Transport Malta's decision to hack down holm oak trees in Lija as part of roadworks has been slammed by the Nationalist Party.
In a statement, PN environmental spokesman Karol Aquilina said the decision was "unacceptable" and called on the government to ensure it was not repeated.
Lija residents were shocked to see Transport Malta workers cut down the trees on Saturday close to the town's cemetery.
In a statement given to The Malta Independent, the Environment and Resources Authority dismissed concerns, saying the site was not an Urban Conservation Area and that Transport Malta did not need a permit to remove holm oak trees.
"Nonetheless," the environmental regulator said, "Transport Malta were made to compensate for the removal through donation of a number of trees to the local councils."
In its statement issued this morning, the PN said it was ready to help draft laws which ensured greater protection for trees located within development zones, as in this case.
Government agencies, the PN's Dr Aquilina said, "have an obligation to serve as a positive example to increase the number of trees in public spaces while protecting existing ones."
In a Facebook post, biologist and environmental activist Alan Deidun also fumed at the tree felling.
He expressed disappointment at Lija mayor Magda Magri Naudi's "defeatist attitude" after she had noted that other trees were being planted to make up for the trees being chopped down.
"Something may be legal but it still does not make it acceptable... replacing the trees with others planted somewhere else is no solace," Dr Deidun wrote on Din L-Art Ħelwa's Facebook page.
"Just imagine if we treated our centenarians like this rather than congratulating them on their longevity?... We never seem to learn," he added.
The ongoing roadworks have not only upset environmentalists - according to local cyclists, the works also reduce space available to pedestrians, to the benefit of cars.
"While the minister might say we need to promote cycling, Transport Malta by encouraging car use, seem to be doing the opposite," the Bicycling Advocacy Group said.
"‘Not satisfied with killing a few trees, it looks like people on bicycles and pedestrians are next?"
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