The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Environment - Red arrows

Monday, 31 August 2020, 08:46 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta’s nature parks offer beautiful trails, views and even vista’s which the Maltese are very proud of.

They offer a space where families can go for a weekend walk, where nature lovers can experience Malta’s natural beauty and trails for tourists to explore the country’s countryside.

Sadly, last week saw some spray red arrows at the Majjistral Nature Park, as part of a trail for foreign athletes, which the Park’s carers said was hazardous for wildlife and that removing such markings can only be done by using even more chemicals, thus adding more damage.

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A French retiree has thus far been charged over the issue, for spray painting the red arrows on rocks and rubble walls. A police inspector said that the man was taken to the park by the authorities where he was told that if he removed the arrows no charges would be pressed, but after removing a couple of them, the man started covering them with soil or just scratching them. The man was accused of causing wilful damage to government property. The cost of repairing the damage exceeds €2,500. He has pleaded not guilty.

Whether the man is guilty or not, someone did spray paint the rubble walls and whoever that may be must pay for the damage done.

The authorities’ swift action in relation to the red arrows must be applauded.

Nature tours and trails are definitely worth promoting as a tourism niche in the island, and this particular incident should not deter such a push in the future. At the same time however, it must be made clear that such action is not tolerated.

The damage caused by such a simple action, spray painting red arrows, should serve as a lesson to others who perhaps do far worse in Malta’s countryside.

The news story caused quite an uproar in the environmental circles, and rightly so, but this is not the only example of environmental abuse Malta has seen. Some people tend to take things into their own hands and do what they want as long as it suits their needs. Take, for example, the dumping of waste in Malta’s countryside. This is another issue which has plagued the country for countless years. Yet it still goes on.

Better monitoring of the country’s countryside might help further prevent such environmental abuses in the future.

For far too long has the fight to protect Malta’s environment been dependant on eNGOs and prominent environmentalists. It should be the government, paid for by public funds, who should be leading the charge in such protection. Thankfully in recent years some strides have been made, such as the restrictions on certain single use plastic items, for example, which should help limit plastic waste found.

At the same time, on a separate issue, enforcement action by the Planning Authority on planning illegalities remains questionable. A harder line needs to be taken.

The Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for many on the island in terms of the importance of the environment for Maltese families, and its care must be a top priority for the government.

Many might think that those who cause harm to Malta’s environment aren’t affecting them, but in reality it damages the country’s environment for future generations. Such actions are selfish and can be countered through many means, including education, stronger enforcement and harsher penalties.

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