Activists camping in Dingli to block works on a controversial “road to nowhere” cutting through fields have agreed to stand down after the authorities reduced the road’s width by a fifth.
The scaling down of the project connecting Sienja and Muzew alleys with Don Bosco street will also ensure no more carob trees are destroyed and a Medieval chapel in the area is further protected, although its environmental context will be ruined. Two centuries-old trees have already been destroyed as part of the road-building works.
Moviment Graffitti activists who halted the Infrastructure Malta project three weeks ago by setting up camp on the fields have pledged to keep their eyes peeled for any possible development in the area.
They suspect that the new road is being developed to lay the ground for further projects that will eventually turn rural land into concrete buildings.
Graffitti's Andre Callus said the NGO had held a meeting with Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg and Infrastructure Malta CEO Fredrick Azzopardi some three days ago.
Following the meeting, the authorities published plans for the new road, and agreed to narrow the planned 10-metre-wide road by two metres.
"We are still not happy with the formation of the new road, as we are concerned about future changes in local plan or submissions for new development in this rural area.
"We will vehemently oppose any development," he said, thanking the thousands of people who supported Graffitti so that the NGO would be able to physically stop the works.
"We have proof that silence is not an option, even when faced by claims from a minister, hailing from the same locality, that residents are in favour of the project... we have seen how when we are united we can stand up to bullying.
"It is clear that people have had enough."
Taking over land before it is expropriated
Callus added that the resistance and action by residents, farmers and activists had shed light on IM’s practice of taking over land before it is properly expropriated and the owners duly compensated.
Gerald Lapira, who said he was highly emotional as his grandparents' fields were being taken away from him against his will, has not yet been informed of the expropriation.
"I still have not received notice of land expropriation, and I have this to say to whoever signed, or will sign the appropriation papers: the destruction of the fields weighs on your conscience."
Lapira said he has written to President George Vella, Prime Minister Robert Abela and Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia separately, and he had only received an acknowledgement from the former.
He urged landowners in his same situation to ensure that land is adequately expropriated.
Lapira said he will never sign the expropriation papers, just like he had never sold his ancestors' land when approached by speculators.
Graffitti pledges continued scrutiny
Graffitti activist Wayne Flask called on such landowners not to hold meetings with IM on their own, but to reach out, do their own research and also speak to a lawyer.
He assured residents that while the NGO activists would no longer be camped in the field off Sienja aĺley, they will remain in Dingli.
He warned Azzopardi that the NGO will also be in Mrieħel, Burmarrad and everywhere else where infrastructure was threatening the environment. He added that Graffitti's fight was not against minister Ian Borg, but against greed, and the responsibility of such destruction should be shouldered by the whole government.
Addressing the media on behalf of the majority of residents on Triq Don Bosco, Marica Axiaq noted that while a link between the alleys could be understandable, they could not understand why a new road was joining these two with her street.
"It is a road leading to nowhere with no scope. The only scope is to turn more land into concrete blocks," she said.
The Dingli project is one of nine that PN MP Robert Cutajar has raised concern about over the past days and urged the Office of the Ombudsman to look into.
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