Press Release 15th July 2014
Din l-Art Helwa states that, no matter the environmental studies now being requested, a bridge to Gozo will have such negative visual and environmental impact it should never have been proposed in the first place and should be struck off the national agenda. In particular if the bridge has to touch upon Comino or even skirt it as had been suggested this would have horrendous repercussions upon this beautiful island. The NGO is requesting that Government declares up front that any proposal for a permanent link will have no impact whatsoever on Comino.
Nevertheless, Din l-Art Helwa says environmental studies should have been considered from the start and not tacked on as an afterthought. Reports in the press have stated that the Chinese company carrying out a feasibility study for the bridge has now been asked ‘to broaden its study to give a greater consideration to environmental aspects’. However, states Din l-Art Helwa, given the massive importance of this project, it is in the national interest to ensure that all such studies are carried out by the most qualified of companies, ones which do not have any possible conflict of interest and that have been selected only after rigorous and transparent tendering processes.
All potential impacts must be fully examined, says the NGO, emphasising that EU funds have been used in the past to cover the costs of feasibility studies. The NGO is now requesting the government to carry out an extensive Cost Benefit Analysis in regard to permanent transport links between Gozo and Malta, which will fully compare the environmental, economic and social impacts of all available options – including a tunnel, a bridge, expanded services by sea or any other proposals. Broadly, the Cost Benefit Analysis should be structured in such a way as to determine if a proposed permanent link is a sound investment decision, provide a basis for comparing projects and allow the comparison of the total expected cost of each option against the total expected benefits, to see whether the benefits outweigh the costs (including any negative impact on the environment and the scenic landscape), and to what extent.
Furthermore, Din l-Art Helwa calls on the Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development to ensure that the environment is given due importance as one of the three pillars of sustainable development in all major national projects.
Just as the initial studies that were carried out for a possible tunnel to Gozo had been published in 2012, Din l-Art Helwa requests that the feasibility study on a permanent link to Gozo that has been carried out by China Communications Construction Company on behalf of the Maltese government, should also be made available to the public without delay.