy whatever is left of Malta's natural and cultural heritage, the project is needed to berth the ever-increasing number of pleasure boats. He tells us that in such a situation, the country is faced with three options, either stop registering boats, or establish yacht yards on land, or else develop a marina, with the last option being the most feasible. However, strangely enough the Minister fails to acknowledge that the chosen site will be subjected to such a significant level of environmental degradation that it makes the project an obvious non-starter.

We might be tempted to forgive the prime minister for not knowing what indeed is going on with the trees impacted by the Central Link Project in Attard because the place might be somewhat out of his way, but in this case, the marina is being proposed in his hometown.  The Prime Minister can easily see the multitude of beach users that will be deprived of the enjoyment of such a place so that a few boat owners can berth their boat there.  He can see the current unspoilt state of the place's natural marine environment that will be destroyed by dredging, land reclamation and breakwater construction. He can see the efforts of environmental NGOs to safeguard one of Malta's few remaining brackish water habitats of il-Magħluq that will be prejudiced by the ensuing changes in the water's physical and chemical properties. He can also easily witness the already existing parking problems along the shore that can only get worse once the boat owners start frequenting the place too. He can see how the place that is such a hub of activity for local communities and interest groups including fireworks enthusiasts, cumulatively numbering in their tens of thousands, will be taken over by a few hundred boat owners. Notwithstanding, neither he nor any of his ministers, including his environmental minister, have expressed any particular concern. On the contrary, all we have heard are pathetic justifications for the project to go ahead, ignoring the impact on the environment and the common people.

Likewise, on Comino, impacts on the natural environment of this protected site were disregarded by the Gozo Ministry to illegally dig up oversized trenches, ostensibly for the vending stalls, and to hard surface the road at the picturesque Blue Lagoon, without a permit from ERA or the PA. The Prime Minister wants to assure us that the institutions are working, but after that, on behalf of the PN, I had reported the abuse to the environmental ombudsman, who in turn confirmed the abuse and ordered the reversal of the interventions, no such reversal took place. To make matters worse the place is now subject to further abuse by the deckchair hire operators who occupy public land with their deckchairs at the exclusion of the common citizen, without any controls whatsoever. Also on Comino, the public campsite has been rendered a shantytown by some untouchable squatters to the detriment of all Maltese families who aspire to enjoy the outdoors in a legitimate manner. But the effect of the supposedly working institutions is nowhere to be seen.

People have trusted the Labour Party with their vote to govern in an environmentally sustainable manner, but they are systematically getting exactly the opposite, with environmental considerations being completely ignored. But what the Labour government is arrogantly ignoring, the PN is noting and speaking up against. The PN shall not allow the systemic unnecessary destruction of trees. On the contrary, we shall be documenting the trees with a view of preserving them, since we acknowledge their importance even for the preservation of urban biodiversity.

Moreover, the PN shall ensure that the people's rights for the enjoyment of public land and access to the coast are truly safeguarded against abuse. The PN is also adamant, that once in government, it will ensure that abandoned and neglected areas are rehabilitated and given back to the public and to look for areas in each and every town or village which can be transformed to pedestrian zones. Such proposals are the ones which will really and truly lead to a better quality of life of all the citizens of the Maltese Islands.

Soon the people will once again be asked to choose a party to govern on its behalf. Can we allow whoever has fooled us enough already to fool us once again? Can this government who is responsible for so many environmental disregard be entrusted to come up with plausible solutions? My advice to the electorate is to start thinking from now about the choices ahead and to take cognisance of the proposals put forward by the PN on proper environmental protection. These proposals do not represent the end of a process but just the beginning of a series of discussions and consultations which have been going for quite some time now. I am confident that the proposals that will be put forward in the coming weeks and months will represent the best decisions that can be taken which will benefit the common good and respect the environment. Only the PN can stop this consant senseless destruction and abuse in one locality after the other. It is the PN which can seriously safeguard the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.

Robert Cutajar

About

Whip ta l-Oppożizzjoni. Kelliem tal-Oppożizzjoni għall-Ambjent u t-Tibdil fil-Klima. Kandidat f'isem il-Partit Nazzjonalista għall-Elezzjoni Ġenerali fuq it-12 Distrett.