Updated 4pm with Graffitti reaction

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has defended plans to expand the Mrieħel bypass, saying those who have spoken out against it should inform themselves before criticising the project.

His Labour party colleagues Alfred Sant and Marie Louise Coleiro have slammed reported plans to absorb an area of agricultural land the size of three football pitches in order to build a flyover. 

Among the criticism by activists and farmers is that the project, revealed by NGO Graffitti over the weekend, has been shrouded in secrecy.

Speaking on Monday, Borg defended the proposal to build the new flyover and said that those who had criticised it hadn't seen the plans and weren't informed. 

"Personally, before I decide whether I am for or against a project I first inform myself on the project rather than post my opinion on social media," Borg explained.

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg says he would not take to social media to criticise a project without being fully informed. Video: Kristina Abela

He also contradicted claims that farmers were not consulted about it. One farmer said he had found a notification saying that Infrastructure Malta planned to "upgrade the area" without giving any further details.

"I am informed by the Chief Executive of Infrastructure Malta that they attended meetings on the project," Borg said. 

"I come from a family of farmers and they are the last people I want to hurt."

However, he said the country needs investment in infrastructure and this needs to take place in balance with the needs of the community and stakeholders, such as farmers.

He did not respond to questions by Times of Malta over whether he could guarantee that the bypass would not impact a €55 million rainwater project meant to relieve floods in Qormi.

"Let's wait for the plans to come out. Infrastructure Malta will respond to this question with more accuracy and details."

Infrastructure Malta has said the flyover would allow westbound traffic to enter Mrieħel without having to cross eastbound lanes of the bypass, as is currently the case. 

Mayor, farmers, not consulted - Moviment Graffitti

Reacting in the afternoon, Moviment Graffitti said that IM did not inform all of those being impacted by the project, and all it did was hand over a piece of paper with some information to some farmers.

The NGO said this information was vague and referred only to "updating and maintenance of the bypass".

"We only got to know about IM's and Minister Borg's plans following pressure by farmers. IM insisted that the project will definitely be implemented and even more land could be taken up by the upgrading," Graffitti said, adding that not even the Qormi mayor had been consulted.

"Borg should have also reacted to (IM chief) Frederick Azzopardi's comment that farmers have 'enjoyed this land for long enough', since Azzopardi's behaviour falls within his remit.

"Contrary to what Borg is implying, our opposition is not limited to social media. He should expect a fierce fight from farmers, residents and activists who have had enough of lies and deceit from the roads' agency." 

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