The uprooting of age-old trees and announcements of new developments all around the island have become somewhat regular in Malta over the past couple of years, and local activists have had a tough job opposing them all.
Following controversial projects which saw the Balzan Valley Road trees being removed and 200 more trees in Saqajja being potentially next, local activists have now shifted onto another newly announced project; a promenade set to dominate the outskirts of Rabat.
Earlier last month, the project was announced as part of a filed application for what the government described as a promenade overlooking Mtarfa. The site area along Triq Tat-Tarbija and Triq Għeriexem (just past the Roman Villa), is some 2,760 square metres and is currently used as a road and some fields. The project would see landscaping works including “alterations to the carriageway, construction of a promenade, installation of infrastructural services, paving works, installation of street furniture and provision of parking spaces on ODZ land.”
The application form indicated a number of requirements for the project to be carried out, including the feeling of trees and the installation of railing along the edge overlooking ODZ land.
When contacted by The Malta Independent, Rabat Mayor Charles Azzopardi had said he was in favour of this project, saying it would help the infrastructure of the locality and help residents through the allocation of more parking spaces. Moviment Graffitti, however, had a different view on the matter.
“The siege on trees and agricultural land seems to be continuing unabated,” the Maltese activists lamented the development in a post earlier today. “The proposed development would lead to the cutting of trees and the taking up of agricultural land to make way for a promenade and parking space.”
Objecting the Għeriexem Development, Moviment Graffiti started an online petition to the Planning Authority detailing the jeopardised ecology of the area and the important agricultural and archaeological status of the Rabat outskirts.
“The valley is a fertile valley used for arable agricultural purposes,” the movement details in the petition. “It has deep soil, three freshwater springs, fruit trees, orchards and vineyards. Moreover, the area has one of largest fig trees (Bajtar ta’ San Ġwann) to be found on the Islands.”
The petition goes on to note that “the Planning Authority itself is proposing the area to be scheduled” because of its archaeological importance. The site Għerixiem was in fact a fiefdom in medieval times.
Moviment Graffiti had a word or two to say about the road-widening development itself, saying it might not necessarily hold the benefits the government and Rabat mayor have talked about. “Various studies have continuously shown that widening the road network does not alleviate the traffic problem that Malta is facing,” the activist group said. “Transport Malta needs to prioritize people and alternative modes of transport rather than continue to prioritize individual car users as these road widening projects across Malta are doing.”