Ghallis chosen for engineered
- two quarries will take municipal waste until landfill
is up and running
By Matthew Vella
The site known as l-Ghallis ta Gewwa has been chosen by the Ministry
for Resources and Infrastructure as the site for Maltas first
The landfill, which still has to face an Environmental Impact Assessment,
was chosen instead of the other frontrunner, a site at Benghisa. The
Ghallis landfill will, however, involve the excavation of good quality
hardstone and will not be ready to accept waste when Malta joins the
EU on May 1 2004.
The waste dumps at Maghtab and Qortin are expected to be closed prior
to Maltas entry in the EU and, in what is a major deviation from
Maltas approved waste management strategy, two quarries will be
turned into engineered landfills until the one at Ghallis is ready to
An area of 291,000 square metres the size of approximately 32
football pitches - in the inner Ghallis region is expected to be turned
into an EU-compliant landfill, the first cell of which will be ready
within two and a half years after works commence.
By the time the temporary landfills are ready the Maghtab dump will
have to be closed to municipal waste. The bulk of Maghtabs waste
intake, construction waste (80 percent), is already being dumped in
Zammit said the Ghallis landfill will be excavated in four stages. A
total of 3.5 million cubic metres will be excavated.
The two temporary landfills will be two quarries in the islands
south, known as tal-Maghlaq and Qasam il-Kbir, both close to Ghar Lapsi
and Mnajdra, to take municipal waste until the Ghallis landfill can
To prevent further negative environmental effects, the quarries, which
were closed in the nineties, will be coated with membranes in order
to prevent leachates (waste residue from rainfall). The quarries are
not situated over the water aquifers, but the membranes will mean added
insurance that will prevent damage to the aquifer system.
All hazardous waste will be taken to Ghallis from May 2004, and will
not go to the temporary landfills.
The two quarries, one privately-owned, the other a 50-50 public-private
ownership, will be regularly monitored by Wasteserv officials, the state
company recently set up to assist with the governments waste management
At the end of their operation, when the Ghallis landfill starts functioning,
Zammit said the quarries would be rehabilitated for agricultural purposes,
forestation and other uses.
In the meantime, all hazardous waste will be taken to the hazardous
waste station which will be situated at Ghallis. From May 1 2004 onwards,
the rehabilitation of Maghtab TaFulija and Qortin (Gozo) landfills
A project description statement has been prepared for the two temporary
landfills which will be presented to the Malta Environmental & Planning
Authority, prior to the preparation of an environment impact statement.
By 2006, composting, waste separation and a material recover facility
should also be in place as part of the waste strategy.
Zammit also said the Ministry was in the process of creating a committee
that will investigate the implementation of a producer-pays-principle,
in which polluting entities will have to compensate for directly-produced
Environment group Friends of the Earth (Malta) said the decision opened
up more questions than it had closed answers. "It remains unclear
whether Malta will be able to have a proper EU-compliant landfill by
May 2004 when waste separation at source lags so far behind. Taking
mixed waste to an EU-compliant engineered landfill does not sound like
the best way forward.
"FOE would like to see government making a large investment in
waste separation efforts so that by May 2004 all waste going to landfill
will be separated. It would make sense to upgrade the Sant Antnin
composting plant and at least have as much biodegradable waste going
there as possible, so that Malta can comply with the EU Landfill Directive.
The idea that we have to have temporary landfills shows that the authorities
have not been able to stick to Maltas waste management strategy
and does not augur well for meeting other deadlines in the future."
Why Ghallis was chosen
Resources and Infrastructure Minister Ninu Zammit said Ghallis was chosen
following detailed studies by foreign experts, amongst them foreign
companies SLR and Scott Wilson. Ministry experts also approved Ghallis
after scientific analyses.
Since 1996, discussions between the then-Planning Authority and the
Environment Protection Department had resulted in a document earmarking
10 sites for the siting of the engineered landfill. By the end of 2002,
the list was whittled down to two, Benghisa and Ghallis.
Amongst considerations between the two, the significant plusses for
Ghallis were that the surrounding landscape was already affected by
neighbouring Maghtab landfill, a moderate reductions in travel levels
was expected and there was also good access to the site.
Additionally, 29.6 hectares of low to moderate value agricultural land
as opposed to Benghisas 56 hectares of moderate value land will
be affected. Whilst Benghisa was surrounded by at least 15 residential
units, with the nearest village located 200 metres away, only one farmstead
is located within the site and two on the boundary.
On the downside, eight protected ecological species will be lost at
Ghallis due to excavation.
The proposal to have Benghisa as a probable landfill site provoked great
outrage amongst the Birzebbuga residents who, led by their outspoken
mayor, crusaded against having the new engineered landfill placed at
On the losing side are the owners of the Coastline Hotel, which is situated
450 metres away from the Ghallis ta Gewwa site, and will be visually
impacted. Unsurprisingly, owner Winston W Zahra is disappointed.
"We have been suffering for the past nine years with the Maghtab
dump and now that it is closing down it is being replaced by a landfill
sited closer to the hotel. It is a great shame that our suggestion to
develop a landfill to serve for the next five years instead of twenty
has fallen on deaf ears. This would have meant that the land required
would have been much smaller, thus opening other areas, away from habitation
and tourist zones."
Zahra also said that a suggestion to stop construction material going
to Maghtab and dump it into spent quarries was never taken up three
years back: "Maghtab today would have been over three million tons
smaller in volume. It is only now, three years later that this system
has been adopted.
"I strongly urge government to study seriously the consequences
of this decision and I hope that a proper EIA will be made to establish
all consequences related to this decision."