Infrastructure Malta has finally been granted a permit to carry out works at Wied Qirda but the state agency has been ordered to clean up the environmental mess its illegal roadworks left behind in the protected valley.

The Environment and Resour­ces Authority issued an environmental permit for the agency to reinstate part of the valley, which has been widened, to remove construction debris from the valley bed and to carry out other works intended to restore it.

An Infrastructure Malta spokesman told Times of Malta that now that the permit has been issued, the agency can go ahead with its project “to make this part of the valley better than it was”.

Last November, the environmental watchdog had stopped the roads agency from continuing extensive roadwork without a permit in the scenic area between Żebbuġ and Siġġiewi.  Despite stop orders affixed to machinery on site, workers simply removed them and continued work they had planned. They ignored requests from the environmental watchdog to stop and police had to be called in.

ERA’s stop notice said the works were in breach of several provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, since they were taking place in a site of ecological importance. It said they were also being carried out without the ERA’s authorisation.

The agency had denied ignoring the ERA’s instructions, insisting that works were being car­ried out “in collaboration with ERA”. But ERA only issued the environmental permit last week, allowing the agency to continue with its work at the valley.

Contacted, an agency spokes­man said that works carried out in the area included the replacement of the asphalt surface of the pre-existing road width, and the structural repair of a short stretch of the same road that had collapsed due to storm damage and which had become dangerous to drivers, pedestrians and other road users.

“The resurfacing of the road and the repair works were not being carried out illegally. The repairs included the excavation of existing foundations and the construction of new retaining walls on stronger footings,” the spokes­man said. He added that excavation was “inevitable” as it sought to replace a dam formed decades ago cutting across the valley and which was blocking the natural flow of water, causing flooding, and damaging the adjacent road.

“The stop and enforcement order issued in November was not meant to stop the works permitted by law to repair the road and render it safe to the public, but to request that the ERA be informed of the meth­odo­logy of works and to ensure least impact on the environment,” the spokesman insisted.

He said that after the urgent works had been completed, the agency submitted the required applications, method statements and related plans for the additional non-urgent regeneration and restoration works. The permit was issued after these were analysed by ERA’s environment protection officers and the re­ge­ne­ration work can now proceed.

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