The government is planning another massacre of hundreds of protected trees and the permanent loss of large tracts of arable agricultural land to make way for the widening of the main road which connects Rabat to Marsalforn in Gozo.
In an application filed in 2019 by the Gozo Ministry, some 300 old trees lining the Rabat-Marsalforn road will be removed.
In addition, more than 11,000 square metres of agricultural land currently being cultivated will be taken away from farmers and permanently lost.
The works, which fall under the direction of the Gozo Ministry, will also involve the temporary take-up of an additional 8,000 square metres of agricultural land along the route – to be reinstated once the project is completed, according to the plans submitted to the Planning Authority.
The project, expected to cost millions, will transform the main road leading from Rabat to Marsalforn into a four-lane road and will include also a 2.5 metre cycle lane and a footpath.
Gozitans who spoke to The Shift were perplexed, questioning whether such an environmental impact was necessary when traffic congestion was not a particular concern along that road. The government referred to it as “occasional congestion”.
The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has expressed concern about the uprooting of such a massive number of trees that have characterised this road for years, according to the Project Description Statement.
In an attempt to placate the anticipated objections against this project, the Gozo Ministry is proposing that some of the trees are uprooted and replanted along the same road, while those chopped will be replaced by new indigenous trees.
The project’s statement outlines further impact on the environment including permanent changes to the visual landscape of the area, the destruction of old rubble walls, interference with nearby natural watercourses, and the loss of some 3,000 square metres of soil, which the Ministry is promising to re-use.
Although ERA expressed concern about the size of the project, it still gave its consent. The Authority stated it had already managed to reduce the environmental impacts of the project following discussions with the Ministry.
Architectural designs for the project were submitted by William Lewis, the governing Labour Party’s organising secretary, also responsible for designs for the Central Link project that also resulted in a massacre of hundreds of trees and the loss of arable land despite public protests.
The application – PA03000/19 – is open for submissions and objections until 12 February.