Thursday, 31 July 2008

Ramblers protest in face of illegalities at Fomm ir-Rih

From the Malta Independent 31st July 2008

Ramblers protest in face of illegalities at Fomm ir-Rih
by Annaliza Borg

The Ramblers' Association of Malta (RAM) held the last walk of the season as a protest on Tuesday evening at Fomm ir-Rih to highlight serious problems of accessibility in and degradation of the countryside.

The organisation has also promised its members that a more aggressive approach would be taken in the coming months since "years of complaints and objections have proved futile." A group of 60 ramblers was led down towards the bay where the official pathway was obliterated completely.

The protest took place in view of several illegalities which were taken in hand – such as the building of a concrete road outside the gate of a private residence and broken boulders through which a road goes down to the foreshore – before a development application was filed with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

After the application to sanction the illegalities was dismissed, the gate, rubble troughs and landscaping were carried out. Invasive trees such as ailanthus, acacia and eucalyptus were recently planted, RAM said.

RAM also claimed that two youths attempted to snatch the camera of two ramblers before the youths returned to the house. Otherwise, the walk was peaceful and the organisation plans to repeat this in the future, RAM said.

In a letter to the Director General, Government Property Division, RAM said the protest was the culmination of years of complaints, objections and futile efforts over the situation at Fomm ir-Rih Bay. This explained that while "sympathy and lip-service" were forthcoming from various ministers and authorities, "proceedings on the ground worsened, with the situation deteriorating to unprecedented illegality."

The protest walk was held with the purpose of raising more awareness in society of the situation prevailing at Fomm ir-Rih which RAM described as "a state of affairs symptomatic of the widespread problems of accessibility, degradation and lawlessness in the countryside."

RAM said it felt the necessity to convey this message at the end of its programme of walks, out of concern that matters in the open areas of Malta are getting out of hand.

The organisation urged the Government Property Division to "immediately re-establish the public path from the Bahrija side to the foreshore of the bay which was conceded by public deed of 1983 but never maintained."

Similarly, RAM called for action to restore the countryside and foreshore to a natural state by removing signs, gates and other obstacles put up without permission to prevent or limit access to the public, restore blocked pathways and country lanes and stop the ecological ravage that is illegally going on through unauthorised building and illicit plantation of invasive trees and plants.

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