Land use - Drivers and pressures (Malta)
Drivers of land-use change
The key drivers of land-use change are socio-economic: demography, economic development, transport, etc. Malta’s 2008 Environment Report (www.mepa.org.mt/ter08-drivingforces) indicates that while the population has largely met its basic material needs, it continues to place unsustainable demands on the environment. It notes that the number of vacant properties on the islands has continued to rise, with 22.4 % of all dwellings lying permanently vacant in 2005. Urgent measures, including economic instruments and re-orientation of the construction industry towards rehabilitation, are needed to address this in ways that do not place undue pressures on affordability and availability of housing, and take social and economic implications into account.
The 2008 Environment Report also states that tourism is important in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), but it puts significant pressure on the environment due to additional consumption of resources, an increase in waste generation and land take for tourism infrastructure. The report suggests that the industry should focus on ensuring a quality product that prevents undue pressure on natural resources, for example by spreading tourism intake more evenly throughout the year and penetrating niche markets that are generally more sensitive to and supportive of conservation.
The continued rise in vehicle numbers is of concern due to the environmental and social impacts of their use. The high percentage of imports of older and more polluting second-hand vehicles is of concern confirming that the renewal of Malta’s car fleet with smaller and more efficient vehicles is urgently required. There is also an urgent need to make public transport alternatives at least as reliable and attractive as private car use.
Although the agriculture sector is small in terms of employment and contribution to GDP, it is a major environmental player. Agricultural practices can have serious impacts in terms of pollution of the countryside. However good farming practices can positively influence countryside and landscape quality, and sustain key environmental resources such as biodiversity, soil and water.
The report also notes that Malta’s environmental targets and objectives related to air pollution and climate change can only be met by decoupling its increasing total energy demand from economic growth. The islands remain far from reaching EU renewable energy and energy efficiency targets – to reach these Malta will need to reduce consumption and develop widespread use of alternative technologies.