Saturday, 8 January 2011

Open Letter & Letter to the Editor by ENGOs for Sustainable Landscaping.

Letter to the Editor sent by Greenhouse, Nature Trust Malta and Friends of the Earth after recieving no reply on their concerns by the Environmental Landscape consortium .

Environmental Landscape Concerns

In an open letter sent to the Environmental Landscape Consortium, the NGOs : Greenhouse, Nature Trust Malta and Friends of the Earth expressed their concern about the Consortium’s unsustainable practices.
While the NGOs expressed the acknowledgement that the ELC had brought about a change in the rural environmental landscape of the Maltese Islands yet they voiced their concerns on the rationale behind the excessive pruning of various trees which provide roosting sites for birds and shady places for passers-by especially during the summer months. Trees at the Mriehel Bypass, Naxxar, Valletta and other places have been defoliated extensively risking the survival of such trees.
The landscaping with alien species has been a recurrent concern for many people. Species such as the Hottentot Fig have been used risking their escape into the surrounding countryside where they have the ability to become invasive to the detriment of native biota.
In this letter the organizations question what type of pest management is used by ELC and if any precautions are used if pesticides are applied and why do ELC insist on planting annuals instead of perennials so as to reduce the amount of organic waste produced. They also raised the issue of water use in areas where turf is being planted as this poses a high maintenance and high water quantity needs - when our Islands are struggling to ensure a sustainable water supply.
The organizations feel that with improvement on the landscape practices the ELC can bring about a positive change but if the above concerns are not addressed the NGOs feel that the urban environment will become greener at the expense of other environmentally-related elements.

Original Letter sent to ELC but left unanswered on the 19th of November 2010

Dear Sir/Madam,

Greenhouse, Nature Trust Malta and Friends of the Earth are local environmental organization concerned about Malta’s biodiversity and sustainability. It is for this reason that we are writing this letter to you.
The Environmental Landscape Consortium has done a very good job in turning some of Malta’s derelict places into green areas which are pleasing and aesthetically beautiful. The Consortium has filled in a very important gap in greening our urban areas but we would like to draw your attention to some practices which are unfortunately tarnishing the very good work being done.
First of all, the ELC has been criticized not for the first for its excessive pruning. Tree foliage is an important urban feature for a variety of reasons. Species of birds roost in such foliage and excessive pruning strips the birds of their roosting site. Excessive pruning has been practiced in locations such as the Mriehel Bypass, Naxxar, Valletta and other places. Large trees with dense foliage provide much-needed cooling by creating shady areas underneath them especially in the summer months. And although pruning is important for urban trees both for the trees’ and the cities’ benefits, such excessive landscaping is both scientifically and aesthetically unfit. Excessive pruning can also kill the tree eventually because in order for it to re-grow its foliage it needs to use energy stored in other places as it lacks its photosynthetic organs causing energy depletion.
Secondly, as has also been reported in the media some time ago, there is absolutely no need to use alien species to landscape. Imported species of grasses, flowering plants and trees have been used for this purpose. South African succulents in the form of the Hottentot Fig have also been used. The latter is of particular concern when considering its invasive ability to establish itself as an alien in our countryside. In the Guidelines on Trees, Shrubs and Plants for Planting and Landscaping in the Maltese Islands prepared by the Environmental Management Unit Planning Directorate (1992), it is explicitly stated that “the use of such species [exceedingly invasive species], is considered unacceptable irrespective of their proposed sitting; wherever any doubt exists about whether a species falls within this category, a precautionary approach shall be adopted.”
On a related note, we would like to express our doubts as to how sustainable turf-landscaping is. Its high maintenance and high water needs hardly do any justice for an island struggling to ensure a sustainable water supply. Furthermore it is common to have water sprinklers used for turf irrigation spewing water onto the streets in a clear wastage of water.
Thirdly, we would like to ask what is the pest management system used by the ELC. Are pesticides and herbicides used? And if yes, what precautions are taken to ensure passers-by and nearby houses are not exposed to the residues and wind-carried spray of these toxic chemicals?
Lastly we would like to enquire why perennials are removed after flowering. Some perennial species used in landscaping, such as geraniums, are transplanted just before flowering and removed right after. This surely adds to the organic waste generated in our country when other simple alternatives are available.
We thank you for your time and co-operation,

Best Regards,
Greenhouse, Friends of the Earth Malta & Nature Trust Malta

Media: Malta Independent, Times of Malta

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