The protection of biodiversity and ecological diversity is of primary importance for sustainable development and in order to guarantee a proper balance between human activities and the natural environment. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the context in which a company operates to analyse its potential impact on biodiversity. The SEA Group is mindful of its position within a green environment, particularly in relation to Malpensa, and this requires a close monitoring of the impact from business activities and a commitment to mitigating actions.
A number of areas surrounding the Linate airport are within the South Milan Agricultural Park (created by Law No. 24 of 23/4/1990), comprising a vast area which extends over nearly all of the southern half of the province of Milan.
Forlanini Park, one of the major urban parks in Milan, and the Idroscalo lake adjoin the airport. Opened in 1970, the Park draws on the heritage of the Lombardy countryside, characterised by an extensive network of trees and the picturesque Salesina Lake, fed by surface water and rain water which, with extensive surrounding vegetation, provides a good habitat for birds and fish.
The airport is within the Valle del Ticino Regional Park. The Park spans ten of the eleven municipalities within the Malpensa Area Territorial Plan. The only municipality outside the park is Busto Arsizio.
The natural reserves of the park and the relative protected areas are concentrated within the valley of the river, beginning with the Villoresi and Naviglio Grande canals, far from the airport, separated by wooded areas alternated with protected cultivated zones of little natural value but of high ecological value, also for the lessening of the impact of the airport. The landscaped areas of the Park are located away from the airport, buffered by the residential areas of Somma Lombardo, Arsago Seprio and Casorate Sempione.
The SEA Group previously, with the assistance of the Lombardy Forest Region Company (today ERSAF – Regional Body for Agricultural and Forestry Services) has introduced a Malpensa Green Plan relating to the organization - undertaken by SEA and other local bodies - of the green areas within the airport, which concerns principally the replanting and improvement of woodlands and the creation of grass and hedged areas.
SEA recently carried out infrastructural actions at the Malpensa airport which involved a number of wooded areas, however particularly introducing non-native trees such as locust trees and wild cherry plant, for a total of 20.88 hectares.
This offsetting, in collaboration with the Ticino Park, has involved SEA, with the assistance of ERSAF, in a series of actions both for the planting of new wooded areas and for the improvement of existing areas.
It involved, for a total investment by SEA of approx. Euro 2 million, the planting of 70,000 new trees, as follows:
- replanting for 23.85 hectares;
- forestry improvements for 113.70 hectares.
These actions were carried out both at the areas owned by SEA and those partly owned, or open areas at the Ticino Park, located in various areas of the park, contributing to the improvement of the quality of the wooded areas involved.
Under the New Malpensa Master Plan particular attention was focused on the place of the airport within the Park environmental system, establishing a wide range of environmental actions to offset and/or mitigate the loss of part of the natural environment, which was necessary and fundamental for the extension of the airport.
The appropriate actions will be developed together with the environmental authorities (the Lombardy and Piedmont Ticino Parks) and the regional authorities (the Lombardy and Piedmont Regions and the Varese and Novara Provinces), which can indicate the areas of action of greatest need for the overall improvement of the natural eco-system and which have direct responsibility for the protection of the environment and the development of the region.
The scope of intervention of the Malpensa airport expansion project, described in the Master Plan, contains analysis concerning the vegetation and fauna quality.
In relation to the first aspect, the analysis may be summarised as follows:
- the presence of oak woods and high quality heath, resulting from important natural formations and which represent approx. 45%;
- good quality pine forests, although with little coverage (0.6%);
- a significant presence of black locust and wild cherry trees, comprising approx. 40%, whose quality has been impacted by the general lack of natural flowers and the declining quality of the natural environment;
- finally, the remaining extension of the area is classifiable as of declining quality.
The fauna component analysis however, carried out in the expansion area of the airport, both in the regional parks of the Ticino valleys of Lombardy and Piedmont, reported in the area of intervention, 84 species of trees against 257 present at the parks, while amphibians, reptiles and mammals are not found.
The fauna species of interest in the intervention area are the red-backed shrike and the European nightjar, although the former in extremely reduced numbers, while the presence of the latter is only potential as generally documented.
The area of intervention also includes 8 other nesting species, of which none in Attachment 1 of Directive 2009/147/EC are within the endangered category of the IUCN Red List.
- three species in Attachment II of Directive 2009/147/EC and in the Least Concern category of the UICN Red List (a pair of Common Wood Pigeons, a pair of Common Black Birds, a pair of Hooded Crows);
- six species not included in Directive 2009/147/EC in the Least Concern category of the IUCN Red List (a pair of Common Buzzards, two pairs of Common Swifts, four pairs of Nightingales, a pair of Common Black Birds, a pair of Melodious Warblers, a pair of White Throats, a pair of Chaffinches);
- a non-native species, introduced for hunting purposes, in the Black Threatened category of the IUCN Red List, not included in Directive 2009/147/EC (two pairs of Northern Bob Whites).
In terms of the vegetation and eco-system aspects, the area of intervention directly concerns the habitats of conservational interest external to the Natura 2000 sites and indirectly a number of Natura sites nearby.
The habitats present in the area of intervention and within the list at Attachment 1 Directive 92/43/CEE are:
- Dry heaths – (4030) moorland;
- Sub-Atlantic and medio-European oak or oakhornbeam forests of the Carpinion betuli (9160);
- Old acidophilus oak woods with Quercus robur on sandy plains (9190);
and are natural habitats of community interest.
The mitigation actions were established as:
- actions for the re-establishment of moorland (approx. 180 hectares);
- actions for the re-establishment of forest and grasslands (approx. 600 hectares);
- actions for the recovery and development of ecological functionality.
The forestry redevelopment actions, in addition to planning for an area greater than that removed, positively impacts upon the quality of forested areas, eliminating large quantities of areas covered by non-native species.
The extension of Malpensa airport impacts also other environmental aspects such as air, water, noise, etc.), which are dealt with and described in the Environmental Impact Study awaiting authorisation by the Ministry for the Environment.