Tunnel talk and rubble mania prompt alarm bell from different quarters

Updated at 1.55pm with AD statement

Malta’s development fever had activists and would-be politicians sounding alarm bells on Saturday, with four separate statements warning against the rush to build tunnels, reclaim land or dump rubble at sea.

In four separate statements, Nature Trust, Moviment Graffiti, the Democratic Party’s MEP candidates and Alternattiva Demokratika all expressed concern at various plans being floated by government and construction lobbyists.

Gozo tunnel

Democratic Party MEP candidates noted that the Gozo tunnel seemed to already be a done deal, despite a “total lack of public participation” in discussing it.

Times Talk: ‘Gozo tunnel will be a private sector project’

In their statement, PD candidates Camilla Appelgren, Anthony Buttigieg and Martin Cauchi Inglott noted that the Gozo tunnel project seemed to be steaming ahead with little thought or consultation.

“We cannot allow such projects to be presented as a fait accompli,” warned Dr Buttigieg, who said that the party would be unveiling its policy for Gozo in the coming days.

Franco Mercieca, who heads a steering committee tasked with overseeing tunnel plans, has completely ruled out the possibility of the tunnel being used for a mass public transport system, insisting that the tunnel will be built and operated by the private sector and used for vehicles.

PD warnings were echoed by Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Carmel Cacopardo, who on Saturday morning said that the tunnel would be the “ruin of Malta and Gozo”. 

The project, he said, would end up damaging the Miżieb aquifer, the Pwales Valley and Simar nature reserve, while encouraging car use between the two islands – contrary to the spirit of a 2016 National Transport Masterplan.  

Xgħajra land reclamation

An eventual tunnel will create massive amounts of rubble, and with it a question of what to do with it. 

One mooted plan, which was first revealed by Times of Malta, is to use the Xgħajra coast for a large-scale land reclamation project. The spot has been earmarked as being the most suitable to a large-scale reclamation project.

But that plan, which has yet to be confirmed and is still at its embryonic stages, has already run into opposition. 

On Saturday, activist group Moviment Graffiti reiterated their objection to any form of large-scale land reclamation in Xgħajra and highlighted concerns others had voiced. 

Among those warning against developing the seabed in the area was the National Fisheries Cooperative, which warned of a “major socio-economic catastrophe”, and Xgħajra residents themselves.

Moviment Graffiti said that talk of reclaiming land in the area was part of a larger problem of hyper-development, with plans for massive developments by db Group and Corinthia in St Julian’s and another in Mistra expected to create the tonnes of construction waste which would make land reclamation necessary in the first place.

“Moviment Graffitti is strongly against these massive projects, which will clearly only benefit the owners, while destroying Malta’s precious environment along the way,” the activists said. “The people and the environment must come first.”

Dumping construction waste at sea

Construction rubble was also on Nature Trust’s mind, which on Saturday took issue with the Malta Developers Association’s suggestion that builders be allowed to dump construction waste at a designated site at sea, given that there was nowhere left to dispose of it.

The problem had been a long time coming, Nature Trust noted, and developers were now “taking the easy way out” and calling for a quick-fix solution.

But a large proportion of Malta’s territorial waters, the NGO noted, had been recently designated a Marine Protected area and globigerina limestone had only recently been designated a Global Heritage Stone Resource.

“Yet it seems that the MDA deems it fit to dump into the sea,” Nature Trust said.

Instead of looking for a new dumping ground, it said, pland should focus on reducing the amount of construction waste by encouraging building plans which cut waste, using standard sizes and using any cut-offs for future projects and using waste stone to restore rubble walls or reconstitute building blocks.

Back to: Malta Blog