Project Green to coordinate Labour’s €700 million urban greening pledge

San Gwann underpass among first urban greening projects to be contemplated by new government agency tasked with implementing and coordinating €700 million pledge

The farmhouse and land belonging to the deceased ex-criminal Ċikku Fenech have been turned into a public garden named after Oncologist Victor Calvagna, who died in a car accident
The farmhouse and land belonging to the deceased ex-criminal Ċikku Fenech have been turned into a public garden named after Oncologist Victor Calvagna, who died in a car accident

An underpass in San Gwann that will create a large green space in front of the church is the first such project planned by a new government agency.

Project Green will be responsible for the implementation and coordination of government’s efforts to increase urban green spaces.

The Labour Party had pledged to invest €700 million over seven years to create open spaces in town centres by shifting several main roads underground. Conceptual designs for several projects were unveiled during the election campaign, including the San Gwann main road.

Speaking at the launch of the agency, its CEO Steve Ellul said preparatory works had started on the creation of an underpass along Vjal ir-Rihan in San Gwann. The project will see the creation of 6,500sq.m of green space in front of the parish church that will connect with the existing Karen Grech garden.

Ellul said the major projects, which involve massive infrastructural works, will only be one aspect of the new agency’s remit.

Project Green will also be involved in implementing and coordinating other smaller projects to turn abandoned spaces in town centres into gardens, and the extension of existing gardens and parks.

Another priority project will be the creation of a multi-storey underground car park at St Paul’s Square in Bormla with a surface garden. This land had originally been given to the American University of Malta but recently passed back to the government in a land-swap deal.

Ellul also highlighted other projects in the pipeline that included extensions to existing parks in Żabbar and Mosta, the “reinvigoration” of the Pinetum in Pietà, a park in Bengħisa, accessibility works at the Marsaskala Nwadar park and outdoor green campuses in localities attended by students.

Project Green will also assist local councils in upgrading village centres and squares.

Ellul said the agency will not only invest in and help coordinate the construction or regeneration works but also include 10-year maintenance agreements in its arrangements.

Environment Minister Miriam Dalli said the agency will “implement and coordinate” what she described as the “biggest green investment ever”.

“It will coordinate because urban greening is not just this ministry’s job but a whole government project aimed at improving people’s quality of life,” she said.

Project Green will work with local councils, businesses, families, government entities, voluntary organisations and other stakeholders, she added.

Less concrete and tiles, more natural habitats in gardens

Dalli said the agency will strive for quality, collaboration and sustainability.

“We want the highest quality open spaces in terms of planning, functionality and materials used. We want green spaces that meet people’s aspirations. Open spaces that will have indigenous trees and shrubs, that will offer less concrete and fewer tiles and more natural habitats while ensuring adequate mobility and accessibility to all people, including children with disabilities,” she said.

The agency will also collaborate with different entities and local councils to realise projects. 

“Project Green will work with others to sustain existing works and support localities in implementing and transforming urban spaces into gardens and pocket parks,” Dalli said.

She also spoke of interest from the private sector to collaborate, adding that companies were approaching government to be part of the initiatives as part of their environmental sustainability goals.

Project Green will also ensure long-term sustainability of the projects by strengthening biodiversity and inviting contractors to use innovative materials that will ensure accessibility without having a negative impact on the environment.

“We will continue taking care of these projects over time, which is why we will include long-term maintenance agreements,” the minister said.