Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar has launched an environmental charter urging political parties to ensure that public policy safeguards heritage and quality of life from “irreversible damage”.

The charter, endorsed by several NGOs, was launched during a press conference on Friday, by FAA coordinator Astrid Vella.

The PN, ADPD, Volt and independent candidate Arnold Cassola have endorsed the charter. 

The document outlines the principle of quality of life to be something that the government should promote and protect.

It also stresses the government has a legal obligation to protect the common interest of citizens when this collides with individual private or business interests.

People have a legal right to enjoy a healthy and pollution-free environment, the charter holds, while public assets - including land, coast, sea and cultural heritage - should remain public unless a fixed temporary concession could serve to meaningfully improve the area and not be open for financial gain or exploitation.

It goes on to highlight how the natural environment and urban green areas are essential to citizen’s quality of life and how it is the government’s duty to uphold the Constitution in safeguarding the environment and natural resources for future generations.

The charter also holds that infrastructural and unsustainable development cannot come at the expense of quality of life, while planning policies must be subject to the law as well as the public interest.

'Successful businesses without exploitation'

Addressing the same event, Chamber of Commerce President Marisa Xuereb said it was wrong to assume that environment and workers had to be exploited for the benefit of economic growth.

And it was becoming increasingly more pressing to reconcile sustainable economic growth with safeguarding the environment, she added.

“We can have successful businesses without exploitation, it is a matter of better planning and improving your product,” she said.

Xuereb added that taking culture and the environment seriously was integral to attracting quality tourism as opposed to chasing high volumes.

Quality of life is also a key factor that draws skilled workers to relocate to Malta and should be embraced as a solution to put a stop to the brain drain of young professionals.

'Planning system to blame'

Chamber of Architects president Andre Pizzuto meanwhile noted that the country’s track record for development was not safeguarding the quality of life.

He placed blame for this squarely on the shoulders of the planning system.

“One incompetent decision here and there is not significant in itself, but when you thousands of bad choices over a span of 50 years led to the loss of quality of our built environment,” he said.

“The electoral programs we are seeing are not ambitious enough and we need more initiatives prioritising this issue. This will primarily come from a comprehensive reform of the entire planning system.”

Vella added that despite finding support from across the political spectrum, it was disappointing that the Labour Party had not acknowledged the NGO's request to endorse the document.

The charter has also been endorsed by the General Workers Unions, Gozo NGOs Association, Malta Chamber of Commerce, Kamra tal-Periti, Malta Chamber of Planners, Malta Employers Association, Malta Union of Tour Guides, ACT, BirdLife Malta, Extinction Rebellion, FAA, Friends of the Earth Malta, Ghawdix, Gozo University Group, Moviment Graffitti, Noise Abatement Association Malta, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers Association, Rota, Sustainable Built Environment, Wirt Ghawdex and the Local Councils of Birgu, Qala, Qrendi, Safi, St Julians, Sliema, Swieqi, Xagħra and Zejtun. 

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