Farmers with fields in the south of the island have complained about a sudden reduction in water for irrigation, which they say is the result of concurrent work on two reservoirs.
Over 200 full-time and many other part-time farmers have invested thousands of euros in new crops but are now risking losing the investment due to serious drop in water supply leaving many fields bone dry, right before the hot summer season.
They said that the situation was the result of the simultaneous closure of supply from the three reservoirs in Żabbar (San Anard), Marsascala (Tal-Bidni) and Xgħajra (Milord). This, they said, was seriously prejudicing water supply to their fields in the south-east.
Minister allegedly blamed EU
They also claimed that when they spoke to Minister for Water and Resources Joe Mizzi, he told them that the simultaneous closure was the EU’s fault as they wanted the two projects to run concurrently.
The farmers this week met Nationalist Party MEP candidate Peter Agius who assured them that the EU would have never imposed such a request.
“Mizzi blamed his own incompetence on EU funds on Europe, fomenting anti-European sentiment,” he said in comments to the Times of Malta.
He said he checked about the matter with the European Commission and found that EU funds of up to €20 million were available as from 2014.
A clear case of using European tools incorrectly
He added that the government took its time to deploy the project until last year when works on the three reservoirs had to start simultaneously not to lose EU funding commitments, depriving fields from water in spring and summer, when they needed it most.
“This is a clear case of using European tools incorrectly,” Dr Agius said.
“We must plan better to make the best use of EU money, which can be foreseen over a seven-year period. Planning is of the essence if we want to make a success out of Europe for all sectors of society.”
Ministry says distribution system to blame
When asked about the matter, a spokeswoman for the ministry said that two large-scale projects to provide new water were being implemented in the south.
These involve 40 kilometres of network and trenching and the rehabilitation of five reservoirs to guarantee that water is of top quality. The projects cost €15 million.
She said that the interruption of supply to farmers was not directly due to these projects but related to the weak distribution system that was being replaced.
“Wherever there are illegal discharges of animal waste, and new water production is interrupted, the network goes down.
“The reservoirs under construction are bypassed and the water channelled through the old open system which has substantial damages,” she said.
She insisted that such infrastructure was damaged through the improper use of the urban sewer system.
“It is therefore very important that only human toilet waste and degradable toilet paper are discharged in the system.”
Suspected foul play or problems with the sewer can be reported to the Water Services Corporation on Freephone 80076400.
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