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Children discuss environmental concerns in Dear Minister!

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Children discuss environmental concerns in Dear Minister!Today, children from 14 schools in Malta expressed their environmental concerns to Dr Mario De Marco, Minister for Tourism, the Environment and Culture. In turn, he advised how the government is tackling these issues.

The event – known as ‘Dear Minister!’ – is an annual activity organised by BirdLife Malta and Bank of Valletta. It is one of 30 green activities in the Dinja Wahda environmental education programme for primary schools. This year Dear Minister! was held at the Auberge d’Italie, MTA Head Office.

“Through Dinja Wahda children learn not only to appreciate and respect the natural environment but also to live in harmony with it by taking action to protect it. Today’s activity is about encouraging children to speak out about environmental issues which can be a strong tool for change towards better protection of the environment,” said Nicolette Falzon, Dinja Wahda Manager.

In the Minister’s presence, the children read letters they themselves had written, in which they raised their concerns about a range of environmental issues, including marine pollution, waste management, protection of wild animals and countryside management.

Sheldon Carabott, a pupil at St Thomas More College, Marsaxlokk Primary, likes to go for walks along the coast in his free time, but he is concerned about the pollution in the sea and recommends harsh penalties for the culprits.

Raquel Sammut from St Francis School, Birkirkara, is worried about light pollution being “a major threat to seabirds and nocturnal species, especially the Yelkouan Shearwater.” She explained, “When young birds leave their nest for fishing, bright lights confuse them.” As a solution she suggested, “eliminating extra street lights, reducing light bulb intensity, installing cat’s eyes to reduce light pollution and save electricity.”

Yasmine Galea from St Theresa College, Birkirkara Primary spoke about the loss of countryside. “As we know, the little countryside and greenery that we have is slowly being destroyed. It is being replaced by buildings.” She encouraged people to unite and take a stand for the protection of the environment.

Alternative energy was also discussed as a way of improving the environment. Michelle Desira from St Joseph School, Blata L-Bajda, was inspired after a sustainable development live-in at Buskett organised by her teachers. She noted that the Delimara power station “uses oil to power the generators,” producing sulphur dioxide. Ending her letter, Michelle said, “Instead of using electricity made from oil we should use photo-voltaic panels.”

Addressing the children at the event, Vanessa Macdonald, Bank of Valletta’s Head PR and Social Media said, “As a leading presence in the community, Bank of Valletta takes its environmental responsibility very seriously and is actively working to reduce its own impact. However, we also believe that we can play a role in raising environmental awareness in the community through our sponsorship of BirdLife and this heartfelt initiative is a pleasure to witness.”

The winning letter, selected by a panel of judges, written by McAlister Azzopardi from St. Michael School, captured the ethos of the event. In his letter, McAlister asked for more educational campaigns among children and adults to increase awareness about animal protection. He appealed for the introduction of harsher penalties for those caught breaking the laws, and for more Green Wardens to enforce them.

The Minister praised both the children who sent in letters and the schools which had encouraged participation in the project. He said that the topics selected were ones which were of great importance to the Maltese islands and that the suggestions offered by the students showed an appreciation of the issues at stake. He highlighted a number of initiatives already being taken by the government, explaining the need to balance environmental concerns with economic ones.

The aim of ‘Dear Minister!’ is to make children aware that voicing one’s concern about environmental matters is an important part of beginning to solve the problems facing nature. The activity also brings home the message that children can and should be concerned about environmental matters.

Birdlife group photo by Mark Cassar.

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