ERA approved the axing of 3,400 protected trees in seven years

Aqra bil-Malti

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has approved the axing of 3,400 protected trees in the last seven years to make way for projects, primarily government-financed upgrades of the island’s road infrastructure.

This averages around 500 trees a year, according to new information tabled in parliament.

During a parliamentary sitting, PN MP Rebekah Borg questioned Environment Minister Miriam Dalli about the number of trees being uprooted with the government’s approval.

Dalli said the government had directed ERA to avoid cutting down trees whenever possible. The minister also mentioned that ERA always tries to relocate protected trees instead of chopping them down.

Nevertheless, Dalli acknowledged that even though the number of trees removed in a project is minimal, the transplanted trees do not always survive in their new environment.

According to the minister, despite the high number of tree removals that ERA approves every year, it insists that the number of trees uprooted is minimal and only done where no other options are available.

Trees targeted in the Marsalforn road project.

Five-to-one compensation

According to ERA, when it green-lights tree removals, five juvenile trees must be planted to compensate for every mature tree that is uprooted or felled.

Dalli insisted that approximately 18,400 protected trees be planted to replace the 3,400 trees that had been removed.

However, according to arborists who spoke to The Shift, while this may be the case on paper, this requirement is not enforced, particularly when monitoring contractors.

“We know of many cases where ERA’s directions and conditions were not followed up, and the Authority did not carry out any inspections to verify,” one said.

“Also, a mature protected tree takes decades to mature, and replacing it with saplings is ineffective. The real answer would be to keep tree removal to the bare minimum. This is not the case,” he insisted.

Several studies in different countries concluded that the benefits of keeping old trees far outweigh those of planting new ones.

Another 300 trees to meet the same fate

On an island considered the least green country in the European Union, the felling of protected old trees has become frequent.

Protests occur every few months due to the controversial removal of old trees integral to specific locations over the years.

central link protest 2019

Protesters stand in front of the trees chopped to make way for the Central Link project a few years ago. Photo: Joanna Demarco.

After the controversial cutting of trees related to the Central Link Project and the more recent damage to the trees in Mosta Square, the Planning Authority (PA) has approved a new project in Gozo that will include the removal of approximately 300 mature indigenous trees that have historically been a part of the main road between Marsalforn and Victoria.

Gozo and Planning Minister Clint Camilleri justified the removal of the trees and insisted that new plans will be drawn up to cut down fewer trees. Meanwhile, a scientific study submitted as part of the planning process showed that the project is unnecessary since the current road accommodates existing traffic.

Nevertheless, the Gozo Ministry has already awarded the €9 million tender to Prax Ltd – a company owned by Nadur mega-developer Joseph Portelli and his associates Daniel Refalo and Mark Agius.

Work is expected to start in the coming weeks.

                           

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3 Comments
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Joseph Markham
Joseph Markham
1 month ago

Each country gets the government it deserves….

makjavel
makjavel
1 month ago

ERA, Hating Trees is required in each CV of each employee.

Gerald
Gerald
1 month ago

A 7 year era of shame.

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