NGOs file judicial protest against ERA over its failure to protect trees from Central Link

Several environmental NGOs and residents say that the trees that should have been marked for transplantation were destroyed as part of the project's development

A cluster of mature almond trees along the Central Link route in the vicinity of the Attard traffic lights has been obliterated
A cluster of mature almond trees along the Central Link route in the vicinity of the Attard traffic lights has been obliterated

An environmental NGO, Ghaqda Sigar Maltin, along with other NGOs and residents, has filed a judicial protest against the Environment and Resources Authority, holding the authority responsible for not adhering to environmental regulations on the Central Link Project.

"The environmental NGOs and residents appealing the Central Link case have filed a judicial protest against ERA holding the authority responsible for not adhering to environmental regulations and enforcing the terms of the very same permit issued by it," they said in a statement on Tuesday.

MaltaToday revealed on Sunday how a number of protected almond trees were destroyed as a result of developments in the Central Link project. 

The nature permit issued by ERA had imposed requirements upon the developers, one requirement being that works should not start until an appeal to the project is finalised. The appeal was filed by environmental NGOs and residents to oppose the project after the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal confirmed the permit granted for road works between Rabat and Mriehel.

The Planning Authority Board heard last July how the project would result in the permanent loss of 48,466sq.m of good quality agricultural land and the uprooting of 549 trees, 272 of which are protected by law. Despite this, the project was green-lighted.

Almond trees are protected by law and the maximum fine for uprooting such trees, according to regulation, amounts to €2,500 for every tree removed in breach of regulations.

"Much is made of the compensatory tree-planting mechanism imposed by ERA when issuing its nature permit. This was touted as making up for the tree-axing rampage permit issued to Infrastructure Malta in the Central Link project. It was the spoonful of sugar meant to sweeten the tree destruction. Now we find out, that not even the trees marked for transplantation will be saved and 'deviations' from the permit are being negotiated behind closed doors," the NGOs said.

They claimed that any fines that may be imposed on Infrastructure Malta will be paid for from taxpayers' funds, that "the public has to fund environmental breaches because of ineffectual enforcement."

AREN, Arnold Cassola, Bicycle Advocacy Group, Friends of the Earth Malta, Għaqda Siġar Maltin, and Moviment Graffitti have filed the judicial protest.

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