MEPA RELEASES DATA ON TRENDS IN THE STATE OF THE MALTESE ENVIRONMENT
The Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA) in partnership with the National Statistics Office has published the Environment Report Indicators 2009. Now in its fifth year, this annual publication which keeps track of the status and trends relating to the Maltese environment, complements the State of the Environment Report and aims to provide easy access to environmental information for policymakers, organisations and the public.
The indicators show that some of the key drivers of environmental change in Malta, such as the consumption of water and electricity and planning permits decreased during 2009. Amongst other statistics, the report shows how electricity generated fell by almost 5% in 2009. This trend is attributed to the increase in penetration of renewable energy technologies, investment in energy conservation, as well as the prevailing economic climate in 2009 and the increase in utility tariffs. In addition, billed water consumption fell by 5.4% and permissions for dwelling units by 22.5%.
On the other hand, the number of private motor vehicles registered in the Islands increased by 1.9% to 300,347 in 2009, which is slightly slower than the 2.6% growth rate of the previous year. The number of vehicles per capita stood at 0.73, a slight increase from 0.71 in 2008, largely due to a decrease in total population. This large number of vehicles relative to the population has a negative impact on human and environmental health, and also leads to congestion and poor urban quality.
Malta’s bathing waters were all of excellent (93%) or good (6.9%) quality in 2009, maintaining the high standards recorded in previous years. With the coming into operation of the Ta’ Barkat sewage treatment plant earlier this year, this indicator is expected to improve even further. Nitrate levels, however, exceeded the EU limit value in almost 90% of groundwater bodies in 2009, whilst the threshold value for chlorides was exceeded in most groundwater bodies. It must be highlighted that any measures to address the problem of ground water nitrate pollution would only have an effect on ground water quality in the long term, due to the time it takes for the water to percolate into the aquifers.
With regard to air quality, the indicators show concerns about ozone concentrations which are known to affect respiratory systems and crop yields. On a more positive note, the annual average benzene concentration in air remained almost constant between 2008 and 2009, and no locality average exceeded the EU limit value, despite the increase in the number of vehicles on our roads.
The indicators also show that the annual nationwide average of nitrogen dioxide concentrations remained well below the EU and WHO limit values in 2009, however concentrations exceeded the limit value in 5 localities and 22 individual sites. On the other hand, sulphur dioxide concentrations fell by 20% in 2009, in line with trends over the past years, possibly due to the 5% decrease in electricity generation.
Real-time monitoring in 2009 indicated high levels of particulate matter in Msida, Zejtun and Gharb on a number of days during the year; however most particulate matter originated from natural sources, with the result that national emissions did not exceed EU thresholds.
Public environmental expenditure increased by 9% in 2009, rising to €103.5 million, which is equivalent to 1.8% of GDP. As in previous years, most of the expenditure was related to solid and liquid waste management, followed by spending for the protection of biodiversity and landscape, and by various environmental initiatives and campaigns, funds for green leaders and green wardens, as well as matching national funds related to EU projects.
Malta’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 5% in 2009. As a small Mediterranean island with a large coastal area, Malta is vulnerable to climate change.
The indicators’ report also highlighted the fact that Malta has declared a number of protected areas, which form part of the EU network of protected areas known as the Natura 2000 network, and that cover 13.3% of the country’s land area. The booklet highlights the fact that in 2009 Malta’s sufficiency in designating Natura 2000 sites under the EC Habitats Directive was above the EU average (84.2%) at 92.6%.
The indicators also provide information on key environmental education initiatives such as the EkoSkola programme. The 2009/10 scholastic year registered an increase in the number of schools and students taking part in this environmental programme, with a total number of 102 participating schools.
Closely tied to this positive initiative is take-up of voluntary environmental schemes by organisations. In 2009 the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority certified a number of organisations that were subscribed to a voluntary environmental scheme used by companies to improve their environmental performance based on agreed environmental standards. Three organisations were certified under the ISO14001 certification, whilst several others were been certified by foreign certification bodies. Also in 2009, 18 hotels (17 in Malta and 1 in Gozo) were eco-certified through the Malta Tourism Authority eco-certification scheme. Nevertheless there is scope to encourage further take-up of such schemes.
The Environment Report Indicators 2009, together with datasets and maps, can be downloaded from the MEPA website (www.mepa.org.mt/teri2009).