The Malta Independent, 14th June 2008 –
Nature Trust (Malta) called on the Prime Minister, as the responsible authority on the environment and tourism, to intervene in the Dwejra Heritage Park issue and help solve the various issues which have become long overdue.

Nature Trust (NTM) had been awarded a LIFE grant by the European Union in 2004. This project encountered problems from the very start, with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority delaying the approval of the action plan by over one and a half years. The project eventually came to an end in March 2007.

Since then all uncompleted tasks indicated in the action plan have come to a halt and NTM now feels that all the investment poured in to conserve the site is now going up in smoke and the park is falling into degradation.

For the last 18 months, NTM has been appealing to the management board to look into and take decisions on various pending issues. The management board is made up of Mepa as chair, and one representative from the Ministry for Gozo, Mepa, San Lawrenz local council and Nature Trust (Malta)

The pending tasks include:

• The coaches / buses parking, which had also suffered a blow when sand from quarries was dumped in the area under the tower and site;

• The Dwejra square, which to date is still not complete with parking bays for a more organised traffic management and to stop cars parking on fossils etc;

• Legislation for the marine protected area (MPA), where today no enforcement can be undertaken as there are no clear definitions of what activity can be done and what is prohibited in the MPA (harpoon fishing has been noted in the MPA, fishing cages are still being used in large numbers etc);

• Despite what was agreed with the EU, the park today still has no management agreement. This has left the park without a manager and without funds to employ park rangers to safeguard the area. Since the end of the project, NTM was no longer the project coordinator of the site.

Without a site manager and a management agreement today, no one is controlling the activities on site. This was an issue raised by the EU in a recent communication and which NTM again referred to the management committee and the authorities.

• No rehabilitation and conservation of the Inland Sea area where the pebble beach had to be restored and parking disallowed;

• No solution has yet been found to the problems relating to the present structure of the visitors’ centre, which is not according to the permit issued by Mepa;

• No enforcement is being done and information signs are being vandalised with no action being taken to apprehend those responsible, which is an issue also remarked on by the EU as damage to EU property;

Despite various reminders to the management board by NTM, no action has been taken to date and NTM is continually getting the blame on issues that in reality are the responsibility of the board.

NTM had plans to continue working on the conservation of the site and proceed to obtain the UNESCO World Heritage site status for Dwejra. However with the situation being what NTM thinks can best be described as lack of interest from the authorities, NTM has decided not to proceed with its efforts until conservation commitment by the authorities is shown.

The NTM feels disappointed that after all the efforts it had done to save the site, today it is simply being ignored and the site is not being given the attention it deserves as a Natura 2000 site, a potential UNESCO World Heritage site, a prime site for tourism and a landmark for Malta and Gozo.

NTM appealed to the Prime Minister to take immediate action and look into the issues raised especially since the government has stated that its priorities are the environment and eco Gozo. The state of Dwejra today gives a different interpretation to these commitments.