A group of 24 local architects and engineers have released a proposal for a massive afforestation project for the Maltese islands, named ‘Help Malta Breathe’.
The locals propose planting 40,000 indigenous trees in Inwadar National Park, stretching from Żonqor Point to Marsaskala and Xgħajra. The site covers 315,000 square metres, mainly consisting of abandoned agricultural fields and disturbed foreshore.
The area is supported by a readily available source of irrigation in the form of polished water from the Ta’ Barkat sewage treatment plant found on the edge of the site.
The proposal was made in video format, including drone footage of what the site currently looks like and a render of what the same site would look like in 20 years’ time – should the afforestation proposal go through.
Malta desperately needs more forested areas, the video pleads, to purify the air, create more natural recreational spaces, balance out the overdevelopment, and cool down the island.
Artificial afforestation in Malta is nothing new, as the islands lack natural forests. Back in the 1960s, an afforestation project was carried out successfully in the Mizieb limits of Manikata, Mellieħa, which is now Malta’s largest woodland area covering 650,000 square metres.
Going back further in time, Buskett was also an afforestation project done by the Knights of Malta.
“We appreciate that there currently seems to be an effort to plant trees around Malta and Gozo, however we strongly feel that unless something aggressive is done as soon as possible, our island will become a desert by the time our children are adults,” said Nicholas Mallia, architect at Periti Studio.
“We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to take action now, because as time passes it will get harder and harder to address the problem,” Mallia continued, explaining that for afforestation projects there needs to be water security, as one is dependent on the other.
Inwadar was designated a national park five years ago, in 2016, but it has become very dry. It is now home to around 1,000 trees. This project would increase that number 40 times.
The site is the first of a number of areas that the architects have earmarked. They are now planning to propose similar afforestation projects in Bahar ic-Caghaq, Naxxar, San Gwann, Mellieħa and Gozo.
“We want to start a conversation about making sure Malta is a habitable space for our children and our children’s children, this by creating multiple dense areas of indigenous woodland which will inevitably lead to a better quality of life,” the architect said.
“It is an ambitious project, but most certainly necessary. Trees are one of the most important elements for a healthy environment, they emit oxygen, they sustain wildlife and have also been scientifically proven to improve the mental health of people.”
Do you think Malta could use more forests?