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IN PHOTOS: One Year On, Which Parts Of The Miżieb Handover Contract Have Been Fulfilled?

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In October last year, the Lands Authority signed off on an agreement for the areas of Miżieb and Aħrax to be managed by Malta’s hunting lobby, the FKNK.

The contract gives the FKNK rights over the area, including the right to forbid public access during specific times of day during the spring and autumn hunting seasons.

But the agreement also places a number of obligations on FKNK, including the management and upkeep of the whole area.

Just over a year after the agreement was signed, Lovin Malta has carried out an investigation to determine whether its conditions are being fulfilled. 

The contract

The first step in the investigation was looking through the agreement and determining what exactly is required of the FKNK – what has been done as well as that which is in the process of being done.

Crucially, it is important to note that the contract explicitly states that, should the requirements not be fulfilled, and should any breaches not be remedied, the contract would be null and void.

The responsibilities conferred onto the FKNK by virtue of the agreement include the erection of signs giving clear details about times and dates to visitors, signs highlighting which areas the public can frequent as well as setting up and managing picnic areas.

The contract also requires FKNK to ensure that the area is kept clean and free of illegalities, including bird trapping. It also envisaged the setting up of joint monitoring board for the areas, bringing together stakeholders, including local councils.

Excerpt from the contract between FKNK and the Lands Authority

Excerpt from the contract between FKNK and the Lands Authority

The contract clearly specifies which signs needed to be erected, with immediate effect, after the day of signing.

The Visit

After looking through the contract, Lovin Malta visited the Miżieb woodland, to see the current situation for itself.

Sadly, the visit revealed that a number of obligations outlined in the contract are not being observed.

Several areas were found to be littered with a great deal of trash, along with many shells from spent shots Trash was found in different areas, along with shells from spent shots left behind by hunters.

There was also a lack of signage, with only one sign in place to indicate a picnic area, and no signs at all indicating the start and end of the hunting season or which areas are open to visitors.

Despite the fact that the obligations listed in the contract were meant to have been implemented immediately after the land was transferred to the organisation, very little appears to have been done one year on.

Lovin Malta spoke with the president of FKNK, Lucas Micallef, to understand why the contract was not being honoured. 

In response to the lack of signage in the area, Micallef explained that signs which were erected in the summer had been immediately vandalised.

“We had installed the first lot of signs (showing picnic areas, hunting times, etc.) in summer, but they were vandalised immediately. We then sought better and improved material, which had to be approved by ERA. The signs are in fact being manufactured as we speak,” Micallef said.

Notwithstanding Micallef’s explanation, the reality is that even if they were erected in summer, the signs were already months late. 

Regarding the trash found, Micallef clarified that the FKNK carried out clean-ups on a weekly basis.

“We do cleaning of picnic areas every Monday, after the weekend,” he said.

“So the public leaving trash there, irresponsibly, it’s the FKNK’s fault?” he asked. 

When pictures of empty discarded shotshells were shown to the FKNK representative, he pointed out that they were very old.”It is not good obviously for anyone to leave spent shotshells, and we do advise members to always pick up respective shells.”

Micallef offered reassurance that a better environment, with flourishing biodiversity for future generations, was something he believed to be in his own interest and something he would like to see addressed. 

“We want all our countryside to be nourished with important ecological habitats as they should be,” he concluded.

Micallef also confirmed that the Joint Monitoring Board was never set up. Lovin Malta has reached out to the Lands Authority, which was meant to have set up the board, for an explanation as to why this never happened.

While all efforts by the FKNK to make the woodlands more accessible to the public are commendable, it is worth noting that the entire premise to the land being handed over to it was that it would ensure its proper management and upkeep, which from the looks of it, is not happening.

What do you make of all this? 

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When Sasha (formerly known as Sasha Tas-Sigar) is not busy writing about environmental injustice, she's probably fighting for women's rights. Follow her at @saaxhaa on Instagram, and send her anything related to the environment, art, and women's rights at [email protected]

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