The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Wirt Għawdex has major concerns regarding Gozo-Malta tunnel project as proposed

Saturday, 20 April 2019, 11:47 Last update: about 5 months ago

After organizing a public debate and consulting feedback from our membership, the NGO Wirt Ghawdex said it has concerns on the Malta-Gozo tunnel, saying the project risks impacting negatively on the natural environment, built environment, and the cultural and social heritage of Gozo, "all of which we as an organisation strive to protect and preserve".

Natural Environment – During the construction phase, the digging, removal and relocation of debris poses considerable risk to the natural environment of the island and its surrounding waters. After completion, the likely rise in traffic congestion, will result in an increase in air pollution and the subsequent demand for the widening of roads will result in further loss of green/arable land. Furthermore, the increase in property demands and the subsequently projected building boom, will likewise result in further loss of previously untouched land and fuel speculation and pressure by developers on ODZ land. 

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Built Environment – The subsequent necessity to update road infrastructure to cater for the increased congestion will result in the altering of traditional streetscapes. Increased property demands and the projected building boom will also alter Gozo’s traditional townscapes by encourage the destruction or alteration of traditional buildings, pressuring a relaxation of height limitations thus altering Gozo’s skyline, and pressuring an extension of development zones thus challenging the until now still intact separation of Gozitan villages. 

Cultural and social Heritage – Gozo’s insularity, while posing its challenges, has resulted in unique culture and way of life that has evolved over centuries and which undeniably differs in various respects from that of its sister island. The sudden and uncontrolled influx of mainland influences will undoubtedly put pressure on, and subsequently alter, Gozo’s cherished cultural and social norms and traditions.

"We feel that these concerns, among others posed by other NGO’s, must be addressed before any further steps are taken towards the implementation of the vehicular-tunnel project, the NGO said.

Furthermore, like many other NGO’s and concerned citizens, Wirt Għawdex would like to see all the studies for the proposed vehicular-tunnel being finalized and offered for public discussion. This is the only way that a full cost/viability analysis can be made.

The Wirt Għawdex committee is sympathetic to the connectivity issues faced by Gozitans. We are after all Gozitans ourselves, constantly facing the hardships and tribulations of traveling to Malta for work, education, to go abroad and other commitments. We thus encourage the further exploration of short-term solutions like a fourth ferry, an increase in ferry journeys and a fast ferry service, as well as long-term solutions like that of a mass transit system. 

But it is our duty as Gozitans, to first and foremost make sure that such solutions do not result in the loss of Gozo’s unique character and way of life as we know and love it, Wirt Ghawdex said.

 

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