The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Environmental ‘protection’ - Is anyone there?

Saturday, 9 November 2019, 09:09 Last update: about 27 days ago

A new environmental controversy has erupted over plans (or rather, ongoing works) to widen and asphalt a rural country lane in the picturesque Wied Qirda valley in the limits of Zebbug.

NGOs and even the (Labour) local council have raised objections to the plans, telling the responsible authority – Infrastructure Malta – to lay its hands off the valley. Their plight has been joined by many residents of the locality, who want to see the popular hiking and picnic area remain unspoilt.

Yet, for some reason, the various entities that are supposedly tasked with the ‘protection’ of our environment seem to be comatose.

So far, there has been no word from Environment Minister Jose Herrera, who is usually quite outspoken on environmental issues. There have been no statements by the Environment and Resources Authority, no comments by Ambjent Malta.

The latter, for example, was launched in August of last year, with the environment minister saying that the agency would “be geared towards improving people’s quality of life and their appreciation of the environment.” He had vowed that the agency would not just be “a slogan on a billboard.”

Yet, despite these bold statements, the agency has so far held back from expressing itself on the unnecessary destruction of one of Malta’s prettiest valleys.

The valley has been under siege for a number of years. First it was subjected to rampant dumping of construction waste and other materials. Then it was the blockage of its natural watercourse by an illegal concrete dam. Now, it is being attacked by the country’s authorities.

Trees, shrubs and rubble walls have been bulldozed away in a road-widening exercise. Infrastructure Malta says this is being done as part of its effort to improve rural roads and access to farmers. But anyone who has ever been down to the valley knows that no ‘improvements’ were required.

Most of the road leading down into Wied Qirda was surfaced earlier this year, and the final stretch will be covered in black asphalt in the coming days. Asphalt roads have no place in our valleys, especially when the existing country lanes were adequate for the needs of farmers in the area.

The Zebbug local council has pleaded to IM to leave the valley as it is, and to immediately stop with the road-widening there. However, the authority seems intent on pushing ahead with the project and has told this newspaper that the works will be completed in the coming weeks.

It has also said that the local council had been consulted prior to the start of the works but the latter did not object. We were unable to immediately verify whether this was really the case but, even if it were, such projects should never take place. This is not about the lack of objections. It is about using our common sense and preserving the few green areas we have left.

It feels like the authorities that we should be relying on to raise such issues have fallen silent. Where is the Environment Minister? Ambjent Malta? The Environment and Resources Authority?

 

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