The Gozo tunnel debate organised by the Gozitan NGO Wirt Għawdex  on March 18 has sent into panic mode the pro-tunnel politicians and the Gozitan business interests pushing them to go ahead with the project.

Until March 18, we citizens were being kept in the dark by our government with regard to the various studies that have been and are being carried out vis-à-vis the planning and building of the Gozo tunnel.

Indeed, in most cases, we still are.

Yet, that meeting was revealing. Until then, the pro-tunnel lobby, led by Franco Mercieca and Chris Said, had resorted to the tactic of stuffing down our throat the mantra that 85 per cent of Gozitans are in favour of the tunnel and therefore we should all shut up and get on with it, studies or no studies.

Apart from the fact that this 85 per cent figure is proving to be a fictitious one, as can be gauged from the latest 66 per cent figure that came up in the MaltaToday scientific poll, these people have absolutely no respect for the rest of the Maltese population, who will also be affected by such mammoth project.

The arrogance is personified in the figure of Mercieca, who not only treats us as morons by saying that since we do not understand anything about geology he will therefore not publish the preliminary study, but he also goes on to reaffirm that the discussion is closed... when it has hardly started.

As stated, the March 18 discussion sent these politicians into panic mode because, until that day, they never realised that many level-headed Gozitans, who have calmly weighed the pros and cons of the project, actually came out against it, on balance.

So now, that they have started to experience first-hand the opposition of Gozitans themselves to their megalomaniac project, they are resorting to bypass the people’s opinion as quickly as possible by trying to tie the Maltese Parliament to a rushed definite decision before the results of serious studies have even been made public.

Ian Borg and Justyne Caruana have in fact presented a disgusting motion in Parliament to tie Parliament’s hands at this stage. The Gozo Business Chamber, as expected, was quick to welcome the presentation of this government motion seeking parliamentary support for the tunnel project. Rest assured that Said will be there to laud the whole venture, as will other persons with strong business interests in Gozo.

So now, that they have started to experience first-hand the opposition of Gozitans themselves they are resorting to bypass people’s opinion

The behaviour of these people is utterly irresponsible and could spell disaster for present and future Maltese and Gozitan generations for the next half century to come.

In the Manikata area they will be destroying pristine countryside, the perched pure aquifier, Roman tombs and Roman wells. New roads will be built in the middle of what is now virgin agricultural land. This land is 100 per cent privately owned. Noise pollution will reign supreme.

In Gozo they will destroy a vast area going from Ta’ Xħajma to Ta’ Qalliegħ to Ta’ Bordin. Sixty per cent of this land is private land and around 15 farming families actually till the land is there. Noise pollution will reign supreme here too.

But listen to what experts like Nic Carey, who worked on a 36km Channel tunnel, have to say about the tunnel digging itself:

“There is something very odd about this whole affair which goes against many of the principles of tunnel building. First the tunnel will need some passive ventilation so it would have to pass under Comino to be able to construct a ‘chimney’. 

If you do not do this then the force of air required would prohibit traffic movement. The force to mechanically extract that distance would be colossal. Assuming you are extracting from both ends you have to calculate 6.5 kms x the diameter x minimum four ach (air changes per hour). 

Then there is the spoil issue. These machines grind the rock to a point that it is little more than ‘crusher run’. Okay for ‘blinding’ roads under a finished surface but for site fill it needs heavy compaction or settlement is an issue.

All in all, my conclusion is that we are being conned and this is not a viable project in the way that it is being presented or the presenters themselves do not know what they are talking about.

Was this motion urgently pushed through Parliament because of fear that people get to know of the real implications involved in the building of the tunnel?

Arnold Cassola, independent candidate at next MEP elections, is former Secretary General of the European Green Party and former member of the Italian Parliament.   

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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