Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.
Mosta Mayor Chris Grech announced that the 12 Ficus trees in the town’s main square will remain in place, reversing previous plans to transplant them following widespread public outcry and the arrest of protestors on Tuesday.
The trees were set to be uprooted as part of a renovation project in Mosta Square, despite digital renders of the project by design studio Studjurban leaving them in place.
As workers descended on the square on Tuesday to remove the trees, protestors gathered in an attempt to stop them and André Callus from NGO Moviment Graffitti was arrested.
Callus told The Shift that the decision for tree removal “represents a much larger issue,” calling for a reform of the nature permit system and the Environment and Resources Authority.
He added that the Council had never justified the initial decision, which was taken “behind the backs of Mosta residents on a personal initiative by the mayor.”
After the arrests and subsequent outcry, Prime Minister Robert Abela called for a “reconsideration” of the council’s plan.
On Wednesday morning, Grech announced a change of plan on his Facebook page.
“The Mosta Square project was designed for the people and is being carried out for the people. Therefore, I have no difficulty in considering the wishes of the people…For this purpose, I and my fellow councillors of the Labour Party, who are in the majority, have taken note of the desire that the trees in Pjazza Rotunda are not planted in another part of Mosta and remain there.”
Before the decision was reversed, The Shift contacted the Council, asking why the trees were to be uprooted, if social ramifications were considered, and why the Council had decided to deviate from the design rendering.
No answer was received by the time of this article’s publication.
The initial decision was met with widespread criticism following extensive pruning on the trees on Monday, ahead of their planned uprooting and transplanting. Videos of birds hopelessly attempting to find their former roosting places were posted on social media that night.
Speaking to The Shift just minutes before Grech’s announcement of the council’s decision, Callus said it is not just a matter of trees.
“What is shameful is not just the council’s decision but also ERA’s blind approval of the request without any justification,” he said. “Authorities like ERA meant to safeguard the Maltese environment, instead take one decision after the next ensuring its destruction.”
Callus said, “There is a clear need for ERA to be reformed.”
He called for overhauling the ERA’s Nature Permit and other environmental permits. “We cannot appeal these decisions as there is no objection period where interested parties can submit their representations,” he said.
Callus said reforms were needed for all government authorities dealing with environmental issues. Calls for such reforms have been longstanding among environmental NGOs as Malta faces more issues related to overdevelopment and ecological degradation.
In a Facebook post following the council’s announcement, Moviment Graffitti said a protest set for Wednesday evening would go as planned. “The public’s anger must be felt,” they said.
The protest will be held before the Mosta Local Council at 6:30 pm.