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Posted on: 09/02/2011


Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007 – 2013

 Axis 3 – Improving the Quality of Life in Rural Areas

Project part-financed by the European Union

Co-financing Rate: 75% European Union, 25% Government of Malta

      The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development:
             Europe Investing in Rural Areas   


The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) has secured €3.4 million through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to undertake management planning for all terrestrial Natura 2000 sites in the Maltese Islands and to increase awareness of Natura 2000 amongst the general public and stakeholders.  The management plans and legal provisions that will be established through this project will seek to conserve and protect a wide range of habitats and species inhabiting these sites by identifying adequate management measures with intensive stakeholder involvement throughout the entire project.

This project, which has a duration of 3 years, will also ensure that Malta fulfills its EU obligations under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

Addressing the launch of this project, MEPA Chairman Mr Austin Walker said “this project is a milestone in the protection of our rural environment. MEPA has, over the past years, worked intensively to identify and get all the designated sites approved by the European Commission. Now we are moving a step further and giving these sites the protection they merit through the preparation of these management plans. These will also be supported by an awareness campaign on Natura 2000 sites. This campaign will equip all key stakeholders with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the management planning process more effectively.” He added “these management plans are not intended to suppress recreational or any other economical activities within these sites but promote and emphasise the need for the sustainable use of our natural and rural resources with the full involvement of all stakeholders.”

The Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, the Environment and Culture Dr. Mario de Marco, congratulated MEPA on this initiative and said that “this project is unique in that it is the first time that any EU member state would ensure management planning coverage for all land-based Natura 2000 sites through a single initiative. The project will produce management plans and involve stakeholders, but on its own this is not enough. The areas must actually be managed.”

He added “In parallel, through the MEPA reform, we have put in place legislation which does not permit the possibility for a land-owner to try regularising illegal development carried out after May 2008 in an area outside development zone or in a protected area. Additionally penalties and daily fines are soon to be introduced against illegal development. Taken though, in isolation from one another, neither the legislation, nor management plans, nor interim management measures or even enforcement will, on their own, succeed in reversing the loss of biodiversity. Like pieces in a puzzle, the measures must fit tightly together and dovetail with one another.It is the intention of the government to ensure this happens. This management planning project, which is an integrated initiative and a first of its kind, is a major step in this direction.”

Over the past years Malta has designated a total of 34 terrestrial Natura 2000 sites. 27 sites are terrestrial Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) that are designated under the Habitats Directive and provide increased protection and management for rare and vulnerable animals, plants and habitats. 13 sites are Special Protected Areas, (SPAs) which are designated under the Birds Directive to help protect and manage areas which are important for rare and vulnerable birds because they use them for breeding, feeding, wintering or migration; but 6 of these sites are also SACs.

This project will be delivered through a service contract, which will include all necessary actions required to develop management plans and/or provide legal provisions for these terrestrial Natura 2000 sites. The project will also involve a communication campaign which will raise awareness about Malta’s Natura 2000 sites amongst the public and will enable all key stakeholders to participate in the management planning process of these sites.

The Natura 2000 network is spread across Europe and covers approximately 20% of the European territory. In Malta, over 13% of the land area is designated as part of the network.