Proposed developments to build a roundabout on 22 tumoli of arable land in Burmarrad will threaten precious water resources and efforts of young farmers growing food for generations.
“If this development is green-lighted, they’ll destroy hand-dug reservoir structures that are over 500 years old. It will spell the end of three farming families’ work forever,” Cane Vella, a 30-year-old farmer behind Biome Munch told Lovin Malta.
Infrastructure Malta has officially unveiled plans to construct a roundabout adjacent to a proposed two-storey supermarket and underground car park, both outside development zones in Burmarrad. The supermarket is being proposed by Bonnici Brothers Ltd between Triq is-Sardin and Triq Burmarrad.
IM’s new proposal will need to take on 139 square metres of agricultural land, including an old reservoir, two Cypress trees and an Orange cross trees. It will affect the livelihoods of three farming families, including Vella’s, who depend on the reservoir for their crops.
Vella and his partner Cassandra are the fourth generation to take on the family’s farming venture in Burmarrad. Together they run Biome Munch, growing organic seasonal produce, educating people on where their food comes from and luring young people back into the vocation.
“We only have one day a week when we can take from the underground stream that’s connected to the reservoir. If these plans go ahead, it’ll leave us with a very small amount of water which means we won’t be able to grow crops in summer,” Vella warned.
At present, the farmers at Biome Munch fill up from the reservoir once a week to water their fields. Some crops with sensitive seeds need to be watered constantly at the end of summer to establish roots for harvest in winter.
“At the moment we’re harvesting globe artichokes and carrots that we started growing in summer. Without the reservoir, we wouldn’t have winter crops, it will essentially cripple our work and existence as a farm.”
“The well is hand-dug, the fruit of hard labour to help feed families on the island. You can’t even make them like this anymore. It’s a precious resource not to be reckoned with,” Vella added.
“The bottom line is, without water, we can’t grow food. Water belongs to you, me and everyone. If we ruin it for our generation, the next won’t have it, it’s gone. Food sovereignty is clearly not a priority in the eyes of these developers.”
Since Infrastructure Malta’s proposal and the supermarket plans are back on the table, activists have spoken out against the threat to the Northern farmers.
Movement Graffiti said the need for the roundabout is highly questionable.
“Infrastructure Malta failed to explain why this roundabout is so necessary when other, less invasive measures such as a speed camera can serve as an effective deterrent,” it said, calling for better-thought out measures to ease potential traffic in the area while safeguarding the livelihoods of farmers.
“Farmers cannot keep living in fear that their land and their livelihood could be lost from one day to the next when there could be better solutions for all involved,” it continued.
The activists have launched a petition to stop the works from coming into fruition. So far, they’ve gathered 3,400 objections.
“Everyone who doesn’t like to eat tarmac – this objection form is for you,” environmental activist Cami Appelgren said.
“We have reached a point where the decision-makers are putting money before the long term survival of the nation and our environment.”
The supermarket, which would be constructed near a petrol station, was approved by the Planning Authority in 2018. Malta’s Environmental and Resources Authority has objected to ODZ plans, but the project is still pending appeal verdicts from the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal.
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