Thursday, May 24, 2018
Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’
The destruction of trees to accommodate the increasing number of cars was a short-term solution with long-term environmental and health repercussions, a biodiversity expert and an NGO have warned.
Alfred Baldacchino and Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar were approached by the Times of Malta in view of plans to uproot a kilometre of trees along the Addolorata Cemetery hill in Paola. The trees have been earmarked for destruction to make way for a new underpass at the Santa Luċija roundabout.
Trees were also recently uprooted to make way for the multilevel junction under construction in Marsa and the widening of Lija’s high street.
Both the FAA and Mr Baldacchino questioned the government’s strategy of addressing traffic congestion by widening arterial roads and building new junctions, like the one at Kappara.
“That approach will just result in traffic bottlenecks being shifted elsewhere without actually addressing the source of the problem, which is the increasing number of vehicles on the road,” FAA chairman Paul Cardona said.
His views were echoed by Mr Baldacchino, who criticised the project as the product of successive governments’ lack of vision.
He pointed out there had been no efforts to compensate for the loss of trees. Moreover, he threw cold water on efforts to replant uprooted trees elsewhere, saying it was a very costly exercise with low success rates.
He noted that, on average, it cost €500 to transplant a tree. “It would probably be more cost effective to use the funds on afforestation projects and other initiatives meant to combat climate change and safeguard local ecology,” he pointed out.
Mr Baldacchino expressed frustration that the authorities had not been forthcoming about a series of proposals he submitted some time ago.
He also questioned the goverment’s political will to protect the environment. “The loss of indigenous species, which are being replaced by imported ones, makes me wonder if this is based on an unofficial decision made at Cabinet level,” Mr Baldacchino said. “Future generations will pay a hefty price for these mistakes,” he warned.
Mr Cardona of FAA called for bold decisions to discourage the use of private cars, such as introducing congestion charges in areas like Valletta.
“Replanting uprooted trees elsewhere is a very costly exercise with low rates of success”
“In countries like Singapore, the solution was to address the oversaturation of cars on the roads, not building tunnels and bridges. The problem must be tackled at source by forcing people to use the bus to avoid congestion charges:’ he said, adding that as long as commuters kept using private cars, buses would remain stuck in traffic.
“The bottom line is that having a greater number of cars on the road will only result in more toxic emissions – which, in turn, will increase the incidence of cancer in the Maltese islands,” Mr Cardona said.