Cleaner and greener
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Cleaner and greener

How could a report on afforestation remain on the shelf when the shortage of trees is so evident?

Josè Herrera, Minister For Sustainable Development, The Environment And Climate Change

Translating our record economic growth into a better quality of life with higher standards is top priority for us. Over the past three years, this government has shown that action does indeed speak louder than words in the implementation of this positive environmental change.

Our holistic approach means cleaner air, investment in alternative energy and waste management systems as well as more open spaces and parks.

We have concretely acted on, and not shelved, afforestation projects. Former environment minister Leo Brincat had commissioned a study to identify potential sites across the Maltese islands that would be suited for such a plan. The report was authored by two leading ecology experts, namely, Louis F. Cassar and Elisabeth Conrad.

We have now moved forward.

Following a technical analysis by the ministry and senior officials of the Parks Directorate, discussions were already held with the Land Department in order to transfer areas at Burmarrad (Wied Santa Katarina), Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Msida (Swatar area), Swatar (facing Mater Dei Hospital) and Wied Blandun in Cospicua to the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change.

I have appointed a ministerial committee that is tasked with implementing such afforestation projects.

For many years, no such endeavour has ever been taken by any government.

The ministry took a number of initiatives related to afforestation, including the planting of about 7,000 trees, which amounts to something like 63 tumoli of government-owned land, which is adequate for planting, embellishment works and tree planting, at the Kennedy Grove Park and the greening of the communities pilot project, which has been extended to 15 local councils and will be extended to a further six new local councils, following the Budget for 2017.

In Buskett, work is being done to repair, restore and rebuild the retaining walls that define the watercourse, to remove alien invasive species, to protect the stability of the substratum on the valley sides and the planting of 3,300 trees.

A rehabilitation project is being executed for the Foss, in Żabbar, to set up a recreational area within a forested zone, with a wide variety of tree and shrub species.

Work has also started at the Argotti Gardens in Floriana. The botanical garden and also the surrounding gardens will become a centre of excellence on trees and unique plants as well as a recreational centre. There will be extensive renovation works, that will be connected to the nearby St Philip Garden, Milorda Garden and Pinetum Garden.

In the coming weeks, the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change will commence works at the national park of Inwadar. This national nature park will have a total area of 955,000 square metres and runs along the coastal and rural area bordering Ix-Xagħjra, Żabbar and Marsascala.

I have to say that this year, especially through the Budget for 2017, we have managed to raise the bar for the environment. We are going to invest in new projects which will lead to a better quality of life. These include more enforcement on littering in public spaces, the upgrading of the Ġnien l-Għarusa tal-Mosta and Ġnien Duminku Mintoff, sustaining the Victoria Lines, the Cottoner Lines and Għar Lapsi area and upgrading the Ta’ Qali picnic area.

This is all in line with the government’s policy of prioritising environmental matters and making Malta a pleasant place to live in.

Alfred E. Baldacchino, Planning and environment management expert

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