Malta
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‘Give back to nature what belonged to her’

In our contribution of February this year (‘Saving Comino’), we urged the authorities to stop the rot that unbridled development inflicted on Malta from further spreading to Gozo and Comino.

Again, in May (‘Spare and Secure Comino’), the proposed hotel development in Comino spurred us to ask: Is it not the occasion for the eligible thing to happen for the first time in Malta? Give back to nature what belonged to her.

Can the government intervene and secure Comino by buying out all claims on landed property there? Considering that so many millions have been liberally spent on undeserving deals and schemes, a few million euros will be well invested to protect and preserve Comino.

Otherwise, it is incumbent on the Planning Authority, if it wants to protect the national interest, to declare the proposal unsuitable and unsustainable.

Comino is included in the new walks programme and it is to be noted that the visit will be restricted in view of the fact that our association forms part of a coalition of NGOs that “demand to curb the excessive commercial activity at the Blue Lagoon in order to address the current unsustainable situation on Comino”.

Like ruthless development, uncontrolled mass tourism, in the form of large capacity boats that suddenly swarm the Blue Lagoon, cannot but cause environmental degradation besides hindering the public’s enjoyment of the unique bay and nature reserve. The government, which has the results of a study of the carrying capacity for Comino and the Blue Lagoon (commissioned by ERA), not only remains passive in the face of evident pollution and destruction but refuses to publish the results – another instance indicative that costly reports are commissioned only to be shelved, in disrespect to the paying taxpayer who remains unable to judge whether the Natura 2000 site is properly managed.

We all remember it was thanks to the NGOs and public pressure, and not to the authorities, that put an end to deckchairs on the jetty and beach. Their relocation to a protected garigue area sadly and startingly did not receive prompt response from the usually vigilant Miriam Dalli. Minister, please note that it is ultimately for the last-ditch conservation of a unique area that the eNGOs emphasise their appeal to:

• prohibit large boats carrying hundreds of tourists to Comino;

• drastically reduce the number and size of kiosks;

• abolish all music from kiosks and boats and loud generators;

• control all commercial activity around the Blue Lagoon to operate on the basis of permits, with strict rules regarding permitted activities and waste management.

Alex Vella is the honorary president of the Ramblers’ Association of Malta.

October programme

October 1: Selmun and Mistra Bay

A moderate scenic walk from the heights of Selmun descends rapidly to Mistra Bay and proceeds northwards along the eastern coast past Ras il-Griebeġ and back up to the Xagħra tal-Girdellu.

Meeting point: Selmun Palace

Starting time: 9am

Rating: moderate

Duration: 3.5 hours

October 4: Birżebbuġa, Wied Ħas-Saptan

Walking in the valley, passing Casa Ippolitu (Id-dar ta’ Pultu) and then onto the area known as Ta’ Kaċċatura.

Meeting point: Birżebbuġa parish church

Starting time: 2pm

Rating: easy with some rough ground

Duration: 3 hours approximately

October 8: Miżieb 

From the Simar Nature reserve, the walk proceeds along the Xemxija Heritage trail up to the Miżieb woodlands. The return will go through Wied il-Pwales.

Meeting point: Simar Nature Reserve, Xemxija

Starting time: 9am

Rating: easy

Duration: 3 hours

October 15: Cultural walk around Qrendi

The mayor of Qrendi will be showing ramblers around his village, visiting the San Mattew tal-Maqluba chapel, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy, Ġnien Tal-Kmand and the Octagonal Tower. (A donation of €2 per person, collected on the day, will go towards the restoration and upkeep of Our Lady of Mercy chapel.)

Meeting point: Qrendi parish church

Starting time: 9am

Rating: easy

Duration: 3 hours approximately

October 22: Baħrija

A scenic walk in the environs of Baħrija. Though not particularly strenuous, some inclines and one steep uphill slope with a short vertiginous path need attention, especially for those who do not have a head for heights.

Meeting point: Baħrija Square parking near playground

Starting time: 9am

Rating: moderate

Duration: 3 hours

October 29: Comino

Though open to members only, the number for this walk is restricted in view of the NGO’s stand to protect Comino from overcrowding. Some caves will be approached by boat, then the walk will be cultural (visiting Santa Marija Tower and Battery, the abandoned Isolation Hospital/school) and scenic (Elephant rock and Santa Marija caves, Għemieri window, etc.). Keen swimmers can bring their swimsuits along so that they can take a dip at one of the bays, weather permitting.

Members only can send an e-mail to events@ramblersmalta.org by October 24.

Meeting point: Marfa Quay (near Labranda Riviera Hotel)

Starting time: 8am to catch boat at 8.30am

Rating: A moderate to hard walk on rough terrain

Boat fare: €13 to be paid on the day

Duration: Approximately 5 hours (return to Marfa early/mid afternoon)