A petition with 1,200 signatures has been presented to the European Parliament by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil calling for a formal investigation into the dust pollution from construction choking up certain areas of the island.

In a letter to EP president Jerzy Buzek, Dr Busuttil charged that Malta was in breach of the EU's air quality directives and asked the EP Petitions Committee to investigate the complaint.

He called on the EP to take the necessary measures to ensure EU law and limits on air quality were upheld in Malta. Dr Busuttil said Maltese residents had long been complaining about the dust pollution caused during building works and by construction plants located close to residential areas.

"Residents feel that, for far too long, the construction industry has been left free to do as it pleases under the dubious pretext that regulating this sector could somehow pose a threat to economic activity," Dr Busuttil said.

"Living day in, day out next to a construction plant which emits noise and dust incessantly is not just a health hazard. It also often creates tension and severe distress.

"Building projects, which last for a number of years, cause similar misery and health hazards. This apart from widespread reports of material damage to adjacent property and the eyesore that uncovered construction plants cause to the surrounding landscape," Dr Busuttil complained.

Justifying his call for a thorough investigation, he said the European Commission was not taking any action despite admitting Malta was breaching its directives. He said that in its response to a petition filed by a Lija resident, the Commission had already clearly declared in the Petitions Committee that the air in Lija exceeded EU pollution limits and was not in line with EU law.

The Commission admitted that, based on official data provided by the Maltese authorities, it transpired that the particulate matter (PM10) in the Lija area exceeded EU limits.

"There is evidence suggesting the breach of limits does not only exist in Lija but in several localities in Malta and Gozo. However, no action has been taken by the Commission to rectify this infringement," Dr Busuttil said.

In view of this information, Dr Busuttil formally asked the competent EU institutions to ensure the situation was "duly rectified as soon as possible" and that EU laws on air quality were adequately observed.

He said the EU should ensure dust emissions from the construction industry and building sites were better controlled "in the interests of the right of residents to live in a peaceful and safe environment without health hazards".

Contacted by The Times, Dr Busuttil said he felt the time had come for Maltese citizens to have cleaner air. "This action is only the start of a process. I am looking forward to seeing that a proper EU investigation is carried out and the necessary action is taken," he said.

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