On Sunday morning, a group of disenchanted people will head down to Attard to tie themselves to trees that are facing the chop as part of the contentious Central Link project.
This is not the brainchild of one of Malta’s environmental groups, a politician or a party, but of a certain Sasha Vella, a 19-year-old student who had no idea things were going to snowball the way they did.
“I decided to organise this protest because I, along with so many others, have grown tired of seeing our environment disregarded,” Sasha told Lovin Malta. “The immediate response that the initiative got confirmed to me what the Maltese people have been feeling.”
Sasha set up the Facebook group ‘For OUR Trees’ and some 7,000 people have already joined it in the space of a few days.
The group has now developed into something of a forum for people to express their anger and disgust at a project that is intended to alleviate traffic congestion in the centre of the island, but which will also lead to the destruction of of 549 trees and 50,000 square metres of agricultural land.
“The response was absolutely overwhelming, so many people showed their interest and support,” Sasha said of the group. “It started a wave of action and proactivity.”
“I did not know I would be organizing something so big when I first started. I just simply had the idea and decided to try and bring it together.”
“Traffic is a growing issue in our island, but the project is just a short sighted, temporary solution. Not enough has been done to facilitate sustainable transport methods.”
Some people, including within the group, have come out against the idea of protestors tying themselves to trees, arguing that it will give off the impression that they are environmental extremists. However, Sasha has countered such suggestions by arguing that the self-tying process is symbolic .
“The tying is symbolic of our protest against what is happening to the environment, it represents our desire to protect these trees and essentially our environment,” she said. “I do not think that this is an extreme action. It is a peaceful way of expressing that nature should be.”
“We already have around 700 people willing to participate.”
And for those who are unwilling to tie themselves up, Sasha and other protest coordinators will convene tomorrow to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of protestors also forming a human chain.
Moreover, she categorically dismissed suggestions by ONE that the group is advocating increasing car license fees and imposing fresh restrictions on driving.
“I would just like to make it clear that what was said is not what the group stands for, and it is not what we want out of this demonstration,” she said. “The information in this article is based on one post from the group, one which I was not directly affiliated with in any way, and it is not what this group stands for. The information was twisted and they span it to their liking.”
Besides the protest on Sunday, a group of environmental NGOs and groups have also launched a crowdfunding campaign, with the hope of raising €20,000 from the public to mount a legal challenge against the project.