Mr Costantino Mifsud and Mr Louis Vella are this year’s awardees of ERA’s prestigious Buonamico Award.

The Buonamico Award is a yearly award-giving ceremony held under the patronage of H.E. President of Malta which distinguishes individuals whose actions and achievements benefited our biodiversity and the environment.

This prestigious award has been inspired by Malta’s first naturalist, Giovanni Francesco Buonamico, who had recognized the importance of our natural environment in the 17th century. His varied intellectual interests resulted in the writing of at least four important manuscripts on natural history including the first flora of the Maltese Islands, the so-called “Brevis Notitia” manuscripts which acted as the basis for today’s modern reference books.

Buonamico’s role was pivotal for an environmental regulator’s perspective, with scientific evidence based work as the basis of all decision taking measures, to assure correct implementation to safeguard the Environment from a legislative perspective.

This year, the ERA board has chosen two distinguished members of the public whose role had direct impacts on out natural environment and biodiversity.

A teacher by profession, Mr Costantino Mifsud’s interests in the study of the Maltese natural history was sparked during his youth when he worked with his father at their fields in Buskett. Mr Mifsud recalls carrying a copy of A. Valletta’s Know the Trees and later on, consulting publications by Guido Lanfranco.

Mr Mifsud has been contributing to the research on local marine fauna for the majority of his life. In the 1990s, he was introduced to the systematics and taxonomy by Mr Charles Cachia which further contributed to his research. A main interest of Mr Mifsud is in the parasites of the marine animals, especially those on the echinoderms. His remarkable contributions as author and co-author on various publications span decades, from 1986 to the present day, and include descriptions of several species which had been hitherto unknown to science.

Mr Louis Vella’s immense multidisciplinary experience and his involvement in several crucial roles lead to several breakthrough developments in Malta.

Vella’s work within the Department of Health led to the discovery of the source of chronic lead poisoning in the Maltese population which came from the use of waste oils in bakeries. He ran the Recompression Chamber establishing a proper basis for safer recreational diving and played vital roles in occupational health issues arising from the use of chemicals in local industrial situations as well as tackling emerging problems connected with industrial and toxic waste disposal. He was appointed as the first director of the newly setup Environment Protection Department until 1997 were he started operations for a mobile air monitoring station which provided the first reliable date on continuous atmospheric pollution monitoring using recognised methodology whilst playing a vital role in landfill management

Vella made important contributions as a member of various boards and committees including the Clean Air Board, the Radiation Protection Board, the Scientific Committee of the Civil Protection Department and a board member of the Planning Authority. He also represented Malta in various fora, either as a delegate or as Head of Delegation with his last role before definitive retirement as a member Compliance Committee of the Barcelona Convention.

ERA Chairman, Prof. Victor Axiak, thanked the nominees for their invaluable contributions to the environment and their exemplary role in protecting the environment through their outstanding knowledge and commitment.

During his speech, His Excellency George Vella, the President of Malta stated that:

“Both Mr Vella and Mr Mifsud have worked in areas where their research subject or work is almost done behind the scenes. This does not mean that it does not exist or is not important. On the contrary, they have often been pioneers in imparting knowledge about our natural heritage. They played a vital role in raising awareness on the damage caused by the negative impact that environmental pollution leaves both on the quality of life of citizens and on our country’s natural heritage”

Both His Excellency George Vella, the President of Malta and, Professor Victor Axiak, ERA’s Chairman, congratulated the winners and their families, whilst thanking them for their priceless efforts towards the environment and for bravely spearheading initiatives that started to bring about societal change within Malta and amongst the Maltese.

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2 October 2021