[WATCH] Only 15 trees to be uprooted on Rabat road as plans change again

In a third change to plans in a week government announces that only 15 Aleppo pine trees will be uprooted in the stretch of road between the Our Lady of Victories Chapel and the Saqqajja roundabout, down from 76 as proposed on Saturday 

Only 15 trees will be uprooted along the Rabat road between Pit Stop fuel station and the foot of Saqqajja hill
Only 15 trees will be uprooted along the Rabat road between Pit Stop fuel station and the foot of Saqqajja hill
Widening the road between Attard and the foot of Saqqajja hill

Following public uproar on the proposed uprooting of a large number of mature Aleppo pine trees along the Rabat road, a government spokesperson has told MaltaToday that only 15 will be removed as part of a road-widening project.

The 15 trees will be uprooted in the stretch of road between the Our Lady of Victories Chapel just past Mount Carmel Hospital, and the Saqqajja junction.

Official plans submitted by Transport Malta on Saturday and accessible on the Planning Authority’s website showed 76 Aleppo pine trees earmarked for uprooting on this stretch of road.

The whole project as proposed till Saturday would have resulted in the uprooting of approximately 135 Aleppo pine trees along the whole stretch between Mrieħel bypass and the Saqqajja junction.

But the government spokesperson described earlier plans as preliminary.

“When architects design the projects, the initials plans are always considered as preliminary as they will always discuss and re-discuss these matters to ensure that the necessary measures to safeguard the environment as much as possible, are taken," the ministry spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also insisted that the environmental aspects of the project have been taken into account. “This project in particular is looking to implement measures that will safeguard the Pinus Helapensis trees in Mdina Road, amongst other measures. With the implementation of this project, the majority of these trees from the Our Lady of Victories Church up to the roundabout at the end of Saqqajja Hill Road will be safeguarded as they will now be within a central strip in this stretch of Mdina Road."

But for the sake of “the safety of our road users”, 15 of these trees will be uprooted and many more new trees will be planted.

“Therefore whilst today there are around 300 Pinus Helapensis trees located from the Our Lady of Victories Church up to Rabat, once this project is completed the number of trees will be doubled," he added.

The government insists that the Central Link project is being implemented to reduce traffic and congestion in localities which have to date suffered from these problems.

“Through its implementation the emission rates in these areas will be reduced drastically, by approximately 13.5%.  Moreover, the alternative means of transport is also being encouraged through the introduction of new cycle lanes," the ministry said.

The government spokesperson did not answer MaltaToday’s question on the amount of agricultural land which will be lost in the area as a result of the widening of the existing road.

Hobson's choice

Environmentalist and ERA board member, Alan Deidun, had described the project as a Hobson’s choice between losing more agricultural land and losing more trees.

Neither is it known how many Aleppo pine trees will be uprooted in other sections of the project.

Plans submitted by Transport Malta on Saturday still foresaw the uprooting of 135 Aleppo trees for the whole stretch of the project from Mrieħel to Saqqajja junction.

The latest plans have yet to be published on the Planning Authority’s website and represent the third change in the space of a week.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Transport Malta claimed that the majority of the trees in this area will remain in place and more than 200 additional trees will be planted.

In its statement, Transport Malta also claimed that in cases where the removal of trees is necessary to ensure that the new roads are safer, these will be “replanted” in other places.

But experts, like biologist Alan Deidun and bio-diversity expert Alfred Baldacchino, contend that it is nearly impossible to replant mature Aleppo pine trees to other locations.

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