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The green space next door

For the first time in Malta’s history, the electorate is being presented with solid and ambitious proposals on greening the environment throughout Malta and Gozo. 

After the island’s infrastructure was left in a dilapidated state, the Labour government moved in with a €700 million project to redo Malta’s roads. Now, the priority is shifting towards more nature and green spaces in our towns and cities, as we transform urban areas into healthy places to live in and dedicating more energy towards family parks and afforestation projects.

During my tenure as Minister responsible of Parks Malta, we sought to enhance open spaces within localities and kickstarted a number of projects, including the Bee Garden in San Gwann, the €500,000 extension of the Chinese Garden in Santa Lucija and the first carbon-neutral garden in Kalkara just to mention a few. 

Additionally, as part of the Budget 2022 measures, we announced a major afforestation project in Inwadar as numerous tree-planting projects proceeded across the island.

The time has now come for a much bigger, nation-wide projects. The Labour Party has come forward with a flagship proposal to invest €100 million every year for seven years in an ambitious environmental project that is set to truly change the face of Malta. 

€700 million that will give the islands the green infrastructure they deserve to facilitate climate change adaptation and mitigation, improve health and quality of life and favour biodiversity conservations. 

It is abundantly clear that our citizens seek green spaces, even more so in the aftermath of the pandemic months. Amidst the restrictions and restricted travel, the use of open spaces for recreational activities increased, and so did the demand for such spaces within walking distance. Creating green spaces in urban areas is essential for the wellbeing of residents, not only because green spaces absorb greenhouse gases and improve air quality, but also because they have a positive impact on our mental health. 

Amongst the key proposals of the Labour Party are urban green reclamation projects that will see derelict buildings and private gardens converted into open spaces. The heavy urbanisation of our localities has long been coming: the 2006 Local Plan – which had been implemented without any public consultation – saw pockets of land, previously listed outside development zones included in developable boundaries through a rationalisation scheme. This, together with the economic development of the recent years, led to more built-up areas. The priorities are now shifting: if seven years ago the country’s needs were more infrastructural, this is being addressed and the focus has to shift.

We are moving towards the 2050 decarbonisation target and we are set on meeting it through various initiatives be it in the economic, energy, environmental, and infrastructural sectors. 

There was a time when children could safely play in the village square. With the amount of cars and parking which has taken over much of the space, this is hardly possible, if at all. Hence why, the Labour Party is proposing that a number of underground parking spaces are developed, with gardens on top. Chief amongst them, the AUM site which was earmarked for a dormitory and which now will be returned to the Maltese citizens as a public garden, with ample underground parking space for residents and whoever visits.

In San Gwann, a densely populated locality with a deeply urbanised centre, the PL is proposing an extension to the Karin Grech Garden to give residents a wider square. In its totality, the open space area is expected to triple. Traffic would be diverted through a tunnel whilst parking spaces are expected to double with an underground carpark.

In Hamrun, the pledge is to reclaim the industrial space on which the milk factory currently sits, to turn the piece of land, measuring 10 tumoli, into a public garden. The factory will be relocated whilst an underground parking area will be developed to cater for the parking demand that plagues the locality. 

In Benghajsa, Birzebbuga, we have announced a 60,000 square metre family park to complement the closure of the 31st March plant in a bid to decrease pollution from the seaside locality. The conversion of the notorious ‘Pont tax-Shell’ is also in the pipeline. 

Other major projects include the pedestrianisation of Triq Sant’ Anna in Floriana, the regeneration of the Birkirkara valley, a seven-acre green space in Santa Venera and the extended park and football ground in Rabat, Gozo. These major projects will be complemented by other open spaces in localities like Imqabba, Mosta, Bormla, Birgu and Qormi.

Our commitment is clear: we want to deliver on a better quality of life for our citizens and we will. 

This is just the beginning. We are determined, we have the energy and the credibility to act on our plans and make them happen.