Eight environmental NGOs have reiterated calls for the de-commercialisation of Comino, claiming authorities have been “shamefully silent” on exploitation by large commercial boats, the mushrooming of kiosks, rampant noise pollution and a lack of regularisation of commercial activity through permits.
Over the last few years, the situation on the small island of Comino has garnered significant media attention due to the tourism free-for-all and pushback from the public and civil society.
In a press release on Friday morning, the eNGOs said, “It is of great concern that the government has been steadfastly refusing to publish the results of the carrying capacity study for Comino and the Blue Lagoon,” promised by the Environment and Resources Authority.
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo claimed on Tuesday that the reduction of deckchairs on Comino “automatically” led to fewer people visiting the island. Bartolo said the effects of this reduction, which came about following public backlash and activists’ direct action last year, must be considered first.
In their press release, the eNGOs, led by Moviment Graffitti, said that Bartolo’s comment meant that he “does not understand what a carrying capacity study is.”
Moviment Graffitti was joined by Birdlife Malta, Din L-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, Fiends of the Earth Malta, Għawdix, Nature Trust Malta – FEE and Ramblers Association Malta.
They reiterated demands for prohibiting large commercial boats, reducing the number and size of kiosks, banning music and loud generators, and regularising all commercial activity on Comino through a permit system.
Last summer, Graffitti took direct action on Comino, removing deckchairs and clearing up public space – a move well-received by the public.
The eNGOs said that while the direct action led to positive change, it is “unacceptable” that deckchair operators were allowed to place their sunbeds on a protected Natura 2000 garigue instead, as it is“an area not previously exploited for this purpose.”
They said, “ERA and Environment Minister Miriam Dalli have remained shamefully silent regarding such failures on their watch.”
The press release claimed that “the daily number of visitors to the Blue Lagoon has increased, not decreased, from 5,000 a day in 2016 to a staggering 8,000 a day this summer.”
In July, The Shift reported how Bartolo refused to make any details about the deckchair and kiosk concessions public, including the names of concession holders, the rates they pay or any terms and conditions. This is despite the fact such information would be in the public interest.
Earlier this month, The Shift also reported how waste generated by kiosks and food trucks at Comino is being collected by Gozo ministry workers rather than third parties as obliged by law.