BirdLife Malta Release 10 Proposals Of Their Own For The Upcoming Election
For the environment, by the people
Malta's snap general election has seen the country's major political parties barrage the electorate with a long list of proposals and promises, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't return the favour with demands of our own... especially when they're all to do with bettering our environment.
BirdLife, one of Malta's largest and most active NGOs, have just released 10 electoral proposals of their own, and here they are in all their glory.
1. The area of ODZ is to remain the same or increase
BirdLife propose that if a development proposal is approved inside a designated ODZ area, then another area currently not ODZ must be designated as such.
This proposal, which echoes one of Partit LM's 52 proposals, comes as a result of Malta ranking first in Europe in urbanisation, with a whole 20% more than runners-up Belgium.
2. The setting up of a Wildlife Crime Unit within the Malta Police Force
Another proposal we're very glad has gotten traction and support from NGOs like BirdLife. The increased need for enforcement goes beyond the laws currently in place, BirdLife says. The Environment and Resources Authority was set up to safeguard the environment and wildlife, but does not cover legislation protecting wild birds (a role currently occupied by The Wild Birds Regulation Unit).
BirdLife propose removing the WBRU and setting up an appropriate section within the ERA itself, following it up with a specialised unit of the Police Force dedicated and trained on wildlife crime (and possibly assisted by eNGOs).
3. Introducing green roofs on the island
BirdLife argues that just because we're running out of green spaces (whether we want to or not) doesn't mean we can't make do with what we have.
An effort to create an additional urban habitat for local flora and fauna within our cities could be possible, BirdLife suggests, if 20% of government roofs are converted to green roofs, with incentives being conceived for businesses and homes to follow suit.
4. Half of the existing schools should have green spaces within the next 5 years and introduce training on the natural environment
Change starts from the youngest members of our society, and BirdLife seem to fully understand that. "The scope of such areas should not only serve as a lung for the school," BirdLife say, "but also be a venue where our children can learn academic subjects in a natural environment rather than in a classroom."
The next logical step would be for the government to encourage schools' participation in environment-friendly actions, "enabling our school children to grow with more understanding, respect and consciousness towards our natural heritage."
5. Management plans for all Natura 2000 sites should be implemented
Natura 2000 sites are vital conservation sites within the Maltese Islands, and BirdLife feel like more should be done to preserve them.
In partnership with eNGOs and the ERA, BirdLife recommend creating a management plan for the conservation of these sites, and also suggest making the areas in and adjacent to Natura 2000 sites pesticide-free.
6. The Mediterranean Sea should be designated as an Emission Controlled Area
Even if the closure of the Marsa Power Station has marked an improvement in the air quality of Malta's harbour area, the issue is far from resolved. For example, the cruise liners berthed inside the Grand Harbour have small power stations on board each vessel which are left running throughout their say in Malta, and when there is more than one cruise liner in the harbour (read: most of summer), the pollution levels in the area are similar to still having the Marsa Power Station active.
BirdLife want to see the introduction of something similar to the Sulphur Emission Control Area which has been implemented in Northern Europe and which has already lead to tremendous health benefits for the local population. Malta, being both in the EU and bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, could easily inspire and lead this environmentally-aware revolution.
7. The introduction of compulsory separation of all waste at home
Even if cleanups are slowly becoming a great weekly tradition in Malta, much can still be done within our own households.
BirdLife also propose taking "immediate action to stop plastic from ending up in the sea", along with of course decreasing the levels of plastics which are sadly already present in the sea. "If strong action is not taken, science is showing that within one decade we will not be able to harvest anything from the sea that is not contaminated with plastics and chemicals," BirdLife state.
8. Malta should become the first European organic country
Our hot summer climate might attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to our seas every year, but Malta is one of the world's ten most water scarce countries, with our only source of freshwater, aquifer groundwater, being over-extracted and over-polluted.
BirdLife is advocating for a special pilot project aimed at managing a site with high surface water potential for both aquifer recharge and habitat restoration. This could definitely go hand-in-hand with reducing the extremely high levels of pesticides found in Maltese crops, which BirdLife believes Malta can use to instead take a U-turn and become the first organic country in Europe.
9. There should be no more derogations for trapping and spring hunting
We couldn't agree more. "The European Birds' Directive is clear about spring hunting and trapping stating that migratory birds should be protected to reach their breeding grounds during this time of year," BirdLife said. "Trapping, however, carries no justification for derogation at any time of year. Not only does this harm the birds that are caught, but trapping sites also cause-long term damage to the natural habitat."
BirdLife's proposal continues by saying that political parties should explicitly declare their intention to apply any form of derogation to EU legislation that can have an impact on wildlife or any habitat in their electoral manifesto. If this derogation isn't declared, then it shouldn't be executed unless by referendum.
10. Increased government support of Malta's NGOs
In BirdLife's own words, "NGOs in Malta have a lot to offer towards the running and development of our country." By creating incentives for commercial enterprises to support NGOs, and also addressing the fact that a Maltese NGO's running costs are 18% higher than commercial enterprises due to VAT, the Government could actually help these organisations, which have done nothing but done their all to preserve some of Malta's most beautiful features.