The Birgu Local Council together with16 other European partners organised the first workshop of the COHEIRS project, a project which supports the active participation of citizens in the EU democratic life and more specifically in the implemenation of the precautionary principles on health and the environment. The citizens panels, duly supported and guided shall monitor the conditions of the enviornment by paying special attention to those violations and misconducts directly or collaboratly threatening public health. This will we done through an international network which will have the task to draft recomendations of chnages which will be addressed to loacal, national and Euroepan decison makers.
The objectives of this project are to empower citizens to play a full part in their communities; fostering citizens participation; fostering citizens sense of ownership of the EU; tackling environmental and health related issues both at local and European level, encouraging environmental and health freindly policies, promoting intercultural dialogue and contributing to an inclusive society.
The seminar which was moderated by Mr Trevor Mizzi, Deputy Mayor of Birgu Local Council, was opened by the Mayor of Birgu, Mr John Boxall who spoke about the need to encourage citizens initiatives, with more active citizens participation focusing on the qaulity of our enviornment. Mr Boxall spoke on how residents and citizens can be actively involved, their aspirations and future visions. He ended his intervention by stating that education is the key, citizens are the promoters of change, the promoters of a better future.
The Hon Minister Mr Leo Brincat, Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, spoke about the need of having civic involement of all the citizens in decsion making emphasing on the need of a bottom up approach, where citizens show leadership. The Minister said that irrespective of the economic situation, enviornmental issues have to be tackled and addressed without any delay, because these problems hit all sectors of society and effects the qaulity of life. Mr Brincat said that policies are important as a guidline, but educational awareness is a must if we need more active citizens to feel part of change and to be themselves who are recommending change and high environmental standards.
Mr Alfred Baldacchino, an enviornmental expert, spoke about what we understand when we speak of the enviornment and gave an interesting presentation on how man and the environment have to co exist together and what man does has a consequence on the state of the enviornment. He stated that one of the major threats to this region is the main power plant which is situated in the southern region of the Maltese Islands and thus constituiting great harm to the citizens living in these areas. He showed great concern about the fact that the citizens are not being protected from noxious air pollution. Although a replacement power station is nearing completion, various concerns remain. Health problems deriving from these emissions may have long lasting repercussions on the citizens’ health.
Dr David Mallia, an architect and expert on restoration, spoke about the pyscological effects of pollution on man and how buildings give character and a sense of belonging to citizens. He mentioned the fact that urban environment defects have a negative effect on human health and the need of preserving and taking care of our urban enviornment is a need not of luxuary but of essence.
Ms Moira Azzopardi, project coordinator for the Birgu Local Council, presented the conclusions from the workshop seminar where participants where asked to discuss the issue of health and enviornment.
Mr Mark Causon, EU Affairs Consultant, concluded the seminar by summing up that the need of more awareness campaigns is reflected, citizens require more information inorder to become more active citizens, the need of active civic groups is the future for a better life and through projects such as the COHEIRS where a network of local councils and citizens from around Europe should be further encouraged. The EU offers tools for active participation and the citizens together with their local councils should make use of these opportunities.