The Malta Independent 16 December 2019, Monday

Xghajra surveying works unrelated to land reclamation, ministry says

Neil Camilleri Monday, 14 October 2019, 09:02 Last update: about 2 months ago

Surveying works carried out on the Xghajra seafront last week are in no way connected to any land reclamation studies, a spokesperson for the Environment Ministry said.

Last week, a photo was posted on a Facebook page called the Xghajra Seafront Interest Group showing three workers carrying out survey works on the foreshore. The individual who posted the photo said the workers were performing “technical levelling measurements of the beach area.”

When he intervened, he was told that the workers were ordered by an architect. The individual asked whether anyone, including the Marsascala local council, was aware of the works.

The post was later picked up by environmentalist and former PN candidate Michael Briguglio, who again reiterated his “months' old public request to the Government to exclude it has plans for land reclamation there.  So far there was no denial, he said.

Contacted by The Malta Independent, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Jose Herrera said the works were unrelated to any land reclamation plans.

Referring to the photo showing workers using “standard land surveying equipment,” the spokesperson said “one clearly understands that surveying exercises for land reclamation purposes require more logistical considerations that those portrayed in the photo uploaded.”

The Malta Independent on Sunday had previously reported that the Xghajra seafront was one of several areas indicated in an ERA study as possible sites for land reclamation.

Others sections of the press had reported that a policy on land reclamation had been presented to Cabinet in May of this year, but a Freedom of Information request filed by this newsroom recently revealed that the policy is still in draft stage.

A document presented to Cabinet had identified six sites for potential reclamation projects. These areas were: Mġarr Harbour (Gozo), Buġibba and St Paul’s Bay Waterfront, Qalet Marku, Portomaso to Xgħajra, the spoil ground area off Xgħajra and the Marsaxlokk harbour area.

The largest potential search area is the Portomaso to Xgħajra area, which is identified in the ERA presentation document as having a potential scale of medium to large. The area could be used as an investment for commercial and industrial/urban purposes as well as the creation of natural habitats, the ERA noted in its presentation, which was seen by this newsroom.

Speaking about the same document in September, Herrera said that the report was a “works in progress” and “half-baked”, adding that it had been abusively leaked to the press.

Herrera said that a proposal detailing the ideal sites to be considered for land reclamation would be presented to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

"The report needed a lot of fine-tuning and the final version will be presented to me by the end of this week or next week." Subsequently, he said he will present it to Cabinet.

The Environment Minister had added that several millions of euro were spent on two live projects involving a topological survey of the sea to identify ideal sites for land reclamation. The survey was done to determine where land reclamation can be done, where it cannot be done and where it would cause harm to the environment. It also identifies the extent to which land reclamation can be carried out.

Asked whether this new survey had actually been presented to Cabinet, the spokesperson said “with respect to the land reclamation study, that is being carried out by ERA in order to identify areas with least environmental impact, the Ministry has no further comments to make at this stage and more information will be published in due course.”

The issue of land reclamation cropped up again recently in the wake of a new construction waste crisis. Currently, only a couple of quarries are receiving inert waste, with the industry saying that there is not enough space to dump material generated by the construction sector.

The practice is also being urged in view of the upcoming Gozo-Malta undersea tunnel, which is expected to generate a large volume of excavation waste.

Environmentalists have warned about the potential disastrous consequences of land reclamation, including at Xghajra.

  • don't miss