Elevated road proposed to restore Ghadira sand dunes

The sand replenishment project will reverse the situation to the 1960s shoreline that was 25 metres further out at sea than today

The sand dunes at Mellieha’s Ghadira Bay will be unable to recreate themselves, unless the existing road gets replaced by an elevated three-lane dual carriageway so that the unobstructed natural inward migration of sand dunes can take place, preliminary studies claim.

This Project Development Statement submitted by environmental consultants EMDP on the proposed 38,000sq.m extension of Ghadira beach proposes the replacement of the existing road by an elevated road, suspended on vertical columns in what is described as a “bridge-like cantilevered structure”.

But the environmental impact of building the new bridge in the vicinity of a nature reserve will only be conducted after the approval of the first phase of the project which would see sand mechanically dredged from the submerged part of the beach.

The study warns that existing kiosks may have to be removed or shifted so as not to impede the process of sand dune migration.

There’s no timeframe for the new road but the first phase of the project – the extension of the beach itself – can be implemented before this summer.

“It is essential that this project is fast-tracked so that further development (namely the wave deflectors and subsequently the new bridge) may commence after the end of summer months,” the
project description statement says.

Wave deflectors and the new road would ensure that the beach is protected during the winter months and reduce the risk of beach erosion.

But the document warns that if “significant bad weather” takes place before the creation of sea current deflectors that prevent the sand from being lost, this would risk ruining the work carried out in the first phase since “the replenished sandy beach could be eroded back.”

Ghadira beach will be extended by a one-kilometre stretch of over 20 metres in average width, making use of dredger-pumped sand from a submerged sandy area of Ghadira bay itself.

The studies claim that this can be done without impacting the protected sea grasses which are further away from the zone identified for dredging works.

The process will involve raising back the sand eroded over time from the seashore.

Although the process is more expensive than using imported “alien” sand, the sand will have identical characteristics that are already found within Ghadira Bay, reversing the situation to the 1960s shoreline that was 25 metres further out at sea than today.

The seabed sand will then be raised and deposited on land using a sand suction dredger, which will dislodge the sand and pump it to the sand pits across various reclamation areas along the beach.

The area from where the sand will be dredged is devoid of protected Posedonia Oceanica Meadows (protected sea grasses).

The second phase of the project will involve the construction of submerged wave deflectors around the sandy beach intended to deflect, dissipate or reduce the wave energy reaching the shoreline. This will ensure that the replenished beach is protected in stormy weather. These deflectors will be designed in such a manner so as to facilitate the creation of an artificial reef, the PDS says. The wave deflector will protrude from beneath the Sea Shell Dive Centre located at the far southern end of the bay and shall extend more than 20 metres from the new shoreline.

 

Mizzi’s ‘legacy’ beach

Plans by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi to “leave a legacy” in turning Mellieha Bay into a “top European beach” were first announced in July last year.

In August when addressing the issue of encroachments by beach concessions at Ghadira, Mizzi noted that in view of beach erosion “we need to assess whether we can extend the beach to see if we can create more space.”

In 2009 the then transport minister Austin Gatt proposed the replacement of the present Coast Road with one passing behind the Mellieha nature reserve but this was shot down by both the Labour Opposition and environmentalists. The declared aim of the proposal was to stop beach erosion and restore sand dunes.

But the use of studies commissioned by Seabank owner Silvio Debono to justify the move led to suspicion that the aim of the project was to bring the beach closer to the newly-approved hotel. It was later scrapped.

The current studies have been conducted by architect Stephen Vancell on behalf of EMDP, a company owned by the PA’s planning commission’s board member Mariello Spiteri. ERA is presently assessing the studies presented by the EMDP which were commissioned by Projects Malta.

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