Trees in a little Mosta grove have been chopped down to make way for mature ones being uprooted from the town's square.

Trees shredded at Santa Margerita area. Photo: Karl Andrew MicallefTrees shredded at Santa Margerita area. Photo: Karl Andrew Micallef

On Tuesday morning, Times of Malta went to Triq l-Isaqqfin in the Santa Margerita area, where workers said they were chopping down “sick trees”.

They said the trees will be replaced by 12 ficus ones uprooted from the Mosta Square on Tuesday night. 

A worker said the trees being chopped down were sick.

While the Environmental Resources Authority (ERA) gave its blessing for the uprooting and transplanting of the trees by the square, it is yet unclear whether permission was granted for the removal of the Santa Margerita ones. 

Times of Malta was unable to find a removal permit for the trees in question on the ERA website.  Questions have been sent to the authority

The 'pruning' of the Mosta Square trees, in preparation for uprooting and transplanting, as embellishment works got underway around the Rotunda caused uproar on Monday morning. 

Environmentalists expressed concern about the many birds that roost in the trees at nightfall. By Monday evening, footage of birds frantically flying over the area looking for a roosting place went viral, drawing even more condemnation on social media. 

Chopped trunks. Photo: Karl Andrew MicallefChopped trunks. Photo: Karl Andrew Micallef

On Tuesday morning, activists turned up at Mosta Square, saying they had halted the uprooting of the trees. 

ERA said on Monday that ficus trees usually survive transplanting and this is the best time for them to be relocated. The environmental watchdog also noted that removing the canopy and the smaller branches ensured the trees' survival during transplanting. 

Somewhat confusingly, that appears to contradict the authority's own guidelines.

According to its 2019 Guidelines on Works involving Trees, "in general, not more than 25% of the overall crown and no major boughs should be removed."

The same guidelines note that "transplanting shall be carried out as a last resort only when all the other project options have been exhausted". 

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