Gzira activists collect 916 signatures in second petition opposing Manoel Island development

The NGO Inhobbu l-Gzira said that the first petition signed by 7,571 residents between February and April is yet to be discussed in Parliament 

A second petition opposing the proposed Manoel Island development has been presented to Parliament by residents. This is the second petition in the span of four months.  

The petition was signed by 916 residents, signatures collected door to door, and presented to Parliamentary House Speaker Anglu Farrugia by Partit Demokratiku MP Godfrey Farrugia.

“If the development by MIDI plc goes ahead, it will have a huge negative impact on the town of Gżira and neighbouring areas both during and after construction,” a statement by the NGO read on Saturday. 

A further 7,571 signatures were collected in an online petition which was started last February and closed on 16 April but is yet to be brought up or discussed in Parliament. 

“The Planning Authority approved the Manoel Island Masterplan outline in March. However, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar filed an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. Funds for this appeal were raised through a social media crowdfunding campaign. The approval of a Masterplan does not mean that the project is a fait accompli,” the statement read.

The master plan is being scrutinised in an appeal process in the tribunal. Despite this, the Planning Commission green-lighted excavation works in the area. 

According to the NGO, the approved excavation works are endangering ancient cemeteries and artefacts with high heritage value in the areas surrounding Manoel Island. 

One of these heritage sites constitute Roman remains found on the seabed surrounding Manoel Island, with vats on the South-Western part of the island leading experts to believe that remains of a former Roman port could be found in the area. 

The NGO also lamented the the possible increase in air pollution and congestion if the government moves forward with the project. 

“Excavation works are optimistically forecast to last around 40 weeks and generate some 80 truck journeys per day.  In total, upwards of 15,000 trips by heavy vehicles will pass through the densely populated streets of Gzira,” their statement said.

The NGO argued that even MIDI had conceded that “during construction works, air quality can be adversely affected by particulate generation in the air."

When presenting the signatures in parliament, Godfrey Farrugia called on the speaker to resolve any issues related to the Parliamentary Committee not taking the necessary measures to process pending petition applications. 

“It is a disgrace – and indeed unjust – that the good number of petitions presented by civil society has not been discussed and adjudicated in a timely manner by the Petition Committee,” he said. 

READ ALSO: Roman remains face destruction if Manoel Island project goes through, archaeologist warns

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