Finch Trapping Season to Open Again

The Ornis Committee once again recommended the opening of the finch trapping season.  This is the second time, following last year’s re-opening of the season for the trapping of finches.  Finch trapping was phased out in 2008 due to EU regulations.  However, despite several warnings from the European Commission, the government last year decided to re-open the finch trapping season.  The same could happen this year, despite another warning issued by the Commission less than 24 hours after the decision taken by the Ornis Committee was made public.

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Apart from the bad reputation Malta has with the Commission with regards to trapping, other, more worrying factors should be mentioned.  The first aspect to be tackled are those directly affected by such as decision, that is, the birds.  The seven species which could be trapped last year include the Linnet, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Serin and Hawfinch.  Allowing the trapping of these birds will significantly impact their population.  Over decades, such trapping has led to declines in populations of bird species.  Although not particularly threatened, opening the season will continue to decimate the population of these birds.

The second aspect to be considered is the impact such trapping has on our Maltese ecology.  In order to trap finches, large nets are used and in order to trap the birds with such nets, the ground must be cleared.  This includes the removal of the natural land cover, in many cases garrigue or steppic environments.  The removal of indigenous and endemic vegetation is usually first done by burning the field followed by the usage of herbicides to remove the vegetation.  This impact is significant and many areas remain bare with nothing able to re-grow for ages, sometimes even several years after the site has been abandoned.

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ADŻ Malta Green Youth Strongly opposes the decision to once again open the finch trapping season since not only does this negatively affect our reputation with the European Commission and other Member States, but because finch trapping also destroys our natural heritage.  Clearing natural land for trapping is unsustainable and so is the capturing of the finches.

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ADŻ marching against Monsanto

ADŻ attended the annual March against Monsanto.  The theme of the march this year was the use of a product known as round up locally.  Round up is a commercial pesticide composed of glyphosate sold by Monsanto which is used in public places such as roundabouts.

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Although there is still no real scientific consensus regarding the negative effects of round up, the World Health Organisation claims that round up may cause cancer.  We believe that in this case the precautionary principle should be applied and the use of round up should be banned.

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Moreover ADŻ would like to express its concerns regarding other negative effects of GMO products. GMO products may cause irreversible harm to the genetic pool.  While GMO products may put many farmers in developing countries out of business, thus increasing poverty.

We are also concerned about the TTIP.  This Trans-Atlantic partnership will encourage less stringent regulations on GMOs and Monsanto products such as round up.

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Launch of Front Ħarsien ODZ

This morning several organisations and individuals joined a press conference in front of the new parliament building.  A new front was launched, Front Ħarsien ODZ.

The scope of this movement is to stop the development on ODZ (outside development zone) sites.  The movement was established following a proposal to establish a new university at Żonqor Point, an area located on ODZ land.

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We from ADŻ Malta Green Youth condemn this decision and we have also proposed several alternative sites for this project, in order to protect outside development zones. Over the years Malta’s rural areas have been declining and our environment has suffered great losses.  Agricultural areas and natural areas have been on the decline and while several countries across the globe are doing their best to safeguard and protect natural and semi-natural areas, we are doing the opposite.  Due to our limited land mass, such ODZ sites are even of greater importance and must be protected from being urbanised.  Already existing abandoned/unused buildings should be used instead of grabbing more land.

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For more information check out the facebook page of Front Ħarsien ODZ – https://www.facebook.com/FrontHarsienODZ?fref=ts

Remember this every time you get stuck in traffic

Everyday most people get stuck in traffic in order to work, to study, go somewhere etc. Luckily for me I live nearby University, meaning that every day I get to walk 25 minutes and I get there without the trouble of getting stuck in traffic. However traffic is quite a hot topic and even more so on a rainy day like today so I’ve decided to give you all some reasons why you’re all stuck in your car today, eagerly waiting for that car in front  of you to move.

The main problem with traffic around these islands derives from the fact that the way our governments have dealt with the problem was and still is by seeking short sighted solutions rather than by addressing the root of the problem. By creating more roads we are just encouraging more use.

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What we need is a good and reliable transport system. Yes, I know we’ve heard that all before but in truth there has been no real great investment in a radically better transport system. Why on earth should there be a bus every hour or every 30 minutes from a locality, and why should it take ages to travel from one locality to another? No wonder most people chose to drive!

No, we need a transport system with more buses or even a comprehensive change in the way of a monorail. I realise that this does seem extreme and very expensive, however we’ve spent millions on projects before, so why not on a solution to traffic. A monorail system would cost little more than the Gozo tunnel/bridge so why do we talk about the latter more than the former. Especially since abroad monorail systems are actually quite profitable.

Apart from all this rainy days seem to make things worse. That is because around 22% of land in Malta is urbanised according to a MEPA statistic in 2008. That figure should have risen since then. Urban land is impermeable and thus water flows down on it without percolating. Once the water reaches a low point it then floods the low point and cars will get stuck and harm will be done to property.  Think about that when considering the development in Żonqor point.

The fact that there is a problem with regards to traffic in this island is obvious. However we should not shy away in pushing for a much better transport system than the one we currently have today. Things are not good enough and we should aim to do better. While it is also important to remember that by developing rural land we are contributing to an increase in flooding, which in turn increases traffic.

Marc’Andrea Cassar (ADŻ Malta Green Youth Chairperson)

Alternative Sites for American University

Following the latest statement by the Prime Minister asking for alternative sites for the proposed American University, we from ADŻ Malta Green Youth would like to suggest some alternatives to the area at Żonqor Point.

Some alternative sites are Fort Ricasoli at Kalkara and the old Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsaskala.  These  sites are currently in a derelict state and are not being utilised.  This means that land, which is so scarce in Malta is being wasted.  Therefore, if these sites will be used, no substantial environmental damage will be caused, since the sites are already built up.

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These locations are ideal since they are close to the proposed site at Żonqor Point and in the South of Malta.  Fort Ricasoli was built in the 17th Century and is located at the end of the Grand Harbour.  It is currently falling apart and is in great need of restoration.  Proposing this site would be a great opportunity to restore our cultural heritage.  Considering Fort Ricasoli is also close to Smart City, it would also serve to revive this area, especially the vacant parts, which could additionally also be used for the university.  Alternatively, a better location would be the old Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsaskala.  This hotel, like Fort Ricasoli is abandoned and restoring this large building would improve the scenery since it is an eyesore.  It is an ideal site since it is close to the sea, in front of an old fort and located within Marsaskala, therefore making it an attractive site for development.

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We urge the Government to consider these proposed sites, since these buildings are already abandoned and by using these sites, the scenery would be improved.  Since this project is said to be sustainable, we must also consider the social aspects and by using the abandoned places mentioned, the land which is used by farmers and hunters at Żonqor Point would be saved from development, thus eliminating the negative social impacts.  Keeping in mind that these four places are abandoned and already built up, this could eventually also reduce costs, when compared to developing rural land.  Additionally, no agricultural or semi-natural land will be used, therefore reducing substantially the environmental damage.

Using any of these sites would be more sustainable than using ODZ land since the environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts will be significantly reduced, when compared to all the cons that arise if the ODZ land had to be developed.

Pascal Aloisio (ADŻ Malta Green Youth Executive Member)

More trees uprooted in Valletta

Following the removal of trees at Castille a few weeks back, yesterday a number of trees were uprooted in St. James Ditch in Valletta.  Some of these trees were up to 50 years old.  The trees were removed in order to make way for more parking facilities in Valletta.

Although it looks like the trees are going to be re-planted elsewhere, the process of uprooting is still destructive for trees.  The leaves were almost entirely removed and many branches were destroyed, leaving the bare tree stump with some roots.  In this case it is very unlikely that these trees will be able to re-generate.

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While across the globe more trees are being planted, we are doing the exact opposite here in Malta.  Over the last decade several mature trees have been uprooted and most of them were lost, mainly ficus trees.  Apart from providing shade and shelter for several birds, such as sparrows and white wagtails, these trees are well known for absorbing toxic pollutants generated by vehicles and industry.  Therefore they are vital for us, since they improve our air quality.

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However, despite their importance and their enormous benefits, these trees are being uprooted in urban areas such as Valletta.  We should be planting more trees, especially in urban areas like Valletta and not remove them.

Useful Links:

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150514/local/valletta-trees-uprooted-to-make-way-for-parking.568191

Everyone has a right to live

In light of the recent tragedies; and with reference to what our colleagues at FYEG have said, we would like to express our opinion on what has happened.

We have long observed what was happening at sea,  the story of people dying at sea seems to be an ongoing loop which happens at least yearly. This incident is not isolated solely to the Sicily Channel, since such incidents have been happening also near Mellilla in Spain. The story of 900 people though, seems exaggerated. We are now discovering that the issue lies deeper than ‘migrants’ running away, but it also is a story of human trafficking, abuse and murder. The people in that sea died a miserable death. No one deserves it.

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For years, the EU seems to have been putting this tragedy under the proverbial Mediterranean Carpet – either by ignoring or by increasing the funding to the border countries in the South such as Malta. No mention of ever changing Dublin 2 was encouraged, lest the problem escapes from the Southern states.

This tragedy however, seems to have tickled the issue of the rest of Europe. There seems to be a suggestion of blocking the borders – putting the problem elsewhere.

The 1951 convention for the Rights of Refugees and Displaced person still applies. The EU needs to make sure that the right of the Human Being is not destroyed or touched upon. People living under threat still have the right to apply for a humanitarian Visa. There is a need to ensure that people living under threats have this right, together with all the human rights owed to them by dignity.

Anna Azzopardi (ADŻ Malta Green Youth General Secretary)

Zonqor Point Development – Another environmental disaster?

A few days back our government welcomed plans for the development of a new American University at Zonqor point, north of Marsaskala.  The site should eventually cover around 90,000 square metres.

While we from ADŻ Malta Green Youth welcome such an investment which will be beneficial to the economy, we encourage sustainable development.  However, this project cannot be sustainable for many reasons.

Firstly we have the impact on land use and the landscape.  The fields in the area will be transformed into concrete.  Keeping in mind that the area around the proposed development site is defined as an area of scientific and ecological importance, the project won’t be sustainable.  Finding areas which are already developed and which include abandoned buildings which can be demolished would be a better alternative when compared to the grabbing of semi-natural or agricultural land.

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Secondly, the location and accessibility must also be discussed.  This area is relatively ‘isolated’ in the sense that when compared to other parts of Malta, such as the central part of the island, this area tends to be less accessible.  This, in turn, will lead to an improved infrastructure, in other words new road networks.  Increasing traffic in an area which was originally relatively quiet is also not sustainable, given the corresponding increase in noise and air pollution.

Thirdly, we also have the residents.  Before any development takes place residents should be included in the decision making process, just like NGOs, government and contractors alike.  The residents of Marsaskala will likely be unhappy to have a massive new construction site at their doorstep.

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Finally, we also have the ecological aspect.  Due to different habitats, which include coastal, garrigue and agricultural areas, the site earmarked for the project has a very characteristic ecology.  In fact it is home to several species of flora and fauna.

The area is also a good site for birds, especially in spring.  Personal observations include many Swallows, House Martins, Swifts, Bee-eaters, Yellow Wagtails, Quails and Turtle Doves which feed on insects as well as various seeds.  Several carob trees in the area are also used as perching sites by Golden Orioles and Woodchat Shrikes.  The area is ideal for raptors including Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and several falcon species.  These birds hunt for small mammals and insects in the area, but they also roost in trees or in fields.  In fact every spring the area is filled with Marsh Harriers searching for prey or seeking a roosting place. Hence developing this site will substantially impact birds, which in turn will also impact hunters in the area, who will eventually end up catching less birds.

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Due to the above-mentioned factors, the development of the new university at Zonqor point cannot be sustainable.  Preferably, an alternative site should be found, such as Fort Ricasoli or any other abandoned place, since we have already destroyed large tracts of our natural heritage and we cannot afford to lose more.  This cost is much greater than any other economic cost, since once we lose our heritage, we cannot bring it back.

https://www.change.org/p/government-of-malta-stop-the-zonqor-point-rape?recruiter=30733533&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=des-lg-share_petition-no_msg&fb_ref=Default

Pascal Aloisio (ADŻ Malta Green Youth Executive Member)