Natural areas in the Maltese Islands are a limited commodity that are under a lot of pressure stemming from anthropogenic activities and uses. Laws are in place to counter any damage sustained but what really counts for these areas are sound management structures that can manage activities and reduce their impact.
The site at Għajn Tuffieħa, formerly managed by the Gaia Foundation, is not currently under a management agreement but is in a limbo state where no form of management is being carried out.
The Gaia Foundation relinquished its management rights for the area in December 2020, following a stretch of twenty years of site management.
The Għajn Tuffieħa site forms part of the Maltese Coastal Cliffs (Rdumijiet ta’ Malta), a Natura 2000 site that stretches from Bengħisa to ic-Ċirkewwa. The area is important for a variety of factors, mainly related to important habitats and species that are protected on both local and at European level as well as endemic species that are only observed in the area.
Such a site would merit increased attention and protection, which it has to a certain extent through a variety of legal notices and conservation orders.
But this protection is futile if not monitored and managed in a controlled manner. Environmental problems need to be tackled at the beginning and not after they happen.
Għajn Tuffieħa bay is one of the most frequented beaches in the Maltese Islands. Swarms of visitors access the area on a daily basis, even more so during a global pandemic where most of the activities had to be halted for some time.
The area is currently in shambles. Waste along the clay slopes has been accumulating for months, and now that good weather prevails visitors are also resorting to setting up and light up barbeques, or worse opting for an open fire in areas that are prone to summer fires due to the dryness of the vegetation assemblages.
To top it all off, most of the times barbeques are lighted by using branches obtained by butchering trees along the clay slopes and charcoal left on-site ending up being a safety hazard for other visitors unaware of what lies underneath the sand.
The Heritage Parks Federation, managers of the Majjistral Nature and History Park, situated just a couple of kilometres to the north requested management rights for the area in 2019.
Much has been said by the ministers and authorities involved but so far nothing has actually been done. Hopefully, this indecisiveness will not result in the loss of biodiversity through the loss of vegetation through fires.
Darren Saliba is the Head of Conservation at the Heritage Parks Federation
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Ghajn Tuffieha Cover Insert: By Freddyolsson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55895335
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