Press Release, 1st December 2008

Foresta 2000 project partners BirdLife Malta and Din l-Art Helwa today confirmed that the TEN-T road project in Ghadira would cut through Phases 2 and 3 of the Foresta site, contrary to Minister Gatt’s claims.

BirdLife and Din l-Art Helwa today revealed a map showing the boundaries of the Foresta 2000 site. The proposed road cuts through Phases 2 and 3 of the Foresta 2000 project area, and runs adjacent to the boundary of the Phase 1 area where thousands of trees and shrubs have been planted by the site managers and the public and for which thousands of euros have been donated by both individuals and companies.

“Austin Gatt’s statements show that his understanding of Foresta 2000 is that it simply involves tree planting, whereas in actual fact Foresta is a conservation project that includes farmlands, restoration of habitats such as garigue, and creation of Mediterranean woodland habitat.” said Tolga Temuge, Executive Director of BirdLife Malta. “Furthermore the Ministry’s recent statement that “the garigue is by definition the lowest grade of natural habitat in our islands” is shocking as the garigue habitat in question is one of the reasons why this area is designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU legislation” Temuge continued.

Foresta 2000 is a project managed by BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa and the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs. The project area covers about 104ha, an area three times the size of Buskett. So far over 16,000 trees and native shrubs have been planted by schools, several companies, groups, and individuals. A number of scarce or rare shrubs are also being planted in the area to help them spread. Areas of degraded garigue are being replenished with spurges and Mediterranean thyme. The Ministry has also provided expertise to rebuild some of the rubble walls and the clearing of non-native species.

“We have not yet seen an adequate study of the potential environmental risks or benefits of this proposal. We expect the Ministry to take informed decisions on such a major project, and to make this information public,” said Petra Bianchi, Director of Din l-Art Helwa.