Alternattiva Demokratika

The Green Party

Opinions

Environmental conference on water organised by the Church Environment Commission and the Malta Water Association, 10th December 2011

Malta is one of the driest countries in the world, yet sustainable use of water does not yet seem to be a national priority.

 

Malta gets around 60 per cent of drinking water from reverse osmosis plants, which consume a lot of energy. Increased dependency on such plants is risky, for example if an oil spill occurs. Malta only has facilities for 48 hours water storage.

 

At the same time Malta has 8,000 private boreholes, extracting ground water for various uses, including water for soft drinks, animal husbandry, manufacturing industry, concrete batching plants, swimming pools, agriculture, lawns and private gardens – making it probably the country with the highest borehole density in the world. Borehole usage is unsustainable, and, according to experts, if current trends persist, this resource will no longer be available in around 15 years time, due to the infiltration of sea water in the water table. In turn, Malta will be overdependent on reverse osmosis plants.

 

We are in a situation where the majority pay their utility bills, whilst others steal water from boreholes.

 

It is high time that groundwater is protected, coupled with sustainable measures on storm water and recycled sewage.

It is positive that government shall embark on a system to meter boreholes, but surely this is not enough, and the implementation process is being incredibly slow. Other urgent measures are required.

 

As a first immediate step, all non-registered boreholes should be banned. The Water Services Corporation should have the priority for the use of groundwater. This would enable national planning for sustainable usage of this strategic resource, also taking account of the needs of future generations.

 

Farmers should also be permitted to use groundwater, but a rational planned system should be in place, encouraging sustainable practices. Hence, a quota subject to either no payment or minimal payments should be established in relation to the size of the fields that farmers work on. In the long-term, however, agriculture, as a strategic sector, should be made to shift towards recycled water, where farmers should be given good-quality, treated sewage effluent, which, if necessary, could be subsidized.

 

The usage of groundwater by industry – including that of a major soft drinks company which was ironically recently awarded an environmental prize – should be banned immediately and industry should purchase town water just as everybody else. Industry should use recycled water when possible, and in any case, it should pay commercial rates for this essential resource. If a company cannot factor in the price of water in its expenses, this would be a clear sign that the company is dependent on unsustainable practices.

We must understand that there is no such thing as an infinite supply of water for our consumption. Water being extracted from private boreholes is being taken from that used by WSC and from our children’s needs.

 

The water issue is ultimately an issue of environmental justice, social justice and economic good-sense. How could it be that such a scarce resource is being treated as if it had unlimited supply, and how come those who are grabbing it for free are being rewarded for doing so?

 

Verzjoni bil-Malti:

 

Malta hi wahda mill-iktar pajjizi niexfa fid-dinja, izda mhux qed tinghata priorita ghall-politika sostenibbli dwar l-ilma.

 

Malta ggib madwar 60% tal-ilma tax-xorb tagħna ġej mill-impjanti tar-reverse osmosis, li jikkunsmaw hafna energija. Iktar dipendenza fuq din it-teknologija hija riskjuza, ghax dan ifisser li jekk per eżempju jkun hemm xi inċident ta’ xi tanker taż-żejt ħdejn Malta, jkollna diżastru sħiħ! Malta għandha faċilitajiet ta’ ħażna tal-ilma ta’ 48 siegħa biss.

 

Tajjeb ngħidu li f’pajjiżna hemm madwar 8,000 borehole privata, li jieħdu l-ilma mill-pjan għal użu varju fosthom produzzjoni ta’ soft drinks, trobbija tal-annimali, manifattura, manifattura tal-konkrit, pixxini, agrikoltura, u ġonna – mingħajr ħlas ta’ xejn. Probabbli pajjiżna għandu l-ikbar rata ta’ boreholes fid-dinja, meta tqis id-daqs tal-pajjiż.

L-uzu tal-boreholes huwa insostenibbli, u esperti qed jghidu li jekk nibqghu bl-istess prattici tal-prezent, fi 15-il sena l-ilma tal-pjan tant se jkun tant mielaħ li ma jkun tajjeb għal xejn. B’hekk pajjiżna miexi lejn sitwazzjoni fejn inkunu totalment dipendenti mill-ilma tar-reverse osmosis.

 

Qeghdin f’sitwazzjoni fejn il-maġġoranza tal-poplu jħallsu l-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma, waqt li ohrajn jisirqu l-ilma li jiġi mill-boreholes.

Wasal iż-żmien li l-ilma tal-pjan jiġi protett u li jkun hemm miżuri sostenibbli, per eżempju dwar ilma riċiklat.

 

Huwa pożittiv li l-Gvern se jdaħħal sistema fejn il-boreholes ikollhom arloġġ biex wieħed ikejjel il-konsum tal-ilma, iżda żgur li l-Gvern beda tard u mhux miexi bl-urġenza li titlob din il-kwistjoni. U hemm bosta miżuri oħrajn li għandhom jittieħdu mill-iktar fis.

 

Immedjatament, il-boreholes mhux irreġistrati għandhom jitwaqqfu minnufih, u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma għandha jkollha l-prijorità fl-użu tal-ilma tal-pjan. B’hekk il-Korporazzjoni tkun f’pożizzjoni aħjar li tippjana użu sostenibbli ta’ dan ir-riżors strateġiku u anke tkompli twassal ilma liċ-ċittadini kollha bi prezz raġonat. Dan jagħmel sens ekonomiku, soċjali u ambjentali.

Il-bdiewa għandhom jitħallew jużaw l-ilma tal-pjan, iżda għandu jkun hemm sistema razzjonali u ppjanata li tinkoraġġixxi użu sostenibbli. Għalhekk għandu jkun hemm jew kwota mingħajr ħlas jew ħlasijiet minimi għall-użu ta’ dan l-ilma, skont id-daqs tal-għelieqi li jaħdmu fuqhom l-istess bdiewa. Iżda fuq medda itwal ta’ żmien, l-agrikoltura, bhala settur strategiku, għandha tuża ilma riċiklat ta’ kwalità tajba, permezz ta’ sussidju, jekk hemm bzonn – u tnaqqas id-dependenza fuq il-boreholes.

L-industrija m’għandhiex titħalla tuża ilma tal-pjan, u għandha tħallas rati kummerċjali għall-użu ta’ ilma tal-mains. Tajjeb li nsemmu li kumpanija prinċipali tas-soft drinks, li dan l-aħħar ironikament ingħatat premju ambjentali qiegħda tuża ilma tal-pjan għall-prodotti tagħha. L-industrija ghandha tuza ilma riciklat meta possibli, u ghandha thallas prezz kummercjali ghall-uzu ta’din ir-rizorsa strategika. Jekk kumpanija ma tistax tħallas il-prezz kummerċjali tal-ilma, dan hu sinjal li l-istess kumpanija qiegħda tagħmel użu minn prattiċi insostenibbli.

Irridu nifhmu li m’hemmx ammont infinit ta’ ilma għall-użu tagħna. L-ilma li qiegħed jittella’ mill-boreholes privati qiegħed jittieħed mill-produzzjoni tal-WSC u minn ħalq uliedna.

Il-kwistjoni ta’ l-ilma hi wahda ta’ gustizzja ambjentali, gustizzja socjali u sens tajjeb ekonomiku. Kif jista’ jkun li rizorsa hekk skarsa qed tigi trattata qisha xi wahda bi provvista bla limitu, u kif jista’ jkun li dawk li qed jiehdu l-ilma b’xejn qed jigu ppremjati ta’ dan?

Michael Briguglio