The integrity of the terrestrial biological communities at Dwejra was not compromised by filming activities carried out in October but impacts were localised, a report commissioned by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has concluded.

In November, Mepa had commissioned Louis F. Cassar and a team of specialists to assess the impact that the October filming activities had on resources pertaining to the terrestrial and marine ecology, the geology, geomorphology, palaeontology, landscape and the integrity of the site.

The ecological integrity of this protected site was assessed based on the European Commission’s methodology guidance for assessment of plans and projects in Natura 2000 sites.

Mepa has now directed the Environment and Planning Directorates, together with its legal counsel, to draw up recommendations on what action, if any, should be taken against the film producer for not adhering to the permit conditions and the damage caused at Dwejra.

The report concluded that given that the fossil features in the Dwejra area were continuously impacted by the trampling of visitors, driving over of dive-support vehicles in the past and instances of fossil theft from the entire area, although there was existent and recent damage to the fossil features, even beyond the site where the sand was deposited, the assessment could not link, with absolute certainty, all of this damage to the specific activities carried out in connection with the filming of Game of Thrones.

It said that although the clean-up operation removed the vast bulk of the deposited sand, the nature of the karstic rock surface made it difficult for all sediment to be removed and recommended that clean-up activities should stop.

The remaining small sediment fractions were likely to be washed out by rainfall events, strong winds and the action of waves on the shoreline, it concluded. It said that the impact of the accumulated sediment was considered low to geology and geomorphology, as such impacts were temporary and reversible with little lasting damage.

The report noted localised direct damage to karstic features with several rock pinnacles and ridges broken off, likely caused by the use of heavy mechanical machinery. It said that the impacts relating to this damage was considered permanent and irreversible.

Apart from the deposited sediment, the Dwejra area was impacted by sediment from the unpaved car park on the access road to Dwejra, silt and soil eroded from agricultural land, as well as material from nearby quarry spoil heaps.

There was no evidence that the deposited sand eliminated the terrestrial biota (fauna and flora) of the site.

The plants which were partially buried by the sediment arising from overspill were still photosynthetic at the time of the survey. No macroscopic fauna in the area were found to have been impacted.

The report said that salt production in one of the rockpools might be negatively effected for a period of time.

It said that there was no adverse impact on the marine environment within the adjacent marine area and therefore, the integrity of the marine ecosystem, in particular the habitats present within the Dwejra/Qawra marine SAC, had not been compromised.

The full report and executive summary can be viewed on the authority’s website.

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