Press Release, 26 September 2009

The environmental NGOs Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Ramblers Association and Nature Trust (Malta), Birdlife Malta and Din l-Art Helwa have expressed their disappointment and concern as to how the Enforcement Unit within the MEPA Environment Directorate is being dismantled and officers in this unit were being distributed into other units within the same authority.

The NGOs voice their concern that environmental law enforcement within Mepa has already been very poor. With such a strategy it will now become worse and a free-for-all situation. This move simply shows the low level of commitment accorded to environmental protection by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, reducing the environment to a non-existent element within the Authority. The NGOs question the rationale behind such a decision taken. Moreover, why are such moves happening before the MEPA reform is announced?

Developments over the years show that the merger between the Environment Department and the Planning Authority was not aimed at putting it at a level on a par with Development Planning, but effectively resulted in the silencing of the environment unit. This is further borne out by the fact that today the Environment Directorate has only half the staff of the Planning Directorate.

Malta has enough laws and regulations to be a best case example, however law enforcement has never been the rule of the day. NGOs have today had to step in and carry out the duties of the Environment Directorate – that of policing and protecting the environment. Today it is the NGOs that report illegalities and push Mepa to take action. Such reports include illegal buildings, destruction of habitats, trees and species, lack of protection for areas of ecological importance and Natura 2000 sites, and many more.

The NGOs are now concerned about how the EU environmental Directives will be monitored and enforced and what MEPA will do about the commitment for Natura 2000 sites. Will these now be protected only on paper and in management plans?