The Malta Independent 6 December 2021, Monday

Moviment Graffitti objects to the take-up of 38 tumoli of arable land in Mġarr

Monday, 30 August 2021, 10:34 Last update: about 4 months ago

Moviment Graffitti is currently objecting to a proposed development for a solar farm in Mġarr, “that has rasied serious concern and worry amongst farmers and residents of the area.” 

The NGO said that the proposed development is a massive project taking up circa 38 tumoli of arable land - around 6 football pitches - and is home to unique features of the Maltese rural landscape, such as rubble walls, carob trees, garigue, protected flora and fauna, bee colonies and archaeological remains dating back to the Romans. 

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“This project would be directly detrimental to the environment of the site. The site also falls within the Area of Archaeological Importance in Mġarr, with archaeological features immediately outside the site, but within the buffer zone.” 

The proposed development seeks to construct greenhouses and solar panels resting on the greenhouses, the NGO said. “Yet the advantage of constructing these solar panels is rendered nul by the fact that the crops, all falling in the panels’ shade, will not receive direct sunlight. Farmers from the area have stated that these conditions will likely result in no crops growing at all, and that this project is using agriculture as an excuse for further development.” 

“If such a project is indeed intended to reduce Malta's carbon emissions, developing ODZ areas runs counter to that very idea,” said the group in a statement. “There is the clear possibility that this solar farm application is being used as a loophole for more development, since it is difficult to get permission to build on virgin land. The Agricultural Advisory Committee within the Ministry of Environment has also raised several concerns about this project, noting the considerable visual impact of the proposal, the excessive land uptake, and the negative effect it will have on the surrounding fields. Moreover, there are concerns about potential damage to the Ta’ Ħaġrat temples due to water seeping in from the ground.” 

Moviment Graffitti said that solar panels should be placed on alternative sites such as industrial or government buildings, roofs etc. and absolutely not take up more agricultural land. 

“The Planning Authority itself recommends that solar panels be placed within the building fabric, on roofs, surface car parks and other open and empty otherwise ‘wasted’ spaces. 38 tumoli of Maltese countryside is not and cannot be considered wasted space and it is illogical that such land is taken up when other spaces are far more suitable.” 

Additionally, the group said that the proposed project goes against Policy 2.11 on Small Scale Photovoltaic Panels. “The Policy states that the Planning Authority shall consider solar panels on rural buildings (including greenhouses) only if they are small scale and do not create a visual impact. The proposed solar panels are certainly not small scale and will be a massive eyesore in the middle of the Mġarr countryside, a point which has been mentioned by several residents who have sent their objections to the Planning Authority.” 

If the real goal behind this project is to increase environmental sustainability, destroying the existing countryside to make way for this huge project is not the way to go, Moviment Graffitti said. “Farmers, activists and experts have sounded their warning about the detrimental results of this project. It is the Planning Authority’s duty to take heed.”

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