Natura 2000 site candidate at Tal-Wej at Mosta, under threat

The Tal-Wej area : an extensive open space consisting of garigue rich in archaeological heritage was recently proposed by ERA as a Natura 2000 site under the EU Habitats Directive. Malta currently has around 44 km2 of terrestrial Natura 2000 sites amounting to just 13% of the land surface area. A few land owners are objecting to this ERA proposal and submitted their appeal to the EPRT (Environment and Planning Review Tribunal).

The EPRT is holding a site visit at Tal-Wej (limits of Naxxar and Mosta) on Thursday, 27th May. This site visit, for which the Objectors and their lawyers as well as ERA technical personnel will be present, is presumably being held to hear the reasons why the area should not be given Natura 2000 status.

The undersigned NGOs contend that this is not the appropriate time of year to assess and appraise this site of great ecological and cultural significance because, as the climate is bi-seasonal, certain very significant aspects of the unique ecology of this area will not be apparent due to the process of aestivation which enables flora and fauna to survive the harsh dry summer. While the area’s archaeological and cultural assets can be viewed with ease, the surface waters which provide the evidence for certain aspects of the ecology have already dried up, and with it all flora. Fauna such as frogs burrow deep in soils and other crustaceans survive as spores.

Good practice dictates that such assessments should be carried out in an integrated manner which is certainly not the case here. Conducting an inappropriately-scheduled site visit could have a bias effect which could well lead to a decision to downgrade the area’s protection status. This would be an unprofessional and unethical approach to this exceedingly sensitive and ecologically valuable asset of Tal-Wej.

In a press conference held in 26th October 2020, Minister Aaron Farrugia was quoted as saying:

“Our natural heritage needs to be protected just like any other form of heritage. The extent to which future generations can enjoy our natural environment depends on how far we are willing to protect it.’

Source: press release was issued by DOI on behalf of The ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning (MECP)

The NGOs sincerely hope that the EPRT fulfills the statement aired by Minister Farrugia.

The following NGOs have endorsed this PR

1. Nature Trust Malta

2. BirdLife Malta

3. Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar

4. Friends of the Earth Malta

5. Moviment Graffitti

6. FB group: Conservation of Tal-Wej Area