The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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200 mature trees to be chopped to make way for Marsalforn Road, NGO says

Friday, 23 February 2024, 10:45 Last update: about 3 months ago

Din L-Art Ħelwa Għawdex said Friday it committed to protect Marsalforn Valley as 200 mature trees and swathes of agricultural land to go under the axe.

Din L-Art Ħelwa Għawdex (DLĦGħ) has been following the Marsalforn road reconstruction project for some years, the NGO said in a statement.

In 2021, it held a series of meetings with the Ministry for Gozo to try and find a compromise that would reduce the environmental impact of the road reconstruction and the new Victoria bypass linking Triq Fortunato Mizzi with Triq Marsalforn.

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From the outset, the NGO agreed with the need for the Victoria bypass recognizing the need to reduce the ever increasing traffic congestion in central Victoria. DLĦGħ requested significant downsizing of the road reconstruction project in the picturesque area facing the Capuchins convent all the way down the valley to Marsalforn with a clear commitment to the protection of agricultural land, trees and watercourses.

 On 2 September 2021 a press release was issued jointly by DLĦGħ and the Ministry for Gozo wherein ‘Minister Camilleri stated his commitment and openness to achieve consensus and to incorporate proposals by Din L-Art Ħelwa to achieve a more sensitive design which will retain the road’s scenic character, minimizing the amount of agricultural land taken, loss of trees and the risk to valley watercourses while reducing traffic in central Victoria through the planned bypass, ensuring road safety and reducing the overall cost of the project.’

On the basis of the goodwill shown by the Minister for Gozo at the time, Din l-Art Ħelwa took a conscious decision not to challenge the PA approval at EPRT level. Cordial and constructive meetings with government architects continued at a technical level.

However after months of discussions and years of planning the final plans submitted by the Ministry for Gozo based on data supplied by its architects indicate that:

● 200 mature trees will be uprooted, even more than the original 177 that were envisaged to be dug up in the first version of the project with 98 trees to be transplanted.

● The plans will gobble up 10,692 square metres of agricultural and other land, just 12% less land than the 12,170 square metres originally envisaged.

● No specific assurances about the safety of the numerous valley watercourses and reservoirs in Marsalforn Valley were given.

The Ministry for Gozo claims that the agreement reached with DLĦGħ could not be implemented because of road regulations and standards imposed by the different government authorities.

Recent requests for meetings with the Ministry and its architects have been to no avail. DLĦGħ expresses deep disappointment with this outcome and cannot agree with the major and unnecessary negative impact on the Marsalforn valley and road on which traffic congestion is practically non-existent, contending that professional resurfacing and removal of two dangerous spots is enough.

DLĦGħ is ready to meet the Ministry for Gozo at a technical level and work together on a revision of plans to avoid any misdirected use of public funds and also to acknowledge the growing public outrage over the general state of construction and impact of large infrastructural projects on Gozo’s environment. There is still time to put the project on hold and re-address the issues in a calm, reasonable and pragmatic manner allowing common sense to prevail.

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