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Malta’s Constitutional Protection Of Its Natural Heritage Is ‘Purely Symbolic’, Activists Warn

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Malta’s constitution features major gaps to the detriment of the environment, activists have warned.

NGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar noted that while there are articles in the constitution to protect Malta’s natural heritage and spaces, they are effectively nulled by a clause that states it can’t be enforced in any court. 

“It is not enough to claim, as politicians often do, that every planning decision may be appealed against by eNGOs. It is the state that is responsible for safeguarding the historical landscapes of our country,” it wrote in a statement.

The protection of Malta’s heritage offered by our Constitution, therefore, is “purely symbolic, as while it states that:

  1. The state shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the nation.
  2. The state shall protect and conserve the environment and its resources for the benefit of the present and future generations and shall take measures to address any form of environmental degradation in Malta, including that of air, water and land, and any sort of pollution problem and to promote, nurture and support the right of action in favour of the environment.

…this is all undermined in the Declaration of Principles, namely clause 21, which says “the provisions of this Chapter shall not be enforceable in any court…”

The FAA warned that until bold measures are in place, the fate of Malta’s natural environmental and cultural heritage remains “at the mercy of developers’ interests”.

As a result, threats of tall buildings engulfing Villa Barbaro in Tarxien, new projects such as a Central Link and Santa Luċija Tunnels and Mercury Tower in Paceville are all causing major damage to our landscape, archaeology instead of supposedly protected buildings.

Nearly 500 submissions on constitutional reforms were submitted by citizens and NGOs’ environmental proposals were the most common, with around 111 submissions including similarly-worded suggestions to enshrine the protection of our heritage in the Constitution.

Issues on the right to life, institutional reform, religion and the national flag were also submitted.

Do you think the state should be held accountable for its environment?

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