An agreement signed between BirdLife Malta and the government is set to lead to various improvements in two Natura 2000 sites managed by the NGO: the Għadira Nature Reserve and the Simar Nature Reserve.
The two sites serve as bird sanctuaries, and are classified as Special Zones of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.
Through the agreement, the government is pledging to invest nearly €60,000 in the two sites, and the interventions will include:
- the creation of a research laboratory in Simar;
- the use of new products and machinery for tree-planting;
- the installation of security cameras;
- the construction of new sanitary facilities at the Għadira site.
Simar had been a neglected area at the end of the Pwales valley, which was largely used as a dump before BirdLife started its rehabilitation in 1992 and converted it into a wetland sanctuary.
The Għadira site, which once served as saltpans, saw seasonal pools forming when a road separated the area from the beach. The site ended up being used as a summer car park before being declared a bird sanctuary in 1978 with its lake and saltmarsh habitat subsequently restored by BirdLife.
Sites managed for the common good, not our members – BirdLife CEO
In his remarks at the press conference which formalised the agreement, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana admitted that the NGO was considering cancelling the event in the wake of the government’s controversial decision to grant the Miżieb and Aħrax woodlands to the FKNK hunters’ federation.
But he said the reconsidered, since it was a good occasion for the NGO to make its arguments clear.
He sought to emphasise three main points, in part addressing the government’s justifications of the controversial concession:
- All the sites managed by BirdLife Malta are managed for the common good, and not in the interest of its members alone;
- Every species in its sites is left alive: no member can kill an animal or even pick a flower, as “that would be egoism;”
- BirdLife and many NGOs which work towards the common good can never be put in the same basket with organisations such as those representing hunters and trappers whose ultimate interest is the slaughtering of birds.
Sultana appealed to Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia to ensure that the government truly developed an environmental conscience, and to foster a culture of respect towards the natural environment beyond the confines of the sites managed by NGOs.
On his part Aaron Farrugia explained that the funds would improve the livelihood and propagation of protected species, including the Mediterranean Killifish and the Maltese Painted Frog as well as various protected bird species.
“Our natural heritage needs to be protected just like any other form of heritage. The extent to which future generations can enjoy our natural environment depends on how far we are willing to protect it. The purpose of these interventions being carried out around Natura 2000 sites is to protect our natural environment, ensuring the sites are kept in a good state to be enjoyed in the most sustainable way by everyone, creating a balance between the use of these sites and their conservation,” Farrugia maintained.
“With these initiatives we want to emphasize the importance of protecting the environment around us, but also ensuring that human activity does not negatively impact the quality of our biodiversity.”