Recent fires which seem to have been caused by vandals in the area known as Il-Ballut at Marsaxlokk have caused great concern to Nature Trust –FEE Malta. This site houses an important habitat – a Salt March environment and which today holds the status of a Natura 2000 site protected at EU level.
For the last 30 years Nature Trust –FEE Malta has been desperately trying to get the local authorities to act and conserve this site – by action and not just on paper.
Way back in the early 90s the endemic killifish (buzaq) was still found in the salt marsh. However despite various reports to the relevant environment authorities on uncontrolled pollution for nearby pig farms at that time , no action was ever taken and the killifish population in this area all died out.
In the late 80s the site witnessed the dumping of rubble waste from the constriction of the Delimara Power station. Later the dredging of the Marsaxlokk port for the construction of the Freeport continued to change the water currents in the bay so much so that today the area and coastline is being eroded away. Part of the embankment that existed together with parts of the site have been eaten up by coastal erosion. This has also exposed the sensitive part of the habitat to marine litter and debris.
Years of illegal dumping and vandalism followed to the desperation on the environmental NGO despite various calls to the Environment Authorities (then MEPA)
For years and with the support of the Local Council the NGO has been calling for action. NT-FEE Malta feels that with proper management the site can be conserved and turned into an eco tourism attraction for the area offering education and nature to visitors. Furthermore NT-FEE Malta was also proposing that the adjacent beach be upgraded and given the Beach of Quality status for the benefit of the residents of Marsaxlokk. The NGO hopes that once the site is fully conserved the reintroduction of the killifish could occur. NT-FEE is at the moment doing a breeding programme of the killifish with the Malta Aquaculture Centre in Marasaxlokk, and so far results have been positive .
The Salta Marsh is also an important habitat in the South of Malta that attracts various migratory birds. So far some 65 species of birds have been recorded visiting the site
Only recently NT-FEE Malta witnessed some actions being planned by the Environment Resource authority to help protected the site. The last fire incident however has shown that very urgent short term actions have to be taken before it is too late. Malta has already lost too much natural areas and it is time we truly protect what is left