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The disgusting state of Qalet Marku

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

My wife, two-year-old son and I recently went for what we anticipated to be a pleasant Sunday afternoon walk on the St Mark’s tower peninsula at Qalet Marku. We had every reason to look forward to spending some time surrounded by nature – this is, after all, a dedicated Natura 2000 nature protection site.

To say that we were shocked by what we saw is an understatement: the place was absolutely filthy. It is not an exaggeration to say that it was like walking in a rubbish tip. Yes, we were able to appreciate some very raw natural beauty, but that was when it wasn’t layered in plastic bottles and crisp packets. Litter had been strewn in enormous quantities almost everywhere you looked. We couldn’t even let our young son walk without holding his hand at all times, given the amount of broken glass on the ground.

Evidently, a number of the campers I saw there think that taking their rubbish home is too onerous a requirement (although why you would want to camp in such unpleasant surroundings is beyond me). In addition, it has obviously become a popular place for builders to illegally dump their waste (as opposed to having it disposed of, at cost).

It is one thing for urban areas to have litter issues, which is often expected to a degree (although I do think Malta needs to improve on this front: look at any green area in Sliema and you’ll often see years of accumulated rubbish). However for such a rural area to be so comprehensively littered is simply unacceptable.

The Qalet Marku peninsula would be truly stunning if it were clean: it is wild and rugged, and surrounded by open sea. St Mark’s Tower is also a beautiful, isolated building, and a key part of Malta’s heritage. Instead Qalet Marku is an embarrassment. I simply cannot understand how this peninsula has been allowed to get into this state, and why it remains so.

What really upsets me about this issue is it is so eminently solvable. Why aren’t concerted efforts made to clean it up? How can this area possibly be deemed a “nature protection site”? Why aren’t bins put near to areas that are known to be popular with campers? Why isn’t the roadway blocked off to large vehicles, or the entrance monitored by CCTV, to prevent illegal dumping?

Malta is a tiny island, which touts itself as an idyllic holiday destination. Yet a walk in a deemed nature reserve is nothing short of disgusting. The lack of respect with which this area has been and continues to be treated is shameful.

I would be very grateful for some answers from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, or any other interested party.

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