Miriam Dalli: Government always acted following public outcry

Xtra on TVM | Environment Minister Miriam Dalli says communication on transplanting of Mosta square trees should have been better by council • Nationalist MP Darren Carabott questions effectiveness of Malta’s environmental authorities

Environment Minister Miriam Dalli
Environment Minister Miriam Dalli

Government has always acted accordingly when there was public outcry, Environment Minister Miriam Dalli has said.

She was interviewed on Saviour Balzan’s Xtra on TVM, together with Nationalist MP Darren Carabott.

Dalli stressed government’s commitment to addressing the public’s concerns, stating government has always sought to do “what is right”.

"I remember people were upset when a restaurant was going to be built inside Romeo Romano. However, that decision was reversed," she explained.

The Grade 1 protected building in the Romeo Romano Gardens in Santa Venera was instead transformed into an environmental education centre for Ekoskola students.

The environment minister also made reference to plans for the construction of 22 flats and 20 underlying garages in the vicinity of the historic Ġgantija temples.

"I assure you that neither I nor my colleagues, would want to do anything that would put our historical heritage in danger," she added. “It’s not over yet.”

The interview then shifted to the controversy surrounding the uprooting and transplanting of nine Ficus trees at the Mosta square. Following protests by activists and public outcry, the local council went back on its initial plans and decided against the transplanting.

"I believe that there should have been much better communication... but the Council did embark on a truly ambitious project," Dalli said. "My point of departure is always, where there are trees, we should try to incorporate them into the project. Can it always be done? Not always, but when it can be done, it must be done."

Pressed on the council and mayor’s lack of communication with the public, Minister Dalli defended Chris Grech, stating that it was he who decided against continuing the tree uprooting at the end of the day.

MP Darren Carabott called for stronger environmental protection by the authorities.

"I believe politicians have the tools to make the change but don’t do enough for the environment," he said.

The PN MP emphasised that environmental concerns seem to gain attention only when they directly impact individuals.

"We must adopt environment in our dialogue and decisions. There is a need for the politician to put on the shoes of the people and do more," Carabott added.

He also questioned the effectivness of environmental authorities.

"In the issue of trees in Mosta, did the ERA do their job? In the case of Ġgantija, did the superintendence do its job? In the planning cases we see on the daily, does the planning authority do its job?" Carabott questioned.

He also criticised the enforcement of existing laws, suggesting that rather than serving the broader public interest, regulatory bodies may at times act in ways that benefit only a select few.