Renowned marine biologist Alan Deidun has resigned from the board of the Environment and Resources Authority, warning it’s a “toothless” entity compared to the Planning Authority.
“While the setting up of ERA was a step in the right direction, its opinion is often ignored by the PA,” Deidun, who has represented green NGOs on the board since 2016, said in an interview with Times of Malta.
“The PA is the big brother who calls all the shots. Compared to the PA, ERA is toothless, as all it can do, unless development is being proposed on Natura 2000 or scheduled land, is provide recommendations.”
Deidun said the last straw was when ERA approved a permit for works on a dirt road in Comino last April a few weeks after it had issued a stop order due to extensive overspill.
“In Comino, ERA’s arm was completely twisted,” Deidun said. “ERA was pressured to grant an environmental permit so that the Gozo Ministry contractors, who had started the work without such a permit, could undo some of the damage they had done to the site.”
“It was a fait accompli. Getting a modified environmental permit was a way of legitimising what they did by getting the blessing of ERA. Similarly, a lot of authorities use ERA to greenwash their projects, using the authority as a convenient scapegoat.”
Deidun called for ERA’s board meetings to be open to the public, a proposal recently made by the PN in a private members’ bill, and for ERA’s representative on the planning board to be given a qualified veto on environmental issues.
In a Facebook post afterwards, the biologist said the blame shouldn’t lie on ERA but on its “big brothers” (ie. the Planning Authority and Infrastructure Malta) for whom it is “very convenient to have a toothless ERA as a pin-cushion”.
“I hate to be cynical but I guess we will never see a truly autonomous and effective environmental authority on these islands as that would be hugely unpopular from a political point of view,” he said. “Thanks to all local environmental NGOs for entrusting me with their support on the ERA Board for these past five and a half years and for all the thankless work!”
ERA’s role in the greenlighting of certain projects has come under scrutiny in recent months, and nine NGOs have called for the resignation of its chairman Victor Axiak, accusing him of allying up with developers and road builders at the expense of the environment.
What do you make of Alan Deidun’s resignation?