Front Ħarsien ODZ objects to Ħas-Saptan fuel depot, calls for comprehensive studies

Front Ħarsien ODZ has objected to the proposal to move fuel depot from Birzebbugia to Has-Saptan, while calling for ‘transparent and comprehensive studies’

Ħas-Saptan  lies within a designated Area of High Landscape Value and Site of Scientific Importance
Ħas-Saptan lies within a designated Area of High Landscape Value and Site of Scientific Importance

Front Ħarsien ODZ has welcomed the publication of an Environmental Planning Statement on the new fuel dispensation facilities planned at Has-Saptan limits of Għaxaq.

Enemed proposed that fuel tanks from Birzebbugia should be relocated to a fuel storage complex in April. This would result in the loss of around 4,000 square metres of agricultural land in Għaxaq.

The 6,600 square metre site, parts of which includes maquis vegetation and an olive grove, lies within a designated Area of High Landscape Value and Site of Scientific Importance (SSI) as identified in the South Malta Local Plan.

Front Ħarsien ODZ outlined these elements, among others, as their reasons for objecting to the proposal.

“Because of the major impacts found on geology, geomorphology, and agriculture, as well as the site’s designation as an Area of Ecological Importance, as a Site of Scientific Importance and as having High Landscape Value, new facilities at Has-Saptan should not be permitted,” the eNGO said in a statement.

The installation is currently located in close proximity to residential areas. Therefore, its decommissioning would reduce the need for road tankers to pass through residential areas.

Front Ħarsien ODZ said that it understood the urgency of relocating the current fuel depot from Birzebugia and welcomed the government’s efforts to do so. However, it requests further information as to “why the existent facilities at Has-Saptan cannot be used as they are, without further infrastructure being built, as was promised by the previous energy minister, Konrad Mizzi, in 2014.”

The plans are said to involve a change of use of existing underground storage tanks at Ħas-Saptan which will be refurbished and upgraded with modern safety features and will be used to store Enemed products.

Enemed had considered the idea of elocating the fuel tanks to the Ras Ħanżir installation at Corradino, which is currently used for gasoil storage because “it is preferable, for logistical and operational efficiency reasons, to locate the dispensing facility close to an installation that is able to store the fuels being dispensed,” according to the Environmental Planning Statement.  Front Ħarsien ODZ also noted the Environmental Planning Statement as saying that the construction of new pipelines to Ras Ħanżir would “raise the applicant’s costs significantly and potentially render the project unfeasible,” according to its statement.

The Front requested a scientific study of the logistical and financial costs involved, and a further explanation of its unfeasibility.

“The Front notes that the main reason for the extension of the facilities is to minimise the danger involved in switching on pumps in the underground storage tanks. Again the Front expects further information on what kinds of pumps were considered for the project, and how the risks were calculated,” it added.

Front Ħarsien ODZ said that it expected fully transparent and comprehensive studies before any such project outside development zones is given the green light.