“Slackening your belt to treat obesity!” is squandering precious time and money

Miguela Xuereb

Perhaps the most striking and apt slogan seen in the recent Central Link Project protest, likened the government’s justification for the project, to slacking one’s belt to treat obesity.

A new by-pass would certainly invite more traffic to flow through it, until within a few years, with car numbers increasing at today’s rate, will not take long to become saturated too. In some sense the project could be of local interest to Attard residents but surely a long way off from the rank of a national interest.

Pollution knows no boundaries and depending on weather factors it spreads locally and beyond. With our little island’s prevailing northwesterly wind, the pollution produced at Attard would be carried to affect the downwind areas of Zebbug and Siggiewi and Attard would be spared. But with a southeasterly wind common in summer the pollution from the proposed bypass would be spread back over the Attard area.

In a calm summer situation with a dominating low-level temperature inversion the pollution would spread around, hugging the ground, in any random direction. From the three scenarios, the first seems to save Attard residents although by very selfishly dumping it over Zebbug area as if these residents were not people too! In the other two scenarios Attard residents will not benefit from the project.

What about other traffic congestion hot spots in so many other localities like Fgura, Cospicua, Msida etc. What about the pollution from low flying commercial aircraft over the glide-path zone. Low-flying airborne traffic at dead of night, is also a harassing noise pollution. Has the minister not considered these areas or are these not in the envelope of the national interest. The reality is that traffic congestions are becoming widespread and will continue to increase unless we realise that in the national interest we cannot keep increasing traffic, land or airborne indefinitely.

Government is wasting its energy and revenue in this forecast gridlock of, at least, doubtful benefit; it is detached from the most urgent problem the world needs to solve. The world is trying address the enormously serious problem of climate change. It a problem of our own creation and to say the project will not affect the environment is a flagrant contradiction, to say that it is even environmentally friendly is madness. It is even deeper folly not to think and act in tune with global environmental concerns because the repercussions will be of disastrous proportions and we will not be spared.

The slogan could not have depicted the project more correctly, because it tackles the symptoms not the cause. Only fools can see any good coming out of a project that displaces trees and arable land, at time, when the world is thinking of reforestation, in an effort to stabilise global warming.

It would be in the national interest if EU funds are used for long-term environment-saving projects. Scientists are desperately pleading to all of us to act drastically to cut GHGs emissions and change our lifestyles to avoid climate tipping points. This is the real urgency, the greatest challenge we all face.

Shall we let our children’s and grandchildren’s future be the sacrificial anode of our present environment-eroding economy? We are squandering money on puny projects and, worst of all, we are squandering the little precious time we have to save our climate.

P.J. Darmanin