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Comino's Blue Lagoon

Native habitat to be restored on Maltese island of Comino

Native habitat to be restored on Maltese island of Comino

The target is to plant over 3,000 endemic trees and shrubs and remove invasive species

A habitat restoration project is underway on Comino, a small island with an area of 3.5 sq km, wedged between Malta and Gozo, reports Times of Malta. As part of the project which started on Monday, invasive species such as the prickly pear or wattle will be replaced by plants native to the local wetlands.

Re-establishing native marshes

Workers from the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and Ambjent Malta will recreate two brackish water ponds at Qala ta’ Santa Marija, a Natura 2000 site, so as to re-establish a native marshland environment. They will also transplant six olive trees that are foreign to the site’s native habitat, remove makeshift stone barbecues and other structures and restore rubble walls in the area. 

The works are a continuation of projects on Comino that commenced in 2017 as part of the management plan of the protected area. These works include advancing the planting of over 3,000 endemic trees and shrubs in three abandoned fields, installing wooden fences to protect phrygana (garrigue), a type of Mediterranean-specific low brush found in the Blue Lagoon area and making fencing and security improvements at the Tal-Fulu camping site. 

There are also plans to remove disused electrical poles, close off some pathways that cause “fragmentation of garrigue and grassland habitats” on Comino, as well as undertake underwater and coastal clean-ups. ERA has said that it would be briefing the public about the progress of works on Comino before the start of the summer season and would also invite the media to visit the island and see works undertaken. 

Under fire

The environmental regulator has drawn fire from NGOs for its handling of the Natura 2000 site in recent months, after it failed to put a stop to dirt road-reparation works undertaken by Gozo Ministry without a planning permit. 

ERA temporarily ordered a halt to those works after visitors posted photos of concrete-lined trenches dug in the protected area. The regulator subsequently allowed the works to recommence, saying they would be carried out with “mitigation measures to curb environmental damage without impinging on the area’s natural integrity.” A restoration plan agreed with the contractor would “reinstate the impacted area to its former natural state,” ERA assured.

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