Semi-permanent tents and camping equipment at the Santa Marija campsite on Comino have raised fears the place is being allowed to turn into a ‘shanty town’.
For years, campers have had to contend with parts of the site being occupied for the whole of the summer by large tents, often equipped with generators and outdoor areas, even when the owners are not on the island.
But the practice now appears to have stretched beyond the summer months, with numerous vacant tents visible on the site a few days ago along with tables, chairs and other equipment.
“It is very easy for a place like that to become a shanty town,” BirdLife’s Mark Sultana told the Times of Malta.
“There needs to be an intervention at some point to find out who are the people residing in this area. There’s nothing wrong with having a campsite on Comino but it has to be managed and in an appropriate area.”
Mr Sultana pointed out that the campsite, part of the Comino Natura 2000 zone, was a former marshland and reed bed, scheduled for its scientific and ecological importance, as evidenced by recent rains that highlighted its water catchment characteristics.
The Natura 2000 management plan calls for camping to be immediately halted and the site rehabilitated, allowing for the habitat of salt-resistant trees by the beach to move into the area it now occupies and for a dune area at the back of the site to be extended.
It has to be managed in an appropriate area
“There have been many complaints, including from Comino’s residents, that the campsite is getting bigger and extending beyond its usual boundaries while the structures are becoming larger and more permanent,” Martin Galea de Giovanni, from Friends of the Earth, said.
“Ideally, the campsite should be cleared and a new one set up elsewhere. There are a number of areas around Comino that appear desolate but, with a bit of care, can be planted with trees and turned into a suitable camping area,” he added.
An Environment and Resources Authority permit is required to camp at Santa Marija but this is almost routinely ignored.