The Malta Independent 8 December 2019, Sunday

Widening of roads, flyovers ‘very important measures’ to improve air quality, Health Minister says

Albert Galea Friday, 9 August 2019, 12:36 Last update: about 5 months ago

Infrastructural projects which result in less traffic jams such as road widening and the building of flyovers are “very important measures”, amongst others, needed to improve Malta’s air quality, Health Minister Chris Fearne told journalists on Friday.

Questions have been once again raised as of late over Malta’s air quality, after the EU’s Environment Agency found that there are between 250-270 deaths every year that are directly attributable to air pollution, and after The European Heart Journal, a leading peer-reviewed Oxford University publication, noted that the figure is closer to 575.

Asked about Malta’s air quality and whether it be considered a cause of public health concern, Fearne said that the figures being mentioned, especially those mentioned by other sectors of the media, need to first be validated, but he admitted that air quality is something which is being taken “very seriously” by the government.

He noted that measures that can address this are being put forward by the government, be it through the encouragement of the purchase of electric cars or through road widening and flyover projects, which he described as “very important measures” which will reduce traffic.

Several infrastructural projects have, as of late, come under fire from a number of quarters, with environmentalists especially protesting against projects such as the Central Link Project and an underpass at Santa Lucija, on the basis that these projects will cause the loss hundreds of mature trees. 

Transport Minister Ian Borg has insisted that such projects are needed even if it will result in the loss of agricultural land and mature trees as otherwise the island would find itself in a state of full congestion which will be of even more detriment to the country’s air quality and, by extension, quality of life.

He has been backed up by Environment Minister Jose Herrera, who called the Central Link project in particular “sustainable” and “unfortunately necessary”, and who has assured people that the transplantation of trees is being supervised by the Environment & Resources Authority after concerns were raised at the fact that a number of trees were being transplanted in Santa Lucija in the midst of the Maltese summer, with many saying that the transplantation process should take place in winter to have the best hope for the trees’ eventual survival.

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