Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
‘The value of trees is not just physical, it is linked to our psychology too,’ Dr Anna Cassar, clinical psychologist tells Newsbook.com.mt.
Talking from a field set to become part of the ambitious Central Link Project (CLP), Dr Cassar explained that nature has been an invaluable method of treatment for her patients.
From anxiety to depression or stress related ailments, physical techniques like taking walks through parks or natural greenery, reading a book beneath a tree or relaxation techniques and visualisations, ‘helps the body and mind relax’.
Resilience and strength
Going further, Dr Cassar explained that there is a causal link between the health of the mind, the health of the body and the medical benefits of the natural environment.
She said that specific studies had shown that trees represent resilience and strength and engagement with them even helped to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol which is connected with heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
‘There is a direct link between well-being of mind and body and nature,’ Dr Cassar explained.
However, cutting down trees not only affects mental health, but also impacts Malta’s air quality.
Dr Cassar explained that she found it ‘sad and worrying’ that more trees had to be cut down given that they absorb Carbon Dioxide and other pollutants from the air and emit oxygen back into the atmosphere. ‘We learn this in basic biology at school,’ she said.
‘The more we cut them down, the less possibility of purifying our air naturally,’ Dr Cassar added.
Hazard to our health
Newsbook.com.mt’s interview with Dr Cassar came after her social media post warning about the health hazards of cutting down more trees and how the government was thus caring for the Maltese population’s health.
She said that nature is heavily ‘intertwined’ with people’s ‘physical and psychological health,’ and that the ‘Central Link Project is a major health hazard to all of us but mostly our children.’
In July the Planning Authority approved the plans for the Central Link Project which would see a major overhaul of Malta’s roads.
The Central Link Project is said to improve the route from Imrieħel bypass to Birkirkara, Ħal Balzan and Ħ’Attard, right up to the roundabout at the foot of Saqqajja Hill.
According to the Transport Minister Ian Borg, the CLP would include 10km of pedestrian paving, a long bike lane, safer public transport access and 19,000sqm of landscaping.
Despite the plans, numerous NGOs, local councils and residents have been presenting objections to the plans saying that the project would eradicate 48,000 square meters of farmland, some 600 trees, isolating 1,200 persons, and driving 47 farmers off their land.
Trees have been the biggest concern, with local residents, activists and NGOs organising vigils to protect the trees set for removal or already uprooted or felled.
You used to be able to see Luqa and beyond
Dr Cassar grew up in Ħ’Attard and recalls the different phases of the area’s development.
She explained that ‘Right from the main road, it was pretty much countryside. From windows and backyards, you could see right through to Luqa and beyond. This area is very important to me’.
Our interview was taking place from a field just south of Santa Luċija, one of the scheduled locations in which the massive and ambitious Central Link Infrastructure Project will run through. Stretching around were farmland, patches of greenery and crops growing in the valley, skirted by the roads and flashes of cars in the sunlight, heading south to Ħaż-Żebbuġ.
The farmers there have been cultivating the land for the past 80 years. Since the surveyors had arrived and measured up the land for the project, the land has remained bare and uncultivated. Off camera, the farmer explained that he grew all sorts of produce there, from wheat to marrows.
‘It’s government land, there is nothing he can do about it,’ Dr Cassar explained.