Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
The grassroots group representing concerned Gzira residents, has said that there hasn’t been an assessment carried out what impact the construction works on Manoel Island will have for health and quality of life.
Inħobbu l-Gżira explains that given that the locality is already impacted by high levels of air pollution and congestion, no one has looked at how the increase in construction vehicles moving around the area will lead to increased pollution and thus problems for the local residents.
They state that the planned excavation works are set to last 40 weeks with around 80 truck journeys made each week. This they say, will result in over 15,000 heavy vehicle trips through Gzira.
‘MIDI themselves admit that “during construction works, air quality can be adversely affected by particulates generation to air” from various construction related activities. The rubble and debris are to be transported through Gzira creating air pollution that will also affect surrounding towns,’ they write.
The concern comes as the group presented a petition to the Parliament yesterday from 916 people, aimed at protecting Manoel Island from the ambitious development which is set to transform the land. This followed a previous online petition carried out earlier in the year, which garnered 7,571 signatures. This brings the total number of petitioners against the development to 8,487.
The group’s petition and concerns about the construction impact on Gzira, comes following months of criticism over the Masterplan for Manoel Island and the approval by the Planning Authority for the developer MIDI Inc to carried them out.
The plan is to build a complex of over 600 residential homes along a hotel at Lazaretto, commercial outlets, a yacht marina and plazas. Fort Manoel is also set to be restored with new parks and family areas around it, after the developers dropped the plan to turn the Fort into a hotel. There is also expected to be land reclamation of the sea area from the bridge and facing Gzira waterfront.
Land reclamation of the boat-yard will also be handled by the government, MIDI explains. Manoel Island itself had been previously transferred to MIDI under a 99 year concession.
In March, the Planning Authority approved the plans for the development. Thirteen board members voted in favour of the development, including Labour and Nationalist representatives as well as the Gzira local Council against one, the NGO representative, Annick Bonello citing environmental concerns. The outline development permit, which is an amendment to the one approved in 1999, provides for the construction of 610 apartments on Manoel Island.
Critics complained that the project would seriously impact the environment, the historical and cultural heritage of the area as well as the skyline of Manoel Island and surrounding localities. They also warn that a number Roman ruins on the island and surrounding sea-bed have not been investigation properly.
With this, they also questioned why the Planning Authority was approving the start of excavation works when an appeal had been lodged with PA on the 18th July.
In presenting the petition to the Parliamentary Speaker Dr Godfrey Farrugia, stressed that, ‘I hope that the Parliamentary Petition Committee will, this summer, resolve its impasse and establish the long overdue procedure so that the necessary measures are taken to process all 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.’