NEWS | Sunday, 25 November 2007

Malta’s first green campaign is not over yet

Blokrete petition evokes memories of Strickland’s 1970 court victory

It was the first environmental campaign in Malta’s history, but unlike many later victories by the growing green lobby, the plague of white dust spewing out of the Blokrete factory in Lija remains unresolved to this day.
Mabel Strickland, Constitutional, daughter of Lord Gerald Strickland and the director of Allied Newspapers, was the first person to secure a court victory on the air and noise pollution from the Blokrete factory on Naxxar Road – a victory which today rings hollow as 37 years later, one of Malta’s most quaint and pristine villages is officially in breach of the EU’s pollution limits because of the factory, which produces construction material.
The European Commission’s conclusions on Blokrete’s endless polluting of Lija’s air are a result of a petition filed by Michael Zammit who complained that Blokrete was emitting dust and noise pollution to the detriment of the health and safety of Lija residents. The Commission came back saying that “an air pollution abatement plan, prepared by Malta, did not manage to deliver compliance”.
It’s so far the highest indictment ever given on the environmental impasse that has spanned almost four decades since Strickland’s court case. But still, the Commission is not taking any infringement procedures against Malta, much to the dismay of MEP Simon Busuttil who was vocal about the lack of teeth the Commission was showing.
In 1970, Mabel Strickland launched what many believe is the first environmental action to rid Lija of the white dust spewing out of the Blokrete factory which blankets trees, houses and roads up to this day.
Launched at time when manufacturing was a priority in a developing economy, the expense to collect the dust and hose down the factory area was considered a far too big an expense to impose on the company.
And yet, Strickland took Blokrete up to court complaining that the factory’s activities were causing great harm to people and surrounding agricultural lands and trees, including a grove of 200-year-old olive trees, and houses.
The Court upheld that the factory’s operations were causing grave harm, and found Blokrete responsible for the damage, ordering the company to take the necessary measures to curb the effects of its operations.
The detrimental effects of white dust and noise from the construction factory persist to this day – as do the complaints of Lija residents with both their local council and Justice and Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg, who lives in the constituency.
But despite that seminal case, and even declarations by the Malta Environmental and Planning Authority that the Blokrete nuisance could “not be considered acceptable either from an environmental point of view or from one of good neighbourliness”, the factory operates under conditions stipulated in licences issued by the police many years ago. Which means that unless new legislation is enacted, little can be done to regulate the factory activities, until Malta’s laws comply with EU regulations.

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