The environmental regulator has defended its decision to allow road resurfacing works in Comino to resume, after an NGO accused it of rubber-stamping Gozo Ministry decisions.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Environment and Resources Authority said its board had decided to allow works to resume after establishing that they would be undertaken with “mitigation measures to curb environmental damage” without impinging on the area’s natural integrity. 

Comino is a Natura 2000 protected site. 

Works to resurface the access road leading to Comino’s Blue Lagoon are being undertaken by Gozo Ministry contractors, despite the project having no planning permit.

The ministry has argued that the works are “emergency” in nature and intended to prevent part of the road from caving in. A concrete culvert built as part of the project would allow kiosks in the area to do away with their electricity generators, the ministry claims. 

The ERA ordered a stop to the works on March 13, on the basis of concerns of significant overspill and ecological damage to the area. 

On Friday, the ERA gave the go-ahead for works to resume, prompting outrage by Friends of the Earth Malta. 

The NGO accused the regulator of rubber-stamping the ministry’s decision to forge ahead with the works and said that the ERA board had been forced to “accept this fait-accompli, based on the fact that the damage has been done.”  

Marine biologist Alan Deidun has also said that “it is virtually impossible to ecologically restore the scarred areas in the short term.”

On Tuesday, the ERA defended its decision to green-light the continuation of the works and implied that the damaged areas could be restored to their former state. 

“ERA has imposed a specific permit condition to provide a Restoration Plan for remedial works on the area that was impacted by works carried out so far and prior to the issuing of the environmental permit,” it said. 

The restoration plan would be to “reinstate the impacted area to its former natural state” and the contractor has one month to submit it

Permit conditions also require the applicant to appoint an ERA-approved ecological monitor to supervise the works and the use of dust containment measures both on land and at sea. 

“The permit will allow the commenced works to continue in a manner that takes into account the importance of the site and include the necessary mitigation measures on any residual impacts on the environment,” ERA said. 

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