Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January, 2023 at 1:39 pm by Andre Camilleri
The government is to invest a record €700 million towards environmental projects through the new agency, Project Green.
In a press conference on Monday, Environment Minister Miriam Dalli announced the investment as well as the new agency which will be responsible for implementing several environmental projects around Malta and Gozo over the next seven years.
Project Green will be led by Chief Executive Steve Ellul. The agency, which falls under the Ministry for Environment, was a measure in the 2023 Budget and a key electoral promise of the Labour party.
The ambitious environmental project will focus on afforestation, the reclamation of land for more open and green spaces, as well as the regeneration of spaces which have been left abandoned and will be improved for the use of Maltese and Gozitan families.
Dalli said that sustainability will be a key principle for this agency, so that the environmental work is sustainable, and each project enriches the natural heritage of the country, while strengthening biodiversity.
Apart from carrying out the biggest environmental projects in the country, the new agency will also coordinate with ministries, agencies and local councils to further strengthen the environmental field.
Dalli said that these projects will lead to a better quality of life, and a better environment for children, families, and the elderly in Maltese communities. Its mission is to provide an open space to relax, and within the vicinity of each household.
Dalli also said that the agency will work with stakeholders, as well as the residents themselves in consultation processes before a project is commenced, as well as during.
“We want quality open, green spaces which reach the aspirations of the community, and which is accessible for everyone,” Dalli said.
She said that the entity will work in collaboration to make communities greener, and transform urban areas into greener, sustainable and relaxing spaces.
Dalli encouraged the private sector to invest in these green projects to continue to strengthen their Environment, Social and Governance (ESGs) criteria. In fact, many private sector companies are showing their interest in the initiative, Dalli said.
The projects will include public funds, as well as funds obtained from the European Union. Dalli said that the funds will be used to their utmost value to continue long-term maintenance on existing and future green projects, so they are not left abandoned.
Chief Executive Ellul said that the Maltese deserve a good quality of life, despite the high amount of urban spaces in Malta. Project Green will make an emphasis on recreational green spaces in the heart of the community, Ellul said.
He listed a number of projects, described as “for the people”, which are currently being carried out or those that will be implemented in the near future.
Ellul said that a section of San Gwann’s main road will also be transformed into a green space, which will also see traffic diverted to a tunnel.
San Gwann’s Vjal ir-Rijan will be transformed into a green open space. An underpass will be created for traffic so people can enjoy the open space, and it will be an extension of the existing Karin Grech garden opposite the church, Ellul said.
He also announced that a garden will be created behind the American University of Malta campus in Cospicua. Additionally, a multi-storey car park which can hold over 180 cars will be built for the resident’s use. The area which was initially earmarked for development as part of the AUM project, is currently being used as a car park. The plans for development were dropped following strong opposition from locals, activists and politicians.
Ellul mentioned that the work of Project Green includes investment in more public parks, the biggest urban greening project our country has ever seen, pedestrian areas in every neighbourhood, tunnels and underpasses for traffic where possible, open green spaces near everyone and more underground parking lots while creating gardens in existing parking spaces.
“The project is a holistic one which will aim to reach carbon neutrality,” Ellul said. He said that consultations will be made with residents, local councils, entities and NGOs before and during the projects.
The project will also give special importance to afforestation, where along with the participation of the private sector, over 7,500 indigenous trees and shrubs will be planted in communities this year, Ellul said.