Moviment Graffitti on Tuesday sought explanations from Infrastructure Malta and Minister Chris Bonett for the decision to prune 145 mature trees in Valley Road by up to six metres.

Infrastructure Malta does not know the difference between pruning and butchery, Moviment Graffitti said in a statement as it described plans to prune the trees lining the road leading from Birkirkara to Msida as "pure butchery".

It called on the agency and the minister to reveal the exact reason behind the decision warning that the work could be “another example of the blatant disregard” for trees, and “an exercise in pure and condemnable butchery”.

The organisation also sought assurances that any work would be conducted by qualified and competent persons, and would be subject to round-the-clock monitoring by the authorities, citing its “sensitive” and “delicate” nature.

The tender document, issued by Infrastructure Malta, provides for the hard pruning of the trees’ canopy by up to six metres, and stipulates that the canopy must be thinned out. It also requires the removal of any low-hanging branches, and of branches close to touching the nearby buildings.

Pruning of the 60-year-old trees is due to begin next month and occur in stages, taking 12 months in total. Works will be overseen by an arborist, according to a nature permit issued by the Environment and Resources Authority for the works. 

In an open letter addressed to the agency and the minister responsible for it, Moviment Graffitti questioned the need to thin out the canopy, noting that the benefits of the practice are disputed.

It also shed doubt on the need to prune any of the trees by six metres, arguing that this would “utterly destroy” the canopy.

The organisation noted that light pruning of low-hanging branches and those that may be too close to the buildings on either side is understandable, but does not reflect the tender issued by Infrastructure Malta.

Moviment Graffitti pointed out that the trees provide clean air and shade in an area of heavy traffic, and counteract the pollution generated by the hundreds of vehicles passing through the road each day.

“The trees are an invaluable asset to the people working in the offices and showrooms along Valley Road, not to mention to the buildings themselves, which are shielded from the smoke and dust generated by cars,” it said.

The activist organisation also drew attention to the large number of birds that roost in the canopy, describing the cluster of 145 trees as “an important ecosystem" within the harbour region’s urban conglomeration.

It expressed its concern that the contractor selected as the preferred bidder “does not appear to have any prior experience in managing projects of such size that require considerable sensitivity”.

“We are concerned that the tender issued by Infrastructure Malta sought only to choose the cheapest bid, without any consideration for the bidders’ competence,” it said.

“We stress that works of such a delicate nature should be conducted with maximum care and supervision, and only to the extent that is absolutely required.

“Going further than is required to secure the integrity of buildings and safety of people would simply be another example of the blatant disregard for the important role of trees in the urban environment, and an exercise in pure and condemnable butchery.”

The questions sent by Moviment Graffiti to Minister Chris Bonett and Infrastructure Malta are:

  1. What is the exact plan for the trees in question? Will any of the branches making up the canopy be pruned?
  2. What is the reason for the “hard pruning”, and why is a limit of “up to 6m” provided, when this would utterly destroy the canopy?
  3. Can you provide the ERA permit allowing this work to be conducted, that was referred to in the tender document?
  4. Has any evidence of previous work of similar scope been requested of the preferred bidder? If so, has this been found to be satisfactory?
  5. The minister has indicated that Infrastructure Malta will be on-site to supervise the work. Can the agency indicate the extent of this supervision, and whether it is round-the-clock, daily, weekly, or ad hoc?
  6. Can Infrastructure Malta guarantee that the job will be carried out with the expertise and sensitivity required?

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.