Residents, farmers and activists of Birżebbuġa have called for the plans for a miniature airstrip in Wied Żnuber to be abandoned.
During a press conference on Saturday, they expressed their “shock” at plans announced on February 12 to build an airstrip through the valley and the cliffs in the region as part of an agreement between the government agency INDI and an association of model airplanes.
They said the project was done in secret, without public consultation, and is expected to have major environmental and social impacts.
“Official plans have not been released and a development application has not yet been filed, but it is clear that the airstrip would cover 44 acres of natural and agricultural land; the equivalent of seven football pitches,” the activists said.
They said the project would require extensive landfills to accommodate a long strip of tarmac and a clubhouse. “The loud, incessant noise from the remote-controlled model airplanes would dramatically increase light and noise pollution in the area and destroy the serenity of the surrounding valley and cliffs.”
They described as “shocking” the hashing of a project in the immediate vicinity of a Natura 2000 site, known to authorities as environmentally sensitive and home to many protected animals and plants.
In their statement, the activists also said the airstrip would be near the breeding site and nesting cliffs of the Scopoli and Yelkouan shearwaters, protected colonies of the birds, which are highly sensitive to light and sound. and which are endangered species.
“The site is also home to a number of historical remains, including a dolmen, a military shelter, ancient water channels and prehistoric vessels used in burial rites. Under British rule, the site was fenced off to protect the dolmen,” the campaigners said.
They said the plan would affect farmers, some of whom have been given notice to leave, while others will face ‘permanent danger’ from model planes flying overhead.
“In light of this, we underline that the airstrip project is unacceptable as it will destroy virgin land and have a disastrous impact on the surrounding area. We respect the enthusiasts involved, but see no justice in a project that will hurt residents and farmers and cause massive environmental damage.
They said they believe alternative sites could be found for the project, with less negative impact on people and the environment.
According to activists, the site is listed in the Local Plan as part of an industrial zone, which does not reflect the real conditions of an area just next to the valley and the surrounding cliffs.
They send the south of Malta overwhelmed by overdevelopment, negatively impacting the environment, open spaces and quality of life.
“This project will continue to burden the south by depriving it of the ecologically sensitive and socially important sites of Wied Żnuber and surrounding areas. We therefore call for the immediate dissolution of the plan and an amendment to the local plan which would see the site become an ODZ.
“We are determined to oppose the plan until it is scrapped,” they said.
Participating in the event.