Seven environmental organisations to challenge ERA on Comino management

Seven environmental NGOs will be challenging a decision by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) not to publish a study on Comino’s ‘Carrying Capacity Assessment’ as the government forges ahead with mass tourism plans for the protected island.

BirdLife Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Friends of the Earth Malta, Nature Trust and Malta Ramblers’ Association said in a joint statement on Saturday that they will be legally challenging the decision.

The need to carry out such an assessment was a requirement for Comino’s Management Plan for the island, which was finalised in 2014. The management plan set a number of targets and priorities aimed at preserving and restoring the island’s biodiversity.

Yet a Freedom of Information request filed by Birdlife Malta was repeatedly refused as ERA argued it was a reserved matter requested by the Cabinet.

“The ENGOs condemn ERA’s refusal to release this critical documentation. The intervention of the Cabinet Secretary to support such a block suggests a reluctance to address the mass tourism issue on Comino, which is causing significant environmental impacts while generating profit for service providers, operating legally and illegally,” they said.

In response, BirdLife Malta and six other ENGOs will be filing an appeal before the IDPC Tribunal, arguing that the visitor ‘Carrying Capacity Study’ is not a Cabinet prerogative but a requirement of the 2014 Comino Management Plan commissioned by ERA itself, which is meant to guide policy-making and conservation measures for the preservation of the island.

The organisations pointed out Santa Marija Bay has, over the past days, seen the setting up of another
beach kiosk without any relevant permits issued by ERA to authorise such activities within the Natura 2000 site.

On the other hand, ERA has, in the past days, authorised kiosk operators to camp at the back of Santa Marija Bay until the end of September 2024, despite the setting up of a dedicated campsite for the public on another part of the island.

Last year, in April 2023, sunbeds appeared in a new area on Comino, away from the usual concessions granted at the Blue Lagoon, adding encroachment of commercial activities on the protected Natura 2000 site.

Meanwhile, proposals for rebuilding of the Comino Hotel are still under review, with environmental NGOs challenging the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out to determine the hotel’s impact on the Natura 2000 site.

Among the various flaws challenged by the NGOs, the impact assessment did not outline the number of extra visitors to the island a renewed hotel and its facilities would generate on top of the already tourist-packed island during the summer months.

The organisations appealed to the government to come clean on the island’s limitations to support sustainable tourism, “giving priority to nature protection over an ever-increasing
exploitation of the island for profit”.

They called for a long-term strategy to safeguard the island with adequate planning and enforcement aimed at maintaining sustainability “and not at fattening the pockets of selected operators at the expense of our heritage”.

The NGOs warned against the commercialisation of Santa Marija Bay, which would eventually replicate what is happening at Blue Lagoon.

                           

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4 Comments
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S. Camilleri
S. Camilleri
30 days ago

ERA continues to show it is useless and incompetent. It keeps putting aside the public interest it is supposed to champion to favour the interests of politicians. It is this kind of attitude on the part of the authorities which has brought us to the current mess.

Mick
Mick
30 days ago

Comino requires an urgent shutdown so that no tourists or businesses can go there. Turn it into a nature reserve for the exclusive use of animals and birds with no human interference

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
30 days ago

Par for the course in today’s Malta.

St Luke
St Luke
29 days ago

I am finding it impossible to find an area on Gozo that is truly protected environmentally there are none. Everywhere is destroyed through greed and corruption between the government and its various ministries and the complete corruption and collusion of the construction sector where the workers are also not protected in any way.

There appear to be laws that are never adhered to despite courts findings in cases brought before it.

The people of Malta and Gozo in general, appear to condone all that is rotten here.

For some reason that is beyond me no one gets organised properly to revove, imprison, and banish these greedy evil self serving scumbags.

Malta you need to rise up as one and say in no uncertain terms this must stop now.

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