Sunday, 20 March 2011

Clean up activity today at L-Ahrax tal-Mellieha

Greenhouse & SCubed were featured on today's Independent regarding today's clean up. Here is a reproduction of the article (taken from Independent online: Photos are from the Greenhouse & SCubed clean up at Marsaxlokk earlier this year.


It often occurs when walking down by the seaside or in the countryside that we complain of the horrid state of some of the most beautiful landscapes on the Maltese Islands. But, what follows to the initial reaction is usually little more than an acknowledgment of the disregard to this form of heritage by some individuals and the hypocrisy of public discourse on environmental issues in the face of this recurring tragedy. Few if any ever take on the matter further by either reporting the issue to the relevant authorities or understanding the dynamics of the policy in the management of public spaces in the area.

The question of who is truly responsible for this waste needs to be asked. A joint committee between S-Cubed (Science Students Society) and Greenhouse, two student organisations from the University of Malta, sought to look at this issue as an opportunity to promote a culture of active citizenship with their members through regular clean-up activities.

The first clean-up site was found coincidentally by John Gabarretta a member of the Science Student Society while trekking with friends by the seaside in Delimara. The site, known as Tal-Ballut is a saline marshland, a rare and very specialised habitat on our islands, and a Special Area of Conservation under Natura 2000. The state of the site was a disgrace due to the large amount of waste which had accumulated over time. John unconventionally drew inspiration and sought to remedy the situation by engaging his organisation S-cubed with Greenhouse, the environmental organisation on campus, to develop a campaign to tackle this problem and promote a culture of responsibility and active citizenship.

The clean-up at Tal-Ballut, which took place on the 9 January 2011, was the first of a series of clean-up activities which are to take place the coming months. The event received ample coverage and a lot of positive feedback. The outcome was self-evident - a whole skip filled to its maximum capacity and 30 bags of recyclable material were collected by a team of 22 volunteers, a success which we were sincerely not expecting to achieve to such an extent!

The rubbish collected was interestingly a mixture of boat wreckage and domestic waste washed ashore by the currents. People generally pass through the marshland as a short-cut to arrive at Marsaxlokk centre, and do not linger in the area. Since this backs up the argument that most of the rubbish is washed on shore rather than directly deposited there, rather than closing the area off to the public, the authorities should commit to a regular cleaning exercise. Furthermore, in the absence of a proper site management plan for this area one must still balance the protection of this ecological site while catering for the social function it holds for the locals and visitors alike.

The latter call is part of an ongoing exercise led by the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism which is seeking to develop the itinerary potential of these sites of touristic potential, with the necessary infrastructure which would balance ecological, social and economic dimensions. The early stage of this exercise was uncovered as the organisers sought the necessary permits. One must acknowledge the considerable support stemmed from the relevant authorities in regards to the permits, equipment and logistical advice required to set up the is activity.

As the first of a series of clean-ups which we seek to organise we feel encouraged by the positive feedback, the experience of the volunteers and long-term commitment of the authorities. We look forward to understand better the policy dynamics in relation to the management of public spaces. More so, with respect to the site management plans which ought to regulate activities held within these special areas of conservation.

The next clean-up activity is being held today at L-Ahrax tal-Mellieha together with Birdlife Malta. For more information on the organisations responsible for this campaign, please visit their websites on:



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