Jesuits in Malta take a stand in favour of the environment

View of Busbezija, Mosta, and beyond. Part of Busbezija has been identified as the site for a proposed national shooting range covering over 70,000sq m.

"Civil society represented here seeks to protect people’s long-term quality of life and Malta’s natural environment from the monetary fundamentalism that argues that any project that brings in more money must de facto be good for the country." Read our full statement...

The Jesuits were among the 21 NGOs who gathered this week, on Monday 15th June, to deliver a press conference at Dar Manwel Magri, objecting to the development of ODZ (Outside Development Zone) land. Fr Joe Cassar SJ said that in the national interest, people’s quality of life must be shielded from an unsustainable model of economic growth. 

"For us Jesuits, and for our colleagues, the question is no longer whether Catholics should address issues of ecology in a faith perspective. The real question facing all societies, including Christian communities, is how we should do it." 

Below you may also find statements issued by other NGOs

FULL STATEMENT BY JESUITS IN MALTA: 

Press Conference held by NGOs at Dar Manwel Magri, Msida - 15 June 2015
Statement by the Jesuits:

We wish, first of all, to underline our concern for the environment in the Maltese islands and beyond. This is firmly in line with the worldwide commitment of the Jesuits to ecological justice.

• The simple correlation of economic growth and quality of life is at best a fallacy. When this correlation is driven to an equation, and raised to the level of state doctrine that lays claim not only to our present but also to the nation’s future, we hold that it is to be resisted. As we see it, civil society represented here seeks to protect people’s long-term quality of life and Malta’s natural environment from the monetary fundamentalism that argues that any project that brings in more money must de facto be good for the country.

• It is significant that this Press Conference is being held in this Jesuit house. In the first instance, it was a matter of simple necessity. A venue was needed. But it is all the more significant because it was precisely in this house that the committee meetings of the Front Kontra l-Golf Kors took place for four or five years going back from 2004 and, against all odds, successfully halted a project that would have gobbled up hectares of arable land, deprived farming families of their livelihood, and depleted the groundwater of the extensive surrounding areas.

• Our participation in Front għall-Ħarsien tal-ODZ is not about a single issue. Yes, it is about Żonqor Point and the large-scale construction envisaged there. But it is also about the alarming increase in threats to Malta’s natural environment as more and more so-called ‘development’ applications come to light. In the national interest, people’s quality of life must be shielded from an unsustainable model of economic growth. For us Jesuits, and for our colleagues, the question is no longer whether Catholics should address issues of ecology in a faith perspective. The real question facing all societies, including Christian communities, is how we should do it.

Joseph Cassar, SJ



'FAA - Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar' Statement on ODZ:

For the past decades, the scientific community has been demonstrating that contact with nature in parks, forests, countryside, and coasts has a beneficial effect on mental/ psychological health, concentration, healing, heart rate, levels of stress, blood pressure, pulmonary conditions and obesity/diabetes.

Besides these benefits, Malta’s tourism industry is built on our historic and rural landscapes which, a key element of our national identity. Indeed, Malta’s Constitution states in Article 9: “The State shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the Nation” and yet, the State’s initiatives over the past decade have shown it to be anything but the protector of our landscapes, which are now under attack in several sites, including Zonqor, Għaxaq, Santa Lucia, Mosta, Qrendi, Għadira and Qala. Not even Comino, a Natura 2000 site is spared, as the threat of development looms over it too.

Instead of valuing our unique landscapes as a health-giving contributor to the economy, our short-sighted politicians only see Out of Development Zones as a cash-cow, to be exploited when alternative disturbed sites for projects exist, albeit at prices and conditions that are less profitable to the development lobby.

While politicians have conveniently used MEPA as a screen, MEPA has its own responsibility to bear. Instead of fulfilling its role as the planning and environment regulator and guardian in the interest of the nation, MEPA has aligned itself with the political interests of the government of the day, replacing the Structure Plan with the SPED which will allow far more development in the countryside. In sourcing land for the Sadeen developer and overseeing meetings as part of the political establishment, MEPA has committed a grave conflict of interest, casting itself as facilitator, rather than regulator of development.

FAA calls for good governance in managing Malta’s scant environmental resources with planning based on impartial studies, and not political expedience or profit.

It is high time that a legal remedy must be found to give the citizen legal standing, rights and remedies to protect the environment.  Public action possible in other spheres has been denied to the realm of environmental protection, as the constitutional clause safeguarding landscapes is followed by: “The provisions of this Chapter shall not be enforceable in any court.” 

FAA calls on all political parties or groups to take immediate steps to remedy this, by deleting the above clause and declaring areas of high landscape and historic value permanently protected by legislation that can only be changed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority.  A court or body made up of persons of known integrity to adjudicate cases of environmental abuse needs to be set up along with a strong enforcement arm and a revised SPED.

FAA reminds the public that Malta’s heritage and landscapes are to be protected by all, and urges the public to attend the environment protest this Saturday 20th June, to pass the message that an increasingly strong lobby will not accept the trampling of our rights to a healthy environment. 


Statement by Ramblers Association

L-ghaqdiet ambjentalisti ilhom is-snin jirrezistu l-gwerra kontinwa li gvern wara l-iehor ghamel fuq iz-zoni ‘l barra mill-izvilupp. L-ikbar wahda kienet dik tal-2006 meta –FAA, l-FoE u ahna r-Ramblers ftahna kawza lill-MEPA fuq l-hekk msejha Rationalisation mressqa mill-ministru Pullicino. Kawza li bdiet 8 snin ilu u li sa llum l-progress li sar fuqha ghadu minimu. Illum jidher li gejja fuqna mewga ohra kbira ghax, lesti ghalina m’hemmx biss l-AUM, imma sensiela ta’ progetti kbar go ODZ jew art li sa llum ghandna nistghu ingawdu. Bid-differenza imma li din id-darba qed naraw li l-poplu sar hafna iktar konxu tal-importanza, anke ekonomika, tal-ambjent u lest isemma’ lehnu. U Gvern li jisma’, nittamaw li qieghed jismaghha.

Il-posizzjoni taghna fuq ODZ kienet dejjem l-istess wahda: Id-definizzjoni ta’ODZ mhix bicca lastiku; iggebbidha kemm ghandek bzonn. ODZ tfisser li hemm LIGI li tiddefinixxi li dik l-art hi wahda li fuqha ma jistax isir zvilupp. U ahna nostnu li ODZ ghanda tfisser ODZ ta’ veru.

Ma jistax ikun li nibqghu nisimghu il-litanija EKONOMIJA, …ekonomija. Lanqas tista’ tghid li kultant nisimghu ukoll bl-Ekonomija l-hadra.  Ahna nemmnu bis-shih li l-ambjent mhux talli mhux ostakolu ghall-ekonomija imma  li hu sahansitra  pilastru ewlieni tal-ekonomija. U dan mhux biss, kif hafna jahsbu, ghat-turizmu, imma primar-jament ghalina li nghixu f’dan l-ispazju limitat, u nixtiequ li dan ikun wiehed li jpaxxik u jtik sahhtek, mhux wiehed ta’ konkos, u dhahen li jifgawkek ghada iktar millum.

Issa kulhadd jifhem li mhux dejjem facli ghal Gvern li jsib art adattata ghal skopijiet ta’ nteress kbir nazzjonali; anzi napprezzaw li jista’ jkun difficli, imma alternattivi jezistu gewwa iz-zona ta’ l-izvilupp   li hu zgur hu li dan hu hafna iktar difficli ghalina l-assocjazzjonjiet ambjentalisti, kollha volontarji. Li hu facli hu li l-Gvern li jitlob lill-MEPA ssiblu bicca art, u li din issibha propju  tirfes fl-ODZ. U allura jghidulna “Ghax ma sibniex wahda ahjar. Ara ssibux wahda intom”.

Il-gvernijiet ma jistghux ma jzommux kontinwament quddiem ghajnejhom li fil-waqt li l-pajjizi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja ghandhom mibnija biss 8% mill-art li ghandhom; ahna, Alla jberikna diga lhaqna it-33%. U ghadna qeghdin nibnu flats godda meta ghandna ‘l fuq minn 70,000 post battal! 

Madankollu l-ebda gvern qatt ma stqarr (i) la meta ser niefqu nieklu minn din l-art , meta nilhqu l-40%, l-50% Meta?  U la minn fejn ser inkomplu nnaqru l-art?  Fiz-zoni fejn baqa’ daqxejn spazju miftuh? Meta ser nghidu “F’din iz-zona issa daqshekk!” Qatt jista’ jkollna Gvern kapaci li jiehu dawn id-decizjonijiet kuragguzi? Gvern li veru ghandu vizjoni olistika ghall-pajjizna?

Il-Maltin iridu jifhmu haga wahda: DAK LI HUWA TA’ KULHADD, MHUX LA TA’ DAN IL-GVERN U LANQAS TAL-IEHOR, IMMA TA’ KULL WIEHED U WAHDA MINNA, HEMM BZONN LI JIEHU HSIEBU KULHADD, KULL WIEHED U WAHDA MINNA. 


Statement by Human Rights Organizations 

Environmental justice is social justice - we are here to acknowledge the impact of environmental concerns in Malta on the lives of individuals, families and communities. We must enter into serious public debate on issues of environment in order to build trust, and establish cooperation between different sectors in society that are currently estranged.  This press conference, which includes voices from a variety of groups and organizations, recognizes how social justice issues intersect and transcend rigid categorization. It is testament to the growing sense of urgency experienced in our islands on matters of ecological importance.

Human mistreatment of the environment is no different from the unjust exercise of power experienced by vulnerable groups around the world. When human beings abuse of power, environmental degradation inevitably follows. This is no different from the exploitation of other forms of power and privilege - including men over women, cisgender people over transgender people, the able-bodied over people with disabilities, native Maltese over refugees and migrants. The wheels of oppression turn, and continue to trample over people and over our environment.

It is the work of social justice to ensure that each one of us may live free from domination and subordination. The natural environment is essential to the realization of basic human rights; failure to protect our environment then, amounts to the failure to protect these rights. Issues of environment are inextricably linked to these larger questions, the answers to which must involve a more holistic approach to environmental justice and social justice. As Gandhi said, the Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone's need but not everyone's greed.

But let us be clear. The biggest threat to our environment is not the political elite - of any colour, political persuasion or financial clout. The biggest threat to our environment is the belief that someone else will take a stand to protect it. Today we stand in solidarity; we call for the preservation of our environment for us, and for future generations. This is our responsibility and our duty. And it is the responsibility and duty of all parliamentarians to listen to the voice of the people. Environmental rights are internationally recognized fundamental human rights, and we ask for our right to good governance. Together, we call for the citizens of this country to be actively engaged in environmental awareness and preservation. To this end, we must draw attention to the vital need for sustained political will, in response to the growing concerns of the population. 

Gender Liberation
Integra Foundation
Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)
Organisation for Friendship in Diversity
aditus
The Critical Institute 


Statement by Moviment Graffiti

Besides the proposed Zonqor development on ODZ land, the application to build a hotel at Ghadira bay and the Mosta shooting range present a number of other concerns. Moviment Graffitti is against the privatization of open space and strongly opposes projects that involve the transfer of public land to private companies. It states - “Projects like Portomaso and SmartCity were, essentially, a land-grab whereby public resources were given to private companies and public land was transformed into private space. The Zonqor development and others such as the Ghadira Bay Hotel and Mosta shooting range would constitute yet another massive grab of public space, this time to be used for the interests and profits of speculators such as Sadeen.”

Moviment Graffitti states - “ Moreover, the private University cannot be considered a real investment in educational development, since access will be restricted to a tiny minority of rich families. Educational development is only achieved when there is free and accessible quality education for all – which is the direct opposite to what is being proposed by Sadeen’s University.”


 

 


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