Within the conceptual model of Sustainable Development, the environment functions with a dual role. As in environmentalism, it is the subject of attention and protection – it is the valuable object to be safeguarded and handed down in better shape to future generations. Yet, within the framework of sustainability, the environment is also that commodity which belongs to all without exclusion, and which determines the quality of life of the people living within it.
The environmental considerations related to the small island of Gozo have spurred the eco-Gozo vision. The size of the island offers an opportunity to implement a set of focused initiatives intended to guarantee a better and healthier lifestyle in Gozo stemming from a nourishing environment.
For millennia, agriculture has been one of the most important social and economic activities of the island. Its sustainability adds to the uniqueness of Gozo's identity and has its direct effect on the landscape, the employment and the agro-tourism sector.
Sustaining this sector is of vital importance for the preservation of the rural character of the countryside. Agriculture in Gozo provides a number of value-added quality food products, based on traditional techniques and practices. However this vision is also intended to address improper agricultural practices, including imbalance in nutrient flux, lack of integrated pest management, disposal of waste and uncontrolled use of fertilisers, which do not blend well with the eco-Gozo vision
Government proposes to:
• Set up an Agricultural Research, Development and Innovation Centre in Gozo.
• Study and encourage the best irrigation regimes for particular crops, new irrigation systems and irrigation methods so as to come up with practical recommendations that may help farmers achieve quality produce with a more efficient use of water and educate farmers in respect of crop water requirements.
• Launch a project to advice on the sensible use of pesticides and provide for the safe disposal of pesticide containers and linked materials.
• Provide advice to farmers on how to achieve an ecological balance on the farm in terms of nutrients, water and energy.
• Encourage the rebuilding of rubble walls and deter land abandonment by providing incentives to encourage its use for agricultural purposes.
1.2 NATURAL HERITAGE
Gozo is justifiably renowned for its rich archaeological, historical and cultural heritage; however, to this list must be added its natural heritage for although small in size, Gozo is endowed with a variety of habitat types, a diverse fauna and flora, and an interesting geology. These constitute the natural heritage of the islands, which is just as worthy of study and preservation as the rest of the nation's patrimony.
Noteworthy elements of Gozo's natural heritage include numerous endemic species and subspecies of plants and animals, including some found only on Gozo, that are of evolutionary and biogeographical interest, species of flora and fauna with a restricted Mediterranean distribution, including some that are internationally protected; a number of locally rare and threatened species for which Gozo presents some of the last remaining localities; and a variety of Mediterranean habitats that are particular local variants and which blend with the geomorphology of Gozo to give a landscape that is quite unique.
Government proposes to:
• Undertake projects for the planting of trees to establish orchards and groves in erosionsensitive areas and increase by at least 1% the tree cover per year until saturation of suitable sites is reached.
• Upgrade government facilities that house trees and plants of genetic value and open these facilities to the public and researchers.
• Remove silt from dams in valleys and achieve at least a 2% reduction in the number of valley units that require intervention per year.
• Establish the Dwejra marine area as a Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and designate additional marine SACs and set up ongoing monitoring activities with the help of local NGOs and diving schools.
1.3 AIR QUALITY
In general, Gozo enjoys a good level of air quality. However, specific areas that are subject to heavy traffic at particular times of the day and others that are close to construction or quarrying activities may not enjoy such good air quality.
The monitoring and improvement of air quality is fundamental to the eco-Gozo vision. Research shows that poor air quality principally affects respiratory and cardiovascular systems. In Gozo, the main sectors contributing to air pollution are transport and quarrying.
Government proposes to:
• Provide an efficient public transport system in Gozo.
• Address excessive emissions generated by older generation cars, especially heavy duty vehicles.
• Explore abatement measures which can be implemented by quarry operators.
The generation of energy is often directly associated with the concept of eco-initiatives and is another central issue to the eco-Gozo vision. Energy consumption in the Maltese Islands is derived from imported fossil fuels. NSO statistics indicate that energy consumption has been on the increase for the past eight years. Sources which are environmentally-friendly and nonpolluting can be considered as alternatives to fossil fuels. Gozo, due to its small scale, can have most of its energy generated through green sources which may include micro-wind turbines, on-shore wind farms, biomass/energy from waste and solar energy.
For this priority area, Government proposes to:
• Identify optimal sites for small onshore wind farms and develop small onshore wind farms with a limited number of turbines.
• Utilise rooftops of public buildings and other spaces such as public car parks for renewable energy projects involving solar energy.
• Install additional photovoltaic panels at the Ministry for Gozo funded from savings in electricity bills arising from replacement of the existing energy supply.
• Carry out energy audits on all public buildings including the Gozo Administration Centre.
• Convert all lighting systems in offices and public places to energy-saving lighting.
• Provide free consultation to people on how to convert their houses to be energy efficient.
• Award companies, households, villages and streets committed to energy-saving with a 'Green Award'.
The rainy season in the Maltese islands is considered to start in September. Excluding the months of May to August, the mean monthly rainfall over the last two decades for Gozo stands at 68.88 mm. Consequently, fresh water is very scarce on the island and therefore the efficient use of resource for domestic, industrial and agricultural use must be ensured. This vision addresses the protection and improved use of such water and may be one of the more difficult measures to attain.
Government proposes to:
• Identify areas where reservoirs could be constructed so as to collect rainwater and prevent flooding.
• Promote the collection and use of rainwater in households and enhance the implementation of systems for the re-use of water and distribute a water savings kit to each household.
• Promote a cost-effective utilisation of treated sewage effluent for secondary uses such as agriculture, landscaping and industry.
• Study the optimal use of water in agriculture in conjunction with the Gozo Experimental Farm project. Use water produced by the Waste Water Treatment Plant for agriculture purposes.
• Restore reservoirs at Administration Centre and Government farm.
The waste management policies in Malta emerge from 'A Solid Waste Management Strategy for the Maltese Islands' published by the Government in October 2001. The policies included Sustainable development, Proximity principle and self-sufficiency, Precautionary principle, Polluter-pays-principle, Waste hierarchy (waste prevention/reduction, re-use, recycling, recovery, disposal), Best practicable environmental option, and Producer responsibility.
A revision of the 2001 Strategy which was published as a consultation document in January 2009 recognises Gozo as having a strategic dimension to serve as a pilot area where projects can be implemented and subsequently mirrored in Malta. In this regard, innovative waste strategies will be applied in Gozo with a view to create business opportunities whilst also enhancing Gozo's image as a tourist destination and its self-sufficiency from a waste management perspective.
Govenment proposes that:
• The Ministry for Gozo, Wasteserv and Local Councils will work together to increase the proportion of recyclables collected in Gozo to an established target above the national targets.
• A mechanical biological treatment plant for the treatment of municipal solid waste and manure is established.
• Compost for use in agriculture and/or landscaping projects is produced from waste.