Central Link: Which trees to mourn for (or get tied to) before the chopping

Find out which and how many trees are going to be uprooted in the Central Link Project

The major uprooting of mature and protected Aleppo pine trees (sigar taz-Znuber) resulting from the now approved Central Link project will take place in two clusters, one near the Pit Stop petrol station roundabout and another further up the Rabat road before the Madonna tal-Vitorja chapel.

In the final maps a total of 44 Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis) are marked to be uprooted throughout the entire Central Link project.

These are located in two main areas, a cluster of 12 trees located before the Kappella Madonna tal-Vitorja coming from Ħ’Attard and another cluster of 20 trees near the Pitstop roundabout at Ħ’Attard.  

Also earmarked for uprooting is a  cluster of around 30 mature she oaks located just before the chapel, which unlike the znuber is not protected by law.

Three other Aleppo pine trees will be uprooted further up from the Madonna tal-Vittorja chapel towards Saqqaja.

Another significant cluster which will be uprooted includes 18 cypress trees (which are also protected) on the stretch of Mdina road between San Anton and the Attard cemetery before the intersection with Triq Oliver Agius and a further eight cypress trees presently located on the central strip in the same stretch of road.

The Environment Impact assessment on the basis of which the project was assessed foresaw uprooting of 549 trees of which 237 are protected trees.

But interviewed by the Sunday Times Infrastructure Malta CEO Frederick Azzopardi confirmed that while the permit permits the uprooting of 549 trees the application for a nature permit from the Environment and Resources Authority envisages the removal of  440 trees.

Plans submitted last year also foresaw the uprooting of 76 pine trees along the stretch of road between the Our Lady of Victories Chapel and the Saqqajja junction.

But following an uproar in the media, these were first reduced to 15 and than to three.  This comes at the cost of an additional take up of agricultural land as one lane of trees will be incorporated as a traffic island, whilst the new road will take up agricultural land on the side.

According to the EIA a further 237 trees will be transplanted to another site. These include a very large community of nearly 40 almond trees located along Triq Tumas Chetcuti.

The EIA notes that “some species are unlikely to survive transplantation and therefore will be collected by appropriately registered waste carriers”.

According to law at least one tree must be planted for each uprooted unprotected tree, five or 10 for each protected tree depending on its protection level.

This would require the planting of around 1,650 trees at the Central Link project. However the  EIA determined that the minimum number of trees that can be planted along the scheme is equal to 766 trees.

The EIA also revealed that Infrastructure Malta will be paying €500 for every tree not planted.

The new trees which are to be planted include 42 new Aleppo pine trees on the road stretch between the Madonna tal-Vitorja chapel and the pitstop station junction.

While an attempt has made done over the past year to decrease the number of trees impacted by the project, the project will still  result in the irreverable loss of 50,000 sq.m of agricultural land.  

An additional 3m buffer zone will be temporarily taken up during the construction phase to serve for storage of raw materials and waste, and to provide space for operating of machinery.

The contractors will be responsible for the rehabilitation of the land in the buffer zone. 150 cubic meters of rubble walls some of which hundreds of years old and harbouring eco systems of their own, will be dissembled and reused as cladding in the border walls along the widened road and the proposed Attard Bypass.

“The take-up of agricultural land, excavation of soil and disassembly of rubble walls will cause a permanent destruction of all ecological features which are associated with these habitat types,’ the Environmental Impact Assessment had warned.

“The impact is particularly significant on all the life forms associated with the soil and rubble walls.”

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