Thirteen non-governmental organisations stated that the discussions about the permanent link which would connect Malta and Gozo together were far from over. The organisations said that total independent holistic studies were lacking, expressing their disagreement with claims that the discussion were over and that now it was time to move on to implementation. The organisations stressed that such decision should only be taken when full studies are available which would include a consultation that opens the discussion to the public.
The NGOs were addressing a press conference on Saturday outside the Parliamentary building.
Whether tunnel would facilitate transport still needs to be established
The organisations said that while they recognized the challenges in mobility experienced by Gozitan employees and students alike, one still needs to establish whether the tunnel would facilitate transport between the two islands. Referring to the Project Description Statement by the Environment and Resource Authority (ERA), the organisations said while the PDS stated that the connection would provide uninterrupted mobility between the two islands, this was not necessarily the case saying that the proposal includes only one lane in each direction. The NGOs said that when one considers that some estimated 9,000 vehicles will be making use of the tunnel daily, the tunnel might be limited in use due to security issues while the issue of long queues would still persist.
The studies should also establish whether the travelling time between the two islands would in reality be decreased.
The organisations stressed that the tunnel was one of many options, and should be compared with such options in terms of feasibility, mentioning fast ferries from Gozo to various points around Malta, as an example. Such an option would reduce the time stuck in traffic by disembarking passengers at different locations around the island. They also spoke whether it was financially sustainable citing construction expenses, maintenance work, monitoring, possible introduction of tolls, among others
Full impact of tunnel should be taken into consideration
The NGOs stressed on the importance of studies which would establish what the impacts the tunnel would have on society, the environment, the economy and Gozo’s infrastructure due to an increase in vehicle use and land speculation.
Among the impacts which should be considered, the NGOs listed the uptake of agricultural and natural land to make way for ancillary road networks, the unprecedented generation of construction waste, the direct and indirect effects it would have on at least four Natura 2000 sites which enjoy protection at law, among others.
The proposal also raises archaeological concerns.
The NGOs said that it was only after such studies were concluded and published that the discussion about the permanent link should take place. Such studies, the organisations explained should answer fundamental questions about its feasibility.
The thirteen organisations that participated in the press conference are Ramblers Association, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Archaeological Society Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Birdlife Malta, Kamra tal-Periti, Nature Trust Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Għaqda Siġar Maltin, Isles of the Left, Bicycle Advocacy Group and Żminijietna.