Last month, Prime Minister Robert Abela and Transport Minister Ian Borg inaugurated one of the administration’s flagship projects: the Central Link in Attard.

However, this project is far from being complete. A tunnel, which came as an afterthought, is still being dug at Mrieħel,  causing traffic jams and delays in travel times. It goes to show that this inauguration was just another attempt at gaining popularity on the eve of an election.

Even more troublesome is the prime minister’s statement that every project undertaken by the government has an environmental dimension. Of course, there’s an environmental dimension to each project and that includes the negative environmental impacts brought about by the government’s arrogance and disregard for the environment.

The government boasted of planting 950 trees but failed to mention the uprooting of hundreds of trees, including mature specimens over 100 years old. These were trees whose uprooting could have been avoided had they been incorporated into the road design.

But tree preservation and their potential incorporation in road design also came as an afterthought by Borg, just like the still unfinished Mrieħel tunnel, and only after protestors chained themselves to them to raise awareness about tree destruction.

Other mature trees are also dying off slowly because of careless trenching which severed their roots and lack of proper mitigation measures. No amount of sapling planting can ever compensate for the systemic and, at times, illegal tree destruction that took place along the Central Link.

We were even told that historical features were left untouched as interventions were carried out under the watchful eyes of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

Environmental protection in this country is at its worst ever- Robert Cutajar

It didn’t seem that way when mechanical excavators were digging a few centimetres from the Grade 1 scheduled 17th-century Wignacourt aqueduct in Attard, with no hoarding deployed and no archaeological monitors on site, only to be ordered to stop by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. This followed reports by concerned citizens who obviously have much more regard for our environment than the people running Infrastructure Malta. This wanton disregard for Malta’s historical heritage is not limited to the Central Link but was also evident in other projects undertaken by Infrastructure Malta.

The concreting of the scheduled 19th-century British military track along the Victoria Lines, in Binġemma and the encroachment onto the 17th-century St James chapel parvis, in Luqa all come to mind.

So does the danger posed to the medieval church of Santa Duminka in Dingli whose grounds were only saved after Graffitti activists protested against the senseless construction of a planned road to nowhere, impacting not only the church but agricultural land and centuries-old carob trees. In several other areas, agricultural land was bulldozed for road construction before the land was even expropriated in a legitimate manner from its rightful owners.

In Comino, a protected special area of conservation, the Ministry for Gozo decided to dig up the road at the Blue Lagoon and to litter the protected garigue with the excavated rubble. The work was done without an ERA permit. Notwithstanding having been directed by the environment ombudsman to reverse the works, nothing has been done so far. Similarly, IM has been apprehended, repeatedly, carrying out environmentally damaging works in other protected areas without an ERA permit.

The level of environmental protection is at its worst ever. Only last month we heard of yet another ERA CEO resigning. With four different heads in less than six years, the ERA is competing with the police force in terms of leadership turnover.

Soon the people will be asked once again to cast their vote and to determine who will be leading the country during the next legislature. As a party we are determined to halt this senseless destruction being brought about by government institutions and by a very poor environment protection policy.

Under a future PN-led government we will ensure that such institutions lead by example in full respect of the law. We shall implement our proposals that have been devised to guarantee a better environment for the common good of future generations

Robert Cutajar, PN spokesperson on the environment


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