MEPA reform needs real consultation not adverts – Front Harsien ODZ
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“While respecting the Government’s mandate to strengthen environmental protection by creating a separate authority dedicated to the environment,” Front Harsien ODZ has called for the assessment of the impact of replacing existing legislation by three new, separate bills.
“Instead of wasting tax payer’s money on paid adverts which serve as propaganda in favour of the demerger of MEPA, tax payer’s money should be spent on proper assessment, public information and consultation.”
The Front said that environmental protection is intimately tied with planning and land use. “Land use has a bearing on water use, air quality, bio diversity, landscapes, the protection of ODZ areas, traffic congestion and waste generation among other impacts.”
“The planning bill as proposed, also includes provisions to allow the sanctioning of ODZ development,” the Front said. “Therefore it is of paramount importance that the daily synergy between environmental experts and planners is not lost and that every planning decision takes in to account the views of environmental experts from the start, not simply at the end of the process.”
“This assessment can be carried out through a Strategic Environment Impact Assessment (SEA) which is required by EU law on plans or programmes with similar environmental impacts, and which would also include full public consultation.”
Front Harsien ODZ noted that no SEA was conducted when MEPA issued a short and vague document in March 2014 outlining its demerger plans.
“Labour’s manifesto commitment was clearly that of using the demerger to enhance environmental protection. While the demerger is clearly on the cards, there is no evidence that the laws will strengthen environmental protection. To the contrary, the removal of certain clauses from the previous Act will weaken environmental protection. There needs to be a careful assessment of whether and how the new laws honour the electoral commitment of enhancing environmental protection.”
Front Harsien ODZ said that it therefore calls on the Government to “refrain from any further discussion in parliament on this issue until the environmental impacts of the new laws are assessed, and the public and civil society is duly informed and consulted.”