‘The timing is suspicious’ – NGOs question Armier ‘cleanup’

Works carried out using heavy machinery at Armier Beach on Wednesday morning have raised suspicions among environmental NGOs over their purpose and timing, despite government assurances it is just a “cleanup”.

NGO Moviment Graffitti first drew attention to the works on Wednesday afternoon, claiming that “excavators were removing sand from the beach for it to be covered in concrete”.

Graffitti said the “rare and sensitive” sand dune habitat had been extensively damaged, with the works carried out for the benefit of nearby lido owners.

Graffitti referred to a report by The Shift from last year about Lands Minister Silvio Schembri’s refusal to reveal the identity of concessionaires given contracts for the partial privatisation of the neighbouring Little Armier beach.

Reacting to Graffitti’s claims, spokespersons for the Malta Tourism Authority issued statements to news outlets which claimed the works were a “regular and very normal” cleanup of the beach.

The spokesperson added, “There are no plans for concrete to be laid under or instead of the sand.”

Contacted by The Shift, NGOs and environmental activists claimed the timing for the ‘cleansing works’ was strange, considering “it is usually carried out just ahead of the bathing season.”

In comments mirroring concerns raised by Graffitti, environmental activist Alan Deidun questioned the government’s use of heavy machinery on the beach.

“Such heavy machinery accelerates the erosion of the beach, reducing its stability and creating gulleys through which sand is carried off,” he said.

Reacting to an image posted by Graffitti, which showed excavator tracks running over sand dunes in the area, Deidun expressed his disappointment.

“The limited remnants of sand dunes on these small beaches are highly sensitive and found in only around five locations in Malta,” he noted.

Deidun said, “Removing seaweed from a beach is not a clean up,” given the algae is naturally occurring. He questioned its removal in February when still-high winds could carry off underlying sand and erode the bay further.

Nature Trust President Vincent Attard similarly raised doubts on the supposed cleansing works. He said that while information on the works is scarce, “it is strange that these would be carried out right now, considering we are nowhere close to the bathing season.”

Attard claimed the works had not been permitted by ERA and were stopped following a site visit by the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority.

Government spokespersons who issued statements to The Times of Malta claimed permits were not required and that algae was not removed.

Last year, The Shift reported how Lands Minister Silvio Schembri redacted the names on three contracts the Lands Authority entered into for the concession of three beach lidos in Little Armier.

According to Planning Authority documents, the Baia Beach concession lists Jonathan Mangion, CEO of pharmaceutical importers A.M. Mangion, as its owner.

Mangion was not the original concessionaire of the public land, and it is unclear how he acquired the rights. The same transfers appear to have occurred with the other two public concessions.

The same concessionaire has recently asked the Planning Authority to overrule objections by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage to a proposed rooftop restaurant for his lido.

The Shift has also reported how, in 2021, Dominic Micallef’s Signature Entertainment Group announced it was “in the process of acquiring the concession of all the three lidos” in Little Armier and that they would be turned into top-notch entertainment venues by 2025.


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simon oosterman
simon oosterman
1 month ago

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