Rabat Road Rubble Walls

December 21, 2013

times

The rubble wall approach

Saturday, 21st December, 2013.

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Summer of 2011 saw Transport Malta working on the Rabat road in connection with the arrival of the Arriva public transport. An interchange with two bus stops was planned adjacent to the road leading to Ta’ Qali.

How the rubble wall protection regulations was brought to disrepute for one and all to see

2011 – the brick wall replacing the rubble wall along Rabat road.

Two stretches of protected rural rubble walls, one on each side of the road were illegally brought down and replaced by a brick wall. The plans also included tree mutilations, at that time so reminescent of Transport Malta: a number of protected Aleppo Trees more than 50 years old in this Outside Development Zone felt the brunt and the chainsaw, one with a substantial limb cut off, some had nails driven in them, and others engulfed in concrete (‘Trees, rubble walls and BSS’, August 26, 2011).  

2011-08-24-chopped-aleppo-pine

2011 – The brutal pruning of the protected Aleppo Pine, carried out by MEPA’s approval.

Mepa, the environmental watchdog, watched from a distance in its Floriana ravelin. When public criticism escalated, and the brick walls were completed, Mepa, through a letter in the Times (06.09.11) informed the public that it had given “Transport Malta up to 15 days to remove the illegality, following which Mepa may then take direct action.” 15 day passed, followed by 15 weeks and the brick walls were still standing. After the lapse of about another 15 months – during which Mepa, was still ruminating on its impotency to control the mauling of environmental and public assets, presumably still contemplating its original 15 days deadline – the brick walls were pulled down. And lo and behold, they were replaced by iron railings ­ as illegal as the brick walls they replaced in the rubble wall breach!

According to the Rubble Wall and Rural Structures (Conservation and Maintenance Regulations, 1997, a “rubble wall” means a dry stone wall, built-in loose, unhewn stones which stands by gravity and friction without the use of mortar. Furthermore, it is unlawful to demolish or to endanger by any means whatsoever, the stability or integrity of any rubble wall, or to prevent free percolation of rainwater through the structure of a rubble wall, or to undermine the foundations of such rubble wall.

Rumours had it that a roundabout was planned at the cross-section to Ta’ Qali, including more tree mutilations and uprooting of some of the old protected Aleppo Pines. But before such plans were put into action the date for the general election was announced.

2013.12.02 - new rubble wall

November 2013 – the new rubble wall replacing the iron railing which replaced the brick wall built-in 2011

Last month, heavy machinery descended on the area. The iron railings disappeared. Instead two rubble walls rose from beneath the street level, incorporating also two bus stops. Not only the old Aleppo Pines were not touched, but the suffocating concrete around their trunks was broken up to allow for a water trench. Even the nails which were driven in the tree

2013.12.02 - new water trench for trees

November 2013 – new water trenches replacing concrete around old protected trees

trunks during 2011 were removed. From the works on site, it seems that there are no plans for any roundabout. Pity that the new rubble walls surface were covered with cement which will prevent free percolation of rainwater through the structure, contrary to the above mentioned regulations. Rubble walls are protected amongst others, because they afford a habitat for flora and fauna.

2013.12.02 - cement covered rubble wall

November 2013 – the unfortunate decision of covering the newly built rubble walls with concrete

It seems though that there is a little flicker of light (and of hope) at the end of the tunnel and that, at least in this case, the planning and adjustment of roads is not at the whims and fancies of an uncontrolled bulldozer, but subject to professional planning and environmental management, although this can be bettered. One hopes that this approach, a bit more refined, is extended and taken in consideration in other development projects, whether on land or at sea.  If this becomes the rule of thumb, then one can hopefully look at the day when environment and development ­ not excluding landscaping ­ can walk hand in hand with mutual economical, social and ecological benefits. In the meantime one can only keep one’s fingers crossed and hope that Mepa’s unprofessional interpretation of its vision will be something of the past, for the good of the country and this and future generations.

fingerscrossed

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Concrete path choking trees

March 3, 2013

times

Sunday, 3rd March, 2013

Concrete path choking trees

 Juan Ameen

A set of old Aleppo trees on the pavement in Burmar­rad Road have been choked with cement as a con­tractor filled up the square soil bases, leaving the trunks sticking out.

The cementing of the tree bases, done a few weeks ago, has been slammed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which said it was “appalled”.

The authority “is appalled that such methods of work are still carried out in this day and age,” a spokesman said.

The complete surfacing around tree trunks in cement “is not only insensitive to our environment but constitutes bad practice since it may adversely affect the tree growth,” the spokesman added. The planning authority said it was investigating the mat­ter to find those responsible for these works “so as to reinstate the site to the authority’s satisfaction”.

When contacted, Transport Malta, responsible for the arterial road, said the contractor had been instructed to rectify the situation. “The Contractor proceeded with works before receiv­ing detailed instructions. These works are not acceptable and the contractor has already been instructed to rectify,” a Transport Malta spokesman said.

The cementing of the tree bases was also slammed by biodiversity expert Alfred Baldacchino who said that it would damage and possibly endanger the trees. The trees absorb rainwater, which falls into the soil, and their roots need air. Once the roots grow out­ wards, then the cement would be damaged and peo­ple would complain that the trees were damaging the pavement, Mr Baldacchino said.

Mr Baldacchino had received photographs of the cemented bases and immediately reported it to the authorities and the planning authority, which informed him it would investigate the matter.  “The authorities’ appreciation of trees is nil- irre­spective of national and international obligations,” Instead of saying it was going to look into the mat­ter, the planning authority should hire a Contractor with the right machinery to break up the cement and send the bill to Transport Malta, he argued. “There is nothing to investigate – it’s dangerous to the tree and procrastinating doesn’t help”.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ­ – Alfred E. Baldacchino

According to the L.N. 200 of 2011 -­ Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, 2011 -­  MEPA, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority is the Competent Authority responsible for the administration, implementation and enforcement of these regulations.

Provision 12: No person shall fell … or in any way destroy or attempt to destroy, damage or attempt to damage, any tree or part thereof listed in Schedule I or Schedule II … except by permission of the Competent Authority:

Gmail - FW: trees on Burmarrad-T'Alla w Ommu road

The soil was covered by concrete engulfing the tree trunk in the process. This needed a development permit from MEPA.

Provision 14: (1) No person shall dump or attempt to dump… chemical or any other substance near any tree listed in Schedule I or Schedule II … which may harm any such tree…

Provision 29: (1) Any person who: —

(a) fails to comply with any provision of these regulations,

(b) contravenes any restriction, prohibition or requirement imposed by or under these regulations, or

(c) acts in contravention of any provisions of these regulations, or

(d) conspires or attempts to conspire, aids or attempts to aid, abets or attempts to abet, counsels or attempts to counsel, procures or attempts to procure any other person to contravene the provisions of these regulations, or to fail to comply with any such provision, including any order lawfully given in terms of any provision of these regulations, or to contravene any restrictions, prohibitions or requirement imposed by or under the said regulations, shall be guilty of an offence against these regulations.

Gmail - FW: trees on Burmarrad-T'Alla w Ommu road

The Ministry of Transport does not see any difference between a tree and  an electricity pole, while MEPA is looking at and investigating the matter.

The trees in question are listed in Schedule II of the Tree Protection Regulations:

Pinus halepensis ­ Żnuber; Siġar tal-Prinjol; Siġar tal-Arżnu; ­ Aleppo Pine; Jerusalem Pine

MEPA  has all the necessary legal tools, and also obligations, to protect Malta’s biodiversity, including trees. Unfortunately it cannot be said that it is on the side of the people who want to protect Malta’s natural heritage, when it comes to taking action.  This is so evident when MEPA is faced with great and irreparable damages to trees done by Government Ministries, mainly that responsible for transport and that responsible for landscaping. In such cases MEPA is completely impotent  (see mutilated trees on Rabat Road) 

This is just another strong justification that the protection of the Environment should never be merged or under the remote responsibility of any Planning Authority.