Ramblers and environmentalists were outraged after signs suddenly appeared in an area in Rabat’s Blata tal-Melħ banning people from accessing certain areas recently.
However, one Maltese landowner who shares the land with other owners and built common pathway between the lands for their exclusive use is unapologetic about stopping people from entering the areas.
He says the public has caused too much environmental damage to be trusted anymore.
“Before the virus hit, maybe fifty people would pass by regularly, such as cyclists and hikers, so no problem,” Paul Azzopardi told Lovin Malta. “But with the roads being fixed, we’ve ended up with hundreds of people, turning a quiet, peaceful place into a dirty, crowded area, not to mention people damaging the natural environment.”
Azzopardi showed images of prickly pear bushes as well as other bushes becoming crushed or destroyed by visitors.
“This prickly pear plant was just a few years old, and was planted and watered for nothing. And that bush was crushed for no reason.”
And it’s not just bushes, with wildlife apparently becoming disturbed.
“The saddest part is that nature is disturbed,” Azzopardi said. “There were about 50 blue rock thrushes (merill) here, and since all these crowds started to come they’ve left. I spent the whole summer enjoying a family of hoopoes, a beautiful bird, I had built a pond for them to drink and even a mud patch where I used to buy them earthworms and other stuff.”
“I thought they would be permanent but, unfortunately, after they nested and spent the quiet summer here, once the first Sunday crowd appeared they just rose high into the sky and left towards Africa.”
A number of spray-painted warnings telling people not to access certain areas had appeared in the area recently, with the words sprayed right onto the rocks and natural area. However, Azzopardi doesn’t know who applied the spray.
“Anyone who wants to use this ‘public domain’ can drive down to the coast from Mtaħleb or Baħrija and walk along the coast there.”
Azzopardi says he is tired of seeing people saying entering his land is a public right they have, and he complained about some people not even wearing a mask while walking in the area.
He, along with the other landowners, now plan on filing a police report “so they can start fining people who think they can do whatever they like and confiscating bikes, motorcycles and land rovers”.
“Perhaps now you might understand why people don’t enjoy seeing crowds coming into their property,” Azzopardi said. “If one was to quietly stay down there all week during September you would see hundreds of birds of prey – but come Saturday or Sunday and you would be lucky to see one.”
“This is why I have great respect towards game shooters and trappers,” he pointed out. “They spent between €100 to €200,000 on the land to enjoy their past time, they catch hardly anything, then when they might have a chance, a trespasser would scare their bird away.”
“It’s a matter of give and take in life – but unfortunately we Maltese have become take only, and what I don’t like, nobody can like…”