A €9 million contract over a controversial road widening project was awarded to a consortium of Gozitan businessmen, led by construction magnate Joseph Portelli, before the permit was even approved, eNGOs have warned.
The PA board approved the project, which will see the expropriation of 10,693 sq.m of agricultural land, by seven votes to three. The project plans to ease congestion on the island, however, residents did say in the meeting that the road in question is seldomly used.
In a joint statement, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and Moviment Graffitti strongly condemned the project, which will cut through Marsalforn Valley.
“The project will impact a waterway, dykes, water reservoirs and cultural landscape to widen a road to a village that is only inhabited for three months of the year. Indeed the traffic counts used to justify this project were taken at the peak of the Santa Maria week while no data was given for the rest of the year,” the eNGOs said.
“This consortium is involved in the operation of an illegal concrete batching plant in Kercem set up in an illegal quarry, and is dumping construction waste without permits. This is a confirmation, if one was needed, of the crooked manner in which these matters are being handled and further identifies construction with corruption in Malta.”
The eNGOs noted that the Marsalforn Valley is Gozo’s largest valley system, sustained by wells, reservoirs and a unique network of centuries-old dykes that direct rainwater into the aquifer sustaining local agriculture, instead of allowing rainwater to run off into the sea.
“The destruction of this system in order to further enrich a few road contractors and encourage more cars is exactly contrary to the aim of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which granted €8 million to promote resource efficiency and support the shift toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy in the Marsalforn agricultural sector,” it said.
The eNGOs are calling on the EU to demand full, independent environmental studies and investigate funding irregularities for this project.
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