Infrastructure and Transport Minister Ian Borg has confirmed that the plans and the number of trees being uprooted as part of the Santa Lucija underpass project were not discussed at Cabinet level, saying simply that “Cabinet does not discuss permits”.
In spite of this, Borg said, people can put their minds at rest in the thought that “the whole cabinet is in favour of this project”, noting that the statements of Environment Minister Jose Herrera “show how much the Cabinet over the past seven years has always been united, is still united, and will remain united under the leadership of Joseph Muscat”.
However, The Malta Independent is informed otherwise; that there is more than one member of Cabinet against the number of trees that are being uprooted as part of this project and who expressed displeasure at not being consulted about the project.
Almost 300 trees will be axed as part of the project which will see the construction of an underpass in Santa Lucija to complement the Marsa Junction project while a further 250 or so will be transplanted. Infrastructure Malta have argued that there will be a net increase of 300 trees once the project is complete, but protests against the project have been organised, lamenting the loss of these mature trees.
Environment Minister Herrera on Monday told The Malta Independent that the Central Link project – which will also see a similar number of trees affected – was “sustainable” and “unfortunately necessary”. He did not directly refer to the Santa Lucija underpass project, but noted that the government had a mandate and collective responsibility to improve the country’s infrastructure, and said that he was part of that collective responsibility.
A protest – the second such protest – took place on Monday evening where activists hung crosses on the trees, commemorating them before they are chopped down.
Many have noted that the transplanting process – which is currently underway – is not being handled properly due to the fact that the trees in question are being transplanted in the middle of summer as opposed to winter, but Herrera on Monday moved to allay such concerns, saying that the ERA was monitoring the process.