Monday 30 March 2020

Tunnels and Roads in Pembroke, Swieqi and St. Julian’s – All Roads Lead To db

Fifteen NGOs together with a group of residents from Pembroke and Swieqi are sounding the alarm on Infrastructure Malta’s plans for a patchwork of tunnels and roads mostly serving big developers, in the area of Pembroke, Swieqi and St. Julian’s.
Since these plans were kept hidden from the public up until the last minute before the commencement of the objection period, there was a glaringly insufficient time period for the public to understand their real implications. Now that they have been unveiled, it is becoming increasingly clear that this project will do very little to address the severe traffic problems experienced by residents. Instead, the largest part of these tunnels and roads are designed to accommodate big developers and their ambitions for monstrous projects in the area, chief among them the db Group project on the ex-ITS site.
In fact, according to Infrastructure Malta’s plans, access to Pembroke and Swieqi will in no way be facilitated and the traffic nightmare currently experienced by residents will remain. The project instead envisages a long route – part road, part tunnel – leading to the proposed db Group project. The road leading to this tunnel would obliterate a natural area in St. Patrick’s, Pembroke, and the 1.5km tunnel would be located under a Natura 2000 site with very likely negative impact as regards noise pollution and fresh water biodiversity.
The idea of a tunnel in Pembroke had already featured in the now-defunct Paceville Masterplan, where it was designed to serve the entire area by passing under St. Andrew’s, and without affecting the green area in St. Patrick’s. This previous plan seems to have been scrapped for three local tunnels that simply serve the db Group and other possible large-scale commercial projects in the St. George’s area, effectively taking natural and open spaces from the public to accommodate big developers.
The proposed plan will also result in cars and traffic getting closer to residences in Pembroke and Swieqi, with a deleterious impact on people’s health and quality of life. For example, one tunnel is envisaged to be built under Triq l-Għarbiel, bordering on the houses of hundreds of Swieqi residents. Moreover, the project will make life completely miserable for residents during the construction period, which is expected to take many years due to its complexity.
The project’s impact on the natural and heritage environment in the area also raises serious concerns. Besides ruining the green area of St. Patrick’s, the location of a tunnel in the Għar Ħarq Ħammiem area – a unique site of natural, geological and scientific importance – is disturbing. Moreover, the impact on scheduled historical sites brought about by the massive drilling for these tunnels is not yet known, and is likely to be adverse. The proposed tunnels will also generate an inordinate amount of excavation waste and it is not known how and where this will be disposed of.
NGOs and residents are totally in favour of a much-needed infrastructural upgrade in the area. However, they demand that such an upgrade serves the people, improves their quality of life and safeguards the natural environment, instead of short-changing everyone in order to accommodate a few developers.
The Joint Press Statement is signed by: –      A group of Pembroke and Swieqi residents –      15 NGOs: Archaeological Society of Malta, Attard Residents Environmental Network, Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Green House, Isles of the Left, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers Association Malta, Triq l-Għarbiel Residents Group and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left

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