The Malta Independent 23 April 2024, Tuesday
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BirdLife condemns decision to 'butcher' trees near Mosta Dome

Monday, 13 November 2023, 09:32 Last update: about 6 months ago

BirdLife Malta has condemned the decision to 'remove and destroy' the trees by the side of the church in Mosta Square.

"This morning the butchering of these trees in preparation for uprooting by Kunsill Lokali Mosta with the blessing of ERA - Environment & Resources Authority, has started.

BirdLife Malta is pleading with the authorities to stop the work immediately. At this time of the year thousands of White Wagtails (Zakak Abjad), Common Starlings (Sturnell) and Spanish Sparrows (Għasfur tal-Bejt) find refuge in these Ficus Trees during the night when they roost together in safety. This is the only roosting site for White Wagtails outside of Valletta and the idea of removing them is wrong, whilst the timing is even worse. We call on the authorities to stop the works immediately."

The Ghaqda Sigar Maltin Facebook Group said that the infrastructural works in the square will result of the destruction of the trees.

Works have been ongoing in the square for months. The works in the area include the installation of paving which matches the look of Mosta's centre and the Basilica, the local council had said a few months ago. "New paved and landscaped spaces create safer pedestrian zones and slow down vehicular speeds, with a design that facilitates the square's closure if and when required."

The local council only announced on its Facebook page on Sunday at 10pm that works to remove and transplant the existing trees around the square's car park would begin the following day as part of the implementation of a 'Landscaping Plan' for the square.

The council said that all local councillors had agreed with the decision to transplant the trees in question, and that the Ficus trees in question will be relocated to Santa Margerita.  The landscaping project is set to cost €200,000 financed by Transport Malta, the council said.


Meanwhile, Zebbug local councillor Steve Zammit Lupi has also spoken up about the situation. "For me, the Ficus trees near the Mosta Dome were the most beautiful scene within the heart of the urban environment in Mosta."

"The have offered shade and greenery for 50 years. Now, they will soon be removed by the local council with ERA's permission. These large and mature trees are also important for birds," he said.

"On what basis does ERA agree that these protected trees be removed? The most beautiful urban area trees in Mosta are going to be lost. It will be a loss for us and for nature."

In a statement to 'clarify' the matter, the ERA said that "Ficus trees are a hardy species and normally survive transplanting if such transplanting is done at the appropriate time of the year, normally between November and February. For successful transplanting trees need to be devoid of the canopy and the smaller branches to enable them to survive the move."

"In the case of the Mosta square trees, the permit was issued during the most suitable period for transplanting of trees, whereby it allows for the tree to acclimatise, and roosting birds are versatile to find alternative trees, during this period when winter has not set in yet, until the new trees grow enough to have a hosting canopy, the ERA said. 

The ERA said that the permit it issued imposes the replanting of replacement trees that would have a good canopy that allows for shade and bird nesting.  These include Holm Oaks and Judas Trees. 


"There are instances where trees in the urban environment are required to be removed to implement urban regeneration projects, tackle damage caused by the roots of some tree species and allow the use of public open spaces in a more practical way.  We also need to consider that project proponents, who are often obliged by ERA to plant trees as part of their projects, are not discouraged from planting more trees due to fear of having a lifelong commitment to preserve them without the possibility of future embellishment of their localities/projects. With careful planning, such interventions may be allowed in a careful manner and without resulting in a net environmental loss," the authority concluded.

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