Press Release 7 July 2009

Din l-art Helwa, BirdLife Malta and Nature Trust Malta today expressed their outrage at the re-location of evicted caravans in Mellieha to the Foresta 2000 protected site over the last weekend.

The NGOs also revealed that a number of trees were cut down by the contractor brought in by the Mellieha Local Council, who facilitated the moving of the caravans to the Foresta 2000 project site. A rubble wall was also damaged in the process.

The caravans were part of a larger group that were evicted from an area adjacent to the Mellieha Bay Hotel on the 30th of June, where they had been occupying the land illegally according to the authorities. In that case, MEPA and the Lands Department stepped in and removed the caravans, with the result that some of the caravans are now simply occupying part of the Foresta 2000 project site since last weekend. The NGOs fear that more caravans would move in and increase disturbance in the protected site.

The NGOs contacted Minister George Pullicino to raise the unacceptable situation, but the Minister has not replied yet.

“It is outrageous that these caravans have simply been relocated into a protected site, in a move apparently facilitated by the Mellieha Local Council. We are tired of the authorities simply shuffling problems around from one site to another without taking the time to solve the issues in the first place.” stated the NGOs.

The Foresta 2000 afforestation project is managed by the PARKS department of the Ministry for Rural Affairs and Resources, BirdLife Malta and Din L-art Helwa. Thousands of native and endemic trees and shrubs have been planted and rubble walls have been repaired at the site since the project’s inception, with the aim of re-creating a Mediterranean woodland. The site is also protected as a Bird Sanctuary and is given international protection as a Natura 2000 site under the EU nature conservation directives.

“We all know what happens when caravans move to a new site – before long they are occupying the land permanently, building illegal structures and causing damage to the surrounding areas. This situation has repeated itself over and over again, and we refuse to allow this to happen at Foresta 2000.” NGOs charged.

The NGOs also highlighted a recent application to build a caravan site inside Majjistral National Park, a move which Din l-art Helwa and Nature Trust Malta have already lodged an objection to. The NGOs urged the government to start taking the issue of nature protection and the environment seriously, and not to simply push their problems on to protected areas.