Turning back the clock to restore sites used for illegal dumping to their original state
In a joint initiative, the Planning Authority and the Authority for the Environment and Resources are to cooperate to rehabilitate various countryside zones in the Maltese Islands, zones which may become afforestation projects.
A public consultation process has been launched to identify various zones that are being used as illegal dumping sites.
Two square kilometres of land including extensive stretches of land at Mellieħa, Mġarr and Marsaxlokk are to be cleaned up and if possible restored to their original state or are otherwise to be planted with indigenous trees and bushes.
Legal regulations are being proposed in a Bill for enforcement in abandoned sites or that contain illegal rubbish dumps or that have illegally been converted into agricultural land and will be aimed to curb environmental abuses.
The two authorities have identified 190 zones whose use has been illegally changed over the last 23 years. These have been identified from aerial pictures taken between 1994 and 2012.
Some of the sites contain a depth of three metres of rubble
During a consultation session with various representatives of environmental groups, Michelle Borg, from the Planning Authority, explained the situation of the rubble-strewn zones.
She said that in some areas afforestation may go ahead without having to remove the rubble. Other areas, that include those that are protected because they are part of Natura 2000, have to be studied to find the best way to restore them to their original status.
Michelle Borg said that when the Environmental Authority informs the way the regeneration process is to proceed, it will be up to the PA to take the initial steps by notifying those that have carried out illegalities are owners of the property, to take corrective action.
Owners will be given three months to regularise the situation, and if this is not done, the Planning Authority will carry out the necessary remedial work at the expense of those who have carried out illegalities. The proposed Bill will enable the PA to notify the Government of its own land or of private land that is to be recuperated.
Various representatives of environmental groups that participated said this is a positive development in the right direction and also stressed the importance of biodiversity, the safeguarding of heritage aspects and the planting of trees.
Minister Jose’ Herrera said the proposed law will curb illegal dumping and will help the country to become greener as well as to preserve land that is outside development zones.
Transport Minister Ian Borg said he recognised the importance in the need for more trees to combat the increase of vehicle pollution and said that in the case of the rise that leads to Mellieħa he has given directions for a solution to be found so that trees are not uprooted.