in

Some trees marked with spray paint will be removed for Central Link project

central link protest 2019
Protesters stand in front of the trees along the planned Central Link route. Photo: Joanna Demarco.

Infrastructure Malta has confirmed that the trees marked with red spray paint around Mount Carmel hospital will not go under the axe but has avoided mentioning that others, which were also marked, would be removed from the surrounding areas.

Images of the trees marked with a red cross appeared on social media earlier this month, raising suspicions that these will be uprooted to make way for the government’s Central Link €55 million project that is said to improve the road infrastructure between Mosta and Mriehel.

However, Infrastructure Malta released a statement saying that this was not done by government employees but was carried out by a “number of unknown individuals”. It pointed out that the area will have more trees when project would be completed.

“We confirm that these marks were not made by our employees… and that the marked mature trees in the Mount Carmel Hospital area will not be uprooted,” the statement said while emphasising that “when the project is completed, Attard, Balzan and Birkirkara will have over 285 more trees than there are now.”

Infrastructure Malta PR 2020 January about vandalised trees with spray paint
Press Statement by Infrastructure Malta only mentioning the trees in Mount Carmel area

The Shift analysed the latest validated maps of the Central Link Project published on Planning Authority website that outlined the trees that will be spared, those that will be transplanted and those that will be uprooted. According to the plans, the trees on the side of Mount Carmel are not going to be uprooted – as per the Infrastructure Malta statement – while the pine trees opposite the roundabout next to Pitstop petrol station are listed for uprooting. These pine trees were also marked with a red cross.

A careful analysis of the maps by The Shift shows 175 trees that will be transplanted and 269 to be uprooted, amounting to a total amount of 444 trees that will be removed from the area. Meanwhile, Infrastructure Malta CEO, Frederick Azzopardi told The Shift that total of 439 trees would be removed as part of this project.

“439 trees need to be removed as part of this project. However, only 67 of these trees are protected and 185 of them will not be discarded but transplanted within the same project area or in other sites in nearby areas,” Azzopardi said.

Central Link Map Trees Mount Carmel area
Map showing that trees around Mount Carmel area will be uprooted or transplanted, this was not mentioned in the issued Press Statement.

According to Environment Protection Act, species listed under Schedule I Table 1 are protected in all locations in Malta. Those listed under Schedule I Table 2 are only protected in protected areas, in outside development zones, green areas, natural or rural/green enclaves in Urban Area (development zone) or in urban public open spaces.

The maps list 32 trees marked to be transplanted, which are are protected as per Schedule I Table 2 and include olive trees, carob, tamarisk, dwarf fan palm, bay laurel, white poplar, common elder and jujube. Another 109 trees Italian cypress and pine trees, which also fall under Schedule I Table 2, are marked to be uprooted. There are also two holm oak trees that are earmarked to be removed and these are listed under Schedule I Table 1, giving them the highest protection status under Maltese law.

It is not yet clear how many of the trees, which fall under Schedule 1 Table 2 and are marked for uprooting, fall under the required level of protection.

Central Link trees to be uprooted opposite Pit Stop Malta

The mature pine trees opposite Pit Stop in Attard are marked on the official maps to be uprooted.The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) document Guidelines on work involving trees has clear instructions regarding compensatory planting when trees are being removed from an area after an approved permit. Azzopardi confirms that Infrastructure Malta was instructed by ERA to plant 1,274 trees to compensate the loss of mature trees in the area, but only 579 of those will be planted within the project area.

While the statement said that the area will see 285 more trees than there are today, Azzopardi claimed that there will be 325. It is still not yet clear what the entire outlook of the final project will be.

Central Link 2020 January 15 Olive tree 50 years old uprooted
An allegedly 50 year old olive tree is being removed by workers. Photo: Attard residents environmental network

Last week, the appeals court started hearing the appeal of Central Link Project with the decision to be taken on February 12. Work has already started on the site and NGO Moviment Graffiti pointed out that the displacement of trees was not in line to what was approved.

Malta misses deadline for EU plan to end secret company ownership

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

Exhaustion, hope and opportunity