The Malta Independent 13 December 2018, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Environment - Construction waste and land reclamation

Thursday, 6 December 2018, 10:33 Last update: about 7 days ago

Living in this country has become a truly surreal experience.

On one day you can have the Deputy Prime Minister proudly hoisting the White Flag above Gnejna Bay – a symbol of its clean waters, free from plastic and other marine debris.

But on another day you could have the Prime Minister saying that thousands of tonnes of construction waste could be dumped into the sea or used for land reclamation projects.

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The Labour government, it seems, has a fixation with land reclamation. It has been an electoral pledge since 2013 and we have been hearing proposals about land reclamation projects in several areas, including Xghajra and Bahar ic-Caghaq.

Up till now, those plans have thankfully remained on paper. But it now seems that the government has the perfect excuse to push ahead with this dream of changing Malta’s map – the Gozo tunnel project.

The idea of an undersea tunnel linking Malta and Gozo, mostly for the benefit of a few thousand workers who have to cross the channel each day, has been put forward by both major political parties. This newspaper has been consistent in its opposition to the tunnel. We believe that the cost and the environmental impact are just too great to justify, especially since the demand for it is not that high. We feel that the state should instead invest in a proper fast ferry service – one that does not link Gozo with Cirkewwa but rather with the central and harbor districts.

A renowned geologist warned a few weeks ago that the characteristics of the rock in the channel would likely lead to loss of life during the construction phase. Yet the authorities have insisted that all relevant studies are being carried out. We are no geology experts. What we can say is that if the government wants a tunnel, it will have a tunnel.

We already know that the tunnel will spoil tranquil Manikata – the Prime Minister had announced that it will probably start from there. The same can said for the other end of the tunnel, in Gozo.

But now, Muscat is saying that the huge amount of rock dug up from under the sea floor could either be dumped elsewhere in the sea or be used for land reclamation. The government is looking into both options. So apart from ruining Manikata and Gozo, we are also risking ruining our clear blue seas, all in the name of development.

It seems that, once again we are being shortsighted and are thinking only of the immediate results.

Is the government considering the effect that dumping at sea could have on marine life, or on our diving sites? Are we willing to keep uglifying this country, making it even less attractive to tourists, so that the construction industry can keep making hay?

It is clear that the construction industry has expanded too rapidly and there is no plan for dealing with the waste it generates. Recently, ten quarries were opened up to receive waste but these will soon reach capacity. When that happens, there will be nowhere to store construction waste. Something has to be done, and the environment cannot always come out as the loser.

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