Friends of the Earth Malta welcomes the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and especially its targets for restoration and its focus on agroecology in the hope that this can provide a turning point for nature protection and reverse some of the damage done after years of spiralling degradation both on land and at sea and affecting the planet’s climate.
Some aspects we would like to see highlighted are the following:
- Recognising Nature Rights
- Biodiversity is to be protected anywhere and should not be seen as an exclusive action for designated protected sites
- Ensure that management plans for protected areas deliver and are put into practice
- Nature Based Solutions need to be rights-based and always retain the primary aim of restoration regardless of whether it is seen as important in addressing climate change. NBS should not be taken over by greenwashing campaigns.
- Ensure some of the territory is set aside for rewilding possibilities and provide support to similar projects which aim to address nature depletion even outside protected areas
- We call for a stronger position on pesticides as outlined in our European’s Citizens Initiative petition
The Strategy within the Malta context:
The Greening plan for cities above 20,000 may need to be reviewed to allow for smaller-scale densely urbanised spaces in Malta to benefit as well. Malta is currently ranked in the 10th position (globally) having a total of over 94% percentage of the total population living in urban areas whilst green areas and open spaces have been declining rapidly in a very brief span of time.
Biodiversity in decline — Malta needs specific conservation plans for rare and endangered species both in situ and ex-situ to ensure that if its habitat fails to be protected (which is increasingly the case) the species can be conserved to repopulate restored habitats.
Of urgent priority are freshwater species and species of which only a handful of specimens are known and may otherwise soon be added to the extinct list. Seedbanks of local varieties in the agricultural sector also need to be set up and given due value before they disappear.
Alien Invasive species — Setting up more nurseries of indigenous plants would solve both environmental issues while being beneficial to other organisms which require native species as a source of food but whose range keeps declining with the loss of habitats. It could also give incentives to farmers to grow trees and shrubs for local use. Increasing landscaping with indigenous Pollinator plants should be seen as a priority especially considering the local bee population is suffering so much.
Current protected areas — most designated areas both on land and at sea seem to still be lacking any adequate management on site and many important habitats and species seem to be declining even in the topmost protected areas. We demand that management plans are implemented without further delay.
Most Protected areas either are extremely tiny with no suitable ecological corridors in between them or any useful buffer zone and many still have the same activities taking place prior to their being protected as Natura 2000 sites … activities exacerbating soil erosion and habitat destruction such as offroading, bird trapping, the insensitive surfacing of roads and destructive infrastructural works are just a few examples. It is also of great concern that speculative interests seem to be constantly undermining conservation efforts such as the current case where the international protection status of the site at Tal-Wej (Mosta/Naxxar) is being hampered and fragmented by landowners who have stalled the process of this long-awaited designation. The protection of habitats needs to be given greater value as being in the National and International Interest.
Tourism – many protected areas coincide with highly touristic sites which still do not seem to have any carrying capacity set for conservation purposes and implementation of management plan measures.
Green Wardens – an effective system with an adequate number of trained staff who can issue fines on the spot is needed for all the territory and at sea and especially highly impacted areas and protected sites.
Rewilding of derelict areas and public land and closing off access to cars and motorised vehicles completely along most countryside areas unless access is required for practical purposes.
Landscaping and tree planting – Create more natural areas rather than rows of trees with no biodiversity in between. Many public gardens could also have a section left wild for pollinator insects and all pesticides used for destroying wildflowers along roads should be banned nationwide while country roads should be allowed to have wildflowers growing along the dry stone walls and roadsides rather than using up public funds to constantly destroy all flora which provides much-needed nectar for dwindling insect pollinators.
Trees in urban areas need to be given adequate protection within their context in public spaces as many are being uprooted due to roadworks and then relocated away from communities.
FoE Malta proposes that the government draws up a national strategy or action plan for bees and pollinators linked to biodiversity and climate change actions, food security and farming initiatives and rural and urban development plans.
Noise and light pollution – we notice with satisfaction the inclusion of these two forms of pollution and their effects on human health and mental wellbeing as well as the ecological impacts which are now well studied and require strong action and implementation into local legislation by enacting the Noise Pollution Bill which has been promised since 2017 and start the process to establish a light pollution reduction strategy.
Text by Annalise Falzon
Featured image: Fan Lipped Orchid (Orkida ħamra) – Benjamin Metzger