The Malta Independent 25 August 2019, Sunday

TMID Editorial - Balluta Bay sand replenishment: A failure or work in progress?

Tuesday, 16 July 2019, 11:40 Last update: about 2 months ago

The sand replenishment at Balluta Bay has not failed according to the Malta Tourism Authority’s environmental consultant.

Images of the beach reducing in size following storms were ever present on Facebook, and many question whether the project is indeed a waste of funds.

Simply lifting that sand back up off the sea bed will not hold it in place, and if the MTA really wants to keep the beach in a replenished state, maybe they should look into the cause of the beach losing its sand in the first place. Could this have been due to certain construction in the area for example?

ADVERTISEMENT

 “Over the years, the environment of Balluta Bay has been changed so much that it is completely artificial. There is no way that a beach can form there on its own,” Environmental consultant Adrian Mallia had said.

Mallia explained that changes were made to this year’s replenishment when compared to the previous year, presumably learning from the way nature dealt with the man-made beach.

Mallia says that last year, there was no slope at the end of the beach, which was also larger, and immediately the waves started to eat into the beach to form the slope. This was part of the design (in fact some 30% more sand was added) and, as expected, “the dry beach area started to get smaller relatively quickly (also in view of the late start of the project). The more sustainable size of the beach is how Balluta Bay is today,” Mallia says.

This year, only a small culvert has been constructed beneath the road to collect the rainwater that used to flow onto the bay, diverting this flow to the side of the beach instead. Sand level was also raised higher than last, he had said. Tweaking issues and learning from problems of the previous year is a good thing, but if this year’s beach is swept away, the government should seriously consider whether it should replenish the beach again, or not.

Mallia says that the beach changes depending on the waves, and that the bay will change over summer. “Sometimes it gets larger and sometimes it will get smaller. Then, over winter, the changes become more pronounced.”

In terms of feasibility, an MTA spokesperson has also argued that the project is feasible, especially since it will be financed by the operators of the Marriott hotel for the next five years. Nevertheless, the spokesperson said that the MTA is planning a feasibility study for any similar interventions in the future.

The MTA should ensure that the beach can indeed remain a beach, rather than just be washed away. Perhaps more studies are needed, however  if it is established that no beach can sustain itself in the area, then perhaps funds should not continue to be spent on it.

This feasibility study should consider whether this money could, instead of being wasted on replenishing a beach which will see the sand removed with rainfall, be spent on better community projects for the area.

  • don't miss