Maltatoday, 23rd November 2008, by James Debono

BirdLife Malta and the Danish Village holiday complex are up in arms against a proposed new road linking Mellieha to Cirkewwa, arguing that this would pass right through a Natura 2000 site, protected by the EU’s Habitats and Birds Directives, as well as sections of the much-publicised Foresta 2000 afforestation project, including protected garigue landscape.

Ironically, the new road will involve asphalting a section of the same Foresta 2000 project which was targeted by vandals in May 2007: an environmental sacrilege roundly condemned by all and sundry, including the government.
In 1966 Birdlife Malta successfully blocked a plan by the Nationalist administration to pass a road through Ghadira. And in 1982, a similar project proposed by the late Labour minister for works Lorry Sant was stopped by the same NGO.
The proposed road is part of the TEN-T European network of roads, a fund to improve communications across the EU’s member states.

But BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director Tolga Temuge insists that the project cannot get any funding from the European Union, because it will disturb habitats protected by EU law.
“The proposed project cuts through a Natura 2000 site, it cuts through the Foresta 2000 afforestation project and the elevated road will be just 100 metres from the nature reserve,” Temuge told MaltaToday.

The Ghadira reserve was founded in 1980, it served as a hunting reserve before. Over the years, Birdlife Malta invested hundred of thousands of euros and today it serves as an educational centre for hundreds of school children from private and state schools.
The reserve attracts over 200 different species of birds including rare migrants such as the Greater Flamingo. Unique water birds also breed here such as the Little Ringed Plover.

The Foresta 2000 project, which covers 104 hectares between the Red Tower and the Danish village, does not only involve the planting of new trees but also the conservation of garigue areas and agricultural land.
While the new road will not result in the uprooting any of the newly planted trees planted it will definitely affect garigue areas and agricultural land.

The proposed single carriage road linking the Sea Bank Hotel to Cirkewwa is set to replace the existing four lane coastal road which will make way for an enlarged promenade.
“What’s the use of having a new road when you already have a road?” asks Temuge.

The proposed road will directly effect the fortunes of the Danish village as it will pass just 15 metres from some of its bungalows.
“The kind of tourists we attract visit Malta because they are looking for tranquillity. Nobody wants to live on a road let alone tourists who come here specifically to enjoy the peaceful environment,” Flemming Jensen, managing director of the Mellieha holiday complex, told MaltaToday.
Jensen contends that the project will spell a death blow for the Danish Village, which hosts 17,000 tourists every year.
The complex consists of 151 semi-detached bungalows and includes a car park, swimming pools, a supermarket, a restaurant and various sports facilities. Only last year, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority approved the construction of 30 more bungalows.

The issue has been raised in parliament by Nationalist MP Charlò Bonnici, who asked Transport Minister Austin Gatt whether he was aware that the owners of the Danish Village are thinking of closing down if the proposed road is constructed.
In his reply to Charlò Bonnici’s question, Minister Austin Gatt was evasive on the impact of the proposed road, stating that for the past four years the government has considered three different options for the link road between Cirkewwa and Mellieha, all of which were met with “reservations from different persons or companies”.
But the government claims it is “committed to making the best choice”.

Still, according to both Jensen and Temuge, all three options pass through the Natura 2000 site and only differ on how they connect to the rest of the road network linking Xemxija to Cirkewwa.
One of the proposed links also involves the demolition of the Ghadira green boathouses, which would make way for a new roundabout.

The extension of the TEN-T road network to the north of Malta is posing a number of environmental difficulties.
Another part of the network linking Xemxija in to Manikata had been abandoned following protests by the Manikata rural community. In 2007, the government started considering a new link, which included a 545-metre tunnel which rips through the Mizieb aquifer.