Prime Minister Robert Abela has ruled out any development on ODZ land in Wied Żnuber which is threatened by plans for a miniature airstrip for model aircraft.
Asked by Times of Malta for his position on the proposed development, as a candidate on the fifth electoral district, Abela categorically said: “there will be no development in Wied Żnuber”.
NGOs are concerned about the project’s effects on the site which is of ecological, agricultural and historical importance. The project is also expected to threaten the surroundings with continuous light and noise pollution.
Moviment Graffitti challenged district 5 candidates to say whether they will oppose those plans.
Abela admitted that the government should have communicated its plans better, but said that government will remain in open dialogue with stakeholders throughout the process.
“We will continue speaking with concerned persons to explain that no development will take place in Wied Żnuber,” Abela told Times of Malta when asked.
Sixteen organisations recently wrote a letter to Abela asking him to withdraw plans for the mini-airstrip in Birżebbuġa.
The plan for an airstrip by the valley and cliffs was announced last month at the signing of an agreement between government agency INDIS and an airplane model association. The Ħal Far Model Flying Association was being relocated to an alternative site to allow the building of the car-racing track.
The organisations lamented that residents, the Birżebbuġa council and other stakeholders were not consulted about the plans, and that the exact plans of the airstrip are still being kept under wraps.
Plans seen by farmers indicate that the project would be massive, taking up around 44 acres of garigue and agricultural land – the equivalent of seven football pitches.
The area is also home to rich biodiversity including protected species of flora and fauna, as well as important historical remains such as a dolmen, ancient water canals and a military shelter.
The site is right next to a Natura 2000 site that falls under the protection of the EU’s birds and habitats directives. The former places emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, while the habitats directive ensures the conservation of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species.
The concerned organisations are:
- Għaqda Storja u Kultura Birżebbuġa
- 12th Birżebbuġa Girl Guides
- Blanzuni Birżebbuġa
- ŻAK Birżebbuġa
- L-Uffiċjali Għaqda Sajjieda Dilettanti Birżebbuġa
- Malta Climbing Club (MCC)
- Malta Rock Climbing Club (MRCC)
- Moviment Graffitti
- BirdLife Malta
- Din l-Art Ħelwa
- Ramblers’ Association Malta
- Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar
- Friends of the Earth Malta
- The Archaeological Society Malta
- Extinction Rebellion Malta