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MALTATODAY 14 March 2021

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12 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 14 MARCH 2021 NEWS JAMES DEBONO THE Environment and Re- sources Authority has demand- ed assurances that coastal pro- tection works in Ġnejna will not be used to benefit illegal boathouses in the area. The works foresee the erec- tion of a timber fence and con- crete steps, which according to heritage NGO Din l-Art Ħel- wa would section a part of the beach abusively used by cara- vans, from the rest of the beach. ERA has asked the ministry for a "justification" for the pro- posed excavation works and concrete access stairs. The steps are being proposed in the area near the jetty leading to the boathouses in the area. Din l-Art Ħelwa questioned why part of the beach will be formally separated through the installation of the fence and warned that the size of Ġnejna beach will in effect be reduced. "For decades, this land has been illegally used and trampled on by people parking vehicles or caravans. On what grounds is it now being formally sec- tioned-off from the rest of the beach? Is the ministry actively cementing its fate as a parking site? Decades of abuse must not be legitimised through such an unwarranted request," archi- tect Tara Cassar said in her ob- jection on behalf of DLH. The planning application in- cludes the construction of a rock armour, embankment, and rubble walls in different parts of the beach. Compacted gran- ulated material excavated from the beach itself will be used to backfill another part of the site. ERA wants clarifications on whether part of the sandy beach will be taken up for the pro- posed rock armour, and how the timber fencing will affect the beach due to rainfall flow- ing from the valley. ERA object- ed to the use of concrete in the construction of the steps, and wants the height of the rubble walls reduced to the bare min- imum. ERA: Gnejna coastal works must not benefit illegal boathouses "For decades, this land has been illegally used and trampled on by people parking vehicles or caravans. On what grounds is it now being formally sectioned-off from the rest of the beach?" JAMES DEBONO THE construction of two gigantic breakwaters and submerged groynes to strengthen coastal defences and replenish the depleted Marsalforn beach, will pose a threat to protected seagrasses, a screen- ing report by the Environment Resources Authority warns. Seagrasses like Posidonia meadows have a fundamental role in oxygenating the sea and are protected by EU law. One of the proposed breakwaters at il-Ponta ta' Santa Marija will extend out from the coast across 400sq.m. The oth- er breakwater located at il-Menqa will attach to the existing jetty on the eastern side of the bay, extending its the footprint by 1,000sq.m. Two groynes will be located on either side of the Marsalforn valley mouth, ex- tending 37m out in the bay, covering a total area of 900sq.m. 700cb.m of mate- rial will have to be dredged out to place the groynes. Following their placement, a beach replenishment will extend the beach by 3,000sq.m. The beach project will result in the physical loss of marine seabed habitats and the deterioration of the protected Natura 2000 site, which includes protect- ed habitats populated by Posidonia oce- anica. "The likely loss of Posidonia oce- anica is of concern and considered to be likely significant," the ERA has warned, requesting benthic studies on the impact on the marine species. The proposal could even result in in- creased erosion caused by potential changes in wave reflection patterns. Dredging is expected to generate some 23,000cb.m of waste silt and rock, which means the project will not require an En- vironment Impact Assessment. The project is being justified as a way of protecting the bay from severe storms and flooding that have become synon- ymous with the area in adverse weather conditions. The town is highly exposed to strong north, north-west and northeast winds, which are rather common. Being located the mouth of a valley, Marsalforn homes along the coastline are subjected to flooding during storms due to large volumes of run-off passing from the val- ley to the sea. The flooding is worsened by the waves from the low-lying shore, exposing all buildings along the coastline. The original breakwater was construct- ed in the 1960s but since then has en- dured substantial physical damage, lead- ing to the collapse of entire sections of the structure in 2005 and 2009. The new coastal defence system makes the replenishment of the beach viable, which at present is just 48m in length due to intensive erosion. Marsalforn coastal defence threatens protected seagrass Impact assessment will be required on breakwater plans to shield bay and replenished beach

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