Updated 9pm, adds Nature Trust statement

The authorities and developers need to get to the source of construction waste problem before proposing land reclamation, the Interdiocesan Environment Commission (KA) said in a strongly-worded statement on Saturday.

The authorities have for many years shirked their responsibility to plan long term, and have allowed some enterprises to become rich to the detriment of all and sundry.

"And now that those who have been having it so good are feeling the pinch, they are expecting Malta to shoulder the brunt of their excesses," the commission said. 

Last December, the environmental watchdog singled out the coast of Xgħajra as the only viable location for a “major” land reclamation project.

Last week, the Malta Developers Association called for an area at sea to be reclaimed by construction waste as there was a lack of land facilities for its disposal.

Read: Nowhere to dump construction waste, say people responsible for it

What has long been crystal clear to people with a strategic vision, does not seem to have been so obvious to whoever was or is responsible for generating such waste and to the authorities who should have long devised plans to avoid ending up in the situation we are in today, the commission said.

According to the polluter pays principle, the onus should fall on those, who for years on end have used unsustainable means of construction to generate wealth, sending a great quantity of Maltese stone to the landfills.

"When it comes to spaces available for dumping waste, it is being said that “the demand is far greater than the supply”. If this were true, we have a clear admission that the current development is anything but sustainable, and that we have gone beyond the carrying capacity of our country."

We, the common citizens, are expected, without any consideration, to cast it aside by literally dumping it into the sea, so construction can continue unabated

Unsustainable practices have carried on in spite of repeated warnings from various sectors on the need to exercise some form of control in this industry.

"We, the common citizens, are expected, without any consideration, to cast it aside by literally dumping it into the sea, so construction can continue unabated."

The commission insisted on the need to protect the marine biodiversity.

"If we are to treat it as a new dumping site to cover up what we wouldn’t like to see, we would once again be deluding ourselves into thinking we have found a solution to the problem of excessive waste resulting from the unsustainable activity of the building industry, and gradually induce a localised or total collapse in our marine ecosystem."

Read: Just one place in Malta is suitable for major land reclamation, experts say

The dimensions of the reclamation has to be meticulously calculated and should not be determined simply by the quantity of rubble which needs to be disposed of.

The criteria for the choice of the site should not be dictated by the commercial interests of whoever would like to develop reclaimed land, of whoever stands to gain from reclamation in a particular zone or by anyone who may have a personal interest of whatever nature.

Construction waste should primarily be reduced. On the other hand, it should not be seen as a problem to be tackled by someone else, sooner or later, but as a responsibility to be borne also by the developers themselves.

"We need to apply set standards for controlled demolition, with the aim of separating and recycling material, and promote practices that are more sustainable and discourage waste. We also need to explore the potential of construction and demolition waste as a resource."

As proposals for huge projects and spacious structures are being approved (or put aside until a technical detail justifying their approval is found) one must be sensitive to the cry of the majority of the Maltese who can no longer bear to witness the destruction of their homeland through uncontrolled construction, the KA said.

"The basic issue still remains: Whose interests will be safeguarded? Those of the common citizen who is obliged to pay for the abuse of others? Or those of irresponsible egoists who think that they are above the law and that their money can buy anything and anyone?"

Take action without further delay - Nature Trust

Nature Trust welcomed the statement and said that if this administration sincerely endorsed what past administrations have been stating for these last 15 years, namely that they would apply the polluter pays principle, it should move to take action without further delay.

Construction activity was a polluter so anyone connected with to it had to shoulder responsibility and pay for the pollution generated.

Nature Trust also welcomed the announcement made by the Ministry for Sustainable Development and the Malta Developers Association that unused quarries would be utilised to take in this waste.

This was a short term solution and the national authorities should immediately embark on planning a long-term strategy to address the issue.

They should also apply the reduction, re-use and recycling principle rather than go for crisis management actions such as dumping at sea to hide their incompetence.

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