There is nothing to show that an underwater tunnel will effectively address Gozo’s challenges at this stage, 13 NGOs said on Saturday, as the controversial project looms on the horizon.
There was also nothing to show that the tunnel’s social, economic and environmental impacts will be sustainable, they added, saying they feared authorities were not taking a decision based on evidence.
The current proposal will lead to the creation of a 13km-long tunnel with a seven metre radius and one traffic lane heading in either direction, with an additional safety lane.
Traffic analysts predict that around 6,500 vehicles will use the tunnel on a day-to-day basis.
Speaking at a news conference in front of the parliament building, Gozitan Julia Camilleri lamented the lack of public information saying people did not have access to the studies the government kept citing.
“Buses were not reliable and I had to resign myself to live in Malta. I’m lucky I do not need to go to Gozo everyday, but I know people in those situations,” she said.
The public still does not know why a fast ferry option has not been studied, Ms Camilleri added.
A decision on whether the tunnel is the best solution should only be established after serious studies are carried out and after a public consultation, the NGOs said.
Tunnel will only damage the environment further
Malta’s environment is already depleted and problems will only worsen with the tunnel, Ingran Bondin from the Ramblers’ Association feared.
Arable and natural land will be eaten up for the tunnel’s two entrances and the authorities have to somewhat cater for the unprecedented volume of one million cubic metres of waste generated from the tunnelling.
The traffic going to Gozo may become four or five times worse with traffic, he added.
The NGOs called for a strategic environmental assessment to compare the tunnel to other options and the Maltese public and stakeholders needed to be informed.
They wanted to know the impact on the road network and whether the construction of a tunnel would turn Gozo into a Maltese suburb instead of an island in its own right.
The authorities were acting like the discussion is over, when in reality it has not even begun, they lamented.
The NGOs who joined foreces were the Ramblers Association, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Archaeological Society Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Birdlife Malta, Kamra tal-Periti, Nature Trust Malta, Flimkien Għal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Għaqda Siġar Maltin, Isles of the Left, Bicycle Advocacy Group and Żminijietna.
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