NATURE TRUST MALTA EMAIL NEWS NO. 173
12th April 2001
NATURE TRUST SUPPORTS THE STATEMENTS MADE BY MARGOT WALLSTROM AND INSISTS THAT THE HUNTING ISSUE SHOULD NOT OVERSHADOW OTHER
SERIOUS ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
Nature Trust (Malta) would like to show its full support to statements made by Margot Wallstrom, EU Commissioner for the
Environment. The environment in the Maltese islands has been neglected for far too long. Today we are faced with problems
such as waste disposal, air and water pollution, and habitat loss. These are not only affecting the natural environment
of the Maltese islands but also people's health, life style and the economy of our Islands. Environmental protection should
not be deemed important depending on whether Malta accedes to the EU or not but it is a topic that should be given top priority
on the country's agenda. The European Union has strict criteria to ensure sound environmental protection, which, if adopted
will improve the situation here. Till now, indiscriminate environmental degradation has continuously drowned genuine attempts
by individuals, organisations and the authorities in the field of nature conservation.
Pollution is an issue that
has to be seriously tackled if we want to upgrade our environmental standards to those in the EU. The quality of tap water
has to improve. The excessive nitrate concentrations, mainly due to contamination of the water aquifer by excessive use of
artificial fertiliser in agriculture. Stricter controls should be made on farming activities to control this public health
problem. Nitrates have been linked with incidence of cancer.
Atmospheric pollution is reaching critical levels.
Asthma cases, especially in children, are increasing at an alarming rate. The brown smog that hangs over the Marsa-Qormi
area is present on an almost daily basis. Emissions from the Marsa power plant should be drastically reduced, while traffic
congestion should be eased by improved public transport and introduction of cleaner technology to drive our cars.
Nature protection also requires urgent action. Widespread illegal development and dumping dot our countryside, destroying
habitats and the plants and animals found in them. Hunting and trapping have severely reduced our breeding bird population
and take a heavy toll on migrants, using the sorry excuse of tradition to conceal these crimes against nature. The Environment
knows no borders; the birds that we shoot or trap are not ours. They belong to the entire planet. We are sure that this is
the message that Ms. Wallstrom was trying to convey in her statement. Nature Trust is aware that the hunting and trapping
issue is a very sensitive one, but traditions have changed in the Maltese islands, so why can't this tradition change too.
As an environmental group committed to the protection of nature, we are totally against hunting and trapping; however we
know that hunting cannot be abolished with just a touch of a pen. For this reason, we urge that at the very least the existing
laws are enforced and protected species are not killed or trapped.
The Commission did not say that the EU wants to abolish hunting and trapping but just to bring it in line with other countries
for the sake of the environment itself. Hunting and trapping is just a small proportion of the environment chapter yet
it has been made our primary issue in this area. It is as if the hunting issue is the only problem in the EU negotiations.
One cannot understand how the hunters lobby group has even taken over the EU issue. One asks if it is the hunters who are
deciding on Malta's future or if the public has a right to voice its opinion as well. MPs should join forces and ensure
proper protection of the environment and not be guided by a lobby group, ignoring the rest of the population. The natural
heritage should not be a political issue. If the two major parties cannot agree on this fundamental topic then how can we
have faith that they seek to improve the quality of life in Malta? Our politicians should show that they are true leaders
and not try to please a sector of the population as a vote catching exercise.
James Sacco PRO
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