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Senseless massacre of trees

In a tiny, overpopulated, arid island it is only logical to expect the people to bend over backwards to ensure that no sprig, let alone a tree, is allowed to wither away unnecessarily. Not in Malta.

In an island where the all-important goal is making money to the exclusion of practically everything else, trees are expendable, a burden, only fit for the chop. The hate relationship many have with trees has infected even the government, which, from being a mere spectator to the wanton vandalism to trees and the natural environment over the years, has now become one of the prime movers.

Old trees in Mellieħa, Tarxien, Paola, Lija, Balzan and in many other localities have been sacrificed in the name of development, making the places from where they have been uprooted look like orphans. Much-loved open spaces, such as that close to the sanctuary at Mellieħa, have been robbed of grand, elegant trees that communities over many decades had cherished and cared for.

Road builders are now having a field day. Malta has already lost 480 trees this year and more are in line for the chop in what must rank as one of the most iconic stretches, the Rabat Road, leading to the island’s old capital, Mdina. Up to 200 trees were at first earmarked for removal to make way for a huge road revamp but, following a public outrage at the planned destruction, plans were revised at least four times and the figure has mercifully been brought down to just three. At least, that is the situation as it stands up to now.

Now, of course, the road network does require modification and expansion from time to time but it is sheer madness to destroy mature trees where these can be incorporated in new plans.

The impression being given is that trees are dispensable and that, anyway, or so the authorities argue, more new trees will be planted in their stead as the old uprooted ones are relocated to other areas. Trees do not grow overnight and not all mature trees survive relocation.

Besides reducing carbon dioxide, trees improve the quality of life and enhance the environment, making localities livable. Apart from their benefits, trees also give a unique character to a place and, over time, blend beautifully with their surroundings, giving a distinct stamp that once touched is lost forever.

Does Malta really want to lose all of this and, if yes, what for? To have a uniform, ugly mass of concrete blocks, tarmac, vehicles and much higher levels of pollution? Should not a line be drawn on how much development should be allowed to destroy the island’s environmental heritage? It looks as if such considerations no longer matter.

The country will come to regret this mindless disregard to the natural environment.

New trees do not replicate the beauty of mature trees that once graced so many localities and that, in many cases, served as landmarks. It is sad all this is happening right under the nose of the Environment and Resources Authority and of the Minister of the Environment.

They may already be late but, still, all those involved in the frenetic development going on at present should take a step back and ensure that no more trees are lost.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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