The Malta Independent 13 November 2019, Wednesday

‘Leave the valley as it is’, Zebbug mayor pleads, as IM to forge ahead with rural road surfacing

Neil Camilleri and Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 7 November 2019, 14:42 Last update: about 6 days ago

• Spilt asphalt to be removed once road works are completed - IM

Zebbug mayor Malcolm Paul Galea has appealed to Infrastructure Malta to leave the picturesque Wied Qirda as it is, and ditch plans to resurface a rural road running alongside it.

The asphalting and road-widening works caused a new controversy this week when part of a road situated on one of the ridges collapsed, sending a truck over the edge and its cargo of hot asphalt flying over a carob tree.

The incident was flagged by independent councilor Steve Zammit Lupi, who decried the “environmental rape” of the valley.

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The young councilor said the road where the accident took place has been tripled in width, with a number of trees and bushes being sacrificed in the process. The council filed a police report and filed an urgent request with the Environment and Resources Authority and Infrastructure Malta to repair the damage and clean up the asphalt.

Mayor Galea said in a Facebook post on Thursday that the two entities were going to clean up and repair the area, but he said that the road works should not be taking place.

“That truck should not have been there in the first place. I appreciate that works are being carried out to improve access for farmers and for those who visit the valley, and I understand that the road has been widened, but I cannot accept the removal of protected carob trees to make way for asphalt,” he wrote.

The mayor appealed for rubble walls to be erected and for the road to be left as it is or to at least be covered in gravel, not asphalt. “It makes more sense and less damage. Let’s leave the valley as a valley and not build a road through it.”

Trees and plants have been destroyed in the road-widening exercise


He also appealed to the authorities to not install lighting in the area. “Lighting in a valley is as bad as covering it in concrete,” he said, pointing out that artificial light would affect fauna and flora in the area.

The Zebbug council also said Thursday that it has formally written to the authorities to halt the works so that the road is not widened. “The plans to asphalt the road should be discarded,” it said, adding that alternative material should be used.  

 

Private land and a fireworks factory

Sources said that the road-widening and surfacing works were likely related to a private fireworks factory in the area, which has recently started operating again. There are now two operational fireworks factories in the valley.

A source said the works are likely being carried out on the pretext that there is a need for a proper road for of the emergency services in the unfortunate case of an accident, but fire engines and ambulances can easily reach the area using the existing lane. “Covering the lane in asphalt is totally unnecessary,” the source said.

This newsroom can also confirm that part of the road leading up to the fireworks factory is privately-owned. In fact, a few weeks back, the landowner had blocked the asphalting works.

 

Works to proceed

Yet, IM seems to be pushing ahead with its plans and will also be surfacing the entire stretch of road, including the privately-owned part.

Furthermore, a search on the Planning Authority website shows that there is no permit covering the works, despite the fact that they are taking place in an ecologically sensitive and protected area.

Replying to questions by this newsroom, an Infrastructure Malta spokesperson said the works will proceed.

“The ongoing works in the indicated road form part of the agency’s investment in rural roads, to improve the quality of countryside roads used mainly by farmers to access their agricultural lands. The ongoing works in this road involve the removal of the existing surface, repairs to its foundations and the laying of a new asphalt layer. These repair and maintenance works are being carried out in accordance with an applicable Transport Malta road works permit.”

Area 1 shows the fireworks factory that recently became operational. Area 2 shows the privately-owned area. The truck incident took place here. The red figure shows the road that will be surfaced.


Referring to the truck incident, IM said the damage to the road structure caused by the accident will be repaired in the coming weeks.

All debris and asphalt on the side of the road will be cleaned once these works are completed.

The spokesperson said IM is working to complete these road works as soon as possible, “whilst ensuring to minimise any impact on nearby agricultural lands and the nearby valley.”

Wied Qirda has made the headlines on frequent occasions because of the number of illegalities hat have taken place there over the years. The Malta Independent has often reported on cases of illegal dumping in the area. It had also reported how an illegal concrete dam was completely blocking the valley watercourse. Last week, IM told this newsroom that the dam will be removed and replaced by another structure, most likely a bridge.

 

 

 

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