Drive to protect garigue at Blue Lagoon
Signs will be installed at Blue Lagoon in Comino warning day visitors not to place umbrellas and sunbeds on the protected garigue.
Hiring out beach furniture on the tiny beach there is regulated through a tender awarded by the Malta Tourism Authority last month but a spokesman said the planning authority was “concerned” about the “spilling over” of furniture on to the nearby garigue.
The sandy beach is usually packed with deckchairs and umbrellas, mainly placed there by the authorised operators but also by day visitors who bring their own beach furniture, which very often spill on to the protected garigue because of lack of space.
The site had three pending enforcement notices, issued against different operators, for illegally placing umbrellas and sunbeds without a permit but a tender by the MTA came into force in August regulating the activity.
Photographs taken by The Times indicate that many people take their beach equipment onto the surrounding garigue, which is protected, when they do not find space on the crammed beach.
Comino, which has an area of 3.5 square kilometres, is a Natura 2000 protected site.
The planning authority spokesman said that following a recent site inspection carried out with MTA officials, “the authority is satisfied that the designated area for umbrellas and deckchairs is in accordance with the tender and is respected”. What worried the authority were those people, including those bringing their own beach equipment, moving onto the protected garigue.
“To safeguard Comino’s biodiversity, the authority will be installing signage around the Blue Lagoon area indicating the zones where beach furniture can and cannot be placed,” the spokesman said.
An MTA spokesman too said the recent inspection indicated no major infringements in the designated areas.Minor issues like the lack of displayed prices were discussed on site for immediate correction, the spokesman added, noting that the area was monitored on a “regular basis” since the permits, which allow 35 sunbeds per operator, came into force on August 4.
Last week, officials from both the planning authority and the MTA reminded the operators of the permit conditions and the areas where beach furniture was allowed.
In case of a possible breach, the planning authority had said it would investigate and “take appropriate action to safeguard Comino from the placing of umbrellas and deckchairs in restricted areas”.
The planning authority spokesman said a management plan would be drawn up for Comino that would include regular monitoring to ensure the site’s integrity. At present, the law contemplates no penalties for those caught on the reserved areas. However, the spokesman said this would be tackled in the management plan.
“Meanwhile, the authority would like to take the opportunity to remind the public that we all bear a responsibility in safeguarding our natural heritage,” the spokesman added.