An ambitious two-year restoration project, described as the biggest in a century, has been started on the Valletta bastions.

The works will focus on the stretch of fortifications between St Andrew's Bastions, next to Biago Steps, and those below Castille.

The project is in the hands of an Italo-Maltese venture, Cooperativa Archeologica and its Maltese partners Recoop and CTC.

The financing comes out of a €36 million package, co-funded by the EU, that will also be used to restore sections of fortifications in Mdina, Vittoriosa and Ċittadella in Gozo. A total of six kilometres of bastions will be restored in all.

Resources Minister George Pullicino said this amounted to one-tenth of the 60 kilometres of fortifications around the islands. The whole job would generate about 120 new jobs ranging from draftsmen to restorers, he said.

Land Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi praised the Valletta project, saying it involved parts of the city that might not have been given their due importance.

In preparation for the restoration works, the Land Department evicted squatters from St Michael's Bastions at Biago Steps two weeks ago.

Abuse of public land would not be tolerated, especially if it was vital to the country's cultural heritage, Dr Azzopardi said.

"We are on the verge of witnessing the birth of a new Valletta. This is the largest and most ambitious project in the past century," he said.

Some of Malta's prized fortifications are in dire need of restoration and repair. In October, the wall of a bastion collapsed beneath the Argotti Gardens, in Floriana, while the bastions at Fort St Elmo, the scene of the Great Siege, are also at risk.

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