A new heavy-duty water pipeline has been installed in an area in Dingli that has no residents but hosts an abandoned explosives factory in a Natura 2000 site that speculators want to develop into a ‘tourism resort’.
The underground pipeline, a kilometre long, installed in Bufula Road, has cost taxpayers over €350,000 and stops just a few metres away from the gate of the former Pulvich explosives factory.
After decades of abandonment and a raft of development applications, all turned down due to the area’s Natura 2000 protection, the Planning Authority is currently considering a fresh application, filed by the owners of JB stores, to develop the site to host a 14-bungalow tourism development with separate pools.
The latest intervention by Infrastructure Malta, which falls under the political remit of Dingli resident and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has increased his constituents’ concerns about some ‘sinister’ deal is in the offing.
Direct order for pipeline follows development application
Research carried out by The Shift reveals that following the submission of the new development application last summer, Infrastructure Malta issued a direct order a few months later, in November 2020, to contractor Carmelo Camilleri to upgrade and resurface Bufula Road, which leads to the abandoned factory.
Unlike other similar resurfacing projects in rural areas, where roads are upgraded through the laying of a fresh tarmac surface, the government agency also ordered the installation of a new heavy-duty potable water pipeline under the road.
Apart from the abandoned factory, there are no other residents along the road.
When work on the road started last January, it was stopped by the Environment and Resources Authority as no permit had been obtained. Yet, soon after, both ERA and Transport Malta gave the go-ahead.
Following the trenching and the insertion of a new water main, the road was resurfaced.
Asked by The Shift to explain the need for such an expense incurred in a rural area with no residents, a spokesman for Infrastructure Malta shifted responsibility onto the Water Services Corporation.
“Before Infrastructure Malta started resurfacing Bufula Road, the Water Services Corporation requested the replacement of this road’s old underground water main as well as the replacement of the pre-existing connections supplying water to existing properties on the same road, including agricultural buildings,” the spokesman insisted.
“The required trenching and pipe laying works were carried out as instructed by the Corporation before the road was resurfaced. The Water Services Corporation provided the pipes for this network and is also paying for the trenching and pipe laying works,” he added.
Further research shows it is not true that any existing underground water infrastructure was “replaced”, as Infrastructure Malta claimed. No such infrastructure ever existed there.
Farmers in the area told The Shift they extract their water from boreholes and had no use for such facilities. They confirmed that they have never asked for such a service.
Controversial application process continues
Originally, the permit granted to the owners of the abandoned factory in the early 80s – the Pugliesevic family from Dingli – was only given on condition that the land is used exclusively for the manufacturing of explosives. The idea was to locate a dangerous process away from residential areas.
Since the family’s business went bust, its members have been trying to change the use of their land for other, more lucrative uses, including a storage facility, residences and now a tourism development.
All attempts were turned down as both the Planning Authority and ERA always maintained a firm stand that the sensitive zone cannot be developed.
This time, the Planning Authority and ERA are moving towards a positive reply.
No final decision has been taken as the application (PA5257/20) is still up for public consultation.
In the meantime, the Special Projects Committee of the Malta Tourism Authority has given its ‘go-ahead’ for the continuation of the project’s evaluation, claiming the project is moving “in the right direction”.
Questions by The Shift to MTA Chairman Gavin Gulia and CEO Johann Buttigieg received no reply.