Sunday, 3rd March, 2013
Concrete path choking trees
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:
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.
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.