Thursday 18th July spelt the death knell for 549 mature and beautiful trees. These lie near or in Balzan and Attard and many are protected by law. A further 237 trees will be transplanted which means that a substantial amount will die due to the low success rate of transplanting across the species proposed. Amongst the trees that will be lost are the trees along the Balzan bypass central strip, the old palm trees on the road taking you near San Anton Palace Gardens and these beautiful trees near the pit stop fuel station at the edge of Attard.
Although the government will plant a number of new saplings, it will only plant 786 new trees. This is not even half what the ERA recommends (recommendation of 1649 trees to be planted) opting instead to pay the ERA €500 for every tree not planted instead. This is above the fact that the survival rate for new saplings is very low and the amount of CO2 and pollution that they absorb is minimal compared to what one mature tree will absorb.This road will not have a long term effect on the reduction of traffic gridlock in these areas as can be evidenced by the papers produced by the authorities themselves. The Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) produced for the new road shows that the amount of traffic will reach the present level after only 10 years. Therefore, the authorities have branded this as a short term alleviation of traffic. This means that despite the removal of hundreds of mature shade giving trees and a cost of more than €55 million, the mentioned benefits will only be very short term due to the concept of induced demand. This concept states that when one expands the capacity of the road network, the number of cars on the road will increase to fill that space. This will thus, nullify any expansions in the road system.
It is therefore, an insane proposition to wreak so much destruction and spend so much money on a project which will not improve people’s lives in the long term. The spending of €55 million on improving public transport and promoting sustainable transport would leave a much bigger positive effect on the economy, the people of the neighbouring villages and the people of Malta as a whole. Apart from the devastation, the Central Link Project does not make financial sense.It is the responsibility of University students to oppose projects that will not be beneficial or not beneficial enough for the country. Therefore I urge everyone to join the protest being organised by Sasha Vella this Sunday (27th July) at 9am. The protest will be held in front of Ivory and Co in the outskirts of Attard. Make your voices heard!
Author: Daniel Grech