Tonnes of soil excavated for the Central Link project have been dumped into adjacent fields rendering them uncultivable while fertile land disturbed by heavy vehicles has not been reinstated, farmers are complaining. 

However, Infrastructure Malta, which is piloting the €55 million project is insisting it is honouring all the commitments made with them.

Works on the controversial project, meant to alleviate traffic from the Attard village core through the construction of a new road between Mrieħel bypass and the foot of Saqqajja Hill, started last January and are expected to be completed in a year’s time.

An estimated 49,000 square metres of land, mostly agricultural, had to be sacrificed to make way for the new thoroughfare. Last week, farmers directly affected by the project contacted Times of Malta claiming the government was not adhering to the commitments made before the start of works.

An onsite inspection confirmed that various fields, which until a few months ago were being cultivated, were in a complete state of neglect.

According to the farmers, who insisted on remaining anonymous, fearing they might face a backlash, contractors were not willing to carry out the necessary work to start rehabilitating the fields.

“Prior to the start of works we had been promised by Infrastructure Malta that such operations, including the sieving of the soil from stones, would be done,” farmers complained.

No reports of damaged wells received

In one case, a field earmarked for an orange grove had been excavated due to the discovery of an old well which required archaeological investigations.

“Weeks later I am still waiting for the well to be closed, after the authorities refused my request to repair it and make amends for another one which was destroyed to make way for the road,” a farmer said.

Complaints were also made that the government would not be covering the costs to replace the gates bordering the new road and that pipes used to extract water were being damaged on a regular basis.

However, the agency is refuting claims that it was not honouring its commitments.

A spokesman said the soil had been deposited to sites chosen by the farmers and did not require sieving from stones.

While in most sites this was levelled straight away, in two cases this was not done on the instructions of the farmers who still needed to harvest the crops in their fields, he said.

According to Infrastructure Malta, this “additional service” was not covered by the contract and, consequently, extra costs would be incurred. Nonetheless, the spokesman said the agency was looking into the expenses involved with a view to seeking a sustainable solution.

As for the gates, Infrastructure Malta confirmed it was refusing to fork out any money unless to replace those gates which were in place before the start of works.

An Infrastructure Malta spokesman pointed out that no reports of damaged wells had been received.

He added that the agency had no intention to use taxpayers’ money to reinstate the old well discovered in one of the fields which was not in use before, for the personal use of one farmer.

The agency said it would be communicating with the contractor regarding complaints on damages to irrigations pipes.

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