A host of ambitious land reclamation proposals, ranging from a race track to business centres and floating villages, have been submitted following a call for expressions of interest issued by the government.

Seventeen local and foreign companies have put in a total of 21 projects for consideration.

The call, issued on July 9, closed at the end of last month and an evaluation committee is expected to shortlist the proposals by the middle of next year. The next phase would be to request feasibility studies of the selected ideas.

The parliamentary secretary responsible for planning, Michael Farrugia, yesterday told Times of Malta he was very satisfied both with the feedback and with the quality and innovative nature of the projects.

Among the other proposals for using reclaimed land, as listed in a government press release, are the creation of green areas, sports facilities, marina villages, boutique hotels and a mysterious “underground” facility that is left unexplained.

They would be located in areas from Gozo to Marsaxlokk, according to the government.

Construction of artificial islands

Mr Farrugia declined to give further details, saying the projects, some of which he described as “very large”, were proposed for a number of different sites.

He confirmed that some of them included the construction of artificial islands, hinting that these would involve investment in the order of tens of millions of euros.

Models of the proposed projects will be on display at a public exhibition towards the end of next month.

Mr Farrugia reiterated the government’s position on the proposals, saying that if none of them satisfied certain social, economic and environmental criteria, it would not forge ahead with land reclamation.

On the other hand it might well be the case that several projects will be given the green light, he said, in which case work would start by the end of the legislature.

He also expressed hope that the Opposition would collaborate on this issue.

The government said the majority of the projects included an ecological energy plan and they would not impact the country’s infrastructure.

Studies carried out in 2005 (Carl Bro) and 2007 (Scott Wilson) had concluded that land reclamation was not viable.

Both studies, which had been commissioned by the planning authority, had concluded that the most suitable site for land reclamation was off Xgħajra on the outskirts of Żabbar.

However, concerns were raised of a possible negative impact on Marsascala and possibly beyond due to the prevalent northwest currents, which might carry a plume of milky-white water to this area.

The Wilson report also warned that land reclamation projects in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, adjacent to the Magħtab landfill, could not be considered due to the interconnector project.

It also transpired that the huge volume of construction debris needed for a feasible land reclamation project would require importing material from abroad since the 1.3 million tons generated annually would not be enough.

The Wilson report also estimated that every cubic metre of reclaimed land could cost anywhere between €15 and €40.

Other concerns were raised by environmentalists, who argued that land reclamation would only encourage further building development.

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