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of garbage

July 2002 Comino Clean-up

No sensible person enjoys seeing dirty surroundings and the remains left by litterbugs and other inconsiderate people. Not only are illegal dumpsites irritating to mind and displeasing to the eye, but they also constitute a health hazard, degrade fragile eco-systems and definately discourage tourism. We are the first to criticize governmental lethargy and definitely do not tolerate a blasé attitude where our historical heritage or natural environment are at risk. However, for fairness’ sake, cannot but commend the Maltese Government for embarking on a massive clean-up campaign on Comino in mid-July 2002.

This operation, conducted by labourers and officials from the Ministry of Resources and Infrastructure and the Ministry for Gozo, involved the clearance of bulky material that had accumulated on the island during the last twenty years.   Seven vehicles, including a truck, were dismantled and ferried over to Malta as scrap metal. The old Comino bakery, il-Forn was cleaned from abandoned mattresses, water heaters and other rusty household appliances. Employees from the Embellishment Division collected around two hundred sacks of glass bottles, strewn all over Comino, which were eventually sent for recycling.

The Hon. Dr. Francis Zammit Dimech, the Minister for Resources and Infrastructure, was quoted as saying that 500 kilos of waste are generated daily on Comino during the tourist peak season. Whereas half of this waste was biodegradable matter, non-refundable beer and mineral glass-bottles, tins and plastic receptacles mainly constituted the rest. A substantial amount of waste was also generated at the stud pig farm on the southern part of the island. The Minister also announced that bring-in sites shall be introduced on Comino, where day-trippers can discard of the waste in a responsible and ecologically friendly manner.

The Hon. Giovanna Debono, Minister for Gozo, urged all boat-trippers visiting Comino to take their waste back with them to Gozo or Malta, and hoped that all would enjoy the serenity and peace that the island offered, away from the mainland’s hustle and bustle.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth are in contact with the farming family, encouraging them to introduce organic farming on the island. Being a pro-active initiative, welcomes all efforts to improve local environmental standards, hoping that green wardens are introduced in the immediate future. As the adage advises, 'procrastination is the thief of time'. Other government-backed clean-ups should be regularly held in order to help preserve the island’s garigue and coastline for the enjoyment of all Maltese citizens and overseas guests.

Steve Borg

an oleander tree

sea horse

native flora
Glaucium flavum

Nature Trust


The following article is being reproduced with the kind permission of


Allied Newspapers Limited © 2002

Comino committee
has environmental
management in its sights

by Michael Testa

The draft management plan by the steering committee for Comino is expected to be completed by the first six months of next year, committee chairman Louis Cassar said. The plan would oversee environmental management concerns. In the meantime, various members of the committee have been assigned different tasks with a view to implement short-to medium-term measures, such as the reconstruction of rubble walls in water catchment areas and a habitat restoration programme, he said.

It has already been decided to relocate the present campsite elsewhere on Comino. The existing campsite is located within an ecologically very sensitive area at the back of Santa Maria Bay where it has had a significant negative environmental impact, Mr. Cassar said.

Pankrazju -- Sea Daffodil

The management plan will aim to identify ecological, cultural, archaeological and recreational assets in order to strike a balance between land and sea use.

“The plan will ensure responsible and rational use of the island’s resources. It is, after all, a nature reserve, which, though declared as such some years ago, has been afforded little attention in this regard,” he said. Mr. Cassar said in an interview: “Island nature reserves throughout the Mediterranean are well looked-after and professionally managed. I have worked on conservation issues in small islands in the south of France, off the coast of Tuscany, in the central Mediterranean and on Tunisian island reserves and in each and every case, these islands are practically treasured for their unique biodiversity and landscape,” Mr. Cassar added.

“The problem here is that unplanned and uncontrolled exploitation of this resource is leaving a negative impact, particularly in summer when the island is visited by many people. Unfortunately some people leave trails of litter and damage trees and rubble walls throughout the island, especially, but not exclusively, near bathing areas,” Mr. Cassar said. The steering committee is seeking ways to protect and sustain the natural and built heritage found there and to apply principles based on sound conservation management to Comino, its islets and surrounding waters.

Arkitettura rurali -- il-hnejja
arkitettura rurali

Topping the ambitious list of issues, which are being addressed by the steering committee, are the possible gradual removal of invasive species, a habitat restoration programme which would include some afforestation and the ecological rehabilitation of degraded areas, dumping, the restoration of marshland at Santa Maria bay, the control of sewage effluent into the sea, light pollution, the impact from fine-dust contamination of certain roads and tracks, restoration and re-use of old/historic buildings, minimisation of the adverse impacts of infrastructural development, including the pig farm, and trenching, and in the long-term, a monitoring programme.

Another important issue, Mr. Cassar added, was the rehabilitation of the pristine marshland and reed bed, which existed on the land presently occupied by the makeshift campsite. At its present location, the campsite has caused considerable ecological harm ,since as a result of camping activity, marsh vegetation has been destroyed, together with most of the adjoining sand dune, not to mention the severe impact of site levelling to make way for the campsite some years ago. The committee, Mr. Cassar added, was proposing to rehabilitate the site to its former state. Other possible sites, where sanitary facilities already exist, were being considered as a possible venue for a campsite, Mr. Cassar said.

He said that the committee has already tentatively identified sites that would not be detrimental to the environment of Comino. These included a site not far from the Blue Lagoon and another relatively close to the existing campsite, he said.


Mr. Cassar said that efforts are to be made to re-establish the marsh where lush growths of indigenous reeds, Phragmites australis - used to embellish the hinterland of this popular bay. Mr. Cassar said that another plant, which has experienced a considerable decline from the area, was the attractive chaste tree - Vitex agnus-castus [l-ghadiba in Maltese] - which as folklore has it, was thought to dispel sinful thoughts when brewed by monks with their tea. Mr. Cassar confirmed that the committee does not want to abolish or restrict camping activity, but to render it more environmentally friendly.

“It is high time that people visiting the Comino nature reserve become aware of the island’s status and abide by existing regulations, as is the practice on island nature reserves in neighbouring countries,” he said. Mr. Cassar said all key stakeholders are represented in the committee and these include the Ministry for Gozo, Ghajnsielem local council, Nature Trust, BirdLife, Din l-Art Helwa, the Comino Hotel, the Malta Tourism Authority, the Malta Maritime Authority, the residential community and MEPA planning and environmental officers.

BirdLife observation 
station on Comino

“Admittedly, it’s not always easy to get everyone to meet around the table because of logistical problems” he remarked. When it was pointed out to Mr. Cassar that campers were not represented on the steering committee, he replied that the committee would welcome anyone’s views. Referring to other measures, Mr. Cassar said another priority was habitat restoration and afforestation, which also involved the gradual control of the alien species present, such as acacias, eucalyptus and the highly invasive castor oil tree. These will be progressively replaced by appropriate indigenous species, planted in an ecological context. Existing alien trees can in the shorter term be used to serve as wind breakers to protect newly planted ones., he said.

Mr. Cassar praised the recent clean-up of material accumulated over the years and said that a watchful eye would be kept in the future to ensure that such dumping would not be left to accumulate on Comino. A method statement would have to be presented and strictly adhered to each time works are to be carried out in future in order not to create more scars on Comino. A case in point includes the various scars inflicted by repeated trenching throughout the island’s southern coastline, where soft quaternary rock has been extensively cut up in the course of infrastructural development. One practice which was certainly not healthy for vegetation is the use of quarried sand to surface dirt roads throughout the island.

“An exercise is underway to identify which tracks are indeed required for use by the local farming community there and others which may be utilised for nature trails, while unnecessary tracks would be phased out and rehabilitated through the regeneration of indigenous plants,” he said.

Mr. Cassar said that an overall monitoring programme would have to be installed to oversee the various activities that take place on the island and within its bays. The committee is in the process of seeing which quays are legal and which are not and is considering various options, bearing in mind the recreational potential of Comino’s bays and inlets as well as the need to prevent the further deterioration of existing beauty spots such as Bejn il-Kmiemen - the poplular Blue Lagoon - as a result of uncontrolled proliferation of makeshift quays and concrete surfaces.

The committee was also exploring the possibility of introducing environment wardens for Comino, he said. The future use of the building that housed the old bakery is to be discussed further and it is possible that this would be turned into an environmental centre.

The committee is also recommending that the Comino Tower be converted into a permanent exhibition or public museum and discussions are to start with Din l-Art Helwa over the proposal. Another old building, known as Il-Palazz, in-part dating back to the time of the Knights, was in a state of collapse at some points and urgently needed restoration, he said.

Excerpt of article - The Times, Wednesday,
13th November 2002.

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