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MALTATODAY 26 June 2022

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NEWS 16 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 26 JUNE 2022 MATTHEW VELLA THE Environment and Resourc- es Authority is set to increase its surveillance on Comino by dedicating daily enforcement re- sources on the island. MaltaToday was told that en- forcement officers spent the past days on Comino training for this new role, which will see them educating visitors to comply with good environmental prac- tices. This will include focusing on littering, respecting campsite regulations and tackling overall environmental concerns. ERA officers will mainly focus on warnings and educational ac- tion, but non-compliant persons may be fined in cases of damage to the environment. ERA is working closely with all entities and stakeholders on Comino to assure the adequate protection that the area deserves. Government sources said "a bal- ance had to be reached with the economic and social factors play- ing a key role in all the decisions, where other entities were also involved." Activists and members of Mov- iment Graffitti launched a clam- orous direct action on Comino, protesting the private conces- sions blocking access to the pub- lic coastline. The Graffitti activists proceed- ed to remove the laid-out deck- chairs and folded them neatly against a retaining wall. "We are not damaging the deckchairs. It is unacceptable that all the deck- chairs have been laid out without even the first tourist boat having arrived to the island," spokesper- son Andre Callus said during the action. Deckchairs and umbrellas have hogged Comino's Blue Lagoon throughout many a summer. A petition in 2021 asked MPs for "the removal of sun beds and deckchairs from Comino", gath- ering over 600 signatures. The deckchairs are placed on every inch of the shoreline – jet- ty, beaches and rocks – before the first tourist boats arrive, by private vendors who treat the Blue Lagoon as their own per- sonal beach lido. Callus said the act of civil dis- obedience was prompted after Tourism Minister Clayton Bar- tolo had kicked the can down the road when he promised to crack down on deckchair vendors but failed to specify how or when. "Moviment Graffitti did not want the issue to be swept under the carpet for yet another sum- mer and so we took direct ac- tion," Callus said. Comino is a designated Natu- ra2000 site and hosts a myriad of protected species. This unique habitat is actively maintained and restored by ERA and Amb- jent Malta, which have carried out the removal of derelict struc- tures such as old electricity poles, to clearing of waste materials and designating further protection to areas that are more sensitive than others. One such example are the sand dunes at Santa Marija. ERA is also coordinating other activities on the island, includ- ing the restoration of the Il-Qala wetland, through a UN-funded project, forestation and restora- tion projects, removal of invasive alien species, clean-ups and im- plementation of litter and camp- ing regulations. After Graffitti action, ERA increases Comino monitoring Deckchairs and umbrellas have hogged Comino's Blue Lagoon throughout many a summer. A petition in 2021 asked MPs for "the removal of sun beds and deckchairs from Comino", gathering over 600 signatures

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