The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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Blue Lagoon area still full of litter in spite of government promises, NGO says

Monday, 6 May 2024, 10:06 Last update: about 3 months ago

Areas around the Blue Lagoon in Comino remain full of litter in spite of repeated promises by the government about a cleanliness drive, NGO Nadur Nadif said Monday.

This is happening in May, which is still a low season compared to the heavier influx of tourists and locals alike during the hotter months.

In 2023, the NGO said it had led extensive cleanup efforts on Comino Island, spotlighting the detrimental impacts of illegal dumping on its picturesque ecosystem. These endeavours resulted in the removal of over 200 garbage bags from iconic locations stretching from the Blue Lagoon to Santa Marija Tower.

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“Additionally, we engaged in fruitful discussions with key governmental bodies, including the Ministries for Gozo and Tourism, and the Environment Resources Authority (ERA), aiming to explore actionable solutions for bolstering environmental protection measures on Comino. We extend our gratitude to the Ministry for its initial actions, including addressing excessive noise and removing unsightly green plastic netting from the trees that had died,” the NGO said.

Revisiting the island as summer approaches, we assessed its readiness for the upcoming influx of visitors. Unfortunately, our observations revealed a recurring pattern. Despite assurances of heightened enforcement and environmental stewardship, tangible progress remains elusive. Sections of the island surrounding the Blue Lagoon were still littered, a situation deemed intolerable for a designated Natura 2000 site, the NGO said.

The spectrum of litter ranges from common items like cups and bottles to more egregious examples such as discarded pineapples. Additionally, bins lack proper labelling, exacerbating waste management challenges. Furthermore, the constant hum of generators disrupts the island's tranquillity, drowning out the natural sounds of waves and avian life.

During our visit, it was noticed that a significant amount of waste had accumulated at the campsite. Although the bins outside were cleaned and put back in place, the mess within the campsite remained raising questions about whether the Ministry of Gozo is solely employing garbage collectors or cleaners.

This concern is heightened by data from parliamentary questions: in 2017, according to parliamentary question no. 1895, there were 11 people employed by the Ministry for Gozo, while parliamentary question no. 20731 indicated 15 in 2021, and parliamentary question no. 8153 & 13137 reported 18 in 2023.

This not only represents an increase in trend, but in the response to question no. 13137, Minister Clint Camilleri specified that they are designated as “Beach Cleaners”. “So, we appeal for thorough work to be done, not only for the environmental protection and conservation, but also for the thousands of visitors who flock to the island,” the NGO said.

“We believe that strengthening and further enforcement of these fines is essential to ensure compliance with Comino's Natura 2000 regulations by all parties. To address these challenges, pragmatic solutions have been proposed, including the implementation of clearly marked bins, designating Comino as a plastic-free zone and increase the enforcement on the island,” the NGO added.

However, the delay in translating these suggestions into action is evident. The lack of proactive measures is disheartening, especially considering Comino's potential to attract quality tourism and to enrich Malta's heritage. As we approach summer 2024, we urge all stakeholders to fulfil their duty in preserving Comino's natural beauty for future generations, Nadur Nadif said.

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