Sand dune abandoned again
About 10 years ago, Nature Trust, Unesco and I undertook urgent action to conserve the sand dunes at White Tower Bay. Today the site is in a shambles.
Ten years ago, we had secured funds from Unesco so that the largest sand dune remnants in mainland Malta (second only to Ramla l-Ħamra in Gozo) were ring-fenced through a chain-and-link fence to stem rampant vehicle parking, camping and offroading on site. Several interpretation panels had also been installed on site, only to be vandalised within days.
This action had paid off, since the dune showed signs of regeneration, and the operator who clears the seagrass debris and the boathouse owners on site finally became aware to some extent of the importance of conserving the area.
But 10 years down the line, no authority has taken the initiative to replace the chain-link fence which is in disrepair and has been severed in several stretches. This has resulted in vehicles occassionally parking and offroading on the dune remnants, which have also attracted camping enthusiasts.
The Malta Environment and Planning Authority should rekindle its interest in the area, and embark on urgent conservation and enforcement measures on site. Mepa officials should visit the site on a Sunday to see for themselves the utter disregard for the area’s conservation importance.
Mepa acts against caravans
Three coastal areas – Ġnejna, Mistra and St Thomas Bay – are renowned for occassionally attracting colonies of caravans, which, up to a few years ago, used to occupy the immediate approach to the sea for months on end. In response to an outcry over the issue, Mepa has bitten the bullet and has cleared all sites and issued enforcement notices accordingly.
For instance, at St Thomas Bay, which was unofficially considered the haven for caravans, with up to 70 stifling the site at one point, Mepa removed all permanent concrete platforms early last year, and subsequently dispersed the 24 which again sought to occupy the area last July.
The caravans that colonise the Mistra site are mainly of the semi-permanent type, markedly different from those at St Thomas Bay. Last year, Mepa issued an enforcement notice against the setting up of a caravan site at Mistra, and visited again a few days ago, with no caravans being reported.
Mepa has pledged to keep monitoring the site even during weekends to nip in the bud any fledgling attempt at colonising it.
At Ġnejna, where caravans were completely banished three years ago, individual caravans have sought to re-establish themselves as recently as the end of last month only to be talked out of it by Mepa staff.
The turtle nesting at Ġnejna, and the subsequent issuing of the conservation order which prohibits any caravans, will hopefully deter them from homing in on the site, at least for the next few months.
Mepa can only take enforcement action against caravans parked in a semi-permanent fashion and away from permanent/paved roads; in the latter case, police would normally move in.
The EU’s global footprint
A recent report released by the European Environmental Agency indicates that Europe’s thirst for raw materials is proving harder and harder to quench.
The EU currently imports 20 to 30 per cent of all its raw materials from other regions of the globe, effectively extending its environmental footprint far beyond its borders.
Average annual use of material resources is nearly 15 tonnes per person. The bulk of this ends up as ‘stuff’ accumulated in the economy; the rest is converted into emissions or waste.
The appetite of Europe’s economy for imported raw materials is so voracious that in 2011, approximately 1,600 million tonnes were imported – equivalent to about 3.2 tonnes per person. Fuels accounted for most of this amount.
Targets set in the recent past have not always been met. The EU was expected “to become the most resource-efficient economy in the world” and “substantially reduce waste generation”, according to the Sixth Environment Action Programme (6EAP), adopted in 2002, but this has only been partially successful.
In fact, the European economy generates more than five tonnes of waste, including hazardous waste, per inhabitant each year, and each citizen throws on average half a tonne of household waste into the bin.
Nonetheless, there has been a slight reduction in the volume of waste in recent years, probably connected to the downturn.
Moreover, waste management in Europe has improved. Recycling rates for municipal waste have more than doubled in the EU zone plus Norway and Switzerland, going from 17 per cent of municipal waste recycled or composted in 1995 to 38 per cent in 2010.
Approximately 60 per cent of packaging waste is now recycled.
The report can be viewed at: www.eea.europa.eu/publications/material-resources-and-waste-2014.
Mario Balotelli canyon
CUMECS is a research expedition that explored the geology and habitats of submarine canyons in the central Mediterranean Sea between June 28 and July 2.
The expedition, funded by Eurofleets and the Marie Curie Actions, set off on June 28 to investigate a little explored area of the Mediterranean seabed – the Malta-Sicily Escarpment – aboard the iconic research vessel RV Urania.
The escarpment, located to the east of Malta, is an interesting underwater feature, as it marks the abrupt change from waters that are a few hundred metres deep to waters that are over four kilometres deep, located at the junction between the eastern and the western Mediterranean.
The area features numerous marine canyons, and its prohibitive depths isolate it from fluvial and other coastal discharges. The expedition used several cutting-edge instruments, including a remotely-operated vehicle which caught rare glimpses of black coral communities and even inquisitive sharks.
During the Italy-Germany Euro 2012 football match, a new submarine canyon was discovered by the crew, who duly decided to name it after the star of the match – Mario Balotelli.
For more information about the expedition visit www.cumecs2012.blogspot.com.es.
A Maltese member of the crew – Aaron Micallef, a marine geologist currently based at the Institut de Ciences del Mar in Barcelona, was on board as chief scientist.